Today we looked at a familiar story in a new way. Shel Silverstein's The Giving Tree is a classic story, a favorite of many, and can be looked at through multiple lenses. Perhaps when you first read it you thought of the generosity of the tree and the youthful selfishness of the boy. Maybe the story made you think of the way close relationships change over time. Odds are you never read the book and contemplated the economic elements of the story, but that's exactly what we did today!
Instead of reading the story, we watched an animated version that was created and narrated by Shel Silverstein in 1973. You can watch the video by clicking the link at the top of this post.
Before listening to the story, the students were given an index card and told to divide it into 3 sections, labeled "G," "S," and "R." Immediately, a few students exclaimed, "goods, services, and resources!" Apparently I'm becoming predictable. As they listened, the students made lists in each category as they heard the elements in the story. The boy sold apples, so apples are a good. The tree was the resource that provided them. The tree provided the service of shade to the boy. The leaves and branches were the resources that made the shade!
After reading and discussing these elements, the 3rd graders were given another student's thinking to evaluate. This reminded them of today's learning target, which is "I can evaluate a scarcity situation and defend my opinion." They knew that this next activity would be what today's lesson was all about.
The basic question was this: is the tree in the story a scarce resource? Why or why not? They were told that a student named Yaakov says that no, the tree is not a scarce resource. They were asked to pick a side -- either you agree with Yaakov or you don't. Students took time to write out their thoughts individually. Then, I grouped the students based on which side they chose. The sides got together to complete some tasks that would help them synthesize their arguments.
Here is what they came up with:
Then we had a friendly debate. The students learned that a debate is not an argument, it is a friendly exchange of ideas and responses. The goal is to come away with either a new idea or a more refined version of your original idea. We used a sentence template to frame our responses to keep the debate focused.
I was surprised at how well they stuck to the format, and how they really listened to the other side and adjusted their response accordingly.
We ended up at a place where we agreed that in the story only the boy wanted the tree, and the tree was able to give him everything he wanted; therefore, the tree was not a scarce resource. However, economically speaking, the tree would be considered scarce because other people could want the tree's resources and there wouldn't be enough to go around.
I have to say, I started out firmly on one side of this debate, and ended up not so sure. What do you think?
Little people, big minds.