Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum

Teacher professional development and classroom resources across the curriculum

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  Making Civics Real: A Workshop for Teachers  
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About This Workshop: Workshop Titles and Descriptions

Workshop 1. Freedom of Religion
The lesson shown in this video demonstrates the use of questioning strategies and their use in mock trials. It features ninth-grade civics students at Southwest High School in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in a simulation of a U.S. Supreme Court hearing concerning a First Amendment case. The case concerns a Texas school district that appealed a lower court decision directing them to discontinue having a student deliver an invocation over the intercom before football games. The case was originally brought against the school district by a group of parents. The Southwest students--who do not know the actual outcome of the case at the start of the lesson--assume the roles of Supreme Court Justices and attorneys. Over a three-day period, students first work in groups to prepare for the hearing as their teacher, Kristen Borges, guides them with strategically asked questions, then participate in the hearing, and finally, debrief their experiences and write a short essay stating their position on the case, including the benefits and potential problems to society of their recommended decision. The methodologies highlighted in this lesson include questioning strategies and mock trials.

Workshop 2. Electoral Politics
This lesson culminates a 12-week unit developed by the national Student Voices Project to engage students in the civic life of their community. It was videotaped just prior to the 2002 mayoral election in Newark, New Jersey. Students divide into small groups to brainstorm and research specific community issues, prioritize the issues studied on the basis of what they have learned, present their findings to the class both orally and through a visual presentation, develop a whole-class consensus on a Student Voices agenda of issues that they think the next mayor should address, and study the candidates’ positions on the issues they have chosen to track. The methodologies highlighted in this lesson include issue identification and consensus building.

Workshop 3. Public Policy and the Federal Budget
Over three class periods, Leslie Martin’s ninth graders at West Forsyth High School in Clemmons, North Carolina, create, present, revise, and defend a Federal budget, and then reflect on what they have learned. Students participate in a simulation, working in small, randomly assigned cooperative-learning groups. Using such computer applications as PowerPoint and Excel to illustrate their recommendations, they first create a budget for presentation to the class that represents the priorities of the executive branch. They are next introduced to the actual 2001 Federal budget, and in a whole-class, teacher-led discussion, discuss some key concepts involved in creating a federal budget. Students return to their cooperative-learning groups to revise their budgets based on new ideas they have heard in the presentations and federal budget realities that were addressed in the whole-class discussion. Finally, each group presents its revised budget and the remaining students, who have previously each selected a Congressperson whose views are compatible with their own, simulate a Congressional hearing on the budget. This lesson highlights the integration of teacher-directed instruction with small-group work.

Workshop 4. Constitutional Convention
This program shows a twelfth-grade constitutional law class participating in a simulation in which students create a constitution for the hypothetical country of Permistan. The lesson—which is designed to help students review prior to taking their final exam—was videotaped over three class periods near the end of the semester. Students work in cooperative learning groups to discuss and debate issues relating to the executive and legislative branches of Permistan and then come together as a whole class to participate in a constitutional convention. Simulation is the primary methodology highlighted in this lesson.

Workshop 5. Patriotism and Foreign Policy
The students in this lesson are seniors at the Duke Ellington School of the Arts, a public magnet school in Washington, D.C. that has a strong commitment to integrating the arts with academic subjects. U.S. government teacher Alice Chandler, who finds Socratic questioning and Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences particularly useful in an integrated arts environment, has developed a lesson in which students create a Museum of Patriotism and Foreign Policy. Over three days, the lesson alternates between whole-class discussions, in which the use of Socratic questioning is evident, and committee work, in which students determine what will be placed in the museum, using their particular art major as the basis for their choices. The conclusion of the lesson shows the students' presentations, including dance, music, theatrical performances, and visual representations, along with rationales for their selections. This lesson highlights small-group work as a constructivist methodology.

Workshop 6. Civic Engagement
This program shows a group of 11th- and 12th-grade students at Anoka High School in Anoka, Minnesota, a suburb of Minneapolis, engaging in a significant way to improve the quality of their community. All students in Anoka are required to participate in service learning in order to graduate from high school. Students begin with simple teacher-defined activities in the ninth grade and become progressively more involved and self-directed as they progress through their high school years. In this human geography class taught by Bill Mittlefehldt, a 30-year veteran of the classroom, students work in teams to define a project, choose and meet with a community partner who can help educate them about the seriousness of the issue and its current status, conduct further research on the identified problem, and present the problem and their proposed solutions first to their peers, and then to a special session of the Anoka City Council. This lesson satisfies state and national standards while helping deal simultaneously with the needs of today’s teens and today’s communities. The primary methodology presented in this lesson is service learning.

Workshop 7. Controversial Public Policy Issues
In this 12th-grade law class at Champlin Park High School in Champlin, Minnesota, JoEllen Ambrose engages students in a structured discussion of a highly controversial issue--racial profiling--and connects student learning both to their study of due process in constitutional law and to police procedure in their study of criminal law. She begins by having students individually complete an opinion poll, which they then discuss as a group. By physically engaging the students (they move around from “Agree” to “Disagree” to “Undecided” positions as the discussion proceeds), they get both a visceral and visual sense of the controversy. Next, working in pairs, they delve into studying a research packet that JoEllen Ambrose has prepared, reading local and national sources on the topic of racial profiling. The next activity pairs students in a structured debate. The framework for this debate, which comes from the Center for Cooperative Learning at the University of Minnesota, is highly specific with regard to both time and task and is designed to have each partnership argue both sides of the issue. Each group of four is next charged with the task of developing a consensus position on the issue and presenting it to the class. A debriefing discussion completes the lesson. The methodologies highlighted in this lesson include role playing and structured academic controversy.

Workshop 8. Rights and Responsibilities of Students
In this lesson, students in Matt Johnson’s 12th-grade, two-semester, honors-level law course at Benjamin Banneker Senior High School in Washington, D.C. engage in a culminating activity that helps them review what they have learned over the year and gives them an opportunity to apply the concepts to new circumstances. To begin the lesson, each student takes responsibility for writing and distributing a one-page brief of a Supreme Court case that they have previously studied, and for presenting a summary of the case to the class. All cases involve the constitutional rights and responsibilities of students. Next, students are assigned to groups of three and given a hypothetical case. The hypothetical cases, developed by Matt Johnson, incorporate a variety of fact situations that are similar to previous cases the class has studied. These hypotheticals also relate to student rights cases that were to be decided by the Supreme Court during its 2001-2002 term. Each team represents either the petitioner or the respondent, or is part of the Supreme Court. Students prepare their cases by examining precedents and determining which arguments are most likely to prevail. After a period of preparation, the lawyers present their cases to the Justices, who then retire to deliberate. Justices then present their majority and dissenting opinions, after which the class discusses both the process and the disposition of the case. This lesson highlights the use of case studies for synthesis and analysis.

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