Faulty Logic: Over-simplification

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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!

Oversimplification Defined

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.

Today's focus is oversimplification, which is the idea of is presenting misleading information but giving inaccurate or inadequate details.  It is understating the difficulty of a topic or concept. This type of misrepresentation of information leads to misconceptions.

Continuing our past discussion on identifying Faulty Logic, I begin to delve deeper into the this type of faulty logic: Oversimplification.  This time, we not only review the definition and identify examples, but we talk about creating our own examples from real world experiences. I begin by showing the Oversimplification Promethean Flip Chart specifically for the purpose of deepening our student knowledge on Oversimplification.  Students begin a discussion on some real life experiences they had with this type of fallacy.  At this age, I hear a lot of examples about how their parents "oversimplify" the cause of homework or chores done getting done.  Of course, the student said their parents assume that they are lazy, but in fact there are various reasons such as: a late sport event, extreme fatigue, getting home late, etc.  It is interesting how our discussions generate creative thinking.

Explaining Over-simplification

20 minutes

After my flip chart presentation, I like to reverse roles and ask volunteers in my class to interpret in their own words what the concepts mean to them.  My students are not shy, so I had plenty of volunteers.  I selected students who are known to make a habit of thinking out loud, which is the perfect personality for what I had in mind.  By reversing roles and asking students teach the concept back to me, students demonstrate what they learned as well as any misconceptions they had.  It is my way of formatively assessing students prior to going on to the next part of my lesson. 

Creating Fallacies

20 minutes

As indicated in the opening section, this lesson targets writing opinion pieces that supply reasons that support the opinion, but, to get at this standard, the students explore supporting reasons that are really non-examples because they are faulty logic or illogical.  They are learning how to strengthen their arguments through these non-examples.

We work together on brainstorming samples of over-simplification.  I explain to students that over-simplification is an understatement, meaning that it is the opposite of exaggeration.  We discuss personal experiences of people in our lives who have exaggerated.  We listed some exaggerations since students are already familiar with it.  Then, we scaffold knowledge into the opposite and brainstorm samples for over-simplification together. We researched together as I project websites listing samples of over-simplification from my laptop onto the Promethean board.

After reviewing the Cooperative Groups norms, roles, rules, I ask students to work in teams of four to six members and cooperatively come up with one example of Oversimplification to present to the class.  Each group has access to website should they wish to research examples and review the definition of over-simplification.  They can cite examples from commercials, real life experiences, books they have read, etc.  I circulate to assist as needed and observe student progress.  We use the color cup system to communicate the group's need for my assistance.  This system has worked well because it allows me to differentiate instruction without impeding the collaborative process of other groups.  My availability to monitor students generate a safe and secure environment for them to take risks and try new ideas.

At the conclusion of this activity, student shared their ideas with peers via a class discussion and presentation. The Oversimplification student sample and OverSimplification student presentation show me the level of mastery students were achieving.  I listen and give feedback after student share their artifacts and presentations.