PURPOSE: In this engaging activity, students will imagine that they survivors of a super volcano explosion, and must come up five items from of list that they feel will be the best to help them survive. They will make their decisions based on connections they make from their own experiences and combine that with background knowledge from survival texts (books, movies, games) that they have read before. Students will then make inferences about each item and come up with a final “Top Five” from these inferences. This activity allows students to build upon their existing literacies to help them develop new literacies. They must draw on their own understanding of nonacademic texts to help them develop strategies they can apply to reading literature. One kind of activity that will stretch a student’s ability to infer comes from lists. This activity uses texts that mimic a list to provide students the opportunity to make inferences from those lists that apply to their own life/survival. Students must defend the items that they chose with other groups who may have chosen different items. They must provide evidence using their background and experiences to try to persuade others to switch to keeping their items instead.
• Students will infer the importance of an item from a list based upon their own personal experiences and background knowledge that they have gained from other texts/media (books, movies, video games).
• Students will then narrow the list of items to five qualities, and provide logical reasoning as to why they chose those five items.
• Students will defend the items they chose to keep with items that others chose to keep, trying to argue their points for each item, and persuade others to switch to their items.
MATERIALS: “Super Volcano. What Will You Keep?” sheet
“Top Five Items and Why” sheet
Item Ranking Matrix
COMMON CORE STANDARDS:
RI.6.1 Cite textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.
SL.6.1 Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade 6 topics, texts, and issues, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly.
SL.6.3 Delineate a speaker’s argument and specific claims, distinguishing claims that are supported by reasons and evidence from claims that are not.
TIPS FOR RANKING ACTIVITIES:
• The items being ranked need to be problematic. If everyone gives an item the same ranking, then the activity is pointless.
• Have students do the ranking individually before small-group or whole-class discussions.
• Tally responses so that the whole class can see them.
• Make sure to ask students why they thought what they thought.
• After the discussion is over, do some debriefing to highlight the strategies students used to come to their judgments and the criteria they applied in making them.
STEP ONE: Explain to the students that a list is a group of items/ideas that authors want you to notice individually for a certain reason. A list can be written in many different formats. Pass out the “Super Volcano: What Will You Keepr?” sheet to each student. Explain to students that they will pretend that they will work together in pairs and pretend that they are caught up in the scenario you are about to describe. You will rank the items 1-14, and then use the top five defend based on logical evidence from their personal experiences and background information gained from different texts/media like books, movies, and video games. Their goal is to persuade others to see that there items are the five best ones to keep, and to want to change others’ minds to switch to their items. Have students look at the top of the “Super Volcano: What Will You Keep?” sheet while you present them with the following scenario:
”You take off just as drops of magma and soot begin to barely miss the back of the plane. Just after take-off, the force of the volcano rockets the plane forward, sending it out of control. CRASH!! The plane explodes into the ground. Somehow, you and your partner are the only ones who survive the plan crash. Both the pilot and co-pilot were killed in the crash. The soot from the volcanic explosion has turned the temperature to 100 degrees, and the night time temperature is 80 degrees. There is soot all over the ground, and the nearest town is 20 miles. Your goal is to make it 20 miles to the nearest town to find shelter.
Mention to students that they should really think about themselves during this activity. What have they gone through/learned from their past that makes an item really important? Unimportant? What other texts/media have you experienced that can help explain why you would keep/get rid of an item? Is there a creative reason that you can come up with to keep an item? How will each item help you survive? Why didn’t you choose the other items in your top five? Remember, you MUST provide evidence as to why you kept the top five items you have.
Give the students about 20 minutes to read through the list and rank them 1-14. Give students sticky notes to write down any thoughts they have about why they don’t like an item, any thoughts they have about what makes that item good to keep in their top five. Once students have their top five, pass out the “Top Five and Why” sheet so students can record their logical reasoning for those five items on the sheet. This will make their arguments and defense easier during group discussion time.
STEP TWO: Once the students pairs have finished the “Top Five and Why” sheet, have students get into small groups and ask them to try to convince each other to adopt their ranking. While group work is going on, circulate around to each group and listen for disagreements because they foster elaborated explanations of the reasoning involved. If you notice that a student’s personal rating is at odds with something that was being said in a group, encourage students to respond by saying something like, “You disagree. Tell __________why?” A little nudge like that works even with some of the most challenging students.
STEP THREE: Once the group discussion starts to slow down, put the “Item Ranking Matrix” on the board. After tallying individual responses, it’s easy to facilitate a very active whole-class discussion. Begin with the item that had the most disagreement. For the most part, you should stay out of the discussion except for asking probing questions such as “What makes you think that?” As a whole group, ask if there were any items that they changed because of the arguments from another group. Discuss the importance of using background knowledge and personal experiences to really help provide inferences and reasoning. Once you are done, as a fun way to end the lesson, you can read of the “Expert’s List” and have students compare their list to what the experts would have saved.
STEP FOUR: As a reflection, have students write in their journal about the following question:
What did you learn about yourself as an arguer today? How did you persuade people to want some of your items? If you did not persuade someone, what would you do differently to be a stronger persuader?