The State Pizza

 

Each year students across the United States learn about their states, and the governments that are responsible for managing the laws and safety of their people. Our governing bodies which in almost all states are  bicameral, except one. ( Whats up Nebraska?)  Most of us study government around the first of the year. Many legislatures convene then and are in session just after. This year because of scheduling, we didn’t tackle state government until the end of this year. So, this week I want to share a lesson that I originally snagged from the Washington State Legislature on the process of creating a Bill.  It is called  The Perfect Pizza, and is a wonderful way for students to experience major concepts of government. I pick up the lesson after having gone through the system of checks and balances and discussed creation of Bills and passage into law(School House Rock remains the  BEST way to teach this to students.)

This is how I would teach it:

Today we are going to explore the process for creating a Bill in our state.

Turn and talk to a partner about how you think a Bill becomes a law.

Ok great. Now grab a sticky note and write down one thing involved with Bills becoming a law.

While they do that I write the following on the board:

  • The People
  • Legislator
  • Senate
  • House
  • Debate
  • Negotiation
  • Compromise

Okay. Now place your stickies under the word you feel like it most relates to.

Based on what you have taught this far responses could be:

  • written by a citizen
  • introduced by senator/house member
  • sent to committee
  • never leaves committee
  • amendments are added
  • governor signs
  • governor vetoes
  • debate happens
  • Bill is read
  • Bill is debated
  • Bill is changed

etc…etc…

I then will help students remember the steps by posting them. Fortunately most state legislatures actually post these steps, or even provide graphics.

This is pretty representative of most state’s law making process.

After the review I place the students in small groups. At first they are going to simulate working on writing a law. They have been submitted a basic idea (by many different citizen groups) for a state pizza.   They will work in the group to create a single bill and will have criteria to do so.

Each group gets a summary card with a run down on all the requests from citizens for a state pizza.

a sample card could say:

ingredients requested:

Walla- Walla Onions, Salmon, Lavender oil, apples, strawberries, Geoduck, sausage, 

Crust type:

Thick, thin, hand tossed, gluten-free, whole wheat

Sliced in:

43 slices, 49 slices. In squares, in triangles.

Students are then given one of these handouts.

They are then tasked with, as a group, creating a law that best represents the wishes of the citizens.

In this process your students will argue and debate. I circulate and let them go for a while. Most groups have some trouble getting started and I ask:

Q: When we are in groups, what helps us stay organized and have good conversations?

A: We usually decide group roles including a facilitator.

Me: Exactly!

I let them arrange roles. I suggest they get a recorder, and a reader and they fall into their roles.  The handout provides a template bill that describes the pizza and mimics the language of a Bill.

The kids engage in the civic practices of:

  • discussing and debating ideas that apply to larger groups
  • considering other opinions other than yours
  • Tackling the idea of creating rules or laws that will affect many, even those that do not agree with it.

Take look at this student example

Students also have to come up with a statement with three supporting reasons to share with a mock legislature meeting. 

I have kids create posters to represent their proposed bill. I then let them present to the whole class. From here you can do many things:

  • Allow Bills to be amended.
  • Turn kids loose to try to get together and develop compromises with other groups to create pass their bills.
  • Create blocks to prevent passage of some pizzas.

But I would keep it simple: let the kids do a silent vote on the best pizza. It keeps from the real nastiness of politics being played out in the classroom. Not that you don’t want to teach them that as well, but that’s for another lesson!

This process is not so much mimicking the  exact progress of Bill to law. I am really looking for students just to appreciate the difficult task of being both a citizen and an elected official. It provides a lot of opportunity for discussion and reflection on the overall process. I didn’t even get into the veto process, which in our state, includes line items. But you can adapt it to a host of teaching points.

Happy Teaching!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stealing is the best form of teaching

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Teachers steal. We are unapologetic thieves. We are so hungry for the very best things for our students, that we will unabashedly take others ideas, use them, twist them, break them into pieces and parts, and USE USE USE them!

No idea, worksheet, or neumonic is safe. But the good news is there is honor amoung our guild of bandits. We all admitt it and thank our lucky stars that  resources are things we should all share. Most teachers fall over themselves to help others. There is a reason why your average teacher has three hundred free tote bags: because they need everyone of them to stuff with good ideas from other people!

So, recently, when it was time to teach conclusion paragraphs, I did what all good teachers do: I Googled it! At this time we are using Lucy Calkins Writer’s Workshop,  but I just wasn’t feelin’ the current lesson on it, so I did a search and found this wonderful post on the topic,.

I was looking for one of those great anchor charts that would let me bang out the instruction with the kids in ten minutes (per Lucy) and I had many choices. But  I was so happy when I found Two Writting Teachers. This blog has a special mission:

Two Writing Teachers is a cooperative blog that unites a community of teachers through the practice of writing while inspiring and guiding the teaching of a writing workshop approach. It is our hope teachers will create and lead robust writing workshops, which will aid in the development of engaged and literate citizens. 

I got giddy just reading this. Long story short, they provided a perfect post on constructing conclusions for the unit of study I was in. They provided this great anchor:

anchor

So after finding this great resource, all I to do was tweak it a bit.

I left out the chapter preview bit as it didn’t fit our current assignmnet.

Here’s how I would teach it:

“Today I am going to let you see how good writers create conclusion paragraphs”

First they read my example. We are writing about  civil rights in a historical context, so I start with an example that is familiar and part of our mentor texts:

Introduction Paragraph

The story of Rosa Parks is familiar. Rosa became a hero for what seems like a very small action but at the time was a huge risk for an African American person: deciding to refuse giving up her seat to a white person. She took a stand,was sent to jail, and became an inspiration for many people in the civil rights movement.

