Focusing on Issues: Problems, Problems, Everywhere

9, 10, 11, 12
Students will focus on specific issues of concern to class members so they can decide on a particular problem they will address.
PrintOne to Three Forty-Five Minute Class Periods
The learner will:
  • identify at least five issues at the international, national, state and local level about which they are concerned.
  • develop at least two arguments in support of learning more about those specific issues.
  • evaluate the arguments and decide on one or two issues to investigate in depth.
  • several copies of recent magazines, such as Time or Newsweek
  • newspapers that include international, national, state and local news stories
  • newsprint
  • markers


  1. Anticipatory Set:

    Put the large letters "I”, "N”, "S”, and "L” on the chalkboard. These letters will represent the categories "international,” "national,” "state,” and "local.” Pair students up and ask them to come up with one issue under each heading that they are concerned with or notice as they read or hear the news each day. Share the issues as a whole group, and note whether the same topics seem to appear on many lists or whether the topics seem to be more widespread.

  2. Day One: A pre-arranged community speaker(s) should be asked to address the class concerning issues or problems within the community as well as broader issues that affect the entire country and even the world. [Depending upon the resources within your community, you may want to bring in several speakers who could address problems at different levels. Directors of Volunteer Centers or United Ways are excellent resources for local and state problems. Persons associated with Amnesty International, Bread for the World or other international organizations with local affiliates are usually glad to have the chance to talk to students. Checking local information directories under organizations will generally provide you with a wealth of possible resources.]
  3. Day Two: Arrange students in groups of four to six students with at least four groups. Designate at least one group to focus on each of the following areas: international, national, state and local issues. Give the groups 20 minutes to develop a list of at least five problems/issues of concern within the level they have been assigned. Encourage the groups to use the magazines and newspapers as means to generate generate ideas, but encourage them to include any issues of interest that fit their theme. Each group should write its list on the newsprint and post it on the board. Each group member must be prepared to explain to the class the reasons the group included each problem. The teacher should use a random system to call on individual students. If an individual student cannot explain the reason, he/she should be given a few seconds to confer with the group and then report to the class.
  4. Day Three: Put posters from Day Two back on display. As a class, decide on the criteria for selecting the best problem area and put that list on the board. Criteria might include some of the following:
  5. Information available
  6. Knowledge of possible projects that are related to the problem
  7. Benefits students might gain from learning about the problem
  8. The importance of the problem to the local community
  9. Others Form students into groups of two or three. Each small group should pick one issue they would like the class to address. Each group will prepare a one-minute presentation that includes at least two separate arguments on why the issue would be an important and “exciting” topic to learn about over a semester. Give groups 10 or 15 minutes. Each member of the group should have an outline for the one-minute presentation and be prepared to present the arguments. The teacher should pick students randomly from each group to make their arguments. Vote on the one or two issues of greatest concern to the class. (It is a good idea to conduct two rounds of voting, letting the students vote for three initially, and then voting again selecting from the top five. If one issue is a clear winner, go with that topic. If the class is fairly evenly divided, allow them to go with two issues.)
  10. Assignment: Before next week each student should find and read at least one newspaper or magazine article on the issue selected by the class. Attach the article to a sheet of paper and write at least a one-paragraph summary of the main ideas in the article. (If the issue is local or school based, the students may need to investigate inviting that group’s representative to speak to the class.)
To assess students on selecting five issues, use the following criteria: names of all group members have been placed on the poster, at least five appropriate and legitimate problem areas have been included dealing with the level to which the group was assigned, the member of the group who was called upon was able to explain why the group picked each issue. If the selected student conferred with the group, a few points should be deducted. To assess students on developing two arguments, credit should be given based upon: persuasiveness and relevance of the arguments, ability of each member of the group to clearly state the arguments.

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 07. Skills of Civic Engagement
      1. Benchmark HS.1 Utilize the persuasive power of written or oral communication as an instrument of change in the community, nation or the world.
      2. Benchmark HS.3 Participate in acts of democratic citizenship in the community, state or nation, such as petitioning authority, advocating, voting, group problem solving, mock trials or classroom governance and elections.
  2. Strand PHIL.IV Volunteering and Service
    1. Standard VS 01. Needs Assessment
      1. Benchmark HS.1 Identify a need in the school, local community, state, nation, or world.