Which people should you follow, and what information do they put out there? Are they giving good educational sources? EC: Can you say a little bit about particular Web sites you use and how they come into play in your classes? JM: Letters to the Next President is awesome.
The site is filled with writings from kids from middle to high school, and they post about different social injustice issues.
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The other cool thing is that they can respond to one another. Same with Youth Voices. Youth Voices has an amazing setup where the kids have to make a post and put an image on it, which I think is kind of cool because they are always obsessed with images anyway. They need to pick an image that matches what they want to convey. And you can have different classmates from all around the country that you can link up with. They can comment to one another. So it helps teach them the concept that the community is not just the teacher. They can learn how to do a survey.
They can go out and talk with members of the community and ask for their opinion. How do you teach students how to determine whether other resources are credible? Do you offer them tools for doing so?
How do you go about that in the classroom? JM: When we first start doing anything, we talk about how easy it is for us to get caught in that trap of being biased. We talk about why we should care about both sides. So before we even get into sources, we talk about bias. How do we identify it? C3WP shows types of argument in writing and teaches students how to look at sources in different ways.
EC: Do you ever have students talk about their own biases in addition to the biases of the other sources?
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But when they actually sit back, they can see the biases that they have in everyday life, like with sports. I want them to think of the other side. Let me think that through a little bit and maybe even restructure. Once they get comfortable with understanding bias, they start to at least give credit to others. EC: Do you expect students to include in their writing those other viewpoints and those other perspectives? JM: Yes. You have to find a way to at least know the other side, too. Those are very valid points.
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EC: Do your students struggle with that? It is probably the hardest part for them—giving the other side a chance, trying to understand it. EC: How do they learn to develop these more nuanced and complex discussions in their papers? What kinds of writing exercises do you have them do? What leads to the final piece?
JM: My kids write every single day. It might be an infographic. It could be a photo.
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It could be a political cartoon. Whatever it may be, I put it up every single day. As soon as they walk in, they know to get out their notebook. Can we find something that goes against the argument you have? The other thing I would bring up is a cool chapter [in Bird by Bird ] by Anne Lamott on bad first drafts. What can we do to improve it? How do you prepare them to read these sources, some of which, I imagine, might be difficult?
What kinds of exercises or classwork do you do to prepare them, not just for the writing but for the reading part of research? JM: The first part is just finding something that they actually enjoy reading. I have all these books in my room. Now I look at different books that are out there that people are hyping. I love Project Lit on Twitter. I made an Amazon wish list, and people started sending books. I had one kid who drove me crazy. It fits your personality. If you love this book, then I know you can take the next step and start looking at these academic journals.
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