The Perks & Problems of AI: Should We Allow It in Schools?

In this 7-day unit by high school English teacher Sarah Outterson-Murphy, students analyze AI’s capabilities, reflect on its flaws, and develop their own arguments about the pros and cons of AI at school.

AI is here and students are using Large Language Models (LLMs), whether we like it or not. 

I planned this unit for my high school English students about a year after ChatGPT went viral in the fall of 2022 when I noticed some students begin to try to turn in AI-written work as their own. I wanted my students to analyze AI’s capabilities for themselves, reflect on its flaws, and develop their own arguments about how AI might or might not fit into the purpose of school, hoping that they would develop and internalize some principles for responsible use of AI.

I wondered whether it might be unnecessary, or even dangerous, to teach my classes about LLMs, since many students may not have known about them until I introduced them. So before I began this unit, I asked students how many knew someone who had already used AI to cheat. 

90% of the class raised their hands. 

Although this unit didn’t entirely stop students from submitting LLMs,  it helped us all reflect on what we value in writing and reading, as well as communicate more clearly about students’ writing submissions. It also helped me set clear expectations for future units regarding usage of AI.

computer chip that says AI

Photo by Igor Omilaev on Unsplash

Before the unit starts: 

If your school uses 1:1 devices, figure out which AIs or Large Language Models (LLMs) are available to students on those devices. GrammarlyGo, Quillbot, and Wordtune were the only ones not blocked on my school’s system. On their phones, students will also have access to Chat GPT, Snapchat’s My AI, Rytr, and Ask AI. My students tended to be familiar with Snapchat’s AI already, but we found that Chat GPT had the best results overall.


Day 1: Jigsaw Information about AI.

Day 2: Investigating AI

Day 3: Examine an example of a rhetorical argument about AI.

Day 4: Introduce parallel structure and a second example of argument.

Day 5: Finish second rhetorical analysis.


Day 1: 

Brainstorm (10 minutes): Invite students to brainstorm questions they have related to AI. Students may turn and talk with a partner, and then share out with the class as you take notes on the board. Common questions included: 

  • “Is it going to take over my job?” 
  • “Is it accurate?” 
  • “Is it ever ok to use?”

Explain that we are going to investigate AI and, specifically, the capabilities of Large Language Models such as ChatGPT, so they can write an essay about whether and how students should use LLMs in school.

Jigsaw Activity: Reading (30 minutes) 

Use these four articles:

Students should read one of the four articles and take notes on how AI might be useful and how it might be dangerous. Invite them to write a paragraph using at least one quote from the article to summarize their findings. Encourage them to think creatively to determine ways AI might be useful. 

Jigsaw Activity: Share-Out (20 minutes)

Then students share their findings with classmates. Before sharing, students should divide a page into three sections, labeled AI Pros, AI Cons, and AI Questions, and fill in as many ideas as they can from what their group shares. These notes will be an important resource for students during their essay writing.


Day 2:

Investigating AI (30 minutes): 

Students will investigate AI for themselves. Give them this prompt: 

1) Ask a Large Language Model (LLM) of your choice (ChatGPT, GrammarlyGo, AskAI, or Snapchat My AI) to explain some of the ways AI is useful and some of its potential dangers, using sources to provide evidence. Once you have a thorough response, paste the exact prompt you use and the exact response you got. 

2) Was the LLM’s answer and evidence accurate and useful? How do you know? 

3) Compare and contrast the LLM’s response with your notes so far. How are your notes different from the LLM’s response? Was anything better or worse about either one?

4) If you finish early: Ask the LLM to write an essay about a TV show, movie, or song you know well. Tell it to use quotes. See if you can catch it making up anything untrue or using incorrect quotes.

Students may ask what prompt to put into the LLM. Encourage them to try several different prompts before pasting their best results into the assignment document. I allowed students to use phones for this task if they wished, but they could also use their school-issued device to access GrammarlyGo (your district may differ, so investigate students’ options ahead of time). Some students are likely to miss the instructions to ask the LLM to give sources/evidence, so remind them of that as needed.

Example Share (15 minutes)

As students turn in their work, find a few examples to pull out and display to the class for discussion. Try to find an example where the LLM “hallucinates” or invents false URLs– common and easy to detect by clicking– and an example where the LLM gives titles of articles or news stories that do not exist– much harder to detect but doable by Googling. It’s also fun to find examples where a student typo in the prompt led to irrelevant or bizarre results, serving as a good reminder to always check that results make sense. Consider having students look at three student-generated examples, two of which have one of these flaws, and vote on which one is good to check for understanding.

Discussion (15 minutes): 

  • What are the strengths and weaknesses of writings by LLMs? 
  • After interacting with the chatbot, how do you feel about the experience? 
  • Which experience did you learn more about the pros/cons of AI from: reading the article, reading the LLM’s ideas, or discussing it with people? 

Then have students add to their individual Pros/Cons/Questions note sheet. Remind them that these notes will help them synthesize all their reading and thinking so far when it comes time for the final essay.

Day 3: 

Investigating Rhetorical Tools (30 minutes): Today students will look at an example of rhetorical tools that can help to make a good argument. Have students read a paper copy of the article, “Artificial Intelligence Can't Reproduce the Wonders of Original Human Creativity” by Chris White, Chicago Tribune, 2023. (Vocab to preview: viscerality, chasm, epiphany, refract, germinate). As they read, students should highlight claims, counterclaims, and rebuttals in three different colors. Once they finish, students should add to their Pros/Cons/Questions notes.

