Critical Thinking with "Setting up Tuskegee" and Patterns of Organization

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Students will be able to develop critical thinking skills by reading a passage about Tuskegee University's origins, answering six critical thinking questions, citing evidence for their answers, and discuss their answers with a small group.

Big Idea

Develop critical thinking skills through independent reading and authentic student discourse through six powerful types of questions.


10 minutes

Identify the four types of organization for paragraphs we learned about yesterday in your topic sentence.  Define two of them in your concrete evidence. Give more details in the commentary. End with a concluding sentence.

Identifying the Organization of Students' Paragraphs

15 minutes

Yesterday I taught students four common types of organization.  There are certainly more types, but we started with some of the most common: spatial, chronological, compare and contrast, and cause and effect.  Their homework was to write four paragraphs about the stories we had read ("Seventh Grade" and "Thank You, M'am") using the four types of organization.

Thanks to our school's ETL program, most students had their homework done.  There were a couple of students who were absent or did not have their homework done and thus, were assigned to ETL.  The students who didn't get it done last night, however, turned it in at lunch.  Score!  I divided students up into random groups of three. 

Their task was to take turns reading one of their paragraphs aloud.  The reader was NOT to tell the others what type of paragraph they were reading.  Instead, the students needed to listen for transition words to figure out what type of paragraph the writer wrote.  They recorded the transition words on a simple handout to keep students focused and on track.   Sometimes they needed to have the paragraph read aloud again, which was fine.  Sometimes the writer realized that they weren't being as clear as they thought they were.

"Setting Up Tuskegee" Reading the Article and Citing Evidence

20 minutes

A couple of weeks ago, my students read a short non-fiction article about Booker T. Washington, entitled, "Booker T. Washington" from Walter Pauk's 6 Way Paragraph.  The article that they read today was the second in the series about Booker T. Washington and how he set up Tuskegee University.

I copied the two articles back to back so students had the first article and the second article.  Since it's been a few weeks, and students had ample opportunity to lose this paper, I gave them a punch on their punch card if they had kept track of the paper.

I gave students about ten minutes to read the article and answer the questions.  It is a short article, so it doesn't take them long to complete the first read.  What takes time is when they have to go back and cite their evidence for their answers.  These are multiple choice questions, but they have to cite their evidence.  Did I mention that they need to cite their evidence?

I had the students use eight different colors to annotate their cited evidence. Three colors are used to help them identify the main idea, and the other five are used for the other five multiple choice questions.

"Setting Up Tuskegee" Group Discussion

25 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.

Each group nominates a leader who is responsible for filling out the group answer sheet.  The leader writes everybody's name down and then records their answers.  If the entire group agrees, they move on to the next question.  If there is disagreement, then students discuss where they found the answer and try to convince the others based on their evidence. You can see from the picture in the previous section (Citing Evidence) that Kelsey discovered that she had the wrong answer for the conclusion. She marked her incorrect answer with an X, which is the symbol we use in my class to mark incorrect answers.

Not every group finished this part, and we were not able to go on to the full class discussion.  We're getting there.  It's a process.