The following exercise is a sample from ABLConnect, an online active learning resource database recently established by Assistant Professor Dustin Tingley and Ph.D. student Leslie Finger. ABLConnect seeks to create an accessible, searchable repository of active learning activities that Harvard instructors can contribute to and draw from.
In the revision stage of paper writing, Jerusha Achterberg uses vegetables to teach students how to structure their papers so that the organization coordinates with the thesis. The idea behind this activity is to break the five-paragraph mold students bring from high school. Particularly, Jerusha wants the students to start thinking about structure in a nuanced way and to realize that it’s something that they can control and choose.
The exercise is simple. She brings in a group of vegetables, which represent a group of possible ideas. The students have to generate different ways of organizing the vegetables, whether by color, how much they like them, etc. Then, she has a couple students come up and group the vegetables, and the rest of the class guesses “the thesis.”
During the exercise, Jerusha encourages the students to think critically about whether the grouping and the thesis match. She might ask something like, “If the grouping is by color, but the thesis has to do with which vegetables the students likes, does the structure support the thesis?”
Follow this link to access the corresponding handout for the activity!
—Special thanks to Leslie Finger for providing us with this brief blurb—