**Please refer to Lesson Plan #4 and Lesson Plan #5 for recommended class discussion, class activities, and homework assignments that utilize the following theories while addressing the issue of Violence in America.**
Lesson Plan #4: Genocide and Night
This lesson plan will apply Jean Piaget’s theories of Constructivism as pertains to child development. The topic of Genocide, in particular the Holocaust, is an extremely difficult subject to teach. This lesson will be presented to 9th Grade high school students, who are in the beginning of what Piaget calls the “Formal Operational” stage which occurs from adolescence through adulthood. Piaget outlines four stages of cognitive development: the sensorimotor, preoperational, concrete operational and formal operational. This lesson will focus on the lattermost stage, as well as the concept of equilibration– the driving process of development. In the “Formal Operational” stage “teens begin to think more about moral, philosophical, ethical, social, and political issues that require theoretical and abstract reasoning. [The Formal Operational stage] involves an increase in logic, the ability to use deductive reasoning, and an understanding of abstract ideas” (Cherry, 2018). In order to solidify new knowledge within this phase yet another principle is at work – equilibration.
Equilibration can be explained as a state of mental equilibrium, which is then thrown off balance when new information is obtained which often challenges the existing knowledge. The new knowledge is then assimilated and a sense of balance or equilibrationis restored. Fosnot and Perry state: “Piaget proposed and demonstrated through much research that the mechanism promoting change in cognition was the same as that in evolution—equilibration. In fact, he proposed that it was the mechanism at play in any transformational, growth process” (Fosnot & Perry, 1996, 7). Fosnot and Perry continue: “Piaget proposed three models of equilibration. The first is between the assimilation of schemes of action and the accommodation of these to the objects … The second results from the interactions between two logical ideas which the subject finds contradictory … The third form describes the differentiation and the integration of the whole knowledge structure, relations uniting two systems of thought to the totality which includes them” (Fosnot & Perry, 1996, 8). Equilibration is certainly at work when learning about the Holocaust for the first time. The second activity in this lesson involves participating in a fictional quiz. This activity is meant as an introduction to the difficult book Nightby Elie Wiesel, a Holocaust survivor. A fictitious but familiar scenario is presented to prepare students for the shift from the shock of the unknown to equilibration. By learning about the difficult subject of genocide in school, students will form the correct moral, philosophical, ethical and social knowledge bases about the subject before entering into the world as adults.
References Cherry, K. (2018, March 26). “What Are Piaget's Four Stages of Development?” Retrieved March 29, 2018, from https://www.verywellmind.com/piagets-stages-of-cognitive-development-2795457 Fosnot, C. T., & Perry, R. S. (1996). “Constructivism: A psychological theory of learning” In, Constructivism: Theory, perspectives, and practice, 2, 8-33. Lesson Plan #5: Gun Violence and Constructivism John Piaget’s work focused on the “mechanism of learning” (Fosnot & Perry, 1996). His work is important to this 9thgrade English Unit Plan website: Violence in America, Unit 1: Gun Violence because teachers not only need to understand how students interpret the gun violence occurring, but how their views and knowledge of what gun violence means changes throughout their school life (K-12). Additionally, Piaget’s Stages of Cognitive Development, particularly the concrete operational stage (elementary and early adolescence) and the formal operational stage (adolescence and adulthood), study how children and relate symbols to concrete objects and abstract concepts (Huitt & Hummel, 2003). As educators, it can be beneficial to know how students relate symbols such as “guns”, “shooting”, “school” and “death” to concrete and abstract concepts. With the recent Parkland High School shooting, Proulx and Schulten (2018) advise that it is important for teachers to be prepared to address the issue by doing things such as listening to students’ concerns and fears and to try to understand if students are become “detached” or “numb” to mass shootings in schools. The reason it is important to understand how students perceive certain symbols related to mass shooting is because it will also inform teachers how to teach or what knowledge students need because “deadly school shootings have a potentially large effect on students and schools” (Beland & Kim, 2016, p. 113). Furthermore, “learning is a constructive building process of meaning making which results in reflective abstractions producing symbols within a medium” (Fosnot & Perry, 1996, p. 27). Piaget’s concrete operational stage states that “intelligence is demonstrated through logical and systematic manipulation of symbols related to concrete object” (Hutt & Hummel, 2003). Piaget further finds that children use their existing building blocks (schema) to deal with a new situation/object or accommodation when they need to modify their existing schema (McLeod, 2015). The point of the first part of the activity is to see what words, events, occurrences, and/or knowledge students relate to each of the “symbols” listed and if as they reflect on how they processed those same symbols at different times in their lives, if they have had to modify they conception of the symbols. Additionally, Huitt & Hummel (2003) state “assimilation is the process of using or transforming the environment so that it can be placed in preexisting cognitive structures. Accommodation is the process of changing cognitive structures in order to accept something from the environment”. The lesson will help illustrate if the student has used assimilation and/or accommodation as they have aged and become exposed to more gun violence.
For these reasons, the activity has been prepared to address gun violence in America. Piaget had two major aspects of his theory: “The process of coming to know and the stages we move through as we gradually acquire this ability” (Hutt & Hummel, 2003). To understand how students have come to know and understand shootings and the symbols associated with shootings, the teacher will use the two poems written by high school students after the Florida school shooting that occurred on February 14, 2018, specifically focusing how we students use schemas, assimilation, accommodation, and equilibrium to understand how students process and organize their knowledge about shootings (Fosnot & Perry, 1996). The understanding of these symbols is also important because “these symbols then become part of the individuals repertoire of assimilatory schemes, which in turn are used when perceiving and further conceiving” (Fosnot & Perry, 1996, p. 27). References Beland, L.P. & Kim, Dongwoo (2016). The effect of high school shootings on schools and student performance. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 38(1), 113-126. Fosnot, C.T., & Perry, R. S. (1996). Constructivism: A psychological theory of learning. In Constructivism: Theory, perspectives, and practice, 2,8-33. Retrieved from http://rsperry.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/Final-CHAPTER-2.pdf Huitt, W., & Hummel, J. (2003). Piaget’s theory of cognitive development. Educational Psychology Interactive. Valdosta, GA: Valdosta State University. Retrieved from http://www.edpsycinteractive.org/topics/cognition/piaget.html McLeod, S. (2015). Jean Piaget. Simply Psychology. Retrieved from https://www.simplypsychology.org/piaget.html Proulx, N. & Schulten, K. (2018, February 15). Resources for talking and teaching about the school shooting in Florida. The New York Times. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/15/learning/lesson-plans/resources-for-talking-and-teaching-about-the-school-shooting-in-florida.html