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This lesson is ideal for grades 8-12, also works for 6-7 and college with some alterations. It is good for Language Arts, Social Studies, Leadership, Civics and Debate classes, though can be applied to other coursework as well.
Primary Learning Goals
Collaboration, including civil conversation and conflict resolution:
Students will experience working in small groups discussing a controversial issue. They will learn how to listen, understand and respect one another, especially when there are differences of opinion and background.
Research and analysis, identifying bias:
Students will learn to better identify bias of different sources, classmates and in themselves, and how to get and maintain a balance of perspective.
Many students do not feel prepared to participate or vote. This program teaches students how to learn more about the news media, issues and elections so they can be better prepared and more confident for participating in elections.
See how this program complies with Common Core standards.
- Background information
- Current news and opinions
- Think tanks and more
Think Tank Search
Participate in a Living Room Conversation:
Participate in an Online Dialog:
- Have a specific question for students to discuss online? Email us to start a new Classroom Dialog.
Terms in Context:
This is designed to be a 3 day program. Extending the lesson longer than that will allow for more in depth understanding.
Homework Prior to Class
- Complete personal bias leanings survey. This measures how biased the students thinks they are one way or the other.
- Complete a political leanings survey. This will show students how their leanings match and are different than other groups across the nation.
- Take topic survey. Identifies interest and initial leanings on a few political issues.
- Discuss student’s experience in take the two political leanings surveys. Discuss and answer some questions (such as how similar or different they are to the rest of the nation).
- (Don’t discuss results on topic survey yet – save for tomorrow.)
- Share results of the two political leanings surveys with the class.
- Discuss if the class represents the rest of the nation or how it is different than other groups. Discuss what might be the causes or reasons for those differences.
- Introduce the concept of “Relationships First” and the rules for discussion groups for the next class.
Read background material on specific topic(s) picked by the teacher. Teacher will have picked which topic each student discuss the next day in which group. Background material includes some overview information on the topic as well as recent news articles and opinions from across the political spectrum.
- Divide class into sub-groups of 5-7 students each. Using results of the 2 surveys, introduce as much diversity within each group as possible, adding additional diversity in learning and communications style, gender, race and cultural background as able.
- Pick a topic. Can be one class topic, or you may choose a topic for each group. Recommend that you pick a topic where you see a good deal of difference in opinions in the students.
- Guide each group through their own self-directed discussion based on the conversation guidelines and structure. [Relationships First]
- Read article(s) on media bias
- Read 2+ news articles on same subject (sources not identified) and describe any biases you may see or suspect.
- Discuss previous days experience, discuss these questions.
- Review press articles, discuss perceived bias. Reveal sources of articles.