Identify/Generate the principle
Time: 30 minutes (plus student prep time outside of class)
This activity is essentially a variation on the status quo database.
Within the first day or two of talking about a new topic, ask students
what opinions they imagine most people have about the subject.
Ask whether different groups of people might hold different opinions:
would people under 25 think about things differently than over
25? people born in the U.S. differently than people born in other
parts of the world? etc.
Explain that these seem like plausible ideas, but that we're really
only guessing about public opinion. It might be interesting to
ask actual people what they think. As a class, come up with two
or three good questions to ask people about their opinions: Which
television shows do you watch every week? What do you like about
them? Did you vote in the last presidential election? Why or why
Brainstorm a short list of different groups students to whom students
want to pose the questions. Break students into as many teams as
there are groups of people; have each member of the team interview
four or five people, writing down answers as accurately as possible.
(Have a discussion about the etiquette of interviewing; for example,
it's not a good idea to say, "People in my class thought that
really ugly people would have different ideas about Barbie than
really pretty people. So I'm asking the ugly people, and you seem
ugly. What do you think about Barbie?")
In class, ask students to share results with other people from
their team, to see if they can draw any general conclusions. Share
results as a class. Ask a student scribe to write down the general
conclusions. Put those claims on the class toolkit page.
After a few days or more of reading and discussion, ask students
to take a look at the list of claims and make note of any that
seem incomplete or inaccurate. (Students can do this as prep or
in class, while in small groups.) Share results as a class. These
claims now constitute the status quo for the topic.