Students learn to construct a persuasive argument by brainstorming multiple ways to structure their final research paper using post-its, large pieces of paper, or whatever other materials students like. They organize and re-arrange primary sources in a low-pressure environment to generate multiple logical flows for their papers.
Students are asked to write down a weird or random fact about themselves on a sticky note and to pass it to the person to their left. Each student is then asked to brainstorm logically possible explanations of the fact he or she has received. Through this activity, students learn to distinguish the best or most likely explanations from all the logically possible ones.
This activity follows an adjustable sequence of steps and rules for engagement to ensure that all students, even in large classes, are able to find each session clear, accessible, rigorous, and relevant and to feel that the classroom culture offers them an equal opportunity to speak. As part of these routines, hands are never immediately called on when the instructor asks a question. Instead, all students are expected to develop an answer and then collaborate with their peers to develop a group answer, and a representative from each group shares the group’s response. Rules for engagement, explicit criteria for meeting and exceeding expectations, and transparent discussion routines ensure that all students can access the discussion and be optimally challenged during class.