Critical Thinking: "Tulipmania"
Lesson 1 of 9
Objective: Students will be able to develop critical thinking skills by reading a passage about the history of tulips and answering types of critical thinking questions, citing evidence for their answers, and discussing answers with a small group.
What did the History Day Project teach you about history? What did the revision process we've done the last two weeks teach you about writing and the writing process? What have you learned about thesis statements? Introductions? Body paragraphs? Conclusions? Any part of the writing process? What do next year's seventh graders need to know about this project?
Today's passage comes from Walter Pauk's book, Six-Way Paragraphs: 100 Passages for Developing Six Essential Categories of Comprehension. The passage for today comes from the advanced level. The Lexile level is 1030, solidly within the stretch band for grades 6-8 .
The first step, of course, is to have students read the passage. It's a short passage, so it doesn't take long to complete an initial first read.
The prompt I'm using for the first quick write is:
In addition to the standard prompt (standard meaning that it's based on the common core standards as well as a prompt that I'll use throughout the year, so pun definitely intended), I asked students to consider the main ideas and supporting details. That prompt follows very closely to this standard prompt--what is the author telling me? Duh. Main ideas.
I gave them about five minutes to write for this prompt. I reminded them to write in complete sentences, being sure to capitalize the beginning of the sentence and put periods at the ends. Indenting would also be appreciated.
After the quickwriting was done, I asked students to share their reading with their pod. And then--I bumped it up a notch from previous quickwrites we'd done. I asked them to think of one question that they thought should be asked in a discussion, on a test, or a question that they simply didn't know the answer to but wanted to know the answer to. They wrote their single question on a sticky note and I asked a student to collect them for me.
The first read, of course, is an independent read. The second read is done by the teacher to model reading fluency. I LOVE reading aloud, so I'm glad that this is component of close reading. One of the highlights of my hear is reading Mrs. Jones' line from "Thank You, M'am", "If you think that thought is not going to last awhile, you got another thought coming. When I get through with you, sir, you are going to remember Mrs. Louella Bates Washington Jones."
So the second read is the chance for me to read this passage out loud. Prior to reading, I asked students to notice where I pause, what I emphasize, how I pronounce words. I asked them not note what they picked up from this second read, that they might not have noticed with a silent reading.
After I read the passage, I put up the second standard quickwrite prompt. This question is based off of the second group of standards, craft and structure.
Just like before, I asked students to write a paragraph about the same passage, but about this prompt. Their paragraph should be indented, they should capitalize correctly, and punctuate properly.
After about five minutes, I asked students to share their thoughts--but! Instead of talking in their same exact groups, I asked two students from each group to move to another group. That way they get a different perspective.
After they shared their quickwrites, I asked the students to write down another question, one question per group, that they thought should be on a test, a journal prompt, or something they didn't know the answer to. They wrote the question down on a sticky note and I asked a student to collect them for me.
The third read takes the longest, because this is when the teacher reads aloud and models thinking. It's also difficult because students want to talk. And that's good, but it's not their turn! It's hard to not respond to their comments. It's hard to tell them, "It's my turn. You need to listen to me right now. It's all about me and my thoughts right now" especially with a gifted and honors class, because they think their thoughts are all that and a unicorn.
During this third read, I focused on the following:
- First Paragraph
- The first paragraph introduces the essay with a hook, but there's no thesis statement.
- Second paragraph
- First sentence: the author uses a semi-colon. That means that those two sentences are directly related to each other. The semi-colon is connecting two complete sentences.
- The word botanist. It refers to the person who brought the bulbs over. I know that the suffix -ist refers to a specialist. Botany is plants. So is the botanist someone who specializes in plants?
- I like the way the third sentence sounds--the author uses alliteration.
- Third Paragraph
- If I were editing this essay, I would combine the first two sentences. I'd place a comma before the conjunction so it would flow better.
- The bizarre tulip patterns were caused by a virus. These bulbs that people were paying so much for were sick. Wouldn't that hurt the health of all tulips? Why would they do that?
- There's an appositive! Right there! In the wild! Look at what it does! You can take that part of the sentence out and still have a complete sentence. It's magical.
- Fourth Paragraph
- Over a period of three years (1634 to 1637), the price skyrocketed.
- The author used 'bizarre' to refer to the tulips in the previous paragraph. Now the author is using the word 'bi-color.' Bizarre has negative connotations. Weird, odd, strange. Bi-color is more neutral.
- Fifth Paragraph
- I don't like how the author doesn't say what made the market collapse. I know what caused the stock market crash of 1929, but did the same thing happen with the tulips? Did people just stop trading the tulips? What made the market tulip market crash?
- The last sentence is powerful. "Amid the lamentations, despair, and suicides, the modest tulip continued to beautify the Dutch countryside." The first independent clause in the sentence has negative connotations--lamentations, despair, suicides (did people really kill themselves over tulips? or over losing money?). The second part of the sentence, the independent clause, has positive connotations. But modest? That's personification, yo. Tulips can't be modest.
- There's no restated thesis statement. It's like the author wants the reader to figure out the main ideas themselves. Bah!
After my reading and modeling was done (finally!) I asked students to do their third quickwrite. Did I mention indenting? And capitalizing? And punctuation? 'Cause y'all should use those things!
Here's the third quickwrite prompt:
After the quickwrite, I asked two students from each group to rotate to new groups. Rotate! Rotate! Rotate! The new groups read their quickwrites. They wrote one question per group, that, again, they don't know the answer to, should be on a test, should be on a set of questions, or something similar.
It would have been smart of me to color code these sticky note questions, but all I had were yellow sticky notes. Bummer.
My room is arranged in seven groups of four, so I can easily separate the groups of four into groups of three. Leave off the seventh group, and there's two groups of eight. Does that make sense? Maybe I'll make a picture. I'm not so good at explaining with numbers.
I gave each of my new groups one set of questions: Key Ideas and Details, Craft and Structure, and Integration of Knowledge and Ideas (IKI). I asked them to read through the questions and rank them in the order of
- the questions that would lead to the most discussion
- the effectiveness of the question
- the difficulty of the question
Each question would be labeled with a number. #1 would be the question that would lead to the best discussion, and # 8 would be a straightforward answer.
These questions would lead to the tomorrow's discussion.