Critical Thinking: "Booker T. Washington"

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Students will be able to develop critical thinking skills by reading an informative text, answering targeted critical thinking questions, citing evidence, and discussing answers with a small group.

Big Idea

Students develop critical thinking skills through reading and authentic student discourse.

Reviewing the 6 Way Paragraph

7 minutes

I'll be working with Walter Pauk's book, The 6 Way Paragraph, with my classes throughout the year.  I introduced the 6 Way Paragraph model with the first passage, "King of Beasts," which is at a sixth grade reading level.  For this second lesson, I'm using the 99th passage, the first in a series of passages about Booker T. Washington and the Tuskegee Institute. The reason I jumped from #1 to #99 is to provide opportunity for students to stretch themselves in the "rubber band" idea. See this video to hear me ramble about the rubber band theory and how I use it for reading logs.  Speaking of reading logs, this lesson may be of interest.

I spent a few minutes reviewing the six components of the 6  Way Paragraph.  I used this review to remind students about the framework, allow students who were absent to get caught up, and to clear up misunderstandings from the last session.

To review, I asked six students to read aloud the six different parts on the anchor chart.  After reading about main idea and subject matter, I told students that the main idea and subject matter are intricately linked together.  They're like BFFs forever.  To find the subject matter, look back at the main idea.  If you can't find the subject matter in the main idea, you probably need to check your answer for main idea.

 My students are mostly very familiar with the QAR (Question-Answer-Relationship) framework because it's a school-wide strategy they learned in sixth grade. Using a framework that they're familiar with helps them understand the different types of questions they'll encounter with this critical thinking book.

I reminded students that a detail sentence can be found right in the passage.  It's the Right There question type in QAR (Question-Answer Relationship) framework.  The conclusion question requires them to make an inference.  It's the Author and I question in the QAR framework.  I also cleared up the confusion with my first hour class about conclusion/concluding sentence and reminded my other classes of the difference between a conclusion (inference) and a conclusion (concluding sentence). The clarifying devices ask students to analyze the reason an author includes a specific detail or word. The vocabulary in context step has two separate parts and both are equally important. Most students stop after the first part, replacing the word with each of the answers to make sure which one make sense.  Sometimes (usually?) that's enough, but sometimes, you need more context.  That's why it's important to read the sentence before and after--to check your thinking.


Reading: "Booker T. Washington"

20 minutes

This is the second time students have worked with a passage from the 6 Way paragraph.  the first time was when students read "King of Beasts". For that lesson, I simply asked students to underline the answer in the passage.  This time, we're stepping it up a notch. From now on, students will be color-coding their evidence. That just means that they'll be using a different colored pencil to underline their proof in the passage. 

I modeled the color-coding evidence with the passage "King of Beasts" since it was a familiar passage and we hadn't done this part before. I didn't want to model with the passage they'd be reading today because then I'd be doing the thinking for them. I highlighted "Main Idea" in red and then  underlined where I found the answer in red.  I highlighted "Subject Matter" in yellow and then underlined where I found the answer in yellow.  I did the same thing for each question. See this video to see my modeling.

Once I was finished modeling with "King of Beasts," I gave each student a copy of the passage "Booker T. Washington" and told them to read it independently and then answer the questions.  This is certainly a struggle for many of my students, especially those students who are reading well below grade level (see reflection).  I gave students about twelve minutes to read the passage and answer the questions, including color-coded cited evidence.

You could also have students complete this reading for homework.


Fishbowl Discussions

30 minutes

This is the part of the lesson where students check their answers.  Not by listening to a teacher rattle off the correct answers, but by having a dialogue with their peers about their answers. For this discussion, we used a fishbowl discussion.

I divided students up into six groups.  In my smallest class, that meant that there were three students in each group.  In my largest class, there were 5 students in each group.  Each group would take a turn in the center of the fishbowl.  The rest of the students formed a circle around the fishbowl.  I happen to have a table in my room, so I use that as the fishbowl.  Otherwise, I'd use regular desks. In the picture to the left, the box in green is the fishbowl, and the brown boxes represent student desks.

Each group was assigned a specific question to answer.  There are six types of questions, hence the six different groups. Each group got five minutes in the fishbowl.  I set a timer for this. When they were in the fishbowl, their job was to determine which of the answers was correct, and which ones were incorrect and be able to explain why. That's the requirements for the questions.  However, just as important for this assignment is the discussion.  The speaking and listening skills are the other huge, perhaps even most difficult, part.

 The first speaking and listening standard requires students to "engage effectively in discussions. . . building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly." This requires students to have read the passage, follow rules for collegial discussions, pose questions, and acknowledge new information.

The students in the fishbowl are practicing the five important listening and speaking skills (see picture to the left) skills--using people's names, looking at whoever is talking, sticking to the topic, take turns speaking and listening, and continuing and building on the previous speaker's thinking. The students who are in the outer circle are evaluating how the fishbowl students do those things using this chart.

Responding in Writing

5 minutes

To demonstrate students' understanding of today's lesson, I asked students to respond to these three questions.

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