Errors in Reasoning: Weak References

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SWBAT write examples of opinions with errors in reasoning about a given topic.

Big Idea

Students use critical thinking skills to detect faulty logic in arguments. Non-examples help students learn, too!

Identifying and Exemplifying Weak References

20 minutes

In order to teach the Common Core writing standards of using reasoning to support opinions, I guide students to explore faulty logic examples in this unit.  Faulty logic is an argument that lacks validity. It is sometimes referred to as paradoxical reasoning because it is illogical, absurd, or contradictory.  Not only will they need to recognize faulty logic so as to avoid using it in their own opinion writing, later they will also be expected to assess reasoning provided by the author and determine if the evidence is based on fallacious reasoning as they enter middle school and high school in preparation for research in their careers or college. Students need to build on prior knowledge to get to that point.  Starting to introduce errors in logic in the primary grades gives students the foundational knowledge needed for this critical reasoning later on.

Although the concept of faulty logic and errors in reasoning is not often taught until later grades, I decided to present my gifted, high achieving class with this challenge.  It is an experiment of sorts for my class consisting of students who are out-of-the-box thinkers. The tricky part is teaching students through non-examples. This non-traditional route of teaching shows students what not to do instead of what to do.  Students use critical thinking skills as they analyze the irrationality of their writing. This activity is a demonstration of the old adage "Learn from your mistakes." Indeed, mistakes provide opportunities for learning.

I begin the lesson by assessing student prior knowledge on today's focus: Weak References.  My Promethean Weak Reference Promethean Flip Chart guides me sequentially through these steps.  Then, I introduce "Weak Reference" as a type of error in reasoning or logic.  My teaching to common core is about identifying logical fallacies and judging evidence for its validity.  This develops critical thinking skills.  We discuss examples and how it relates to the real world.  Students interaction, during this introduction, is especially important.  I am conducting formative assessments of student understanding of this conceptual knowledge, as we discuss and elaborate on examples of weak reference. 

Modeling and Explaining Weak References

20 minutes

I ask students whose formative assessments indicate they understand "weak reference" to model by giving us an example of weak reference.  Students share their ideas and examples through Weak Reference discussions.  Now, I ask students to work in their cooperative groups, following established Cooperative Groups Flip Chart, and develop an example of their own.  Since this is a new abstract concept, I ask each group to produce and present one example.  However, the speaker of the group must explain why they believe their example is a weak reference.

Students are learning to strengthen their opinion-writing by understanding what kinds of supporting details are really non-examples because they are faulty logic or illogical.

Student Feedback

20 minutes

Students are asked to critique the presentations, citing evidence to support their claim.  We use the Errors Reasoning Rubric to guide us in this process.  Students are asked to criticize constructively.  We role play, prior to the actual critique to clarify this process.  The coaching process to enable students to give constructive feedback to their classmates was made easier using a guide on Kid Friendly Criticism