Tracing a Speaker’s Argument: John Stossel DDT Video | EL Education Curriculum

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ELA 2012 G6:M4:U1:L3

Tracing a Speaker’s Argument: John Stossel DDT Video

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Long Term Learning Targets

  • I can outline a speaker's argument and specific claims. (SL.6.3)
  • I can determine whether a speaker's argument is supported by reasons and evidence or not. (SL.6.3)

Supporting Targets

  • I can identify the argument and specific claims in a video about DDT.
  • I can determine the evidence used to support the argument and claims in a video about DDT.

Ongoing Assessment

  • Learning from Frightful's Perspective: Chapter 3 (from homework)
  • Frightful's Relationships:  Excerpts from Chapter 3
  • Tracing an Argument graphic organizer


AgendaTeaching Notes

1.  Opening

     A.  Engaging the Reader: Learning from Frightful's Perspective (10 minutes)

     B.  Unpacking Learning Targets (3 minutes)

2.  Work Time

     A.  Notice and Wonder: First Viewing of "John Stossel - DDT" Video (10 minutes)

     B.  Tracing an Argument: Second Viewing of "John Stossel - DDT" Video (15 minutes)

3. Closing and Assessment

     A.  Exit Ticket: Independently Identifying  a Claim and Evidence  (7minutes)

4.  Homework

     A.  Read Chapter 4, "The Wilderness Tests the Eyases" Complete Learning from Frightful's Perspective: Chapter 4.

  • This lesson is the first in a series of lessons in which students identify an author's or speaker's argument and claims they make that are supported with evidence. is lesson uses the Jigsaw protocol (see Appendix) that will be used throughout the module. Students collaborate with peers to promote student engagement and learn about peregrine falcons.
  • In Opening Part A, students work in triads to discuss homework. Later, they transition to groups of four to explore how relationships affect survival.
  • In triads, students routinely share responses to the daily focus question from Learning from Frightful's Perspective. They also build new vocabulary by sharing and defining words added to the Words I Found Difficult section.
  • As in previous modules, this lesson involves the total participation technique of "cold calling" on students. The teacher uses cold call for students to share responses to the focus question with the whole class.
  • The lesson gives students an opportunity to practice tracing an argument first with partners and then independently. Collecting the graphic organizer provides a formative assessment of the understanding of the learning targets. These skills will be practiced in future lessons with an article.
  • Note that in the mid-unit assessment, students will watch a video and fill in a Tracing an Argument graphic organizer. Students need to practice these skills. If time permits, allow them more practice.
  • Consider how to put students in groups of four for the discussion of quotes activity in the opening, though a model of how to do this is provided in the lesson.
  • Today's lesson asks students to move from novel triads to groups of four. Careful attention should be given to preview with students what moving to groups of four looks like.
  • Cut quotes into strips from Frightful's Relationships: Excerpts from Chapter 3 (see supporting materials).
  • Preview the "John Stossel--DDT" video to find the argument, claims, and evidence. Note that students watch this video twice. During the second viewing, be prepared to pause at the designated spots.
  • Prepare necessary technology.
  • Post: Learning targets.


gist, argument, claim, evidence;

DDT, malaria, typhus, leukemia, myth, residue, chemical, ban, environmentalist, insecticide, World Malaria Day  (video)


  • Frightful's Mountain (book; one per student)
  • Peregrine Falcon Facts anchor chart (from Lesson 2)
  • Frightful's Relationships: Excerpts from Chapter 3 (for triads; see Teaching Notes)
  • Document camera
  • Notice and Wonder graphic organizer; John Stossel video (one per student)
  • "John Stossel--DDT" video
  • Tracing an Argument graphic organizer (one per student)
  • Learning from Frightful's Perspective: Chapter 4 (one per student)


OpeningMeeting Students' Needs

A. Engaging the Reader: Learning from Frightful's Perspective (10 minutes)

  • Be sure students have their text, Frightful's Mountain.
  • Invite students to join their triads and discuss their responses to the focus question from their homework, Learning from Frightful's Perspective: Chapter 3. Each student should share one physical and behavioral change of Drum, Lady, and Duchess. Remind students to discuss specific evidence from the text.
  • Invite students to share words they added to the Words I Found Difficult section with their triad members. Group members should collaborate to determine the definition or meaning of the words and add definitions to the document.
  • Circulate to observe students' verbal and written responses. Make note of students who collaborate well with triad members, and those who may need more support in future activities. Check in with triads to make sure vocabulary words are defined. Where students have not determined meaning, encourage them to work together using context to determine meaning, or supply them with a resource material, such as a dictionary, to find the definition.
  • Read aloud the focus question for Chapter 3:

* "Describe some of the physical and behavioral changes that happen with Drum, Lady, and Duchess as they become young peregrine falcons."

