Sunday, July 15, 2012

Revised Soda Ban Lesson: Question Everything

After class last Friday I rethought how I might use Mayor Bloomberg's proposed soda ban as a basis for a lesson. Originally, my idea was to have the students do a pseudo 60 Minutes piece on the ban, using multiple characters and perspectives to make the video well-rounded, informational, and enlightening.

But after working in a group, during which time we all contributed information and ideas, my lesson plan has been considerably fleshed out. Seriously, it's almost like a real boy now (See Pinocchio).

We decided we wanted the students to examine bias. We would assign them a character, someone who would actually be affected by the soda ban, and they would be required to do research and write an opinion editorial. This Op Ed would be completely biased in their character's favor. The students would be required to misconstrue the facts from their research in order to "support" their opinions.

After finishing their Op Ed, they would present their findings to the class. Then, as a class, we would discuss bias and propaganda and how it can be used to skew the facts. We would then show them famous examples of propaganda in history, such as the famous video the Nazis created doing WWII which depicted Jews as rats as a way to establish racial bias and hatred.

When we are finished looking at these examples we will then discuss the far-reaching effects of bias. How can bias change an idea, a people, a nation?

The main point of the lesson will be to encourage the students to question everything.

As consumers of information our students must become filters, not sponges (thank you Stephen Chbosky). They must examine and question all they see. Even if all includes what their parents, teachers, friends, and religions say.

This point, and this lesson, is so much more involved, much more important and far-reaching than the lesson I originally planned. I realize, after this experience, the importance of collaboration. I understand how helpful it be can to see things from other perspectives.

I too should question my own motives, my own lessons, my own ideas in order to make my teaching as effective as possible.


  1. LOVE the idea. Sounds like there would be some serious critical thinking going on with the students using your altered lesson plan for the soda ban which is great. In an effort to apply some Educational language here (smile), your revised lesson plan will promote the development and implementation of higher order thinking which is a tenet of High Leverage practice. Collaboration is a great way of learning about different viewpoints. As new teachers we all really need to leverage each other and our mentor teachers and other available resources as we embark upon our first years of teaching.

  2. Absolutely! Watching the teachers this summer at S Middle School has shown me the usefulness of collaboration in action. They depend on each other so much for feedback. I'm certain the fact that they consistently challenge one another to do better and think more deeply, or widely, improves their teaching ten fold. The same was true for this group project and I know the same will be true my first year of teaching. High leverage practice is key, but it is high, meaning it's difficult to reach. Sometimes you need an extra boost from a colleague in order to make your teaching as high and tall and wide as possible.

  3. I really like the idea that has been transformed into a real boy. It is very encompassing and almost a philosophical exercise, but my concern is that it would take a tremendous amount of time. I think this would be a wonderful project for university students, but I feel it would be very challenging for high school students. Secondly, it might not fit so neatly into the curriculum and even if it did, it might require an exorbitant amount of time. Much of high school is based around fact-based learning, for good or for bad, and at the end of a week (or however long this would require) the students might walk away with little knowledge. I think it is a great idea, but I am just worried how it could logistically be possible within the confines of a high school curriculum.