Teaching Reasoning: Activities and Games for the Classroom

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Teach students essential skills with engaging activities. Explore key reasoning skills from the Common Core and Next Generation Science Standards and strategies for teaching them to students. Then, discover fun, research-based games and activities to reinforce students' reasoning skills. This practical text provides clear guidance for incorporating these tools into your classroom to prepare students for academic and lifetime success.

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Chapter 1: Ready, Set, Connect!

ePub

Identifying relationships between ideas

Ready, Set, Connect! cards (for version 2; see reproducible, pages 44–46)

Ready, Set, Connect! relationship log (for version 3; see reproducible, pages 47–48)

This activity is a scavenger hunt intended for younger students. It helps them begin to notice relationships between items and concepts, which is the most basic skill associated with reasoning.

As described previously (see pages 14–15 in the introduction), there are four types of basic relationships, and each of those types can be further divided into subtypes. To review, the categorization of types and subtypes (with signal words and phrases for each) is shown in table 1.1 (page 40).

As this game is designed for elementary school students, we suggest you focus on the four basic types of relationships. You might also choose to use age-appropriate terms to discuss these relationships with your students: “alike” or “things that go together” for addition, “different” or “opposite” for contrast, and so on.

 

Chapter 2: Relationship Bingo

ePub

Identifying relationships between ideas

Explaining how evidence supports a conclusion

Twenty-five tokens for each student (plastic chips, tiddlywinks, foam pieces, pretzels, and so on)

Blank bingo board for each student (see reproducible on page 64)

List of relationship types and signal words (see reproducible on page 66) for each student or displayed where all students can see it

Teacher clues—pairs of objects or ideas (see pages 54–63)

Note-taking materials for each student

Relationship Bingo helps elementary and middle school students extend their ability to identify relationships between ideas. While Ready, Set, Connect! (see chapter 1) asks students to look for concrete examples in real life, Relationship Bingo helps them to start listening for relationships in what people say. This game is also easily adapted to various skill levels.

Distribute a bingo board (see the reproducible on page 64) to each student and ask students to write a relationship type in each space, excluding the center free space. Allowing students to fill in their own boards adds a sense of control to a typically luck-based game and ensures that each student will have a different arrangement of relationship types. Either display a list of relationship types on the board or give a list to each student (see the reproducible on page 65). You can easily adapt the game for the age and ability of students by giving them different sets of relationship types to write in the spaces on their bingo boards. Younger students can focus on the four basic relationships using simpler words (such as alike instead of addition, opposite instead of contrast, and because for cause) to talk about them. Older elementary school students can use the standard terms (addition, contrast, cause, and time) for the different relationships, and middle school students can further differentiate between the subtypes of the basic relationships. Table 2.1 (page 50) shows the relationship terms we recommend you give to students of different ages to use to fill in their bingo boards.

 

Chapter 3: Conditional Cards

ePub

Identifying relationships between ideas

Standardizing reasoning

Evaluating deductive conclusions

Larger printouts of Conditional Cards (for variation 1)

Sets of Conditional Cards (see reproducibles, pages 75–90)

Answer sheets for Conditional Cards (for variation 2; see reproducible on page 74)

Glue sticks (for variation 2)

Timer (for variations 3 and 4)

Conditional Cards allows students to practice identifying and creating conditional (if–then) statements that logically correspond to declarative statements. People often make declarative statements that have hidden reasoning in them; Conditional Cards gives students the opportunity to analyze declarative statements and transform them into conditional statements that logically follow from the original. This skill allows them to better understand the reasoning in statements they hear and to detect errors that may be present in those statements. Students will also practice identifying relationships between phrases (such as cause and effect or evidence and conclusion) that only make logical sense in a specific order. This game is based on an activity from Khan Academy’s online tutorial on logical reasoning (see www.khanacademy.org). Here, we give an overview of the game, followed by four variations on how to play: (1) as a collaborative class activity, (2) as an individual activity, (3) as a competitive team game, and (4) as a competitive individual game. Setup, play, and wrap-up are described for each variation.

 

Chapter 4: Great Extrapolations

ePub

Identifying relationships between ideas

Identifying rules and patterns

Applying rules and patterns

Short, content-specific paragraphs (see pages 94–113)

Note-taking materials for each team

Projector to display paragraphs (optional)

Great Extrapolations helps students recognize characteristics and patterns in a situation and apply them to new situations. Upper elementary students practice generalizing characteristics from descriptions of objects, while middle school students identify and extrapolate patterns from sequences of events. Great Extrapolations is based on an activity outlined in Tactics for Thinking by Robert J. Marzano and Daisy Arredondo (1986).

To play Great Extrapolations you will need a number of short, content-specific paragraphs, such as those at the end of this chapter (see pages 94–113). You may also elect to create your own. For younger students or students who do not have much experience with extrapolation, use paragraphs that describe characteristics of items or objects (such as those on pages 95–103). From these paragraphs, students must identify and extrapolate individual characteristics. With older and more experienced students, use paragraphs that involve sequence patterns or cause-and-effect patterns (such as those on pages 103–113). Students must then identify and extrapolate the patterns from these sequences.

