The First Day of High School: "This is Me in Grade 9!"

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SWBAT engage in collaborative, constructive controversy through spoken and written argument.

Big Idea

Here's a great way to start your year--with a little bit of controversy and a lot of fun.

Setting the Stage for Argument

Let me tell you about this lesson!

Throughout this course, I will be joining you to explain what I am doing and why I think it might be effective.  Feel free to adapt, change, or otherwise revise any of the ideas, and let me know how it went by leaving lesson feedback or questions! 

Talking Argument.  I am operating out of socio-cultural perspective which holds that students learn best when the social field of experience is first attended to through speaking and listening (SL9-10.1); in learning argument writing, they are best served when asked to argue orally and then to transfer those same language skills to their writing (W.9-10.1). 

Culture of Constructive Controversy.  Furthermore, by establishing a warm and supportive, stable base group system, a larger class of 25-35 students can become intimate and more supportive.  Finally, the meta-analysis of Johnson and Johnson (2009) establishes that great cognitive gains are realized when students argue with one another respectfully.  By “talking across difference” (Flower, 2003), students learn to respectfully accept the speaker but to critically evaluate his or her ideas critically.

WIIFM--"What's in it for me?"  Students are very concerned with how others view and respect them.  This opening unit deals with establishing the norms in which all students can be heard.  Further this lesson deals humorously with the experience of 9th grade.   What’s in it for me?  From a student’s perspective: “I really like this class because everyone is so respectful of each other.  We really listen to each other and debate with a lot of energy.”








image credit: 

Jkelly(talk | contribs) {{Information |Description=Kevin Hearn plays the Mandolin at Massey hall with fellow Barenaked LadiesSteven Page (left) and Ed Robertson (right). |Source=Uploaded to en: |Date=November 252005 |Author=[[:en:User:TheHYPO]


Listen to the hilarious song, "This is Me in Grade 9"

15 minutes

I will use the large group discussion to activate the students' prior knowledge about argument and to begin to get geared up to participate in our classroom interaction (SL.9-10.1).  I want to both introduce the song that will be our first text and to gain some diagnostic information about how well the students take risks to jump in on a new topic.

I will ask:

1.) What would you say defines a really bad day?  

2.) Ever look back and laugh at a really bad day?


I will play song (online link), “This is me in grade 9" (grade 9 song).  Before playing the song, I will pass out a lyrics sheet so that the students can interact with the specific ideas (RI.9-10.1) mentioned in the song.  Now, there is nothing inherently controversial in this song, not yet, but we are getting there in the small group work which will follow. 

1.) Do you think that he uses humor in this song, where? 

2.) Do you think that he might be making fun of himself? 

3.) Of being stuck with having to adjust to freshman year?


**Note: this song is by the musical group, The Barenaked Ladies.  They are neither bare naked nor ladies, and I think that this moniker might be distracting on the first day or two of class, so I left the group's name off.  I will let the students know the musical group's name after we discuss! 


Small group controversy

20 minutes

Why this song is controversial--in a fun/light way!  In this segment of the  class, I will aim to have the students explore the song, reading it carefully and drawing examples from it (RI.9-10.1) and arguing about whether the events described are truly pitiful or simply hilarious, and it's sort of hard to tell (W.9-10.1).  The narrator's self-deprecating humor makes interpretation a matter of how the listener interprets characterization in general (RL.9-10.3) and narrative point of view in particular (RL.9-10.5).  


Tasking small groups.  I will begin with guiding students to briefly create some norms for small groups (SL.9-10.1b) and then move into the content that they will complete (RI.9-10.1).

1. Ask students what makes for a strong small group?    

2.) Is it positive or negative to disagree with other people? 

3.) What norms should we establish?  (take down some ideas)

4.) Teach small group norms: eye contact, positive body language.

5.) Demonstrate how to quickly move into small groups, and ask students to fill out either the left or right side of the idea sheet.   Assign ½ of the groups to either side.

6.) Model one square for the class and explain what counts for good evidence.  Allow them the chance to do one or two on their own, and then stop the small groups for clarification.


Group Processing.  Afterward, we will process how this went as we interact as a large group/class:

1.) How did your small group do with respect to eye contact and body language?  Did everyone get listened to?

2.) Elicit examples from both sides of the idea sheet, and ask students to take notes on the other side.

3.) Explain what are claims, evidence, warrants/explanations and criteria for argumentation in general.  

Acknowledgements, Credits, Copyright info.

1 minutes

This lesson possible through Project READI. 

PROJECT READI is a multidisciplinary, multi-institution collaboration aimed at research and development to improve complex comprehension of multiple forms of text in literature, history and science. READI is a project supported by the Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education, through Grant R305F100007 to University of Illinois at Chicago. The opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not represent views of the Institute or the U.S. Department of Education.


Song lyrics by Barenaked Ladies: 


link to lyrics 

Lesson Image on Creative Commons