Contentious Issues: Discussion Stories for Young People

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An important aspect of this subject is the dispelling of ignorance and misconceptions that create suspicion and barriers between communities. Hence the need for REsilience. These resources relate to REsilience in English schools. For further information, please contact us. The REsilience programme developed a series of Gateways - a range of materials to support teachers in tackling controversial issues which may arise in RE lessons. There are four sections - each responding to a section of the Self Evaluation Questionnaire.

Each Gateway also gives suggestions for further reading and resources. You can download the Gateways individually from this page, depending on the topic you are interested in. Why do people have different interpretations of the same religion? Why are the consequences of faith not the same for all people who profess the same religion or tradition? The primary or secondary Self Evaluation Questionnaire SEQ will assist a school in reviewing and analysing how confident teachers feel in tackling controversial issues.

Framework for Action Planning. All of these resources are referred to in one or more of the Gateway documents. While it may not be what you focus on in the first month of the school year, as you get to know your students and develop the relationship, you will find these conversations to be among the best memories you have of a class or of an individual student.

Students, especially middle school students, can be a challenge, but they are also eager to express their opinions and share the way they see things. It's an amazing feeling when you witness a kid tackling a large concept that's tough to talk about.

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It's even better when you know you're making them think like they never did before. Erik M. Francis, M. He is also the owner and lead professional education specialist for Maverik Education LLC, providing professional development on teaching and learning that address the cognitive rigor of college and career ready standards:. Controversial topics should not be avoided. These are known as "wicked problems" -- problems that do not have a clear cut solution and have so many different factors and circumstances affected and impacted by them.

Global warming, education, poverty, immigration, the definition of marriage, and truly any topic discussed in the political arena are controversial topics that are considered "controversial". However, these are the wicked problems students will encounter in their lives personally and professionally.

Most importantly, let the responses come from the kids. The teachers should be the facilitator and moderator of the discussions that occur in class. They should also never interject or impose their own opinions, perspectives, or topics. Teachers can also protect themselves by asking students good questions that will prompt and encourage students to think deeply and express and share their own ideas, opinions, perspectives, and thoughts about the topic.

How to Promote Cognitive Rigor Through Classroom Questioning that includes examples of argumentative questions that address controversial topics.

Present hypothetical questions that ask students to think critically and creatively about what if, what would happen, or what could happen. Ask affective questions that prompt and encourage students to express and share what do you believe, feel, or think. The most important thing teachers need to keep in mind is to stay out of the conversation. Be an unbiased moderator and guide the students through inquiry. Not only will that allow the students to be the one to express and share their ideas but also protect the teacher from any complaints that might come from parents.

We cannot control what comes out of the mouths of babes. We can only guide and teach students to make proper choices and consider others' feelings. Louis area. Over the past 15 years, Dr. Hunsberger and his partners have worked with numerous schools and school districts to confront and dismantle oppressions within the school settings. Imagine a group of seventh and eighth graders having a conversation regarding the Michael Brown incident in Ferguson, Mo.

This small group lives in the St. Louis area and this incident is relevant for their lives. Their conversation has depth, respect, and candor.

They go beyond the issues of police brutality and gang behavior to raise questions of oppression, stereotyping, discrimination, corruption, and poverty. They challenge each others' thinking in a respectful and thoughtful manner. Don't panic if this scenario seems out of reach. Discussing controversial topics in the classroom is tricky; however, with some planning and preparation, it's possible. It's important to provide space for discussion of controversial topics.

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They offer the opportunity for students to learn and practice critical thinking and civil discourse. These are the skills absolutely necessary for our young Global Citizens. These three types of instructional activities are useful prompts for the classroom:. In a middle school, put duct tape on the floor in a 15 - 20 foot line creating a continuum with the following possible descriptions at the ends i. Pose questions regarding the issue, asking students to stand on the line that represents their feelings or thinking.

The continuum line gives students flexibility to express their thinking or feeling beyond polar extremes i. For younger students, controversy can contain feelings of fear or threat. Using duct tape, outline a set of concentric circles on the floor to create another continuum. Label each circle with short phrases, i. These three activities can broaden students' thinking, respect diversity, and explore issues with much more acuteness then the "sound bites" reflected in media and social networks. Speaking and listening to others with respect, especially about controversial issues, are skills we rarely see demonstrated today.

As we reflect on the current political climate in the country, it is no wonder that students don't know how to listen to different points of view to learn and understand.

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Indeed, many teachers avoid controversial topics, fearful of students' getting out of hand or of negative reactions from parents or community members. We have found that one of the best ways to encourage difficult discussions with open-mindedness and consideration of multiple points of view is to begin with individual reflection followed by a small group structure to make meaning, leading to large group discussion, and ending with individual reflection on insights and questions. Our favorite structure for controversial topics is what we call "Data on Display.

The group data become the focus, decreasing defensiveness that often erupts during conversation about controversial topics. In Data on Display, students individually respond to a set of statements on a topic under study, each phrased for response on a scale of five, from strongly agree to strongly disagree.

Students post results anonymously for each statement, forming bar graphs of the class responses.


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What are the implications of the responses? Are there contradictions, and if so, what may be the reasons? Do we need more evidence? Where might we find it? What questions are raised by these data? The discussion that results is about the meaning and implications of the data; it is not about defending one's own point of view. In "Questioning for Classroom Discussion," we advocate regular use of discussion in the classroom to help students make meaning and deepen understanding — both for increased academic learning as well as for improved social interactions.

We advocate the specific targeting and scaffolding of skills for purposeful discussions and suggest three forms of discussion, one of which is the use of small group structures such as Data on Display. Dave Stuart Jr. He believes that all students and teachers can flourish, and he hopes his work helps you toward that:.

Last February, I showed an Ezra Klein video on the rise of Donald Trump to my AP World History classes, and the video's thesis was that Trump is "the most dangerous major presidential candidate in memory. Also, the topic was relevant to that particular group of kids, as many of them had been conversing about the political primaries with me every chance they had.

Later that night, a parent called my principal stating that he was concerned about me pushing my politics on students through showing the video, especially since the course I was teaching was APWH, not Current Events. My principal spoke with me, and I submitted a written explanation of why I shared the video, and we moved on. But honestly, a part of me felt guilty as charged because, truly, I whole-heartedly agreed with the video's argument, and I hadn't even attempted to find a similar video representing a counter-view.

The First Imperative for teaching controversial topics or "teaching the conflicts," as Gerald Graff wrote about years ago in his Beyond the Culture Wars: How Teaching the Conflicts Can Revitalize American Education is that we must be as even-handed as possible.

This advice isn't my own; it comes from a recorded conversation I had with Dr. Graff and his co-author Cathy Birkenstein several months ago. According to Dr. See also: Social novel. Main article: Diversity in young adult fiction. Main article: Young adult fiction awards.

Children and Young Adult Literature portal. The Balance. Retrieved 26 March The Atlantic. Cincinnati: Writer's Digest Books, p. The High School Journal.

Hinton and the Y. Harry Potter made it inescapable. Penguin Random House.

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