Preparing students for civic life

A question that has recently been on my mind as I work on book chapters around helping English language learners with civic learning is the question of teaching for citizenship. Certainly, one of the key goals of the Florida Joint Center for Citizenship is preparing students to be citizens. It is, after all, in our name. But on reflection, perhaps we should consider that we are going deeper than that. We are, instead, preparing students for civic life. Not all of the students we seek to reach are citizens, after all. At the same time, the knowledge, skills, and dispositions we want children to develop should be practiced long before they are able to assume the rights and duties of citizenship anyway. Key here is the idea that civic life is more than simply voting or serving on juries, both of which are rightly and justly limited to citizens of the United States. But what does it mean to prepare students for civic life, to truly help them understand what it means to engage in their communities and to seek to be a difference-maker?

Before we begin considering that question, it needs to be stated plainly that what we are discussing here is a not a question of liberal or conservative. Instead, it is a question of doing what you think is right and necessary for the civic life of your community. Civic life should not be centered around partisan warfare; rather, it should be centered around true discussion, collaboration, and the common good as our Founding Fathers understood it. As one of my personal heroes, John Adams, so eloquently put it in the Constitution of the great state of Massachusetts:

Government is instituted for the common good; for the protection, safety, prosperity and happiness of the people; and not for the profit, honor, or private interest of any one man, family, or class of men: Therefore the people alone have an incontestable, unalienable, and indefeasible right to institute government; and to reform, alter, or totally change the same, when their protection, safety, prosperity and happiness require it.

So, in preparing students for civic life, what should we be addressing? The Campaign for the Civic Mission of Schools has suggested that the focus be on civic competencies that have stood the test of time and reflect the knowledge, skills, and dispositions necessary for civic life in the 21st century United States of America. Today’s post will discuss the first competency, knowledge; later posts will dive into the skills and dispositions, the Six Proven Practices, and the new(ish) C3 FrameworkC3 Framework and how that might serve us as civic educators.

Civic Knowledge: Starting With a Foundation

You have to start somewhere. For us, civic life must be built on a foundation that reflects what came before. You cannot engage in civic life and the pursuit of the common good if you have no or little knowledge of history, civics, and government. The Campaign for the Civic Mission of Schools describes the competency of civic knowledge thus:

Civic content includes both core knowledge and the ability to apply knowledge to different circumstances and settings.

  • Key historical periods, episodes, cases, themes, and experiences of individuals and groups in U.S. history
  • Principles, documents, and ideas essential to constitutional democracy
  • Relationship between historical documents, principles, and episodes and contemporary issues
  • Structures, processes, and functions of government; powers of branches and levels of government
  • Political vehicles for representing public opinion and effecting political change
  • Mechanisms and structure of the U.S. legal system
  • Relationship between government and other sectors
  • Political and civic heroes
  • Social and political networks for making change
  • Social movements and struggles, particularly those that address issues as yet unresolved
  • Structural analyses of social problems and systemic solutions to making change

In other words, to effectively participate civic life, we must have an understanding of what came before. It means understanding the decisions that our Founding Fathers made, and the roots and consequences of those decisions. Why, for example, did they decide on the Electoral College? How did the party system develop? What kinds of issues have those seeking to lead, organize, or participate in civic life had to deal with over the course of our two and a half century history?

It also requires that we be able to interpret the key documents that have shaped civic life and civil society in the United States. This includes the Magna Carta, the U.S. Constitution, the Bill of Rights, the Declaration of Independence, the later amendments to the Constitution, and even the Articles of Confederation (among so many others). Important within this understanding is being able to grasp the different ways these documents have been interpreted in the past and continue to be debated in the present. For example, what do we mean when we say and debate the idea that Constitution is a living document? At the same time, we cannot know our rights, truly know and practice our rights, unless we understand them. And that rights are balanced by responsibilities and the importance of civic virtue and the common good.

To participate in civic life, we also need to understand how government works and how to take part in that government. This is more than simply voting; this is active engagement with fellow citizens and leaders in order to pursue change using the processes of government. And, again, we need note have a partisan perspective on this. The Tea Party movement of the previous decade is one form; the civil rights marches of the past century are another. Both seek to influence the levers and powers of government to pursue political, economic, or social change. But to do so effectively, we must help our students understand how government works and what influences government to take, or not take, action.

The idea of heroes, as presented in the list proposed by the Campaign, is to me a bit problematic and can lead to rather contentious debate. What do we mean by ‘political and civic heroes’? One person’s hero may be another person’s villain (as we see in the contentious debate over Confederate monuments). That does not mean, however, that this is a discussion to avoid. Indeed, we may find this debate a way in which we can model for our students the ways in which disagreements should be approach in a healthy civic culture. Whatever the choice we make, our heroes should reflect the types of engagement we want our children to have in civic life.

