Thursday, April 16, 2015

Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon: Making Connections

Do you remember the game “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon” that went around the internet a few years ago? In the game, players try to see how many degrees of separation are between any single actor and Kevin Bacon, who has been in wide variety of movies.

For example, Elvis Presley’s Bacon Number is 2. Elvis was in Blue Hawaii with John Archer who was in the Little Sister with Kevin Bacon.

The game, which has spawned two websites and several apps as well as a Google search (‘Bacon number: Elvis Presley’) is even touted as the “precursor to social media”. Twitter thanks you, Kevin Bacon!

It’s fun to make connections.

Like we talked about last week, our students really struggle with Level 3 thinking. Level 3 thinking often involves thinking abstractly, making connections, and planning with evidence.

I want to challenge you to have your kids use Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon (or a number of connection strategies below) to help them think about connections within and outside of content.

Here are my caveats:
a.            Don’t tell them the answers! Please..... no matter how “off” they are. Make THEM come up with better answers.
b.            Model the Thinking! Demonstrate how you would do this. Show them what it looks like!
c.            Gradually Release it! You do the strategy. Then, try it whole-class. Then, do it in small groups. Then have them do it on their own. That’s how skill-learning works!

So here are a BUNCH of strategies to help kids practice Level 3 thinking. I challenge you -- I double dog dare you -- to try to use one every day. Mix it up or keep it consistent. But do SOME Level 3 thinking every day.


Agree or Disagree – WITH EVIDENCE
a.            How? Have kids decide if they agree or disagree with a particular statement AND give evidence from text.
b.            Like? Statements like “The Red Cross is the most helpful International Organization” or “Brown vs. Board was the biggest event in the Civil Rights movement” or “The executive branch has more power than the judicial branch”
c.            Why? If they can use evidence to justify their opinions, they can recognize when it’s used elsewhere.

2.   Hypothetical Situations
a.            How? Have kids create plausible hypotheses about what they know about government – and defend their hypotheses with evidence.  
b.            Like? For example:  “Abraham Lincoln would believe _____ about federal income taxes based on…..” Or “If there was a major hurricane to hit Tampa Bay, the organization _____ would be the biggest help to people in need because … ”
c.            Why? One of the “types” of Level 3 thinking is making predictions and using evidence as support.

3.   Reason and Draw Conclusions
a.            How? Help the students to practice drawing conclusions based on a reading that doesn’t explicitly state them.
b.            Like? For example, have students draw conclusions about what group(s) the 14th amendment was talking about when it was passed and what groups might be debated  about, under the 14th amendment today.
c.            Why? One of the types of Level 3 thinking isreasoning and drawing conclusions”.

4.   Now and Then
a.            How? Have kids apply certain principles to historical and modern scenarios.
b.            Like? For example. What might have been an example of the “right to bear arms” during colonial times and what might be a modern example – and why are the two examples different?
c.            Why? Another facet of Level 3 thinking is applying a concept to a new situation

5.   Compare and Contrast (with nuances)
a.            How? Have students compare two different constitutions, amendments, court cases, international organizations. They need to come up with more than just one similarity or difference and they need to get past the obvious.
b.            Like? For example, Plessy vs. Ferguson and Brown vs. Board are not just different because they had different “answers” to separate vs. equal. They’re different because one involved an adult, the other, a child. One led to MORE segregation and the other to LESS segregation. Look at the justice’s opinions they gave.
c.            Why? Comparing and contrasting with evidence and nuances is a Level 3 skill.

6.   Explain a pattern –
a.            How? Have kids explain a certain pattern.
b.            Like? For example, give them two different years’ electoral maps and have them explain the difference in the voting results. Give them two different federal budget categories and have kids hypothesize or explain why spending rose, fell, or held steady.
c.            Why? Explaining a pattern is another example of Level 3 thinking

7.   New Situation
a.            How? Give kids a scenario and see if they can apply a Civics concept to that new scenario.
b.            Like? For example, how does the 1st amendment of free speech apply to online bullying? How does the concept of social contract apply in areas with extremely low civic participation?
c.            Why? Being able to apply a principle or concept to a different scenario is another example of Level 3 thinking.

8.   Evaluate effectiveness
a.            How? Have kids evaluate the effectiveness of an event, a law, or a concept, using evidence.
b.            Like? How well did Brown vs. Board desegregate schools? How well did it desegregate America as a whole? Where did it work best? Where did it work least? How well did the Federalist Papers influence Americans and modern politics? In what aspects of modern life do people still believe in its concepts? Where don’t they?
c.            Why? If students can evaluate the effectiveness of something, they first know enough and second think deeply enough about a topic to make those decisions. They key is WHY

I double-dog dare you to try one of these every day until your EOC to give your kids consistent practice in Level 3 thinking.

Did you try one? Or more than one? As always, let me know! And who’s your favorite Bacon connection?

By the way, my Bacon Number is infinity. Because, you know, I haven’t been in any movies. But Charlie Chaplin has a Bacon Number of 2! Who knew?


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