 

Chapter 5: Riddle Me This

ePub

Hypothetical reasoning

Printed copies of riddles (see pages 117–124 and online reproducible)

Other materials will vary and are listed with specific riddles (see pages 117–124)

Projector to display riddles (optional)

Note-taking materials (optional)

Riddle Me This uses physical representations of various riddles to help students practice using models to support their thinking when engaging in hypothetical reasoning.

The exact setup for this game varies depending on the chosen riddle (see pages 117–124). For each riddle, you will need to provide a few items that represent the elements involved in the riddle. For example, if the riddle involves figuring out how far apart two nails are with a string hanging between them (see “Where’s the Nail?”, page 117), you will need a string of the appropriate length, two nails or thumbtacks, and a surface such as a bulletin board for students to work on. Students will also need a copy of the text of the riddle for reference as they plan and try out different solutions.

 

Chapter 6: Never Tells

ePub

Identifying rules and patterns

Applying rules and patterns

Asking questions to challenge assumptions

Materials will vary and are listed with specific Never Tells (see pages 128–137)

Never Tells are fun activities that help students practice using inductive reasoning to identify rules and patterns. They are called Never Tells because people who know the answer should never just tell it to someone else—each person has to figure it out for himself or herself. Although Never Tells are a classic rainy-day activity at many summer camps, the concept of identifying a rule is vital to everyday reasoning and has been the focus of reasoning research.

In one of his studies of inductive reasoning, Peter C. Wason (1966) presented a series of three numbers, such as 2, 4, 6, and asked participants to figure out the rule being used to generate the series by trying to generate other series of three numbers that also fit the rule. For each series the person gave, the experimenter would tell the person whether or not it fit the rule. The vast majority of participants came up with a hypothesis (what they thought the rule was) as quickly as possible, continually presented examples that fit the suspected rule, and only changed the hypothesis when he or she happened to present a series that led the experimenter to say it did not fit the original rule—a strategy that Wason called successive scanning. This strategy is both inefficient and illogical, as it depends on the participants’ randomly guessing an example that fits their hypothesis but not the experimenter’s rule. Stumbling onto a counterexample can be very difficult to do, especially if the actual rule being used by the experimenter is extremely general. For example, if the experimenter starts by giving the positive (correct) example 2, 4, 6, most participants immediately guess that the rule is “even numbers increasing by two” and give examples such as 12, 14, 16 to try to confirm their hypothesis. The secret rule is actually much more general—increasing numbers. To figure out this more general rule, the participant needs to give examples that do not fit his or her hypothesis, such as 1, 2, 3. If the participant guesses 1, 2, 3 expecting that to break the rule, he or she gains significant information when the experimenter still affirms it. Wason pointed out that “the subject must systematically generate instances which are inconsistent with different aspects of his hypothesis in order to see whether the rule holds for them” (Wason, 1966, p. 141). The same holds true for Never Tells: students must avoid confirmation bias (see the introduction, page 32) and remember to refine their hypothesis by giving instances that can disprove their proposed rule (that is, counterexamples).

 

Chapter 7: Valid or True

ePub

Standardizing reasoning

Evaluating deductive conclusions

Syllogisms or statements (see pages 142–179)

Note-taking materials

Whiteboard or projector to display syllogisms or statements

Timer (optional)

Valid or True gives students practice evaluating deductive conclusions and (in the more challenging version) standardizing reasoning. As explained in the introduction (page 22), a syllogism is a set of two premises and a corresponding conclusion. In the basic version of this game, students practice evaluating syllogisms for validity and truth. In the more challenging version, students are only given a statement which they must standardize into a syllogism before evaluating it for validity and truth. The goal of the game is to help students realize that conclusions are not necessarily valid or true; they must be evaluated. When conclusions are presented as statements (which happens often in daily conversations), they often contain implicit premises, which must be explicitly stated and standardized before the conclusion can be evaluated.

 

Chapter 8: Proverb Pairs

ePub

Standardizing reasoning

Evaluating deductive conclusions

Asking questions to challenge assumptions

Pairs of proverb and syllogism cards (see pages 184–194 and online reproducibles)

Copies of summary sheet (one per student per round; see reproducible on page 195)

Pen or pencil for each student

Timer (optional)

In Proverb Pairs, students discover the premises and conclusions behind common sayings and proverbs and then evaluate them for validity and truth.