For me, most importantly, helping our students understand that engaging in civic life CAN make a difference is key. What networks can we form, what understandings can we refine, in order engage in civic life and pursue the common good?

Knowledge Matters

To me, without the competency of civic knowledge, the skills and dispositions are, to some great degree, worthless. If you lack understanding, how can you collaborate to make change? How can you engage in civic life? This does not serve as a call for rote memorization or some multiple choice test; rather, we need to teach our students how to find the information they need, how they may use the skills they have to interpret it, and, reflecting the desires of folks like Benjamin Rush, Thomas Jefferson, Noah Webster, and later Horace Mann, a common understanding and body of knowledge that is shared among all participants in civic life.

In a later post, we will take a look at the skills that can take advantage of this knowledge.


Civics360: A New Resource for Civic Education

Good morning, friends in Civics. Over the past few years, teachers here in Florida and elsewhere in the United States have made heavy use of the Escambia Civics Review Site. We do believe that the partnership with Escambia County and the willingness of that district to host and share resources for teaching and learning has been beneficial for everyone. Over time, however, requests have been made and ideas contemplated about improvements that could be made to make that site even better. These requests and ideas include more student friendly videos, more helpful assessment tools, and resources for ESOL students and struggling readers. With that in mind, the Florida Joint Center for Citizenship, in partnership with Escambia County Schools,  is excited to announce the launching of a new Civics review site that will, later this summer, replace the currect Escambia Civics Review Site: Civics360. Civics360 is free to all registered users, much like our current Florida Citizen website. This site is now live and available for your use.

civics360 cover

So what are the new features you will find in Civics360? Take a look at the orientation video below, which walks you through the registration process, and read the rest of the post to learn about what we hope will be a useful resource for you and your students.

  • Multiple Student Friendly Readings for each assessed benchmark, available in English, Spanish, and Haitian Creole

languages

  • English language reading guides for each Student Friendly Reading, developed with all levels of readers in mind

reading guide

  • Vocabulary Practice Worksheets that use Concept Circles to assist students with understanding key words from the benchmark

concept circles

  • A Quizlet tool for vocabulary practice and remediation

quizlet

  • Continually adding more new narrated student-oriented videos for each benchmark; please note that not every module currently has videos.

videosample

  • Video Viewing Guides for each new video to facilitate engagement

video guide

  • Online quiz practice within each module that reflect best practice in learning and assessment tools that facilitate engagement and retention. We have added clearer explanations and suggestions for reflection for every distractor in each question.

quizsample.JPG

  • Additional civic resources to facilitate learning and review

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  • Organized into 9 Civics Focus Areas that reflect district pacing guides

topic areas

The new site also includes a 60 question practice assessment that reflects the actual EOC in structure and format. We also in the process of developing a version of that practice assessment that breaks the test into the 4 Reporting Categories so that teachers, and students, can use the assessment and their time more effectively.

practiceassessment sample

Be sure to check out the overview video, and if you have questions, comments, problems, or suggestions about Civics360 or the FJCC, please feel free to email me


The National O’Connor Scholars Program

Good morning, friends of civics. We have come across an interesting opportunity and thought it might be of interest for your students!

iCivics and the Aspen Institute are cosponsoring the National O’Connor Scholars Program. 11th or 12th grade students interested in the work of the Supreme Court, the life of Justice O’Connor, and/or constitutional law and history; and a record of civic participation and leadership in school, community, and/or faith- based organizations are encouraged to apply.

Applications will be accepted from March 13 to April 3, or until 150 applications have come in—whichever is sooner.  Scholars will be announced on or before April 21.

Apply herehttps://goo.gl/forms/alXN7vHHzfHfvY7w1

Learn more about the O’Connor Scholar Program.


FJCC New Civics Teacher Webinar: What to Expect When You Are Expecting the Civics EOCA now available!

Good morning, friends of FJCC and civics. Our recent webinar, What to Expect When You are Expecting the Civics EOCA, is now available. In it, you will find an overview and discussion of Florida’s Civics EOCA, hosted by our own Peggy Renihan. Materials and resources relevant to the webinar are available here. 

You can access the annotated PowerPoint PDF below. The transcription is available on each slide as notes.
Annotated What to Expect When you are Expecting the EOCA

Should you have issues, please contact me.  Our next webinar will occur on March 29th, 2017 at 4:30 EST. It will cover review and remediation for the Civics EOCA. Registration will be open soon!

 


Action Civics Survey

Heli Mishael, a student at Harvard’s Kennedy School, is doing some investigatory research around action civics and what teachers need to effectively implement an action civics approach in their classroom. This is definitely a question we here at FJCC would be interested in getting an answer to, so if you have some time, please take this survey!

