This Friday marked the end of my second official week teaching in China and I decided it was time to introduce a critical thinking challenge. I am a strong believer in teaching for critical thought, and will likely write many blog topics on the subject. In my search for a suitable topic and resource I was reminded of my Environmental Education course where we were introduced to the online news source Science Times. The articles on the website are a collection of contentious topics written about science, technology, and the environment. Attached to each topic is an article written in three different reading levels; elementary to advanced. The articles have been written with the two sides of the issue presented, however there is no bias attached. This is what makes Science Times such a fantastic resource; students learn to read and form opinions of their own.
During class I introduced students to the article “Biodegradable Plastic.” It discusses the introduction of plastics, which break down in salt water as a plausible solution to the amount of plastic waste created by large ships at sea. The students were engaged in their learning and although, at times the vocabulary was challenging they asked questions and appeared genuinely interested in the topic. Following an introduction to the article (see Hot Topics for a view of what I presented in class) and once they had finished reading I asked them to debate. Since the article presented two perspectives I asked the question: Is biodegradable plastic in the oceans a good thing? Yes or No. I broke the class into two separate debates and had them pull a card to see if they were arguing for Yes or No. As I was walking around listening to their conversation I noticed how involved they were in the topic and eager to debate. Many students felt the biodegradable plastics still posed risks and were not willing to agree entirely with the solution; even when they were supposed to argue for the idea being good.
Lesson Notes: I will definitely continue to use Science Times and already have one article tagged for later this term. Debate can be an excellent way for students to work on their critical thinking skills, as well as their English. Finally, environmental issues are on the minds of the world’s youth and it is well worth exploring their ideas.
Ms. Kolshuk's Blog
Welcome to my blog where I post about my teaching practice, ideas, findings and discuss topics of an educational nature. Please feel free to comment and/or email with any topic suggestions.