Reading for Nothing But the Truth: Overview
Questions: "Truth" -- What is the truth? How does
one evaluate and determine the truth in print and other media?
Introductory Grabber: Instructor begins by introducing the literature circles model developed by Harvey Daniels.(1994) Students are assigned to groups and to the roles, as explained by Daniels (1994), for reading the lyrics of the song, "Last Kiss." A recording of the song by Pearl Jam is played as students interact with the text. Upon completion of the reading, students discuss the lyrics using the literature circles model. After the literature circle discussion has been completed in the respective groups, a class discussion occurs. This activity is solely for the purpose of eliciting student responses to the lyrics that are aesthetic in nature and provide practice on using roles for literature circles. It is not intended to impose the teacher's interpretation on the students or engage students in critical evaluation of the reading. The purpose of this activity is to introduce the students to the literature circle concept.
Introduce the Novel: The instructor gives a copy of the novel Nothing But the Truth to the students and asks them to preview it by looking at the title, the cover illustration, and the publisher's blurb. A discussion ensues about the predictions made by the students. The instructor also leads a discussion about the difference between a documentary novel and a non-documentary novel. The students skim the novel to determine the kinds of documents used by Avi in writing this novel. Finally, students are asked to read lyrics for "The Star Spangled Banner." Groups of students discuss the meaning of the words and the kind of respect that they think the anthem requires. They might also discuss people who show disrespect for the national anthem. The instructor leads a discussion in whether schools and other public institutions should require students to participate in patriotic ceremonies. For example, in the State of Alabama, a state law requires all students to participate in the recitation of "The Pledge of Allegiance."
Literature Circle Assignment: Each student is given a packet of materials for use during the literature circle activities. Students will complete the Reading and Response Contract as a literature circle group. Each group decides how much of the book will be read for each circle meeting. These meeting dates are given to the groups by the instructor.
Literature Circle Meetings: Instructors may allow their own schedules and instructional needs to determine the number of days between the meetings. Students can read and prepare for the circles during class time. Upon the completion of the last circle meeting, the whole class discusses the novel. Class discussions do not occur after each circle meeting because the groups read different sections of the novels at different times. In addition, after the last circle, students write and share their "I Am" poems describing a particular character in the book with the entire class.
Final Assignment for the Novel: Students present their final assignment project to the class. A list of possible projects is contained in the materials section.
Introduce the Central Questions: The instructor draws on information from the novel to introduce the central questions: What is the truth? How does one evaluate and determine the truth in print and other media? Throughout the novel, no one who can rectify the situation ever gets the whole truth. The students participate in a free write concerning ways that the truth could have been told in this particular novel. Once the free write is completed, students share their ideas in groups or class discussions.
Introduce the Strategies for Determining the Truth: These strategies include distinguishing fact from opinion, determining what constitutes value-laden language, discovering the author's motives and qualifications, and weighing the evidence for arguments. Groups of students take two passages from the novel and develop criteria or standards for each of the four strategies. These standards should reflect ways or devices for readers to analyze texts using strategies for determining the truth. Once the groups develop the criteria or standards for each strategy, the groups compare their ideas. The teacher then asks, "What are possible motives for the media to deliver certain messages?" Discuss issues that involve the media and how these issues can have a direct effect on our daily lives. A possible example is how the television and radio are used in political campaigns. Encourage students to explore reasons why they, as readers and listeners, must be critical thinkers. The strategies listed above help us to determine the real truth as we think critically. Students search newspapers and magazines to find examples of how these print media are used to sway our opinions. These examples are then shared with the entire class and a discussion follows each student's example.
Review: The instructor reviews with students discoveries and conclusions generated about finding the truth and asks them why sorting out truth is not always as easy at it seems, particularly when the media are involved. The class revisits the controversy documented in the novel and the strategies they might use in finding the truth.
Internet Analysis: The instructor assigns the students to computer stations to independently complete the Internet exercises on strategies for evaluating the credibility of what they read, see and hear. In these exercises students are given opportunities to discover the and criteria for evaluating an argument by identiifying elements of fact/opinion, authors' motives and qualifications, validity of claims, and value-laden words. The instructor monitors and guides students' thinking as they work through this activity.
Evaluation Activity: Student pairs are assigned to resolve the problem for Nothing But the Truth. Students assume a role and write an additional document for an ending to the novel which really does tell the truth. An instruction sheet in the materials section provides construction and assessment criteria.
Lesson Ten (Several class periods)
Introduction: The instructor reviews issues that were discussed in the two previous lessons (what constitutes the truth and strategies to determine the truth). Students propose their final problem for research. This problem is loosely defined and messy. The instructor allows student choice in the group arrangement with groups of three working together on the problem-centered research project. Students are told to find a controversial issue that interests them, and suggestions and guidelines are given to stimulate some ideas. Once they settle on a topic, they conduct research on this topic. Using the strategies discussed in the previous lesson, they evaluate the documents and try to determine the truth. Once the research is completed, the groups prepare a written document that compiles their research efforts. This document is graded by the instructor using a rubric. The groups are also required to present their findings in a creative manner to the class. Possible presentation formats include PowerPoint presentations, websites, skits, or other creative methods. Samples of student projects are included in the materials section.
Lesson Eleven (Two class periods)
Group Presentations: The groups of students present their research findings to their classmates. Classmates participate in the evaluation process for these presentations by completing the appropriate rubric. In addition, students complete a self-assessment which is included in the evaluation process.
Lesson Twelve (One class period): Optional Follow-up Activity
Follow-up Assignment: The instructor reviews the central unit questions and how students applied them during the problem research project. Students are given an article concerning a controversial issue from a recent edition of a newspaper, and they evaluate the article using the strategies and criteria for critical thinking and evaluations of readings. They choose a position on the issue and defend it with truth from the article or other sources.
The learning goals correspond to NCTE Standards numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, 11, and 12.
In addition, the goals correspond to the following
Course of Study -Language Arts standards.
Finally, the goals correspond to the following standards
for the Alabama
High School Graduation Examination.