  • Invite groups to share their responses with the whole class. Listen for: "The eyases are becoming more dangerous. Lady and Drum lowered their bodies horizontally and charged Frightful." And: "Drum had watched his parents eat and now dragged what was left under the overhang. Taking a bite in his beak, he swallowed it. He plucked another bite." 
  • Add peregrine falcon information to the Peregrine Falcon Facts anchor chart. Compliment students on building their knowledge of peregrine falcons.
  • Remind students that when launching Frightful's Mountain, they read a quote by Rachel Carson: "In nature nothing exists alone." As societies look at making changes, they continually need to be considering ways to balance human needs with needs of the natural world.
  • Share with students that in Frightful's Mountain they will be reading about Frightful's relationships. Tell them that in this activity and in future lessons, they will be thinking, talking, and writing about those relationships. These relationships are an example of interdependence within in the natural word, as well as between people and the natural world. Therefore, students should pay particular attention to these relationships while reading the novel.
  • Ask students to divide into groups of four by counting off one through four. Invite numbered groups to spread out around the room (e.g., ones to one corner, twos another corner, etc.). Distribute a different quote from the novel to each student from the graphic organizer Frightful's Relationships: Excerpts from Chapter 3. Students should read the quote to group members and share the relationship the quote refers to and why the relationship is important.
  • Model an example using this quote: "Chup came home. He brought no food to the eyases. Duchess charged him, feathers lifted. He sat still and panted in the sun. His feathers were rumpled and he held his head low. Chup had not eaten for a day and a half. He was weak." The relationship is between Chup and the eyases. The eyases need a strong parent to feed them; they are dependent on Chup. Give students time to discuss.
  • Invite students to begin discussing quotes in their groups. Circulate to encourage and support groups.
  • After students have had time to discuss each quote, display quotes one at a time using a document camera. Cold call student groups to read the quote and share their responses about Frightful's relationships in the quote. After all the quotes have been shared and discussed, transition students back into triads.
  • Ask students if there is anything they learned about peregrine falcons by looking closely at these relationships. If so, add these to the Peregrine Falcon Facts anchor chart.
  • Give students specific positive feedback on their focused work with adding to their understanding of character relationships in Frightful's Mountain and building background knowledge on peregrine falcons.
  • Discussing and clarifying the language of learning targets helps build academic vocabulary. A glossary of academic vocabulary may be useful throughout the module.

B. Unpacking Learning Targets (3 minutes)

  • Direct students' attention to the learning targets for today's lesson. Remind students that learning targets are helpful tools in understanding their own learning
  • Read aloud as students read along with today's targets:

* "I can identify the argument and specific claims in a video about DDT" and "I can evaluate the evidence used to support the argument and claims in a video about DDT." 

  • Ask students to identify important words in the learning targets. Draw a box around argument. Remind students that argument means to take a position on an idea. Ask students to discuss with their triads:

* "Did the author express a position on DDT in 'Welcome Back'?"

  • Invite volunteers to share their thoughts. Listen for:  "The author feels DDT caused the peregrine population to decline. The author takes a position against DDT."
  • Next, circle the word claim. Explain that a claim is a statement that can be questioned. It's not a fact. In "Welcome Back," the author claimed DDT caused the peregrine falcon population to decline.
  • Underline the word evidence in the target. Ask students:

* "What evidence did the author use to support the claim the peregrine falcon population declined?"

  • Give students time to discuss with their partner. Invite volunteers to share.
  • It may be helpful to think of examples of arguments, claims, and evidence students can relate to in their own lives. (Example: an argument could be "I want a later curfew.")

