Language Arts Lesson Plans An Integrated Component of the Problem-Based Learning Unit Joan Leonard Overview of Language Arts Lessons & Flow
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Following is a series of lesson plans for the six-week PBL Unit. The role of Language Arts in this Unit is principally to drive the research and presentation phases of the Unit.
At the end of the lesson plans is a rubric for the language arts aspect of the final presentation. Embedded within each lesson is an assessment and description of attributes for students to aim for.
Before the details of the lesson plans is a calendar that indicates the particular lesson provided on each subject-specific class day. This calendar indicates the role of Language Arts in the Unit by including the group work lesson, “Creating a Contract” and the lesson devoted to “Creating a Work Plan.”
Lesson Objective(s): (1) Students articulate the stylistic techniques and conventions used in journalism. (2) Students explain the role of the op-ed pages and letters to the editor. (3) Students articulate the strengths and weaknesses of each.
Learner Outcome(s): While students will have used the newspaper for current or research activities, they may not have utilized or been exposed to the op-ed/letters to the editor page. This section offers a very different view of topics in a community, but is important as a resource in understanding how to grasp the current issues of the day in a community.
(1) Understand how public issues get reported (newspaper, magazines, TV news). (2) Understand op-ed pages & letters to the editor vs reported articles in the paper.
(3) Students articulate the strengths, weaknesses, & purposes of journalistic genre.
Assessment: Student groups create a poster with examples of the attributes of journalistic writing. Each group highlights the differences in a sample article and op-ed piece vs a reported piece from the local paper OR groups compare and contrast the styles and elements of the genre in a 2-page paper. Important points: relevant examples, clear differences, refection on differences to you as a reader.
Introduction: Students explain their familiarity with reporting in the newspaper and then asked to articulate the differences in the front section to the op-ed and letters to the editor pages. Students are curious to know more.
Procedures: During the NYC exercise, students work with a portfolio of articles about the NYC problem. The NYC articles and reporting on the outbreak will be used to ask students what they learned from reported pieces vs what they learned from the op-ed/letters to the editor pages. Students will be directed to the local paper to identify like conventions. Students will be asked to determine the ways in which various issues get raised, reported and played out in the community’s paper.
Closure: Throughout the Unit, the coach shares interesting reportage stories/pieces from the local paper with students and engages them in discussion. Students are encouraged to bring interesting op-ed/letters to the editor into class that they discover in their own reading and discuss those articles with the class.
Materials and Resources: On-line Augusta Chronicle will be used by students to monitor community voice/concerns on issues through review of the editorial pages.
Lesson Objective(s): (1) Students work effectively in groups on a long term project. (2) Students can explain the benefits of group work. (3) Students can demonstrate the elements of collaboration as they work.
Learner Outcome(s): Students have a chance to simulate effective teamwork in this project. Because of the length of the project, some of the more difficult to master elements of working on a team will be tested. Students will have to deal with these issues and come to resolution for the good of the team and group. This skill is essential in all adult work settings and will be most useful as an exercise to better understanding group behavior.
Assessment: Each group will create a final draft of their contract and will work against a rubric containing the following elements:
Introduction: Students are asked to recall groups in which they have worked and to reflect on what they know from successful group work and unsuccessful work.
Procedures: Students will be asked to devise a group contract that will be binding during their project. Students will brainstorm to identify elements of how to work in a group, what kinds of behaviors make for successful group work and rules for how they want their groups to function.
Closure: The goal is to provide students with a mechanism for encouraging “best group work practices” to assist in ensuring a smooth PBL Unit experience. Students will be advised that the first place to resolve group issues will be in the group for the course of the PBL Unit. If issues cannot be resolved there, the Coach will assist. Students will be asked to think critically about how they can best make a contribution to their team and to create a personal goal for themselves.
Materials and Resources: Word processors.
Scholtes, Peter. (1988). Groupwork: The team handbook. Salem, NH: GOAL/QPC-Oriel.
