Last May, NYC's Mayor Bloomberg proposed a ban on soda. The basis for his proposal is "sugary drinks make people fat, therefore restuarants and the like must reign in their super-sized soda pops."
This is my quote, not his, but I think it gets the point across.
I'm not going to offer an opinion on what I think of the ban (boring, I know). Rather, I'm going to talk about how I would use this piece of news as the focal point for a lesson plan.
Since it's news I figured I would stick with a newsy theme (Not to be confused with the full-length movie musical, The Newsies, although if the kids want to warble and tap dance while they do the news that's fine by me).
The students will split into groups and film their own expose (please excuse the lack of accent over the last "e" in expose, apparently blogger does not support pronunciation indications). This is like their version of 60 Minutes (Minus the trepid-inducing ticking watch, because I hate that part) based on the soda ban.
This expose will include roles for each student. Students can choose to be an interviewer, a legal expert, an economist, a restaurant or business owner, a soda industry representative, a voice over or narrator, and/or a civilian who is effected/has an opinion on the ban. How many characters they use is up to them. They can play one or more roles. This doesn't matter. What does matter is accomplishing the aims of the assignment.
The students can be for or against the ban. Heck, they can even be responsible journalists and report on both sides. If they want to insert quirky commercials or break for the weather that's fine by me, as long as they hit the four central themes: What are the financial implications of the ban? What are the social implications of the ban? What are the legal implications of the ban? And what are the moral implications of the ban?
Financial implications should look at how the ban affects local businesses and corporations. Will they experience more profits or not? Why or why not?
Social implications should look at how the ban affects society. Does the ban affect any social groups? Why or why not? Are these effects good, bad, non-existent?
Legal implications should look at the legal aspects of the ban. Is the ban legal? Why or why not? What other kinds of laws might pass because of the ban? What precedent will it create?
And finally moral implications. Is the ban morally correct or not? If you think it's morally correct do you still think it should be passed? (Just because you think something's right does not mean you want it legalized) What about if it's immoral? If you'd rather not pass moral judgement please explain why.
The purpose of the assignment is not to determine the students' opinions on these issues, but to get them to think metacognitively. I want them to imagine what other people might be thinking, how other people might act or react, and I want them to comprehend why people are thinking and acting in this manner. Using technology to film their exposes makes these questions, opinions and actions visual. It conveys the group's understanding to the rest of the class in a very explicit way.
If they want to convey something more than understanding, for example, if they want to demonstrate explicit hilarity, they will conduct every interview, every dialogue while holding a diet pop and/or impersonating Michael Bloomberg.
Why? Because it's funny, at least to me.
But, you may say, you can't force students to be funny. That's cruel and unusual (pretty much abberant). You're supposed to be a teacher with ethics . . . and stuff.
And I would tend to agree with you. I can't force them to be funny.
I can, however, ask for entertainment in exchange for extra credit.