Revitalizing Active Study with Jefferson's Inaugural Address

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SWBAT determine author's intent, make inferences supported by appropriate evidence, evaluate main ideas, and identify tone in an informational text by actively reading.

Big Idea

Help students navigate studying for a skills-based assessment by modeling a skills-based individual review activity.

Lesson Overview

We were supposed to have a quiz today over the elements of argument, however, I assume that many students will not have studied for this quiz (as the Argumentative Presentation Project was due by today).  With this in mind, I have changed around my instruction a bit to allow an in-class test-preparation activity today and moved the quiz to next class period. 

Today's lesson is the first of two lessons devoted to helping students utilize more successful study habits to prepare for their end-of-unit assessment.  Students are not taking the necessary steps to study for these skills-based assessments, leading to student frustration.  Rather than continue to harp at them to go PRACTICE the skills we use in class on any challenging piece of literary or informational text, I've decided that I will con them into "studying" MY way over the next two class periods.  To balance out this workload, I have made my study guide (enumerating the skills and key vocabulary to know and be able to apply) much smaller, leaving students with only 6 questions to answer independently. 

After this test has been taken, I will tabulate results to compare with previous tests to help demonstrate to students that studying for test by practicing the activities (just as you would in a skills-based course like mathematics) yields a substantially higher test score. 


15 minutes

As with any large project submission, I know my students will come in today with loud sighs, wiping their brows in mock exhaustion!  I will build in about 10 minutes to let students celebrate, vent, discuss things that went well with the project, things that were challenging and could be improved, and answer any questions for students who may not have turned in their projects yet.  I will also announce that students officially have the rest of the day today plus 48-hours to turn in the project for a late grade.  After this time, no projects will be accepted for points.  

Building Knowledge

20 minutes

To continue the joyous mood (and generate a willingness to work through the independent reading assignment in the next section...), I will next announce that due to the submission deadlines of their projects, I have moved their Elements of Argument Quiz to next class period.  I will then ask all students to pull up their "Elements of Argument Terms to Know Notes" so that we can review the definitions and create real-life applications of these terms at work.  So many of my students are used to simply memorizing words and definitions, but my tests require them to demonstrate that they know what they are by identifying them in action or synthesizing an example to showcase them, so it is critical that I help students build a stronger understanding of these terms in a way that is relevant to them.  I throw out a ton of my own examples, but a student-created example is much more likely to stick in their minds than mine!

Next, I will ask students if they have any questions on their argument notes.  If no one has questions, I will again explain how the test is set up and ask if they feel comfortable with that or if they have any questions about the terms.  As students ask questions, I will throw them back out to the classroom to collaborate on answers.  Depending on the chattiness of the class, I may not need to ask my own questions to supplement this notes review, but more often than not, I join in on the questioning to ensure that students really do have a working knowledge of the terms in action.  If there is a lull in discussion, I will pose one of my own questions from the list below until the group has demonstrated their understanding of the terms.  Typically, if students are quiet and I begin asking questions, they will chime in right away as the group becomes more open with sharing their struggles.

