Once or twice a year, I have my 8th graders do a Chalk Talk. The goal is to have them think about and discuss knotty philosophical issues from a fresh perspective. As we start our Civil War unit, I like to ask three provocative questions:
  • Is there such a thing as a good war?
  • Does violence ever solve anything?
  • What would you be willing to kill somebody for?

This year, my students were very resistant to digging deeply into any of these questions.

Q: Is there such a thing as a good war?
A: "Yes."  "Yes."  "I don't know." "Maybe" "Probably"

I discovered quickly, that for this group, I needed to frame my questions much more specifically:
  • What is a good war?
  • When does violence solve problems?
  • What would you would be willing to kill somebody else for?

A good lesson for me.
As always, their answers were really interesting, if you compare them to what a Civil War-Era Southerner might have said.
3/22/2012 02:50:41

Love this idea and you are right-- certain questions allow for higher order thinking leading to higher order, more in-depth answers and discussions. KNowing that this exercise worked better for you once you re-worded the question, how else might you ask questions to get your students thinking about other perspectives on these same questions?


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