Figurative Language (30 minutes): Have students conduct a rhetorical analysis of some examples of figurative language in this article using this worksheet. By analyzing how one author is creating certain effects on the reader, students are more prepared to think about how they might create effects on their own readers through their end-of-unit essay. 


Day 4:

Introduction to Parallel Structure (30 minutes): Today students will learn a new rhetorical tool: parallel structure. Both a grammatical rule and a rhetorical technique, parallel structure is a list where every item matches grammatically. Provide some examples and lead the class in labeling the parts of speech in a few examples, such as, “We make a living by what we get; we make a life by what we give” and “I came, I saw, I conquered.” Students may practice parallel structure on, a free website that walks students through writing grammatically correct sentences.

Investigating Rhetorical Tools (30 minutes):  Have students read a paper copy of the article, “Don’t ban chatbots in classrooms: use them to change how we teach” by Angela Duckworth and Lyle Ungar, LA Times, 2023. (Vocab to preview: simulacrum, catalyze). As they read, students should highlight figurative language, parallel structure, and rhetorical questions in three different colors (ideally, different colors than the ones used for claim, counterclaim, and rebuttals). Once they finish, students should add to their Pros/Cons/Questions notes.

Day 5:

Using ChatGPT (30 minutes) 

Give students this prompt and tell them to copy it exactly: “Hi ChatGPT. My name is ______ and I would like you to act as my personal tutor and teach me about how to use ChatGPT responsibly as a high school student. Please start by asking me a question that helps you gauge my level of understanding. Based on my response, ask me a follow-up question that is designed to increase my understanding. Continue to do this until I show a broad understanding of how to use ChatGPT responsibly as a high school student. At the end, please give my responses a grade from A to F, based on how detailed and accurate they are.”

I found it was most successful to have students share the link to their conversation, rather than copy-pasting the results. Some students tried to get the highest grade possible with detailed and thoughtful answers, while others tried to break the tutor by giving facetious answers about the value of cheating.  Invite students to share with the class whether they found the tutoring experience informative or not, and whether they might use it in the future or not. 

Fishbowl Debate (20 minutes)

Set up four chairs in the middle of the room, two vs. two. Discuss in a fishbowl, using a tap-in-tap-out debate format: “Can AI enhance learning or does it undermine students’ development of critical thinking skills?” Start with two volunteers in the hot seats arguing for each side. Other students can only speak if they come up behind the debaters and tap them on the shoulder. Students have to leave if their shoulder is tapped, but they are welcome to tap back in anytime.

A good follow-up question once the debate winds down: 

  • What do you think should be the purpose of school today?

Brainstorming Essay (10 minutes)

Once the debate is over, students should add to their Pros/Cons/Questions notes and begin brainstorming their argument essay. Students need to choose their audience (students, teachers, or other) and their argument (more AI or less AI). Invite them to share these choices out by the end of class if possible.

Here is the prompt for the argument essay:

Draft an argument essay about how students should use (or not use) AI for school. You must choose your audience (students? teachers? government officials?) and write to convince that audience to take a certain action of your choice.

Decide whether students are permitted to use AI for this assignment. I allowed students to use AI if they wished, but I required that they explain why they did or did not use AI in a separate letter to me, including the specific ways that they used AI– such as to brainstorm ideas, to draft counterclaims, or to proofread for idiomatic English. About a third of my students chose to use AI, and the rest chose not to use it. Students who did use AI still had to work hard to choose good prompts and integrate the results with their own ideas. I found that the most successful partnership with AI was when students wrote their own essays with creative examples and arguments, and then used AI to revise for smooth language and correct grammar. During the drafting and revision process, I worked closely with individual students to reflect on whether their use of AI was working well or not, and why. Some students quickly realized that their own ideas were better than the AI’s, and decided not to use it after all.

Days 6-7+:

Draft and revise argument essays. Conduct peer reviews, pairing classmates who are arguing for different perspectives. Revise and highlight for claim, counterclaim, rebuttal, parallel structure, figurative language, and rhetorical questions. 

Emphasize to students that these writing techniques help them make more powerful and convincing arguments without restricting them to a particular format. The rhetorical techniques, in particular, encourage a creativity of language that is one of the major advantages of human-written work over AI-written work. 

Final Day: 

Class Agreements for AI (20 minutes)

Set up class agreements for the use of AI. The goal here is to have the class synthesize their learning and perspectives about AI. Place students in groups of 3 and give each group a single marker and a different section of the whiteboard. Invite students to come up with class agreements or rules about AI for the class during the rest of the year. Then have students rotate to other groups’ ideas and place checks by the ones they agree with. Consider keeping a poster on your wall with all agreements for which students reached a consensus.



View as PDFs

Handout:  “AI Can’t… Human Creativity” Rhetorical Analysis                                   


What do you think is the overall purpose of this article? To convince us that….

Quote with figurative language (look for extinction, building blocks, germinate, refract, scraping, regurgitating, chasm) Underline keywords.

Explain the figurative language. What visuals, connotations or literal meaning does it add?

What emotional effect does that figurative language have on the reader?

How does that effect connect to the overall purpose of the article?

 “artists and writers particularly worried about their job prospects drowning in the infinite sea of AI-generated graphics and essays.”


Makes us feel…














Handout:  “Don’t Ban Chatbots” Rhetorical Analysis                                       


What do you think is the overall purpose of this article? To convince us that….


Now find quotes with Figurative Language, Parallel Structure, or Rhetorical Questions. 

What is the quote with the rhetorical strategy? Underline keywords.

Which rhetorical strategy is this and how do you know? Describe how it works.

What emotional effect does that strategy have on the reader?

How does that effect connect to the overall purpose of the article?