Crafting a Claim around School Lunch Food

One of the best aspects of being Program Manager with One World Education is having the opportunity to visit amazing school campuses. Yesterday, I had the opportunity to visit William E. Doar Public Charter School and observe Mr. Peter Thomas’s 8th grade English Language Arts class.

William E. Doar PCS, is the only performing arts public charter school in Washington, D.C., and not only do they provide a world class performing arts education, but it is very clear that the school is equally committed to providing strong academics. I saw evidence of this in the teaching and learning happening in Mr. Thomas’s classroom.

When I arrived, the class of 25 eighth graders was learning about “Crafting a Claim and Counterclaim” as part of developing their argumentative reflections. Mr. Thomas exhibited great energy in the classroom asking students thoughtful questions and providing feedback. During the first part of the lesson, he asked his class what makes a good claim and students immediately stretched their arms up and began waving their hands to answer. 

Next, students were asked to evaluate some examples of claims. Mr. Thomas provided each student with five strips of paper, a claim written on each one. The students carefully went through the claims, some students separating good and bad claims into piles, while others quickly evaluated the claims and were eager to share their reasoning.   

My favorite part of being in the classroom today was hearing students exchange peer feedback on claims they developed for their individual argumentative reflections. As students carefully developed their claim, Mr. Thomas circulated around the class and provided feedback. Once students checked their claim against the “good claim” criteria they developed earlier in the class period, they swapped and provided feedback to each other. 

One popular claim topic was the school lunch, as many students had strong views on how it could be improved! In fact, of the two students sitting next to me who partnered up to review each other’s claim, one wrote about school lunch. The student’s claim was “School lunch doesn’t taste good because it is healthy”.  Her peer disagreed that this was a good claim and the two students began to debate what the claim was missing; the second student felt it lacked specific details.

After some gentle support from Mr. Thomas, the student agreed to listen to some of the feedback and began to make changes to her claim. While the peer exchange was not without some good natured joking, it was nice to see this peer learning in action, which is a cornerstone of the One World Education curriculum.

My observation of Mr. Thomas’s class was a great way to start off my morning!  I’m really looking forward to reading the important and interesting essays I’m sure these students will produce.

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