and Word Puzzles
Understanding any subject matter -- whether it is political
science, economics, or mathematics -- demands that we develop a new vocabulary
so we can explain ideas within that particular context. Developing a "current
events" vocabulary can be done by finding ways to play with the meaning
of words. Students' understanding of and interest in key terms can be
increased by defining selected words and examining their etymology.
Etymology is the study of the history
of words and their changing use.
For example, a circadian rhythm, explained in a program
on light, might seem incomprehensible at first. The phrase is simplified,
however, once a student knows that the word circadian comes from the Latin
word "circa" meaning "about" and "dia" meaning "day". By knowing the Latin
root, students can understand that a circadian rhythm occurs in about
a day because it depends on alternating cycles of day and night.
Sometimes a word might be interesting to explore because
the word is in the midst of redefinition. For example, family comes from
the Latin word "familia" meaning "household" and included servants. Over
time the common use of this term has shifted. In the 50's "family" was
defined as a man and a women and their biological children. In the recent
news programs, the meaning of family has become a serious debate.
Sponsoring Puzzling Words and Word Puzzles
Teacher and students who enjoy playing with language might
find this a fun project. Students would watch the program with a notepad
and pencil jotting down a few words each week that were of interest. They
would ask those students in distant classes on this project to join them
in this activity. Then the students would use dictionaries to explore
the etymology and history of the words. These words and some notes about
them would be added to a Circle glossary.
As the glossary develops, the words and meanings could be
used by the students participating in this project to create word puzzles
such as acrostics, riddles or crossword puzzles. The students might also
want to use the background of the word, some of the embedded words to
create a word pictures to help make the meaning more memorable.
Publishing Puzzling Words and Word Puzzles
For this project idea, the sponsoring class may want to
publish their section in two parts. One could be the glossary of words
with their etymology, and definitions. The second part could be a series
of puzzles, word pictures and word games that the students have created
using the words in the glossary.
Reporters often have to hunt down their stories by following
clues, collecting facts and interviewing people. A violent incident or
a discovery of weapons at a school might be the beginning of a program
on violence in schools. Reporters will need to explore the scale of the
problem by talking to students, teachers and principals at school across
the country. They may search newspapers across the country for stories
that involve school violence. Juvenile halls, alternative schools and
special programs aimed at reducing violent behavior are places reporters
may explore for facts and clues that will contribute to their story.
Sponsoring News Detectives
The News Detective Project helps students discover the connections
between national and international stories and their own community and
region. The sponsoring classroom takes the lead by identifying a national
or international news item and inviting students to be news detectives
searching for local and regional news related to that issue. They should
encourage their partners to identify the national and/or international
implications of the selected items.
For example, after watching a news segment on aid to Somalia,
the students might explore how this action affects people in their community.
Perhaps there are families in the community who have fathers, mothers,
sons, or daughters sent to Somalia. What is their personal reaction to
this complicated problem? Or students might approach the broader issue
of hunger -- and how to address this problem in their community. Perhaps
there is a local food bank struggling to survive. Meals on Wheels might
be an active community agency.
Recognizing the common themes, regardless of the geographic
scale, might prompt students to investigate local problems and become
more involved in finding solutions for community problems. With some good
detective work, students may find that the problem of hunger exists in
their own community.
Publishing News Detectives
The sponsoring classroom would collect, select and edit
these contributions for the News Detectives section of the news magazine.
This project encourages students to learn more about one
another's communities and regions. It may also help students to understand
that their different communities share many similar concerns but with
specific details determined by factors like their population density,
geographic location, transportation and local economy.
News stories often report controversial issues discussing
the different sides of a complex issue . For example, recently a special
committee was assembled by the Senate to explore the role of women in
the military. The committee recommendation was that women continue to
be banned from all combat units. But there were many people who disagreed
with this recommendation.
Often newspapers, news-magazines and television stations
conduct or report the results of public opinion polls. What is your opinion
of this recommendation and how would it have been viewed by your Learning
Sponsoring Circle Surveys
The sponsors of Circle Surveys will be interested in measuring
the response of the circle participants on topics that are currently in
the news. One way to sponsor a project on surveys is for the sponsors
to pick an issue that was covered in one of the news or feature segments
and design a short survey for the students in the other classes. For example,
after a feature program on women and combat, the sponsoring class might
send the following opinion survey to the Circle.
A committee of military experts appointed by the president
to make recommendations to the Senate announced last week that women should
continue to be banned from combat, both on the ground and in the air.
What do you think?
(A) Women should be banned from all combat.
(B) Women should be banned from ground combat but
permitted to fly in combat.
(C) Women should be permitted to assume any job for
which they are qualified, including combat positions.
The sponsoring class specifies the procedure for collecting
and reporting the information. For example, in this survey, the request
may be to collect the responses of male and female students separately.
Publishing the Circle Surveys
The class conducting the survey will have an opportunity
to hone their math skills by computing percentages and graphing the results.
The class can explore the possibility of regional differences in response
rates. The results will be shared with the Learning Circle along with
a summary statement explaining their reason for the survey and their interpretation
of the findings. The sponsoring class might ask partner classes to explain
why they voted as they did on a particular survey so that all members
of the Learning Circle can find out more about what their partners think
with more examples
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