  • What's the major difference between a rebuttal and a refutation?  (A rebuttal focuses more on proving why YOUR argument is more valid than another, partly by explaining why the counterclaim is wrong but mainly by focusing on how YOUR claim is more right.  A refutation really just focuses on tearing apart the counterclaim, not building up your own argument in the process.  A good example of a straight refutation might be a negative political ad that explains solely why the opponent is a bad choice, not why the person airing the ad is a better candidate.)
  • Can someone explain to me what a warrant is?  (Historically, students struggle with understanding how warrants relate to claims.  They use them all the time in real life, but they don't always connect that.  My goal here will be to get them to recognize the underlying arguments they routinely use by building on examples from their own lives.  For instance, if a student has an older sibling and wants to do something like go to a concert at an earlier age than their sibling did, they probably use a warrant to argue their case!  If students are struggling with the concept of warrants, I will bring up this example and ask students what underlying reason, spoken or unspoken, they feel justifies their request.  As a younger sibling myself, I know the warrant is ALWAYS that you are a different person than your sibling, so different rules should apply!  If students need more examples, I will solicit them from students that are starting to have the "lightbulb moment" from this example to enable them to teach their peers.)
  • What might be a warrant that would be the basis for an argument AGAINST the death penalty?  (It's wrong to kill people.)  How about a warrant that could be the basis for an argument FOR legalizing medicinal marijuana for terminal patients in pain?  (People with terminal illnesses shouldn't have to suffer more than they do.)
  • What word MUST a question of policy contain?  (Should)  
  • Which type of question will you NOT be allowed to use for your research paper?  Why?  (Question of fact because it leaves little room for students to build their own logic structures.  If it can be proved or disproved by facts alone, it won't provide the type of reasoning I want evidence in these assignments.)
  • What type of words show up in questions of value?  (Judgment words like better, worst, best, good, more effective, etc.)
  • Give me 3 examples of a question of policy, followed by 3 examples of a question of value.
  • What's an example of a primary source?  Secondary?
  • Why is syntax important to writers and readers?




50 minutes

For our final activity of the day, students will have most of the remaining class period to independently work on reading and answering the associated questions related to Thomas Jefferson's Inaugural Address from 1801.  Before beginning the assignment, I will explain to students my rationale for having them complete this assignment (to prepare for the upcoming test, which asks them to be proficient in the skills this activity requires).  I will also share with them the relevance of skills-based assessments as they apply to future PARCC assessments, college requirements, internships, job evaluations, and more.  Finally, I will let them know that because of this extended in-class review activity and requirement, the review guide that will be distributed at the end of the hour will be dramatically shortened to only six questions to make up for their effort with our in-class activities by nearly eliminating tonight's homework and encouraging them to take as much time as they need with the practice activity (instead of rushing through it to get to the study guide).  

Next, I will play a Jefferson Mini-Bio to give students a background about Jefferson and his era of leadership before analyzing his inaugural address.  While watching, students should consider how his personal characteristics may effect his message (well-educated, no stranger to controversy, well-known to the public in other roles) and what American issues may be addressed in his inaugural address.  Students have read inaugural addresses before, so they are aware that inaugural addresses officially begin a presidency and layout major issues that the president wants to tackle during his term.  After viewing the video, we will discuss these questions to fully frame our reading.

I will instruct students to access the Thomas Jefferson Mini-Assessment through my webpage and Google Doc (which must be copied and placed in their shared folders) and review the directions with them, giving particular emphasis to the first set of directions that instruct students to "mark up" the text with Google Comments as they read and the questions that require selecting more than one answer.  This practice activity is available through Achieve The Core, which has many resources like this one available for use.  The packet for this activity is attached in the resources section and gives more information about alignment, expectations, and text complexity.  Students will then have almost the rest of the hour to complete this activity independently.  During this time I will use my access to student folders to open each student's "mini-assessment" in order to monitor progress of students and respond to student questions that come in from chat windows.  I will also circulate throughout the classroom and answer questions as needed, but for the most part students have been remaining more consistently on task with classwork when I have a copy of their file on my screen than when I wander around the room.  


5 minutes

In the final few moments of class, I will direct students to the Realism & Transcendentalism Review Guide and give them an overview of what the test will look like and how to best use the guide.  I will clarify each of the skills to know and draw attention to some of the preparation platforms I would suggest using (in parentheses on the guide) and point out the specific texts with which they should be familiar.  During this time, I will also brainstorm other ways to study for the test, including searching Google for more practice activities, creating practice tests from notes on stories and concepts, and retaking old quizzes from this unit.  

To conclude, I will instruct students to answer the six questions at the top of the study guide, and if there is time, we can begin discussing them in class.  

Next Steps

Next class period, we will resume our work on modeling test preparation through the "Elements of Argument Quiz" and a group review game.