Failure is an Option?
Lesson 3 of 10
Objective: Students will be able to: use evidence from a non-fiction text in order to write an argument that persuasively develops the claim or counterclaim proposed by the author. Students will be able to: understand that science as a process moves forward, not despite failure, but because of failure.
Note: I recommend that you first check out this resource in order to get the most out of this lesson!
The lesson planning document that I uploaded to this section is a comprehensive overview of how I approach lesson planning. With the NGSS coming soon, I re-formatted the template to include the "Big Three" aspects of the standards: Disciplinary Core Ideas, Crosscutting Concepts, and Science Practices. Of course, there are many other worthy learning goals, skills, instructional strategies, and assessments that can be integrated into a class session. In high school I took several drafting classes and, for a while, I hoped to become an architect. With respect to teaching and planning instruction I feel that I can still live out the detailed approach to building something intricate and complex even though the product is a lesson rather than a built environment.
I hope you get some value from my work!
As the new school year begins, I emphasize that the nature of learning and "school" is very similar to the process of science. I begin the lesson by posing the contrasting points-of-view to students outlined on slide 2 of the Failure Prompt slideshow: "Failure is an option" or "Failure is not an option".
I then direct students through a quick Think-Pair-Share discussion. First, I ask students to consider which POV they are more likely to agree with at the present and identify 1-2 supporting reasons (30-60 seconds). Students are then asked to discuss their thinking with a classmate nearby. (2 min).
Next, I solicit student responses from the whole class (the "Share" part of the strategy) (2-3 minutes). I try to avoid evaluating (right vs. wrong) student responses at this time in order to avoid biasing their thinking.
I then probe whether the context of the situation matters. In other words, do some contexts/situations have no room for error where failure really is not an option? I take a few moments to discuss this with students. If students are not so eager to volunteer I might call on a few students by name.
1) After students choose either point-of-view, I frame the lesson prompt in terms of those who do exploring, inventing, and inquiring in a scientific/academic sense. I am trying to focus their thinking on the mindset of people who have pushed the boundaries of our knowledge based on a trial-and-error approach which is the core of the scientific method.
2) I then explain that students will read a non-fiction text and, using specific evidence, defend their argument (POV). I show the assignment prompt on slide 3 of the slideshow outlining the standards by which their assignment will be evaluated. This is one of the first instances when I discuss my approach to using a mastery evaluation system with a grade scale of 4 (exceeds standard), 3 (meets standard), 2 (approaching standard), and 1 (well below standard). So on a regular basis, I clarify what "meeting standard" looks like. An obvious extension from there is what might a 4 or 2 look like? In terms of this prompt, I explain what I am looking like. Typically, it boils down to either an issue of quantity of responses, the quality of responses, or a combination of the two. I frame what the standards are for this assignment before we get going further.
3) In my school district, each student is assigned a laptop, therefore many instructional resources are accessed digitally. In this case, I direct students to access the National Geographic article (link provided on slide 3) so that all students can read it. As we read the article as a class, I use a "popcorn" style process wherein one student reads a paragraph/section then she chooses the next reader. As a matter of practice, I pre-read all texts in order to identify vocabulary that I think might be a stumbling block. Therefore, I prefer to periodically stop to assess understanding of key vocabulary and content understanding.
4) Once the article has been read, I direct students to complete the Point-of-View Graphic Organizer with an eye to the claim (or counterclaim) made by the author.
5) I then provide time for students to complete the writing task (ensuring that at least five minutes are reserved for lesson closure).
Having finished the reading and completing the graphic organizer, I solicit the whole class to vote for the point-of-view that they have chosen and defended. A simple method of hands raised could do the trick or, to jazz up the process, use electronic clickers or online polls like PollEverywhere.
I then link the article content to the habits of mind that I want students to adopt in class during the year; particularly 'persistence' and 'taking responsible risks'. These habits of mind, and the resulting cycle of "try, fail (possibly), learn, and repeat" describes the process of science. The next connection I emphasize is that since science is predicated upon this model, then this must be true especially in a science class. I then use this discussion to link to my standards-based grading system wherein students may revise assignments based on feedback and retake assessments.
As an exercise in anticipating counter-arguments, I then assign students the task of listing and describing three situations in which the alternative POV might be acceptable. This could lead to further discussion of situations in which retaking a quiz or redoing an assignment (in a mastery-based course) might not be feasible. In my experience with this approach to evaluation and re-teaching, students eagerly accept the philosophy behind the practice but practical limitations do make it difficult at times to translate into real life.