Scholtes, Peter. (1995). The team memory jogger. Salem, NH: GOAL/QPC-Oriel.
Learning Objective: Demonstrate the ability to plan a project to meet deadlines and utilize a division of labor.
Learner Outcomes: Skills related to creating an effective work plan are skills for life as well as school as these skills can be used over and over on many projects. Organization is key to all successful project completion, especially when an issue is complex and a team is involved. This work plan will help groups ensure that all steps of the process are completed, that dates are met, etc. Each group will be asked to keep track of the actual versus expected time, problems encountered and how they were resolved. This map of the process will be handy in the de-briefing later and it will also show the kids how far they have come.
Assessment: Student groups are assessed twice during the lesson. (1) When the work plan is devised. Rubric looks for completeness, logical order of work and detail of the task list. (2) Midway through project, students share their timeframes and work plans with class. Each group speaks to a critical event in their work plan: tough problem solved, timeline missed and how they dealt with it, miscalculation of time and what they might do differently next time.
Introduction: Once students have been briefed on the calendar and course of the PBL Unit, created their groups and begin their work, it will be important for each group to develop a work plan. The three major headings of Task, Responsible Person and Due Date will be the structure for the plan.
Procedures: Students will develop a plan in their groups. Students will work in their groups and create work plans to fit the structure named above.
Closure: Students will be asked to reflect to the class the difficulties of devising a work plan. Students will be advised that work plans are meant to be helpful and they can change as the project unfolds. They should be rigid, but flexible too.
Materials and Resources: Example work plans and a structured work plan document will be provided for assistance in addition to the coach in the classroom to assist each group. Students may use word processing or Excel as a means to keep track of their performance against the work plan as they choose.
Note: This lesson plan spans three Language Arts class periods.
QCC Objective: 8.46, 8.47, 8.51, 8.52, 8.55
Lesson Objective(s): Demonstrate effective research skills and techniques:
(1) data retrieval, (2) source referencing and (3) note-taking and outlining of information from a source for use in a presentation (either written or verbal).
Learner Outcomes: Source identification, referencing and comprehending information for the purposes of research are important skills that are relevant to both oral and written communication. This exercise assists students in improving their skills in both media.
Assessment: Each group prepares a 5-10 minute class presentation on 2-3 sources used in their research efforts (e.g., expert, news article, book, Internet). Key rubric issues include: suitability of source to information need, characteristics of that mode, how others would know to consider the method in planning their research process. The group also shares the source reference and how to document it in a bibliography as well as their notes or outline of the information.
Introduction: This project is a chance for students to “put it all together” and use their skills effectively with independence. The lesson is introduced as part review and as part refinement of these skills. Students identify the important points involved in the skills utilized during this week. A class discussion of research techniques begins the lesson. Student comfort level with these skills are assessed from this discussion and the mini-lessons for the week will be constructed accordingly.
Procedures: Much of the project is devoted to this objective and these skills. Students work as groups to accomplish this objective and prepare themselves for their role in the final assessment. The coach works with students throughout the Unit on these skills; they are highlighted this week. Students have a great deal of freedom to identify and pursue sources for their research: experts, written materials, Internet, etc. The coach assists them in pursuing multiple options. Students work as groups and alone in their various roles and based on their various perspectives of the problem. Use the jigsaw method for students to share multiple methods of research and learn from one another.
Closure: The presentations work like the jigsaw technique of information sharing by allowing students to see new techniques and ways of researching a topic. Following the group presentations, students (individual) will prepare a one-page reflection on the new tricks their learned from work in their own group or from other groups’ presentations.
Resources and Materials: Defined by students’ curiosity and potential information sources for the Unit.
Learning Objective: Conduct an effective interview for research purposes.
Learner Outcomes: Students interview an expert (can be in person or by phone) during the course of their research in the PBL Unit and they will need to know how to do this effectively.
Assessment: There are two opportunities for assessment in this skill.
(1) After the in-class exercise described below. In this case, student groups prepare a road-map for the successful interview.
