Odyssey of the Mind Curriculum Activity: Sentence Structure

Primary Goal: Students will identify leading questions and learn to recognize statements that are taken out of context.
Secondary Goals:
increase vocabulary write an effective survey
introduce journalism learn about sentence structure
Prep Time
45 minutes

-- individuals
-- small groups
-- larger groups

Special Materials
Explain to the class what a leading question is and present examples. Have students speculate on who might use leading questions and in what situations. Present the class with a survey from a magazine and its results. Have the students complete the survey and tally their results. Then, ask the students to reword the survey questions so they lead to a different, pre-determined result. Have them complete the rewritten survey and compare the results with their expectations.

Find a newspaper article that includes results of a survey. Discuss the position the article takes and how it uses results of the survey to support its position. Have students brainstorm questions that may have been asked to lead to desired results. Then, have the class contact the author of the article to obtain the questions asked in the survey. After evaluating the questions, ask students to determine if they were worded to lead to desired answers.

Show the class how emphasizing certain words or changing the wording of a statement can frame a subject. Present the example, Have you stopped cheating on your tests? Explain that answering "yes" or "No" would mean that they did in fact cheat on tests. Ask students to keep a log for one week, listing examples of misleading statements they’ve read or heard. Discuss the findings and share examples from the logs. Talk about situations where misleading statements were prevalent and why.

Divide the class into groups and ask each group to identify a hypothesis that is seemingly indisputable. For example, Hurricanes cause destruction. Have each group write five questions that are structured to try to prove the opposite position, i.e., Hurricanes do not cause destruction. As a class, review the surveys and, if necessary, modify questions. Then direct the groups to conduct their surveys on the student body and present the results to the class. Have the groups compose a news article based on their findings and compile these into a school newsletter.

Ask each group to identify a quote from a famous speech that, when taken out of context, has a different meaning. Each group should present its quote, or "sound bite", and provide the segment of the speech from which it came. Have the groups create a presentation that begins with a statement and follows with another statement that changes the meaning of the original. As the students add to the story they should continually change the meaning of the previous statements.

 1.  Ask the students to discuss the benefit of being able to identify instances where context is removed and to recognize leading questions.
 2.  Have the students create an experiment to try to “teach” someone else why it is important to consider the source of information. Discuss their results.
 3.  As a class, create a list that helps people know if they are being misled. Test the list and revise it as necessary. Send the final version to a local newspaper.