Assessing the Validity of Facts
Lesson 6 of 10
Objective: Students will be able to assess the validity of facts by comparing and contrasting the facts that three different authors use to tell Emmett Till's story.
My co-teacher and I have been working very hard to teach students the grammar rules. Not just "you need a comma there because you pause" but "you need a comma there because you put a comma before the conjunction when you have a compound sentence." It's difficult, but one thing that has helped is adding in the actual grammar rules on their daily bellwork. They're seeing the terms repeatedly, they're talking about the terms repeatedly, so they're learning goes up. Look at how the evolution of this bellwork has changed from the beginning of the year. Perhaps by the end of the year, we'll be diagramming sentences.
A this point, students have read three articles about Emmett Till.
- a two page article from biography.com
- a three page article with text features from history.com
- a two page article from the book The Outer Edge: Still Unsolved
Great. They analyzed the main ideas, organization, and author's purpose for each one. Now is where it gets really cool. All three articles have common facts, but they all contain unique facts. That's the focus for today's lesson--looking at the facts that each article presents and how it compares to the other articles. To do that, we used a Venn diagram with three circles.
I gave them big sheets of paper so they could write ALL THE FACTS! Unfortunately, I did not have a coffee cup large enough for them to trace a circle. I also didn't have a protractor. I didn't have a bowl. I was not going to let them use the hot teapot to trace circles, either. They had to deal with drawing the circles freehand. You didn't think drawing circles would be a big deal? Neither did I. Neither did I. Here's a blank Venn diagram with three circles, though.
Finally, they got their circles drawn and set down to figuring out which facts went where. Luckily, I'd assigned them to work with one of their clock appointments, so they had a team to work with.
I gave students about thirty minutes to fill out the Venn diagram.
The Big Idea
Once students had their Venn diagram filled out, or mostly filled out, I asked them to go back to their original seats. I asked students what big idea they could take away from this activity in regard to the validity of each fact in their Venn diagram. Which of those facts was most valid, credible, and trustworthy? Which of those facts was least valid, credible, and trustworthy? What allows us to draw that logical conclusion?
After just a few moments talking with their groups, they came to the same conclusion I had: if the facts are in the middle circle, where the green arrow is pointing, they are the most credible facts. The facts in the outer circle, where the red arrow is pointing, are least credible. The ones in two sources, where the orange arrow is pointing, are in the middle.
If a fact can be verified in just once source, that's not credible. Two sources is better. Three or more sources? That's credible fact.
I let them know that they would be writing a paragraph about what happened to Emmett Till using the best, most credible, most valid facts. I asked them which facts they should choose first, second, and then third.