For this game, you will need enough pairs of proverb and syllogism cards so that each student will have one card (for example, in a class of thirty, you would need fifteen pairs of cards). In each pair, one card states a common saying or proverb, and the other card lists an underlying syllogism—that is, two premises and a conclusion—for the saying or proverb. This chapter includes premade pairs of proverbs and syllogisms (see pages 184–194; for reproducible cards with the proverbs and syllogisms, visit marzanoresearch.com/activitiesandgames), but teachers may also elect to create their own. Shuffle the set of cards and randomly distribute one card to each student. Each student should also receive copies of the summary sheet (see reproducible on page 195) that he or she can use to evaluate the proverb-syllogism pairs. Each student will need one copy of the organizer for each proverb-syllogism pair he or she evaluates (see the next section).

 

Chapter 9: Premises Puzzle

ePub

Evaluating deductive conclusions

Explaining how evidence supports a conclusion

Sets of premises and conclusions printed on slips of paper (see reproducibles, pages 202–215)

Timer (optional)

In Premises Puzzle, students practice forming valid arguments and identifying irrelevant and potentially distracting evidence. Students must choose the premises that support a conclusion from a set of options that includes one complete, valid argument and a number of decoy statements.

To set up for this game, print and cut apart sets of premises and conclusions (such as those provided on pages 202–215). In each set, there should be one complete standardized argument—a conclusion and two or more premises that logically support it—and various other premises that are irrelevant to the argument. For example, a set might be comprised of the following statements:

All houses are painted blue.

The place I live is painted red.

No things that are painted red are painted blue.

 

Chapter 10: Reasoning Relay

ePub

Applying rules and patterns

Standardizing reasoning

Evaluating deductive conclusions

Explaining how evidence supports a conclusion

Asking questions to challenge assumptions

Short paragraphs for students to analyze (see reproducibles, pages 223–230)

Copies of Reasoning Relay worksheet (see reproducible, page 222)

Pen or pencil for each student

Projector to display paragraphs (optional)

In Reasoning Relay, teams of students work together to generate conclusions from short scenarios. Then, they standardize the reasoning behind the conclusion and evaluate it for validity and truth.

For this activity, you will need paragraphs (such as those on pages 223–230) that contain evidence leading to an unstated conclusion. For example, the following paragraph might be used.

“Achoo!” Patti sneezed. She sneezed again and then a third time. She felt very warm and her head hurt. She dragged herself out of bed and called her boss. She told her boss she wouldn’t be going to work. (Oswego City School District, 2011)

 

Chapter 11: Are You Saying . . . ?

ePub

Standardizing reasoning

Asking questions to challenge assumptions

Buzzer, bell, or other signaling device for each team

Paragraphs to be read aloud or displayed to the teams (see pages 234–258 and online reproducibles)

Overhead or computer projector to display paragraphs to students (optional)

Are You Saying . . . ? takes the reasoning skills that students have developed through classroom instruction and games to the next level by asking them to apply their reasoning skills to real-life situations. Reasoning in daily life is rarely cut and dried, and people often draw conclusions or make statements without thinking about or stating the reasoning behind them. The ability to listen to what others are saying and think critically about underlying assumptions is an essential skill. In Are You Saying . . . ?, students identify and challenge poor reasoning or unstated assumptions.

Setup

To play, students must be familiar with the basics of evaluating reasoning (determining validity and truth) and comfortable recognizing and generating foundational premises, minor premises, and conclusions. The only materials required for this game are some type of buzzer or bell students can use to “buzz in” when they have an answer, and paragraphs to be read aloud or displayed for students to analyze. This book includes numerous examples of paragraphs that involve unstated assumptions or potentially poor reasoning (see pages 234–258), which are drawn from various sources—debates, interviews, political speeches, and so on. In addition, teachers can find examples or write their own.

 

Chapter 12: Rule Breakers

ePub

Applying rules and patterns

Asking questions to challenge assumptions

Hypothetical reasoning

Sets of Rule Breakers cards

(see pages 265–282 and online reproducibles)

This game is based on a classic cognitive psychology and reasoning experiment designed by Peter C. Wason in 1966. In the experiment, a participant is shown four cards with a letter or a number on each (as shown in figure 12.1) and given a rule such as, “If a card has a vowel on one side, then it has an even number on the other side.”

Figure 12.1: Classic Wason task.

The participant is then asked to decide which cards he or she needs to flip over to determine whether the rule is untrue. Less than 10 percent of participants managed to choose the correct cards; most fell victim to confirmation bias and only selected cards that would confirm the rule (A and 4), rather than examples that could disprove it (A and 7).

Other versions of selection task experiments expanded on Wason’s original findings. Given more concrete descriptive situations and rules, like “If a person goes to Boston, then he takes the subway,” performance generally improved, but the rate of success still remained below 50 percent of subjects (Cosmides & Tooby, 1992). Further experiments by Leda Cosmides (1985, 1989) and others focused on social contract rules, like “If a person is drinking beer, then he is over 18,” and found a substantial increase in the rate of correct selections. These social contract problems cued participants to detect “cheaters”—instances of breaking a social contract rule in which a benefit is received (drinking beer) without having paid the requisite cost (being over 18). Interestingly, people’s intuitive reasoning led them to the correct answers most often when they were asked to detect “cheaters.”

 

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