One way you can have your students step back a moment before they begin looking at articles, viewing video clips, and writing summaries and abstracts about controversial issues is to have a short presentation on values and look at how what we value, think is important to and for us, influences our behavior and colors our lenses.
Depending on the environment in the class, you could do the following:
1. Share with them this Value_Words_List_KB . (I’d reduce the list to 40-50 words appropriate for the grade/age of students)
2. Ask students to highlight ten words that represent their own values. Collect and enter the words in to a wordle.net which will create a word cloud that shows the primary values of your class. It’ll be enlightening for your students to see the range of values among their peers.
I found it worthwhile to collect and redistribute these anonymous lists to students on opposite sides of the room (left side gets right side’s lists, and vice-versa). Then as students read the lists aloud, one student volunteer, an accurate and speedy word-processor, enters all the words as they were read. Repetition is fine. The number of times a word appears on the final list will determine the size the word will appear in the word cloud created in Wordle.
After hearing and seeing what the class values, the students will have a common language to write and talk about these controversial topics.
3. Then, using that same list of value words, ask students to consider what the writers of the articles, creators of the media, etc. value. Ask them to point out words, phrases, images, what’s missing, who’s quoted, etc.
Often when students see these kinds of differences, they can understand why intelligent, thoughtful people disagree on topics important to them both.
Your students may find it interesting to read pro/con arguments found on this website: http://www.procon.org/
This lesson works well with one on Responding to Literature – Nine Yardsticks, a structured way to look at, evaluate, and critique literature. One of the yardsticks is PERSONAL BELIEFS which takes into consideration the fact that personal beliefs determine ones response to what one reads, hears, and views.
Sample application on A Lesson before Dying – Essay Assignment – Ethics