Reflection: Trust and Respect Contextualizing Realism & Naturalism with Informational Texts - Section 3: Building Knowledge


While the video reaction log was an assignment to help students stay focused, gather evidence to support opinions, and provide student-driven topics of discussion, I wasn't prepared for the degree of legitimate, productive, and respectful discussion it actually provoked.  It was (cheesy, but true) MAGICAL to watch.  Students brought up things that were interesting to them, and others chimed in, adding what they thought they knew on the topic before and how the video changed that.  Students bonded from shared interests and reactions, and they were able to moderate their discussion largely independently.  My classroom has been infused with this demand for mutual respect of ideas from peers, so I was so incredibly pleased to see students waiting their turn, responding politely even when they vehemently disagreed with an idea or opinion, and even encouraging other students to participate by soliciting their opinions.

While all of this is well and good, the MOST vigorous debate occurred in response to the Photoshop and Matthew Brady discussion.  Students first discussed possibilities for why it was wrong to stage photos and have soldiers "act dead" for pictures, but eventually this turned to a very interesting discussion about the possible need for lengthy periods of stillness needed for "old time" cameras.  Then, to my complete and utter shock, individual students took to their computers (we're a 1:1 district) and began Googling camera capabilities of the time to get more evidence to prove or disprove this idea!  I couldn't have orchestrated such a genuine desire to learn!  It was phenomenal to watch.  The same vigor and seeking of further information came up as the discussion segued to the ethics of Photoshop in advertising and reporting, where students used their computers to pull up examples to illustrate their point of view!  I did not require this kind of activity as a part of the discussion, but it made it SO much richer.  

Finally, when we got around to the final comparison of what Brady did with using Photoshop in advertising, I was again surprised by the results.  Many students felt that it was unethical that Brady was altering images, but they also felt that it was alright for advertisers to use Photoshop to alter images.  Other students recognized the disparity in this logic and asked more questions to these students to clarify their reasoning, using other analogies, wars, and even commenting on media use in the Vietnam war to challenge their logic.  Ultimately, students still had varying beliefs, but despite the disagreement, the entire class was visibly satisfied by a discussion-well-done.  Needless to say, the only person in the room MORE satisfied by this was probably me!  The Common Core focuses on argumentation in both Writing and Speaking and Listening Standards, and this discussion certainly screamed success on both of those fronts!

  Who Knew Bringing Up Old-School (and Present-Day) Photoshop Would Create Such a Vigorous, Evidence-Driven Debate?
  Trust and Respect: Who Knew Bringing Up Old-School (and Present-Day) Photoshop Would Create Such a Vigorous, Evidence-Driven Debate?
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Contextualizing Realism & Naturalism with Informational Texts

Unit 5: Life is Hard. That's Realism & Naturalism!
Lesson 1 of 6

Objective: SWBAT analyze informational texts to evaluate the purpose and credibility of authors and articulate ideas that contrast with students' existing knowledge about Civil War era documents.

Big Idea: Luring students into nonfiction isn’t a hard sell using a “behind the scenes” approach to investigate the major names of the Civil War.

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