Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum

Teacher professional development and classroom resources across the curriculum

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Making Civics Real Workshop 3: Public Policy & the Federal Budget  
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Workshop 3

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Teacher Perspectives: How to get started

Leslie Martin: I tend to try new strategies when I get bored with the strategy that I am using. There are tons and tons of lesson plans on the Web. I listen to other teachers. I have lunch with a group of teachers regularly. Sometimes I take a strategy that I have learned from another teacher for one concept but I apply it to a different concept. I have some tremendous flops, but I have also had some great successes. It’s that balance between routine and doing something creative. You have to have both, so each year I remember what worked. I revise it. I say, “What did I like about that? What didn’t I like? What worked with this lesson? What didn’t?”

One year, I wanted to teach the students the Declaration of Independence. I wanted to talk about where it came from and what’s in it. The first year I said, “Go home and read the Declaration of Independence and let’s talk about it.” The students couldn’t understand it. The next year I took the Declaration of Independence, printed it out in really bold letters, and gave each student one of the grievances. They had to go home and tell what that one sentence meant. The next day in class we went through each complaint. By the end, I had them take notes in modern language and I said, “Do you guys see why the colonists were so mad?” and they said, “If anybody did this to me, I would be ticked off, too.” I am constantly trying new things in a different context, and looking at what I did and what worked the best.

The easiest thing is simply ask the students to get into small groups and assign each student to read a page and a half and be responsible for knowing it. In small groups, each student teaches the other students. That was one of the most successful things I ever did. They had a shared responsibility. Make sure the students have something written so that they can speak from it and you, as a teacher, can make sure that each student has done the assignment. If they have to teach it and come up with a series of test questions, they know it. You haven’t had to do it. [Another] piece I use [is to] say, “Give me this idea and relate it to daily life.”


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