I have a team of true collaborators among the English IV teachers at my school. They invited me to be part of their brainstorming for an upcoming unit a few weeks ago, looking for a way to “re-make” the annotated bibliography and research proposal into something that engages students, not only in research, but in true student-guided inquiry. Social justice was the topic on the table for this unit’s exploration, but the teachers were tired of the same old topics and surface-level digests of mediocre source information they received from student’s in the past.
I started my teacher inquiry interviews with the same three questions I ask all of my instructional partners:
- What are your goals for students? What do you want them to be able to do, independently, in a new and unfamiliar situation?
- We want our students to demonstrate they can understand and empathize with someone not like them; we want them to evaluate information they find in different types of source (web, academic, personal, etc) and synthesize the information to create something new that demonstrates how their own thinking has changed.
- What evidence do you need to see from students to know if they met these goal?
- A list of their sources with critical annotations demonstrating their evaluation and analysis of information
- A reflection of their own journey including insights and critical moments where they came to understand something new about the world and themselves.
- A product or demonstration that shows how they can empathize with another viewpoint or perspective
- What types of learning experiences can you imagine that would support students in reaching these goals?
- analytical, focusing on evaluating and analyzing information
With the team’s answers from these three big, little questions I was able to pull together resources I’d been gathering from Media Literacy Week and Brittanica Digial Learning’s Blog series “Fight the Fake” written by librarian Tiffany Whitehead. These resources included videos to engage students in the topics, resources, lessons, and activities to teach students to be critical consumers of information and to be armed with the skills needed to combat the effects of fake news and misinformation in the media. Armed with new resources, I created a rough learning plan designed around Guided Inquiry Design (GID) (Kulthau and Maniotes)
The team indicated they wanted students to gather a wide, diverse collection of information from both popular and scholarly resources. So we began with gallery walk of videos that introduced students to the topics surrounding misinformation to prepare them to evaluate sources later on in their inquiry. To support their critical and analytical thinking skills, we taught students how to use Depth of Knowledge (DOK) Question stems to scaffold their thinking about complex topics.
Media Literacy Gallery Walk
Our exploration began with a video that posed many relevant questions surrounding the impact misinformation is having on democracy.
“In a world where it feels like our opinions are so different from one another, leaning into that chaos might actually be what leads us to a better understanding of the landscape we live in.”
In this video by Mozilla, we engaged students in the questions:
- What is media literacy?
- How does media shape what and how I think?
- What opportunities does media provide us to understand one another better?
- What barriers does media present that perpetuate divisiveness and intolerance?
As they traveled around stations students, watched a brief video from this media literacy playlist and created DOK leveled questions in response to the ideas.
Students used the questions they generated from the video gallery walk in an inner-outer circle discussion.
Students were uncomfortable in this type of discussion where their questions, not their reasoning, were the most important contribution they had to offer. They had become well-adapted at arguing their points to one another to “win” discussions. In their discomfort, we saw opportunity. Throughout the upcoming inquiry, students will be forming groups based on broad topics relating to social justice. Their success will depend upon their ability to “lean in” to the social chaos and to one another as they form questions and seek diverse perspectives.
Continuing the Exploration
Next in the social literacy inquiry– developing empathy and forming a Circle of Viewpoints with Time’s Guns in America.