I was going to post this yesterday, but Monday marked the first day back to work after Spring Break, and I was more than exhausted. I’ve been having trouble sleeping lately; my usual sleep schedule is one of “The Early Bird Gets the Worm,” but lately I haven’t been able to calm my brain down enough to allow for slumber to take over. Hopefully tonight will be better.
Despite being sleep-deprived, Monday also marked the day in which I introduced George Orwell’s 1984 and Oscar Wilde’s “The Importance of Being Earnest” to English IV and Pre AP English, respectively. With a double-lit-introduction, it allowed me to utilize my favorite anticipatory activity with two classes. I love this activity for many reasons:
1. It allows students to voice their opinions in a non-threatening/aggressive format.
2. It involves both interpersonal, verbal-linguistic, and bodily-kinesthetic learning styles.
3. It’s a controlled activity that allows students to get up and be out of their seats.
4. They get to consider topics from several different points of view.
5. They feel safe changing their mind and consider the factors that lead them to their decisions.
6. It’s student-centric.
Steps to Lesson:
1. Before the lesson begins, the teacher will identify the key themes that they will have the class focus on for the unit. If you’re a novice teacher, there are TONS of websites that provide the themes for you. My favorites are SparkNotes and Shmoop.
In addition to themes, other key topics can be identified, such as expected behavior based on sex or age, choices characters make, philosophies held by characters, etc.
2. Once themes and topics have been identified, an opinion-based statement that students will be able to respond to. For example:
Theme: the dangers of totalitarianism
Opinion-based statement: The national government always acts on behalf of its citizens’ best interests.
Opinion-based statement: Without technology, the world would be a better place to live.
Ideally, 6-10 statements are ideal for this activity.
3. Designate two opposing sections of the classroom, one for AGREE and one for DISAGREE. It is up to the teacher’s discretion if they want a third, neutral location. I tend to avoid this because it allows for some students to become disengaged, not truly acknowledging both sides of the argument, or physically becoming stagnant.
1. Introduce the idea of the activity by informing the students of the purpose: to both identify the themes within the upcoming text, but to also discuss the various views of the themes within a safe environment. It’s vital that the expectations are clearly identified to allow for an active discussion: respect for others’ opinions, not speaking over one another, and allowing for the opportunity to change your mind.
2. Clearly identify and explain the steps of the process: for each revealed statement, students will consider their initial opinions and then move to the “AGREE” or “DISAGREE” side of the room. Opportunities to share opinions will be allowed for each, as well as the freedom and acceptance to change your opinion once you have “case your vote.”
3. Reveal the first statement and once students have settled, allow for students to share their views.
4. Continue until all statements have been revealed and discussed.
There are multiple ways in which students can respond to this activity. You can use this as an exit slip as well as a closing activity. Students will respond to a question/questions in written form. I highly recommend a written response so that the room is quiet, focused, and conducive for reflection. Some suggested questions can be:
1. Which topic did you feel the strongest response to and why?
2. Which topic did you feel the most ambiguity and why?
3. Which topic did you change your opinion about after you voted? What influenced your decision?
4. Which topic did you find to be the most divisive? Were you surprised, why or why not?
5. Which topic were you surprised that most people agreed with and why?
6. Which topic were you surprised that most peopled disagreed with and why?
Let me know if you utilize this style of anticipatory activity in your classroom and any alternatives you use!