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Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Thoughts on Chapter 3

At the risk of making myself vulnerable, I must admit that I really struggled with some of the ideas in Chapter 3. Though I agree whole-heartedly that students need to learn to participate actively in democracy and that school is the one of the best places to teach these skills, I don’t know how much is too much to introduce to seventh graders. The authors worked mostly with high school and college students, and with that age group, social justice seems like an excellent fit. However, with seventh graders it’s difficult to know where to start or how far to go.

For example, this year, the social studies teacher on my team had our seventh graders do a project where they analyzed the decisions made by politicians, city officials, and regulators regarding the Flint water crisis. I was not involved in the planning or implementation of this lesson, yet I thought this sounded like a great plan to get students involved in an important local issue. Unfortunately, when I spoke to my advisory students about the project, most of them seemed overwhelmed, and they didn’t seem to know what to do with the information once they found it. It made me wonder if the teacher didn’t provide enough scaffolding (though he was a veteran teacher) or if it was just too much for them.

My own attempt to get students to write persuasive essays on topics that were important to them produced a lot of essays about cell phone use and dress codes. And I had to wonder if these issues were actually important to my students, or if they were just what they were used to writing about, since cell phone use in school and dress codes are frequent topics for on-demand essay prompts. One thing I wish I had done was help them find real audiences for their writing. On page 61 Garcia and O’Donnell-Allen write, “work should not be a ‘show-and-tell’ delivery but a genuine exchange with an expected outcome stated to the audience.” A real audience would have really taken things up a notch.

Here’s a question: Have any of you “done civics” with middle school students? Could you give an example of a project that went well?

1 comment:

  1. Great question, Karma! I am also interested to see if anyone has real examples of a similar project. I have never seen it done but I am a new teacher. I also work with middle school and would love to implement something like this in the future but I believe it needs to be, like you mentioned, exceptionally organized and well scaffolded for the younger students. I work with a large population of immigrant students and would love to see my students involved in the political conversation surrounding that topic right now. I don't think they are too young but they would need a lot of support.


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