Lesson 22

The Cotton Gin Was Awesome! Right? Opposing Viewpoint Close Read

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SWBAT read opposing historical texts to form their own viewpoints.

Big Idea

When given information, remember to think about ALL viewpoints before deciding on your own. After all, the miraculous cotton gin required more slaves than ever before.


The next two days are for students to take a peek at some historical viewpoints. I wanted the students to see that not everything we read is always good. Too often we believe that technology is good and we never really consider the drawbacks. Since we recently finished our westward movement unit in social studies and I need to jump into the civil war, I wanted to bridge the gap a bit through reading. We'll be looking at some background of the first industrial revolution in the U.S. and considering, specifically, the effects of the cotton gin. Students will see how wonderful this invention was, but I want them to really think about the human cost of the machine and ultimately decide if the cotton gin was a positive invention. Day 1 will be for students to build background and close read to compile some information with which they can form an opinion. Day 2 will be the start of drafting those thoughts. My students will not finish in two days, so they will be given more time during my writing block. 


10 minutes

Students will take a walking tour of some parts of a passage I have about the industrial revolution. To set up the Walking Tour write this passage in segments or copy and paste each section onto a document to print in large text. Place one section per chart and post the charts around the room. 

 First, break into 4 groups. Then,  I want you to spend spend 2-5 minutes at each chart, reading, discussing, interpreting, and reacting to the idea. I will call “switch” when it’s time to move. You’ll move from chart to chart until you have visited all of the charts. When the "tour groups" have finished, we’ll discuss and summarize the charts with the entire group.

This activity is just to give the kids some background about the Industrial Revolution so they can understand what we’ll be reading in class today. They need this information before I give them an article about Samuel Slater and Eli Whitney and their contributions to the U.S.

Close Read 1

20 minutes

Today you'll be reading two passages that give us some information about the first part of the industrial revolution. Once the revolution started in Europe started, it was only a matter of time before things picked up here in the U.S. What if I told you that lying and stealing was involved in this revolution in the states? You'll get to see if I'm telling the truth when you read today. While reading today, I'm asking that you put on your multiple viewpoint glasses to look for evidence that there may be a different perspective about part of the revolution. I want you to use annotations while reading to record your thoughts along the way. You'll start with a passage about the start of the revolution. 

I'll give the kids about 15 minutes to read and annotate the text. 

Do you think any new invention is worth human lives? 

I really don't know if my kids will catch on to this. The text I chose really lays out how miraculous the cotton gin was, but only gives one short sentence about how it increased slavery. One sentence in the text should make a strong reader start to question things, but for my students, I think they'll miss the chance to see a multiple viewpoint. I think that's what can be so hard about teaching reading in the upper grades sometimes. It's about showing kids where to look, but not what to think. I often get nervous that they won't do the thinking unless I tell them how, but I know with ample practice, they'll get there. 

Once they think about this a bit, I'll let the students share some ideas. If no one gets my point from the text:

Read the last paragraph for me. Does this paragraph make you think about anything? 

Hopefully by this point, the students have enough of a hint to discuss that the cotton gin was wonderful, yet increased slavery. At this point in history slavery was started to die out a bit, but now, because of the cotton gin, it was essential. 

What does this mean for slaves in the U.S? Next we'll take a look at an opposing perspective of the cotton gin. What do you think the author will say? What text structure do you think the author will use?

Close Read 2

20 minutes

Think about your viewpoint of the question we all just answered. "Is an invention worth human lives?" While reading have this question in the back of your mind. Annotate while reading so you can share some of the information that you felt was most important. 

Once the students have finished reading, we'll have a brief discussion. The real discussion and writing comes in tomorrow's lesson. Reading two passages would naturally take my whole class period today; especially when the students are interacting with the text, making notes, etc. 

I will need to check in on my struggling readers today while they work. I don't want a small group though because I want to see what they can do independently. I'l be asking them to give me a hand raise or signal to let me know where they are completely confused so they can practice self-monitoring.