From the Desk of the President

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Objective

SWBAT research types of alternative energy to learn about their supplies, locations, benefits, and drawbacks.

Big Idea

Which types of alternative energy forms are best for our country? In this lesson students create a persuasive presentation to convince others that an alternative energy resource should be utilized on a national level.

Day 1: Engage

5 minutes

I start the lesson by asking the students to summarize what they learned in the last lesson, "Don't Be Fuel-ish!".  Most students will be able to identify the type of energy they studied, as well as its supply, benefits, drawbacks, etc. I explain to the class that since we have done such a great job learning about alternative forms of energy, we have been called on by a very important person to help take this a step further.

I display the home page of the Alternative Energy Webquest, play the Obama video introduction* (below) and have students read the home page to themselves. After listening and reading, I ask them who is willing to take on the challenge and help create a better future for the United States.

 

*I created this video using iSpeech. In addition to the Obama text to speech, iSpeech offers many different online and mobile apps that can be used in the classroom.

Days 1-3: Explore

45 minutes

Next, I direct the students to access the web quest on their own computers and read the section labeled "Your Task".  After they have a chance to read through the task, I review the process and the questions with them, explaining my expectations and answering student questions about when, what, or how they will research or break up the workload.*

Once I feel that everyone has a solid understanding of the expectations, I pass out hard copies of the question sheet (found on the website) and set them to work! I expect that students should take at least 2-3 days to research the information in order to get a strong understanding of the new fuel type that has been assigned to them. Many will try to say they are done after a day, or even a few minutes. If that happens, I ask questions to assess their basic knowledge and see if they can actually apply/evaluate the information they have found into the basis of an argument. I may ask questions such as:

  • Do we have enough of this energy source to power a whole country? For how long?
  • What are some of the drawbacks of trying to use this alternative fuel in a country as diverse in climate as the USA?
  • Do you think it is practical to expect all 50 states to adopt this energy source? 
  • What might be some of the infrastructure we have to put into place before we are able to use this type of energy? What would the related costs be?
  • Do you think this is a good alternative to fossil fuels? Why?
  • What might a counterargument be?

Students will not be able to answer these questions after surface level research. In order to be successful with this lesson, they must do adequate and thorough research, think these ideas through, and be able to support their claims with evidence. Until they are able to do so, they are not "done".

 

*Basically, this is your call. You can choose to have each student answer each question, to have them break up the questions and each answer a few, or to have a couple of kids answer the same questions and compare answers. I tend to do the third. Some students are not as savvy when it comes to research and have not learned how to read for more detail or to scour a few sites rather than just copy the first thing that Google brings up. I like to make each student view at least 3 sites before settling on a summary of the information, which should be paraphrased, NOT COPIED, on their paper. But that's just me. 

Days 4-5: Explain

50 minutes

Once students have completed their individual research, they will come together as a task force and compare their findings. This is when they should work together to create their presentation. I like to monitor the room, listening in to their conversations and asking the same type of questions I did during the "Explore" section to make sure they are grasping just how much they should know about their energy source in order to make a valid argument.

I allow students to choose the media they would like to use for their presentation. While there are thousands available on the web, here are a few suggestions that all offer free versions:

  • Google Slides (slides.google.com)
  • Glogster (www.glogster.com)
  • Prezi (www.prezi.com)
  • Museum Box (www.museumbox.com)
  • Emaze (www.emaze.com)

Day 6: Elaborate

55 minutes

Once students have had a chance to create their presentations, I ask them to find a partner who had studies that same energy source in the last lesson, "Don't Be Fuel-ish!". They will use that partner as an "expert in the field". Not only will they work with that partner to edit and revise their writing, but their main purpose is to ask this colleague to provide additional insight as to the drawbacks and benefits of the energy source, which can then be added to their presentation to help support their claim.  Each student has the responsibility of working with an expert and will bring their findings back to their task force to help them revise their presentation as a group before bringing it to the President (me). Each student must also serve as an expert for somebody else.

Day 7: Evaluate

50 minutes

It is time to present! Each group will have five minutes to present their findings and recommendations for the use of their type of alternative energy. While each task force is presenting, the students (a.k.a. the Department of Energy) are required to take notes on the strengths and weaknesses of each presentation, based on the following criteria:

  • Amount and depth of information covered
  • Clearly presented and easy to understand
  • On topic
  • Argument is clear and concise
  • Supported by evidence
  • Well written and visually appealing

Once all presentations have been completed, the students have to identify the top three presentations, based on the same criteria. In order to keep the voting as fair as possible, the students may NOT vote for their own.

I have also strategically created groups, so that peer groups are evenly spread out enough to prevent students from voting for all of their best friends' groups. The groups who received the most votes will receive 5 bonus points added to their score, in addition to points earned according to the grading rubric (on the website).