Middle School Webquest & Debate for "Nothing But the Truth"
This Webquest for Nothing But the Truth by Avi will help students engage the debate of whether or not the Pledge of Allegiance should be mandatory for public school students in the United States. Using the interactive Glogster website, students can work individually or in groups to build interactive posters supporting their side of the argument.
Clearly, this is a controversial topic -- in much the same way as the topic of the Star-Spangled Banner becoming controversial in Avi's novel. You do not need to feel like you have to take one side or the other. You can allow students to choose which side of the debate they want to argue, or you can divide the class into equal halves, and then emphasize that part of learning debating skills means having to take sides of an argument with which one disagrees.
If you don't have one already, you should set up an account with the Glogster website: Click in the upper right-hand corner to establish your teacher account, and enter your student names. Click on "Add New Students" and then choose "Download File." When the spreadsheet pops up, enter the student names. You can choose their log in and password names. If you're going to be accessing them too, choosing a common password will make your life easier. Set up an account for each student and then book some time in your computer lab to take your students through the various features.
Mandating the Pledge
Some students who undertake this Webquest for Nothing But the Truth will choose to support the argument that everyone should have to say the Pledge of Allegiance.
This explanation of the Pledge of Allegiance by Red Skelton is quite gripping. Use the Glogster tools to upload the video onto your poster.
Other patriotic links will help you make the argument that the Pledge should be mandatory. Here are two:
These links have arguments, photos and video that will help you make a vivid interactive poster.
Should It Be Optional?
Other participants in this webquest for Nothing But the Truth will argue that it should remain optional for students to recite the Pledge of Allegiance with their classmates.
The US History website talks about the author of the Pledge of Allegiance -- and its original form may surprise you.
Legal challenges to the Pledge of Allegiance have arisen almost since it was written. Many school districts agreed to make the Pledge of Allegiance optional after these challenges were made. These websites have more information:
Additional Student Responses
Once your students have finished, you can extend this activity in a number of ways. Here are several writing prompts that you could have your students do after making their glogs, in preparation for the debate.
1. If the First Amendment guarantees freedom of speech, how can reciting anything be mandatory?
2. During the history of the United States of America, thousands and thousands of soldiers have given their lives so that the rest of us can live in peace, free from tyranny. The flag is a powerful symbol of the sacrifice that these heroes have made. What reason could keep you from wanting to pledge allegiance to such a flag?
3. Alternatively, if these soldiers were fighting for our freedom, why is it so important that we retain the right not to recite this pledge?
Students can share part or all of their written responses as a lead-in to the debate.
The Debate Itself
The final step of this Webquest for Nothing But the Truth is the debate between the two viewpoints. Be sure to emphasize that everyone should remain civil in this discussion. If you have split your class in half, and each side has made one glog, then have the sides draw straws or flip a coin to see who goes first. Give each side a certain time limit to go through their glog and any other materials they are using, and then hear the other side.
For purposes of evaluation, you can grade professionalism in the editing of the glog, the quality of the materials presented, and the support for the argument made.
If you have students make individual glogs, you can either go "point-counterpoint," having students alternate, or you can have one entire side present, and then the other side -- that could get repetitive, though.
No matter what, you will have students thinking about the issues during this language arts Webquest on Nothing But the Truth long after they have finished the book.