Encouraging Students to Take Action (Professional Learnings)

Encouraging Students to take Action (9 minutes)

Video Link: https://www.teachingchannel.org/videos/prepare-civic-engagement-edda

What I Learned:

This video focuses on how to encourage students to take action. As the teacher stated at the beginning of the video, “We [educators to students] talk a lot about how we don’t learn things just for ourselves… But that knowledge is always in service of making your community or society a better place.” If one of the main goals, if not the most important goal, of social studies is to prepare students to become critical and engaged citizens, then taking actions based upon what has been learned is an important part of any social studies classroom.

To demonstrate how to do this, the video shows the teacher use an instructional strategy with his students to help them take action. The strategy he uses is called the “tree analogy,” which is used to help students see complex issues, their manifestations, and their root causes.

  1. First, students chose contemporary issues/problems that mattered to them. By having students choose the topics, it increased the motivation of students to research the problem and find their own solutions for it.
  2. Second students worked individually to create their own “tree analogy.” Using a tree template students used the trunk of the tree to label the problem they focused on. In the leaves, students wrote down manifestations of the problem. For example, one student who wrote about police brutality listed the names of victims of police brutality in his leaves. In the roots of the tree students listed root causes of the problem. (Note: students completed their own individual research)
  3. Students then broke into groups with people who researched the same contemporary problem. Students engaged in discussion with one another to share their results. At least one person was assigned to write down points from the discussion.
  4. In their groups students also made a tree poster which complied their ideas from their own research and their discussion. The tree poster will allow students to see the complexity of the issues they are working on and will give them a way to see how they can start addressing the problem.
  5. Student groups discussed possible solutions and then wrote a proposal on what should be done about the problem. For example, some groups decided that the best way to address the problem would be to create a petition to deliver to local government. This could be used to raise awareness of an issue or to convey opinions on issues.

I can see myself adopting this strategy in my own classroom. Social studies should not just be the study of history or government, it should be something where students can take action by using what they know. This strategy builds upon content knowledge and the skills students develop in the classroom (group discussion, critical analysis, processing primary/secondary sources and information). Furthermore, allows students to work with others to find common ground and common solutions; an ability that is arguably lacking in today’s civic world. In the end, the greatest thing about this strategy is that it turns classroom into places where more than learning occurs, instead they become safe places where conversations occur.

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