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A Snapshot in Time

Author: Catharine Niuzzo Honaman



Time: 3 days
Preparation
Time:
1 hour
Materials: A copy for each student of the article “Pump Dreams: Is Energy Independence an Impossible Goal?” by John Cassidy

 


Abstract
In the Engage Lesson students brainstormed ideas about why oil, petrochemicals, and coal are so important to our highly sophisticated society. In this next step students will examine further the complexity of the situation that makes the United States dependent on oil and coal to power our way of life. Students will read the article “Pump Dreams: Is Energy Independence an Impossible Goal?” by John Cassidy for understanding and to look for bias. Then they will look at the articles that they selected for their physics class and apply the same criteria of discerning bias on them.

Purpose – This is the Explore Lesson. Students will read an article for understanding and to look for bias.

Objectives
Students will be able to:
1. State the main ideas of the article
2. Create questions to clarify the meaning of the article, to help explain the ideas
3. Cite words or phrases that reveal a bias the author may have

Standards
Reading
Strand 1: Concept 4: Vocabulary
PO 3. Determine how the meaning of the text is affected by the writer’s word
choice.
Strand 1: Concept 5: Fluency
PO 1. Read from a variety of genres with accuracy.
Strand 1: Concept 6: Comprehension Strategies
PO 2. Generate clarifying questions in order to comprehend text.
PO 4. Connect information and events in text to experience and to related text
and sources.

Teacher Background
Be familiar with the ninth and tenth grade English lessons, which have bias and persuasion as a focus of the class.


Resource Websites

None for this lesson.

 

 

Activity
1. There are two articles that form the foundation of this lesson. The first article, “Pump Dreams: Is Energy Independence an Impossible Goal?” was written in October 2004 and therefore may be dated. But its value lies in the fact that it does an excellent job of explaining the complex nature of the United State’s dependence on foreign oil and the realistic road to greater self sufficiency in this area. It contains facts about concepts that are often talked about but rarely explained, such as who is in OPEC and how much oil they have. It also has some subtle instances of bias. However, you may wish to use a more current article.

2. Ask the students to read the article on their own in the first class while doing three things: Writing down the main ideas of the article: Citing specific statistics that illuminate the whole discussion on oil and coal as primary fuels for the nation; and creating questions that either they have about the ideas in the article or that other students may have as they try to understand the complicated material of the article. If any of this is not completed in the first class have the students finish it for homework.

3. In the second class have a discussion where the students share what the main ideas of the article are. Use the blackboard or the overhead projector to make a list of these. At the same time the class can create a second list of pertinent facts that go along with the main ideas and voice any questions that they created to help understand the article. The questions will vary from student to student as each will approach the reading of the article with a slightly different level of comprehension of the matters contained therein. As one student poses a question ask the others for answers and/or explanations. Since this is a topic being studied in the physics class concurrently, encourage responses that come from both the article and sources beyond this particular lesson.

4. Next put together a list of words or phrases that exhibit a subtle (or perhaps not so subtle) bias on the part of the author. Ask the students to speculate about the author’s purpose in incorporating these. Does John Cassidy wish to portray the Bush administration’s policy toward oil and coal consumption in a certain light? When was this article written and what important event occurred less than a month afterwards? (The 2004 presidential election) Do the students think that any author can write without revealing some sort of personal bias? What are their expectations about impartiality when they read a newspaper or magazine article or watch or listen to the news on television or the radio or go to a website on the Internet?

5. In the third class the students will need their articles from physics class. Ask them to first re-read their articles looking for examples of bias. Then have the students get together with a partner and exchange articles, having the partner read their article or a portion of their article, looking for examples of bias. They should then compare their findings. In the last third of class hold a class discussion in which the examples of bias are shared. Do some students have articles that are so technical or so straightforward that they have no bias?


Closure
6. As we do research, it is always essential to use sources that contain both valid information and are clear explanations of the facts. Ask the students to ponder on whether we can ever get away from some sort of bias. Can an author slant his or her article by appearing to write in a straightforward manner, but by leaving certain facts or ideas out? Can an author subtly make one idea more appealing by explaining it better while glossing over other ideas or making them appear cumbersome or illogical? Once again revisit these questions. Do the students think that any author can write without revealing some sort of personal bias? What are their expectations about impartiality when they read a newspaper or magazine article or watch or listen to the news on television or the radio or go to a website on the Internet?

Embedded Assessment
Assess the student learning in this lesson by looking at the quality and quantity of responses in the class discussions. Even if a student struggles with the information in the “Pump Dreams” article he or she can ask solid questions about things. Also look at the written work done. Although none of this work needs to be handed in, you can evaluate how engaged the student is with the individual parts of the lesson by walking around and checking how much each person has jotted down in preparation for the class discussions.

Homework
There is no homework at the end of this lesson.

Embedded Assessment

 

 

 


PULSE is a project of the Community Outreach and Education Program of the Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center and is funded by:


an
NIH/NCRR award #16260-01A1
The Community Outreach and Education Program is part of the Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center: an NIEHS Award

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Supported by NIEHS grant # ES06694


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