Bringing the Hurricanes into Your Classroom
The late-summer, 2017, brought two enormous, category 5 hurricanes crashing into the southern United States and the Caribbean, a several week ordeal that some individuals and communities in these regions will be spending years recovering from. Given the suffering that these massive storms have produced, one response we should feel as educators is a charitable one. Hurricane Harvey charitable efforts are collected and vetted on this credible site; while Hurricane Irma charities are similarly treated on this one.
Not in any way inconsistent with this moral reaction to the hurricanes is a pedagogical one: to bring the attention, media coverage, writing and thinking about, and latent issues within these thunderous acts of nature just prior to the school year into your classrooms early in the school year. This post will discuss an approach that we are taking with partner schools.
Argument-Based Questions to Analyze Text
Included in our argumentalization of hurricane units with a couple of our partner schools, we have developed argument-based questions that help students think critically about and analyze informational and literary texts. The informational texts focus on Hurricane Harvey, though they could readily be extended, with a little bit of research and application of the principles exemplified by the questions, to Hurricane Irma.
Here are the informational texts that we are using.
To analyze and think critically, we have had students respond to and discuss these argument-based questions.
Here are the literary texts that we are using. (Credit for their selection goes to the Jones College Prep English Department.)
The argument-based analytical questions that students use to discuss and think critically about these literary texts, and what they say and suggest about hurricanes, are these.
Reading about, discussing, analyzing, thinking critically about the recent hurricanes, and writings about hurricanes, can culminate in this unit in an argument-based seminar. The Debatifier has posted on our (argument-centered) version of the classic Socratic Seminar, and we’ll include the format again here.
The debatable issues to organize the Argument-Based Seminar around are two.
Has America lived up to its values through the run of recent hurricanes (beginning with Katrina in 2005)?
Should every student at our school feel a moral compulsion [or feel morally compelled] to donate to a Harvey (or Irma) hurricane relief fund?
There are some notes that we have written for our partner schools on use of these resources for an Argument-Centered Seminar.
Reasoning can and often should include linkage between the claim and the position, to underline the significance of the claim to substantiating the overall position.
Reasoning does not merely paraphrase the evidence. It accentuates phrases or data-points, makes clear the connection between evidence and claim, and analyzes the evidence’s “dispositive importance” (to quote Stephen Toulmin).
Evidence in the models is either quoted or paraphrased text from the unit. It is useful to demonstrate both forms of the use of text.
That said, evidence should not have to be textual, in this unit — if students know something more about the hurricanes, that they can convincingly recount, beyond what they have read or watched, they should be able to use this as evidence. Of course, the more factual, the better.
The arguments do not need to be “won” in a seminar. Concessions and reasonable synthesis is very much a part of the inquiry basis of such a learning strategy.