Work Time

Work Time

A.Notice and Wonder: First Viewing of "John Stossel--DDT" Video (10 minutes) (10 minutes)

  • Remind students that one of the issues of interdependence they will be thinking about while reading Frightful's Mountain is the use of the pesticide DDT. Tell students that, while many people have strong feelings about the use of DDT due to its effects on the environment, specifically on falcons like Frightful, there are multiple arguments in this debate.
  • Tell students they will continue to build their understanding of how to identify an author's argument and find claims with supporting evidence. To practice, they will watch a John Stossel DDT video twice.
  • Give basic background information without giving too much away. Mention that the video gives more information on the insecticide DDT and its use. John Stossel, an investigative journalist and reporter, and Richard Tren, author of Excellent Powder, detail how the DDT ban was a great victory for environmentalism. However, the ban has led to a multitude of deaths throughout the world.
  • Distribute the Notice and Wonder graphic organizer. Ask students to record their notices and wonders as they listen to the video.
  • Play the "John Stossel--DDT" video once through.
  • Invite students to share their notices and wonders with an elbow partner.
  • After students have shared, ask the whole class:

* "What do you think was the message or purpose of John Stossel's DDT video?"

  • Listen for: "John Stossel believes DDT saves lives." Remind students the purpose or general idea is the author's argument

B. Tracing an Argument: Second Viewing of "John Stossel--DDT" Video (15 minutes)

  • Distribute the Tracing an Argument graphic organizer to each student. Tell students this graphic organizer provides a way to capture the argument, claims, and supporting evidence in an organized way.
  • Read through the organizer with the students. Using a document camera, point out the area where students will write a claim and the area students will write supporting evidence. Model where to write the argument. Tell students that this time you will supply them with the argument so they know what kinds of claims and evidence they should be looking for.
  • Post and allow time for students to write: "John Stossel believes DDT should be used to save lives."
  • Begin the video again, pausing at 1:10. Ask students to Think-Pair-Share:

* "What claim and supporting evidence was made about DDT?"

  • Pause and allow students time to discuss. Invite volunteers to share. Listen for: "The claim is that DDT does not cause illness."Ask:

     * "What is the evidence or reasons used to support this claim?" 

  • Listen for: "The evidence is that DDT did not cause illness, did not cause cancer, did not cause death." 
  • Model where to record the claim and evidence. Tell students once evidence is recorded, it is important to determine if there is sufficient evidence. Ask students:

* "Does this provide sufficient evidence for the claim?" Explain to students that in this video, two pieces of evidence would be sufficient.

  • Continue playing the video. Stop at 2:09. Invite students to Think-Pair-Share:

* "What was another claim John Stossel made about Rachel Carson's novel Silent Spring?"

  • Pause and allow students time to discuss. Invite volunteers to share. Listen for: "A claim of John Stossel is that Rachel Carson's book Silent Spring is not fact or supported by sufficient evidence." Ask:

* "What is the evidence or reasons given to support this claim?"

  • Listen for: "The evidence is that the video explains how the book suggests one woman got cancer but the woman got cancer two months after DDT was sprayed, real scientists laugh at the book, and real scientists don't write best-sellers."
  • Model where to record the claim and evidence. Again, ask students:

* "Is this sufficient evidence to support the claim?"

  • Listen for: "Two pieces of evidence or two reasons is sufficient, and this claim would be sufficient."
  • Applaud students for their focus, listening skills, and willingness to dive into difficult material. Remind them that future lessons provide an opportunity to continue practicing identifying an argument, finding claims, and supporting evidence.

Closing & Assessments


A. Exit Ticket: Independently Identifying a Claim and Evidence (7 minutes),

  • Tell students they are going to watch one more segment of the video, and this time their work serves as their exit ticket. Students will continue working on their same Tracing an Argument graphic organizer. Share that it is important to do their very best because the information provides an assessment of their understanding of the learning targets. Let them know they will be working independently to write the claim and supporting evidence.
  • Begin the video--stop it at 3:15. Ask students to work independently to write the claim and supporting evidence. Remind them to evaluate the claim. Look for students' responses such as:  "Claim: DDT Is Excellent Powder. Evidence: In 1944, allies used DDT in the Pacific and Europe to fight malaria and typhus, all of the studies on DDT are weak and do not prove cause and effect, and there is no evidence to prove harm or breast cancer."
  • As students work on the Tracing an Argument graphic organizer, it's important to circulate and provide encouragement. Finding a claim with supporting evidence is a difficult task. Offer support to students who may need prompting.
  • Preview homework and reinforce/clarify the structured notes routine as needed. Remind students that they need to find evidence in the chapter to support their responses. Also, they should add to the Words I Found Difficult section.


  • Read Chapter 4, "The Wilderness Tests the Eyases." Complete Learning from Frightful's Perspective: Chapter 4.

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