As soundlessly as possibly, I lowered myself into a chair in the back of the room. Desks in a circle, some of the eighth graders in the room stared awkwardly at each other, while others bent heads down toward notebooks, silently moving lips to rehearse. The teacher initiated the discussion. “Okay, fictional violence…what do you think?” she said.
A slight pause. Then hands raised, a few. A bulky, athletic-looking boy began. “Well, I think violent video games are fine because they’re labeled ’17 and over.’ The people at the store will not sell them to kids younger than that. So what’s the problem?”
Murmurs ensued around the classroom.
Other hands shot up. Another boy spoke, “I think video games that are violent are not good because they have no moral value. I mean, what do they really contribute to society? All you do in these games is cause violence. Where’s the value in that?”
Right next to the teacher, a third boy sat up in his chair. “Well, one thing that’s good about video games is it provides employment for programmers.” Fascinating, I thought to myself. I never would have thought of that.
“But these games can be confusing to young minds,” came a girl’s voice from across the room. “They play the game and think that it’s okay to act like that.”
As a literacy coach, I immediately began to mentally lists strengths, as well as next steps for these writers. But honestly, I was struck by the intricacy of some of their opinions. As educators of this age, I was reminded of how imperative it is that we recognize the potential of these students to think deeply and critically about a topic. The key becomes how to adeptly guide and facilitate students discussion, thinking, reading, and writing in order to foster analytical skills.
Today, the kids scratched the surface. But that’s an exciting surface to scratch. I look forward to where they go from here.