(2) Student groups demonstrate success in mastering these concepts during their interviews of experts. Pre-interview questions, as well as notes form the interview itself and a reflective conference with the teacher will serve as assessment tools.
Introduction: Students identify what they believe to be the key steps to good interviewing technique. This takes place as a whole class brain storming session within categories provided by the coach: attitude and manners; question format; listening skills, note-taking, summary and thank you.
Procedures: The coach informs students that the class will interview a non-teacher school employee to find out more about that individual’s job. The interview will last for approximately 10-15 minutes.
Closure: After the interview, students are asked to discuss what worked well/what did not in the course of the interview and what they observed about interview.
Materials & Resources: The interviews in the classroom could be videotaped for de-briefing purposes and identification of good interviewing techniques.
Zinsser, William. (1990). On Writing Well:An informal guide to writing non-fiction. 4th ed. New York: Harper and Row.
Interview technique: The do’s and don’ts. [online] http://www.icaa.org.au/yo/interview
Lesson Objective: Demonstrate effective data and information organization skills.
Learner Outcomes: Understanding how to organize data and information collected during a research project is key to assimilating that information and preparing it for presentation—whether it is oral or written.
Assessment: Each group prepares a 5-7 minute presentation on two techniques to the class with a visual aid of their choosing. Key rubric components are usefulness and effectiveness in teaching other students how to use the trick/technique.
Introduction: Students are asked to share their personal techniques and tricks for organizing data and information. This is useful to students because these techniques will be real and applicable to their needs.
Procedures: The coach helps students cull from the list to identify common themes and methods. The coach will share his/her own techniques as well as other recommended techniques in the class.
Closure: Each individual is asked to write a brief summary of a new technique they plan to adapt in their own research process.
Materials and Resources: Based on students’ imagination for presentation.
Lesson Objective(s): This lesson plan assists the learner in understanding how to take a role, prepare an argument and then respond to rebuttal from the opposing viewpoint. I.e., how to work effectively in the technique of debate (1) Research a topic with the goal of stance-taking as outcome. (2) Demonstrate the ability to consider a problem and argue for a solution that may be counter to one’s personal beliefs. (3) Demonstrate the ability to anticipate rebuttal to an argument and to argue effectively against it.
Learner Outcomes: The ability to present one’s point in a cogent manner, anticipate counterpoints and argue effectively are important skills that are relevant to both oral and written communication. These exercises will assist students in sharpening their skills in both media.
Assessment: Mini-debates are assessed by the coach and class for success in making points, taking a stance, role and effectively developing arguments. The rubric is based on participation vs no participation. Participants self-critique argument and logic following each debate in an informal way. Improvements that can be made are identified. See Final Assessment for another assessment.
Introduction: Tell students they are going to argue this week in school. The arguing will be structured and productive, will follow the rules of debate and will assist them in making their thoughts know more efficiently. This moves to a mini-lesson on debate. Because much of one’s skill with debate comes through practice, the focus of this lesson is on performance of the skill.
Procedures: Conduct mini-debates in class (across two sub-groups) so that students experience making their point and staying in role as well as a tool to helping them flush out additional research needs or arguments to consider. These debates follow from discussion and mini-lessons on the principles of debate, stance taking and argument preparation. Topics can be limited to Unit topics or unrelated debate topics. Give students 10 minutes to prepare arguments on the topic to practice logical argument flow. E.g.: School issues on athletic events, dances, school policies.
Closure: Individuals prepare a one page reflection on what they learned in the debate and how they might change their argument, do more research or prepare more rebuttal.
Materials and Resources:
Daley, P. (1998) Ready, read, debate. Instructor. October, 1998, 84.
Students will be assessed according to the following factors on their final. During the Unit, each assessment is noted and its key rubric components (see individual lesson plans). This Final is a group assessment and is meant to be combined with those throughout the Unit. Each of the assessments, and this final one, are of equal weight as all components of the Unit are important parts of the total package.