Questions on this survey may be directed to Heli Mishael  Thanks for taking the survey and hopefully contributing to the body of knowledge about what might be needed!


New Upcoming NARA Webinar!

A few months ago, we were very happy to host for our friends at the National Archives a webinar around the cartoons of Clifford Berryman. Happily, we are excited to host the next one as well!

On Wednesday, February 08, 2017, the National Archives will be providing a webinar that is wonderfully timely and involves civil rights. Please check out the description below, and be sure to register!

Records of Change: Teaching the Civil Rights Movement with Primary Sources from the National Archives
Wednesday, February 8, 2017 at 4:30 PM ET

Bring the civil rights movement into your classroom with primary sources from the the National Archives! During this interactive webinar, examine the federal government’s role in advancing the civil rights movement. Explore how the Archives’ holdings reveal the voices of those who advocated for and those who resisted change in this transformative era in American history. Practice techniques for analyzing primary sources and learn about additional resources from the National Archives, including lesson plans from the Center for Legislative Archives.
This webinar will last approximately one hour. Registration required.


“Teaching the Presidency in the Digital Age” Webinar!!!

I am happy to pass this along, as the Teaching for Democracy Alliance is simply fantastic.

tfda
WEBINAR: Teaching the Presidency in the Digital Age
Wednesday, January 11th
4pm ET/1pm PT

The Teaching for Democracy Alliance is pleased to announce its first webinar of 2017 on the timely and important topic of “Teaching the Presidency in the Digital Age.” The webinar will feature Professor Joseph Kahne of UC-Riverside, whose most recent work examines the connection between media literacy education and students’ ability to spot fake news, as well as commentary by media literacy experts Dr. Katherine Fry of Brooklyn College and Dr. Paul Mihailidis from Emerson College. The webinar will also highlight free and innovative instructional resources to support teachers as they help their students make sense of the executive branch in today’s digital climate. Register HERE.

This looks to be another excellent webinar from them. I encourage you to check it out.


Upcoming SOURCES Conference at UCF!

SOURCES Annual Conference
University of Central Florida
Orlando, Florida
Saturday, January 14, 2017

The Teaching with Primary Sources Program at the University of Central Florida (TPS-UCF) will be hosting the third annual SOURCES Annual Conference at the University of Central Florida on Saturday, January 14, 2017. The SOURCES Annual Conference is a free opportunity available to any educators interested in the utilization and integration of primary sources into K-12 teaching. Presenters will focus on providing strategies for using primary sources to help K-12 students engage in learning, develop critical thinking skills, and build content knowledge, specifically in one or more of the following ways:
Justifying conclusions about whether a source is primary or secondary depending upon the time or topic under study;
Describing examples of the benefits of teaching with primary sources;
Analyzing a primary source using Library of Congress tools;
Accssing teaching tools and primary sources from www.loc.gov/teachers;
Identifying key considerations for selecting primary sources for instructional use (for example, student needs and interests, teaching goals, etc.);
Accessing primary sources and teaching resources from www.loc.gov for instructional use;
Analyzing primary sources in different formats;
Analyzing a set of related primary sources in order to identify multiple perspectives;
Demonstrating how primary sources can support at least one teaching strategy (for example, literacy, inquiry-based learning, historical thinking, etc.); and
Presenting a primary source-based activity that helps students engage in learning, develop critical thinking skills and construct knowledge.

Dr. Michael Berson and Dr. Ilene Berson, of the University of South Florida, and Bert Snow, of Muzzy Lane Software, will provide the Keynote Presentation, Historical Inquiry with Primary Sources: The Kid Citizen App for Young Learners. In this session, they will discuss about and present ways in which educators can use an application that they collaboratively developed in order to foster young children’s inquiry with Library of Congress primary sources focusing on Congress and civic participation. Templates to add content will be demonstrated. Additional session titles include the following:

· Primary Source Analysis in Elementary Grades: A Tool for Building Critical Literacy Skills
· Integrating Current Events and Geography into Social Studies Curriculum
· Examining the Cold War through Primary Sources
· Teaching with Primary Sources through A Geography Lens
· Making Texts Accessible: Situated Word Learning and Scaffolded Inquiry
· WGBH/PBS Learning Media: US History Interactive Modules for Grades 9-12
· Venture Smith’s Real Voyage
· Building Civic Competencies with Primary Sources
· Teacher-Leaders & Professional Development
· Library of Congress Resources – BYOD
· Emerging Technologies for Promoting Inquiry: A Top 10 List
· The Kids Are Alright: Children from the Past Tell Their Stories
· Archiving It! – K-12 Web Archiving Program
· Using Primary Sources to Engage All Learners in U.S. History
· Finding a Voice in History Using Found Poetry to Construct Meaning
· Social Studies and Social Media: Engaging Students in their Medium
· The Interactive Constitution: Non-partisan Civics Education for 21st Century Classrooms
· Island in Transition: How Cuba’s Past will Influence its Future
· Exploring the History of Local Schools
· Hollywood or History? Using Primary and Secondary Source to Analyze Film
· Examining the Civil Rights Movement from a Historian’s Eye
· Emerging Technologies for Promoting Inquiry: A Top 10 List
· Kindergarten Historians and the Power of Primary Sources
· Student-created History Labs for the Secondary Classroom
· Perspectives & Voices from Reconstruction
· Myth-Making in the News: Tracing Sojourner Truth’s Legacy
· Leveraging Library of Congress Materials to Teach Second Order Historical Concepts

