Strategies for Empowering Students


  • To help students develop decision making skills
  • To promote students' critical thinking skills
  • To help students reflect on their beliefs about the right thing to do

  • Use of metacognitive skills
  • Use of higher-order thinking skills
  • Use of character development skills

  • Language Arts
  • Social Studies
  • Character Building

Students will read the five short stories listed below. In cooperative teams, they will discuss what happened in each scenario, decide what they would have done in each incident, and give their rationale or reason(s) for their decisions. There must be a consensus or unified decision of the team for each problem presented.

What is the right thing to do?

1. It is your mother's birthday, and you would like to get her some flowers, especially roses because they are her favorite. However, you do not have any money. Therefore, without permission, you pick some roses from a neighbor's yard. The flowers make your mother extremely happy! She cannot stop talking about how beautiful they are and how wonderful you are for thinking of the "perfect birthday present" to give to her. Then, she asks how were you able to afford such exquisite flowers with your small weekly allowance? Do you tell her how you obtained the roses? Why/why not?

2. Tosi's lunch money is missing. You saw Alfredo take the money out of Tosi's jacket pocket. However, Alfredo has been your best friend for four years; you do everything and go everywhere together. Do you tell on your best friend? Why/why not?

3. The homework assignment is to write a composition on any topic you wish to select. Henry's friend attends a different school on the other side of town. Therefore, he borrows and copies his friend's composition, and turns it in as his own. You, meanwhile, spend all day Saturday writing and rewriting your composition. You even miss the fantastic trip to Great America! When the papers are graded and returned by your teacher, Henry receives an A for a grade and you receive a C. What do you do? Why/why not?

4. You are a young actor. You have been offered a movie role that will make you famous and wealthy. There are some things you are not quite comfortable doing, however. The director says that if you want the role, you must do anything and everything you are requested to do, like it or not. He also reminds you that there are plenty of others waiting to take the part and have their chance at fame and fortune. Do you take the role? Why/why not?

5. You have a favorite uncle whom you love dearly. Seemingly, however, he has a drinking problem. One night you find yourself in the car with him, and he is drunk. You really do not want to ride with him, but you are not sure he will be able to make it home safely by himself. Luckily, after missing hitting a tree and another car, your uncle finally pulls in your driveway and parks the car. Do you tell your mother what happened? Why/why not?

After each team presents its decisions for each incident, compare the decisions. Have a dialogue about any decisions that were different and the reasons why.

  • How did students work as a team?

  • What kind of decision making skills did students use?

  • Were students able to come to a consensus in an orderly, agreeable manner?

  • How was this demonstrated?

  • How did students demonstrate the use of critical and ethical thinking skills?

  • How did this activity help develop character building?
 



Credits

Excerpted from Beyond Rhetoric and Rainbows: A Journey to the Place Where Learning Lives ©1996 University of Illinois Extension.