On the Edge and Under the Gun
Procedures For Teachers is divided into three sections:
-- Preparing for the lesson
-- Conducting the lesson
-- Extending the lesson
The following web sites will be used during this lesson:
Million Mom March
This is the official web site of the national grassroots organization that sponsored the historic May 14, 2000, Mothers' Day march on Washington, D.C. The organization is dedicated to preventing gun death and injury, and supporting victims and survivors of gun trauma. This frequently updated site includes a gun fact database, links to other sites, and ways for youths to get involved in this cause.
Student Pledge Against Gun Violence
This web site is the sponsor of the "Student Pledge Against Gun Violence." Although their "Day of National Concern" took place on October 17, 2000, the concept behind the pledge is ongoing, and the site contains useful information, suggested activities, a current events section and resources. Students are encouraged to take a proactive stance against gun-related death and injury.
Gun Control vs. Gun Rights
This web site is sponsored by the Center for Responsive Politics, a non-partisan, non-profit research group that tracks money in politics. The group's objective is to create a more educated voter and more involved citizenry. This site offers a clear-cut presentation of the issues surrounding the on-going national concern of gun related violence.
Time for Kids
This web site is sponsored by Time For Kids, a useful, weekly current events magazine produced by Time Magazine. Students should access the April 21, 2000 edition that featured "The Gun Debate." Several related articles and useful information is provided.
You will need at least one computer with Internet access for every 3-4 students in order to complete this lesson. While many configurations will work, we recommend:
Modem: 28.8 Kbps or faster.
Browser: Netscape Navigator 3.0 or above or Internet Explorer 3.0 or above.
Macintosh computer: System 7.0 or above and at least 16 MBs of RAM.
IBM-compatible computer: 386 or higher processor with at least 16 MBs of RAM, running Windows 3.1. Or, a 486/66 or Pentium with at least 16 MBs of RAM, running Windows 95 or 98
For more information, visit What You Need to Get Connected in wNetSchool's Internet Primer.
Prior to the start of the lesson, teachers should:
1. Bookmark the above-mentioned web sites on the students' computers.
2. Make a sufficient amount of copies of the two graphic organizers provided in the Organizers for Students section of this lesson.
3. Clear board space or hang a large chart in an accessible area in the classroom so that students may post information relevant to the lesson. Here, students can briefly describe other useful web sites and resources they have located, allowing for sharing and collaboration.
Introductory Activity -- Setting the Stage:
Introduce this lesson with a one-period brainstorming activity. Break the students into groups (3-4 students per group). Ask the students to come up with a list of things they already know about gun control, the right to bear arms, and gun related violence in America. Each group needs to produce only one written response so the group should select a "scribe" to record the group's responses. The purpose of this activity is to assess the students' level of background/prior knowledge. Inform the students that there is no right or wrong answer and that the answers will be from a wide range.
After about 10-15 minutes, bring the class together to share their answers. Have the students remain in their groups as they read off the items. Go from group to group; have each group read only one item, then go to the next group and so forth. This keeps the activity moving and doesn't allow for one group to become the focus of attention for too long.
The teacher should write down the answers the students provide on the board or on a chart (whatever method is used in the classroom).
When a listing of approximately 10-15 ideas/concepts appears on the board, point out individual items. Ask the students if their group also came up with that item. Highlight (underline, circle, asterisk) those answers which most of the groups have. At the end of the activity, have students copy down those items/concepts into their notebooks that they want to explore further.
The teacher should also copy down the highlighted items/concepts onto a chart or board. The teacher's list should be prominently displayed and remain posted throughout the unit/lesson. This will serve as a visual "word wall," and will allow the students to instantly access these words, concepts and terms (along with their spelling, context and usage) at any given point throughout the lesson.
After the introductory activity, the next few class periods (Steps 1-2) should focus on expanding the students' prior knowledge about gun control-related information and how to evaluate information found on Web sites.
Introduce several of the students to the Web sites listed in the Media Components section. Since students will eventually conduct their own online research on a topic that is widely debated and therefore sometimes yields biased and unreliable information, the teacher should explain what makes the bookmarked sites reliable sources of information. Consult Yahooligans for a guide on evaluating Web sites or A+ Research & Writing's Search Strategy for helpful tips. The teacher should also discuss the difference between fact and opinion and how the two different kinds of information can be used in an argument. Have each group of students explore and evaluate one or two of the bookmarked sites for reliability of information by filling out the Graphic Organizer in the section. At the end of the lesson, have each group present their findings.
Once all the students have been sufficiently exposed to the Web sites, it is time to introduce the assignment. Inform the students that their work will have several components: a research component, a written component, and eventually an oral/verbal component.
Inform the students that each group will write a research paper about one of the gun control/gun violence topics selected from the introductory lesson. Encourage groups to select a topic that they are interested in learning more about, so that they will be filling in their knowledge gaps.
Before the students begin their research, provide the students with clean copies of the Graphic Organizer in the section. On this chart, students should record and categorize all useful information and opinions they find. Click here for more detailed information on writing this research paper and peer editing.
After the students finish writing their final reports, they should be given the opportunity to share their work. Encourage the students to read their reports to the class or to their groups while listeners take notes. All final reports should be displayed in the classroom.
The next step asks the students to reflect and extend on what they've learned from each other. Using their notes on student reports, have the students brainstorm about the following questions:
What do you now know about the gun control issue that you didn't know previously?
How do you feel personally about the gun control issue?
Taking into consideration what you have learned about gun control and how you feel about it, what do you think can be done to reduce gun related violence?
You may wish to supplement the brainstorming discussion with these points about gun violence if students do not bring them up themselves.
Now that students have formed their opinions about the gun control issue, it is time to explore some of the avenues that a democratic society provides for changing the system by focusing particularly on activism and leadership.
Ask the students if they have ever been activists. Explain that activism takes various shapes and forms. For example, if they have ever participated in a walk-a-thon or a 5K run to raise money for diabetes or breast cancer research, then they have been activists. Have they ever signed a petition? Do they recycle? Keep a running list or chart of the various ways that the students in the class have already been activists in their own communities.
Let the students know that activism was one approach that was used to address the problem of gun violence. Using the example of the Million Mom March, have students return to the bookmarked Web sites to find out what it took to organize the event, and what impact it had on the gun violence issue. They can also explore groups that have had an impact on other issues (like Greenpeace, or ACT UP, etc.).
Once the research is complete, students should share their findings during a class discussion. At the conclusion, students should free write and then share their answers to the following questions:
What was the impact of the Million Mom March on gun control laws and public opinion?
What was the value of the Million Mom March?
What might happen if our system of government did not allow people or groups to voice their opinions about problems in our society?
What would our society be like if only politicians could decide how to solve problems?
Should politicians be the only leaders? Explain.
In order to conclude the lesson, students should reflect on what they've learned. Have students return to the list they created in the introduction and fill in new information learned over the course of the lesson. Afterwards, ask students what was the most important thing they've learned from this? How did they learn this? In order to encourage and foster creativity, permit the students to present their learning in the form of a dialogue, a poem, or as a PSA.
This portion of the lesson should take 1 to 1-1/2 class periods.
Have the students return to the web to do some further research about the various ways individuals (especially young people) can and are getting involved on a local level in this fight against gun related violence.