Saturday, February 3, 2018

Civics and the new California HSS Framework

Last time, I shared how I plan using the new C3 Framework and the California HSS Framework that was adopted in 2016. Today I want to talk about one of the four main components of the framework and how I work to incorporate it in my classroom: Civics and Citizenship.

The Framework states:
From the earliest grade levels, students learn the kind of behavior that is necessary for the functioning of a democratic society in which everyone’s fundamental human rights are respected. They learn sportsmanship, fair play, sharing, respect, integrity, and taking turns. They should be given opportunities to lead and to follow. They should learn how to select leaders and how to resolve disputes rationally. They should learn about the value of due process in dealing with infractions, and they should learn to respect the rights of the minority even if this minority is only a single, dissenting voice and to recognize the dignity of every person.

These democratic values should be taught in the classroom, in the curriculum, and in daily life outside school. Teachers are encouraged to have students use the community to gather information regarding public issues and become familiar with individuals and organizations involved in public affairs. Campus and community beautification activities and volunteer service in community facilities such as hospitals and senior-citizen or day care centers can provide students with opportunities to develop a commitment to public service and help link students in a positive way to their schools and communities. Whenever possible, opportunities should be available for participation and for reflection on the responsibilities of citizens in a free society.

I love these two paragraphs of the framework, it inspires teachers to take on grand in-depth learning projects that engage students in the community around them. But I also hate these two paragraphs because I don't have time for grand, in-depth learning projects every single unit.

The reality is that doesn't have to be every single lesson or even every single unit. That is just a piece of citizenship, projects like that are just a component of civics. I love that the framework describes citizenship in ways we often take for granted: being able to select leaders, value due process, respect the minority voice in the classroom.

Looking at the framework I realized I already had a lot of activities that supported this kind of learning in my classroom, here are four of my favorites.

1) Socratic Seminar
With a Socratic Seminar students create open ended questions around a common text and then discuss that text in class by exploring the questions they created. Works well in groups of 10-20 (so larger classes usually do a partner system where one speaks and one takes notes). Meets the framework in the following ways: "They learn sportsmanship, fair play, sharing, respect, integrity, and taking turns. They should be given opportunities to lead and to follow."

2) Harkness Discussion
A Harkness Discussion is different than a Socratic Seminar in it's goal. With a seminar, teachers often have a learning objective or outcome in mind for students and question students to that outcome. In a Harkness Discussion: the learning is entirely in the hands of the students. I've done Harkness discussions with my AP classes to a lot of success and it takes the pressure off students to create the perfect question required of a socratic seminar and forces them to really engage in the discussion.  Meets the framework in the following ways: "They learn sportsmanship, fair play, sharing, respect, integrity, and taking turns. They should be given opportunities to lead and to follow."

3) Debate or Put a Historical Figure on Trial
Debates are easy to do in a government or economics class but harder to accomplish in a history class. I've started doing trials with my world history students where we put history figures on trial (inspired by the History Vs. videos from TedEd.) My students LOVE these. I usually give them a background reading and a DBQ source packet and then team them into two sides. The roles are typically very specific. You can see the planning sheet I give my students here. The best part has been that I've gotten admin to come in and act as judge while I take notes. Meets the framework in the following ways: "They should learn how to select leaders and how to resolve disputes rationally. They should learn about the value of due process in dealing with infractions, and they should learn to respect the rights of the minority even if this minority is only a single, dissenting voice and to recognize the dignity of every person."

4) Share the Learning with an Authentic Audience
It's hard to make community learning projects in a high school World History class so I often make my focus more on sharing what you learned to help inform others. But that sharing has to move outside the classroom. Whether it is creating PSAs to put around campus, hosting an art show in the community, or working with the local elementary school one of the best ways to add a civic component to your lessons is to have an authentic audience for students to engage with.

For example: my students are currently learning about the Armenian Genocide (mostly through the sources made available at Facing History). We talked a lot about how few of them had ever heard of this genocide and if it is important to know about all genocides and massacres in history. I had students look at memorials created for victims of genocide or for tragedy and we talked about how art can be used to educate and help us remember the past so we don't allow it to repeat. I assigned an art project based on what they learned and am partnering with some leaders at our district office to get the art displayed in our community. Students know their art will be on public display and that their art has a powerful and meaningful purpose. Meets the framework in the following ways: Whenever possible, opportunities should be available for participation and for reflection on the responsibilities of citizens in a free society

There are more ways to engage in civics and citizenship in the classroom and I plan to continue to share more with you all but until then, what activities do you have that engage students in civics? Share them in the comments!

- Mrs. Kathryn Byars

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