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Title:                                                      "If You Don't Like It, Change It"
Primary Subject Area/Grade Level:   English/Language Arts (10th-12th Grade)
Author:                                                   Jennifer J Montgomery

Rationale
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This unit requires students to work in small teams to select and then logically address an authentic teen-specific problem in their community (i.e. their school, their town, etc.). It requires students to research their problem, compile and evaluate their research, draw conclusions from their research, propose authentic research-based solutions, and present that solution in authentic written and oral presentations. [See Attachment A for a sample assignment sheet.]

Successful completion of this unit will address some critical gaps in the skills and knowledge of high-school students. Scores from the North Dakota State Assessment showed significant deficiencies in the following English/Language Arts state standards:

  • Standard 1: Gather and Organize Information
  • Standard 2: Engage in the Reading Process
  • Standard 4: Engage in the Writing Process
  • Standard 5: Write for a Variety of Purposes
  • Standard 7: Understand and Use the Principles of Language

Within those standards, certain benchmarks drew special concern. They include the following with relevant state-assessment data for 12th graders:

  1. Analyzing information for relevance, reliability, and validity—on average, only 71 percent of these items were answered correctly by N.D. students
  2. Using structures to organize and analyze information—on average, only 62 percent of these items were answered correctly
  3. Constructing meaning and adjusting for understanding—on average, 69 percent of these items were answered correctly
  4. Planning, writing, and revising-- on average, 60 percent of these items were answered correctly
  5. Using grammar, punctuation and spelling for an audience-- on average, 60 percent of these items were answered correctly
  6. Using techniques in writing to reflect purpose-- on average, 63 percent of these items were answered correctly
  7. Using grammar conventions to convey a message-- on average, 78 percent of these items were answered correctly

This data clearly shows alarmingly low levels of transformational knowledge in core research and language-arts skills. Students scored reasonably well in basic tasks such as understanding reading elements and using technology tools to support learning, but data shows they lack the critical-thinking skills and attitudes that transform that basic knowledge into essential tools for independent study, evaluation, and communication of the issues, ideas, and problems they encounter.

Additionally, while statewide data on oral presentation and public speaking skills has not been collected, experiential evidence points toward significant weaknesses in this state standard, as well.

   

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Updated: June 24, 2004 9:44 AM
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