Today my students will explore the presidential election that coincided with Steinbeck's journey in Travels With Charley. Because his journey is largely motivated by a desire to know a new America from the one he last travelled extensively through 25 years prior--"I had not felt the country for twenty-five years" (5)--it seems fitting to examine one the most important elections in American history.
I have decided to exploit the phenomena that was the first televised debate, between Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy, as a critical eye on technological advancement is likewise part of Steinbeck's agenda. This is the debate that many claim won the election for Kennedy, as Nixon essentially sweated away his chance at the presidency.
After reminding my students that Steinbeck is traveling during this critical election year, I begin by showing my students the first 20 minutes of the debate, in order for them to witness the differences between the two men. I will most likely pause the video after key moments, asking my students to comment on what they see and/or hear. I don't expect that all of my students will be riveted by what is said, but believe that I can keep them engaged enough by stopping and discussing periodically throughout the video.
After viewing the debate, I then distribute copies of a Time Magazine article--"How The Nixon-Kennedy Debate Changed The World"--that further addresses the dynamics of and context around the debate. I allow my students to work with their table partners in order to read the article, encouraging them to "never read empty handed if you own it" (read: mark it up and "talk to the text," with pencil, pen, highlighter--whatever is handy).
As my students read in pairs, I circulate the room, listening in and addressing any comments or questions they may have. As they get close to completing their reading, I give each student a series of questions about the article that I have tried to model as much as possible after the Smarter Balanced Assessment. I deliberately hold out on distributing the questions until after my students have read, marked-up, and discussed the article with their partners; this is to prevent them from going straight to the questions without thoroughly reading the text.
I allow my students to consult with their partners on the questions, though each student is required to complete them individually for credit in their classroom spiral notebooks. The final question asks my students to develop a paragraph that explores whether or not television has been more beneficial than detrimental to human advancement. This paragraph is written directly in their spiral notebooks.
Because I know that my students all work at varying paces, I do not expect that we will be able to review this activity thoroughly before the period ends. If this is the case, then we will begin our next class session with a whole group review.