Registration is free and is open for the SOURCES Annual Conference. Register now: http://www.sourcesconference.com/registration.


Even MORE Upcoming FCSS Sessions!

So this weekend is the start of the Florida Council for the Social Studies Annual Conference. Have you registered yet? Are you coming? We hope you are coming, because we have some awesome sessions lined up. You can learn more about the keynote speaker here, and you can go here and here to get get an overview of some of the sessions we have planned. So with that out of the way, let’s take another look at some of the quality sessions we have lined up for you this weekend.

Saturday Morning, Concurrent Session 1

Factors Relating to U.S. History End of Course Exam for African American Students Irenea Walker, University of Central Florida

If social studies teachers properly alter their pedagogical approaches, African American students can learn to appreciate learning about historical facts. This paper focuses upon creative lessons that focus on interactive activities to peak interest.

eoc-graphic

Engaging the 21st Century Learner Amanda Mudlock and Rich Sayers, Pearson

Build academic skills for 21st century students through inquiry-based learning by facilitating easy projects, civic discussions, and document-based questions. Teach students to take ownership of their ideas, work together, and communicate clearly. 

21st-cent-kid

Curating Your Collection: Promoting Content Area Literacy by Giving Student Tools
to Explore Social Studies Texts  Heather Cerra, Northwest Elementary School, Hillsborough County Public Schools

How can teachers spark student interest in informational and historical fiction texts related to social studies content? Using a unique framework, teachers can build student engagement and realize student growth in the areas of vocabulary and comprehension. (Elementary Session!)

hillsborough

Saturday Afternoon, Concurrent Session 2

The Great Travel Fair: A Cross-Curricular Unit of Study Amy Trujillo, Orange / Orlando Science Elementary School

Now in it’s fourth year, The Great Travel Fair combines ELA, Science, Social Studies, and Math in order for students to understand the regions of the United States through a balance of 21st century skills. 

interdisciplinary
Public History, Memory, and Survival: Producing History Through Student
Centered Technology  Joshua Stern, St. Johns Country Day School

Attendees will learn how to use iMovie to allow students to bring stories of Holocaust survival to life. Students become active public historians and create meaningful results by preserving and transmitting these vital personal histories.

imovie

Saturday Afternoon, Concurrent Session 3

St. Augustine Civil Rights Movement: Seamless Integration into your Classroom Blake Pridgen & Benjamin Rome, Flagler College

Utilizing the primary sources in Flagler College’s Civil Rights Library of St. Augustine (CRLSA: http://civilrights.flagler.edu), teachers will learn to effectively teach Florida’s involvement in the civil rights movement, grades 4-12.

crlsa

Sunday Morning, Concurrent Session 7

The State of the Assessment: Civics End-of-Course Assessment Stacy Skinner, Ed. D., Social Studies Coordinator, Test Development Center; Elise Beachy, Annette Boyd Pitts, Robert Brazofsky, Maureen Carter, Erin Conklin, Christy Disinger, George Masek, Stephen Masyada, Ph.D., Peggy Renihan, Chris Spinale, Jackie Viana

This annual conference message about the middle school Civics EOCA will provide an overview of implementation, a review of student performance data, and a discussion about test development with Florida educators involved in the process. (Note: A similiar session around the US History EOCA will be offered earlier in the morning.)

Demographic Breakdown

Achievement Level by Demographic Background

Context and Comparison: At the heart of AP World History Robert Strayer and Patrick Whelan, Bedford, Freeman & Worth Publishers

This session provides resources—both content and pedagogical—for effectively teaching contextualization and its companion skill of comparison. It addresses the much increased role of contextual thinking in the new exam format. 

apworldspongebob

 

This has been just taste of the possibilities. Please be sure to check out additional session descriptions at 2016-fcss-session-descriptions, and earlier posts on what is shaping up to be a great conference session here, here, here, and here on why you should attend! Hey, it will be worth it for the trick or treating alone!

You can register for FCSS online. It’s a great and affordable conference, and a chance to meet folks you can work with and learn from. Hope to see you here in Orlando. The hashtag for the conference, by the way, will be #FLCSS16. Join us!