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Often shades of language can imply causality without actually claiming it. It is important for students to actively listen for and consider these shades of meaning. By sensitizing students to how frequently this happens in the popular media, we can help students transfer what they learn in the classroom into new contexts outside the classroom.
This can be a very brief activity in which you simply provide the class with headline or story and ask them to evaluate where causality is implied and whether or not that implication is warranted. Combined with a Think-Pair-Share, this can make a nice warm-up activity you do at the beginning of a class session.
Alternatively, this can be a playful, ongoing assignment in which it is the students' job to bring in examples of media stories implying causality and share their evaluation of that implication with the class.
For each of the "headlines" below, ask students to determine whether the language is causal or non-causal. Remind them that causal language should indicate one variable is affecting the other and indicate the direction of that causality, while non-causal, correlational language notes and describes a relationship, without suggesting that one variable affects the other.
Listed below are sets of two "headlines" for the same study. For each set, circle the one that sounds more causal.
Below are individual headlines for different studies. Determine whether each is causal or non-causal.
Daytime TV tied to poorer mental scores in elderly
Church attendance boosts immunity
Child anxiety linked to drug use
Political bias affects brain activity
Breakfast helps girls stay slim
Low self-esteem shrinks brain
Eat sweets, live longer
Sex cues influence men's decisiveness
Disciplinarian parents have fat kids
From Heather Croon, Retrieved February 2009 from http://jonathan.mueller.faculty.noctrl.edu/100/corrcausallanguage.htm )
We all want students to carry our teachings into their lives. Often, however, we must make our intentions very plain for students to understand that an assignment will equip them with skills and empower them, and is not an arbitrary hoop through which they must jump.
For this reason, frame each activity using these four steps:
Among the most useful things we as teachers can do during class discussion is shut our mouths. In an oft-cited meta-analysis of wait-time research, Tobin (1987) described findings of greater engagement and achievement when teachers waited at least three to five seconds after asking a discussion question before speaking again. Above this threshold, higher level thinking was observed and student academic performance improved. However, teachers behaving "normally" only tend to wait about one second. Students need a few moments to digest what they have recently heard, formulate their responses, and work up the courage to speak. Slow down, and more of your students will keep up with you.
Reference: Tobin, K. (1987). The role of wait time in higher cognitive level learning. Review of Educational Research, 57, 1: 69-95.