Now read my conclusion paragraph:

Conclusion.

Rosa Parks was a Civil Rights hero. She took actions that were not easy or always safe for African Americans at this time. She took action that then got her arrested, but she became famous and an inspiration. I have to wonder, if I were her, if I could have been so brave? If that were you, would you be able to stand up to a white person during segregation? I am glad Rosa showed us that one person could make a difference!

I let students answer these questions

How is the conclusion like the introduction? List two specific ways:
Circle a sentence in the introduction and in the conclusion  that say the same thing,  but in a different way.
What was different about the paragraphs? List two examples.

After that I have kids pair up and and complete this activity in like two minutes:

A good way to make a conclusion effective is to connect it to today.

With a partner, write a sentence that would do that for this topic.

Possible example

Movements likie Black Lives matter could have never happened without the brave actions of people like Rosa Parks.

I then review answers, and restate the anchor chart points and release them to compse.  Lucy would say I was wasting time by having them pair and answer and reviewing and she may be right. I’ll bank on letting my kids have time to process and think before  I have them finish the process.

And here is the handout.

Have fun teaching!

 

 

 

A Wrinkle in Time : Part Two

 

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So the last time we talked I mentioned “Time Scripts.” I like this idea. It’s a story where you can pick out the connections, the causes and effects of different events. This resource can serve as a graphic way to organize text, and show the progression of time.

Last time I noted the difficulty in teaching the concept of time in the BIG sense of it. I think if we begin to chunk our history for kids into digestiable bites, over  the long haul, we will see them connecting eras, and periods more easily.

So here’s how I’d teach it

  • First I list two words (without the accompanying definitions)

chro·nol·o·gy

cen·tu·ry

  • I ask students to turn and talk  and share what these words mean, and also if they know their roots. I do this any chance I get. I don’t know that it is needed. I just like to.

Chronology is the order in time. Its root is Chon which literally means time.

Century’s root is centi, which means 100.

  • I then wrote two numbers on the board 1700-1900.

Q: How long a period is this?

A: 200 years

  • Now I ask for another turn and talk:

Q: What kinds of events from history do we put on timeline?

(Give them a good two minutes)

Responses:

They will be varied. But probably will be births of famous people, wars, establishments of cities, inventions, deaths. The list will go on.

“Today I want to show you that events don’t just happen. They happen because of causes that came before. They also have efeects after they happen. We can look in and around the events in the texts to determine these causes and effects.”

  • I share some sample text:

 

In 1869 the final link in a transcontinental railroad was finished, connecting Nebraska and Califrninia. A local Railroad went through the town of Walla. The Northern Pacific Railroad completed a second railroadline from the Great Lakes to the Puget Sound in 1886, followed by the Great Northern rail in 1893. Before the railroad, a trip to the eastern states took four long months by wagon. Travel and overland shipping of farm products and timber was mucheasier.

The trains brought more settlers to the territor. Towns sprang up along the railroad routes. Many African American,  Chinese and Japanese people came to work on the railroads. Between 1880 and 189, the population increased from 75,000 to more than 350,000, enough people to apply for statehood. On November 11,1889, Washington became the forty second State.

I show students a copy of my Time Script. Its just a fancy term for creating a graphivc representation of events like in a time line. Kids will use multiple copies, or create their own, to breal down events and come to a conclusion about why and how their event in time happened.

You can see a kid example here, but let me bullet out what I hope the kids and I will discover together.

We know that our event is the day Washington became a state, November 11, 1889.

So, lets start looking around the text to find out why that happened.

They might see that just above it says:

Between 1880 and 189, the population increased from 75,000 to more than 350,000, enough people to apply for statehood.

But what happened before that?

some responses could be:

The Northern Pacific Railroad completed a second railroadline from the Great Lakes to the Puget Sound in 1886, followed by the Great Northern rail in 1893

or

The trains brought more settlers to the territory.

Answers will vary. It will give you a chance to dive into the text with kids and find out what they need or want to know. Depending on the source, and the assignment you can have them sandwhich the event in the middle of the organizer and build events before and after.

Match your scroipts to your guiding questions. Maybe they are studying when people of Asian discent first arrived in Washington, or when towns were established? Whatever your aobjective, I hope this approach helps.

Happy Teaching!

 

 

 

Activity: Civil Rights Story Book Reviews

 

Teaching social justice, civil rights, and history is the best part of my job. I also love primary sources, thick high level texts, and I LOVE LOVE LOVE the sound of my own voice droning on and on about these topics. Surprise: my students DO NOT love it!
So I look for books that can keep me from boring people to death. Recently we were looking at issues of school segregation. For years I have had kids analyze the painting   The Problem we all Live With as a jumping off point. There is great supporting material, but it tended to be me doing too much pontificating so I wanted to put the learning in the kids hands.  I needed something super accessible and redaily availible to achiebe this goal.

 

Using picture or non-fiction story books to teach is as old as the genre itself. I have a math curriculum that invokes it to teach a number of math concepts. One of my favorites is A Remainder of One. Kids get a graphic representation of the concepts and even the steps involved in a relatively complex structure. But ,when dealing with hard historic,  and social topics, it can be difficult to find texts that accomplish similar instructional goals.

Seperate is Never Equal by Duncan Tonatiuh  may be one of my favorite all time civil rights picture books.  Its a bit long for a read a loud, but I have seldom seen the issues of race, segregation, and the democratic process spelled out better for learners. It met all of my criteria for a useful teaching tool!

Good news: Finding good books on teaching civil rights is easier than ever and there are so many good places to find books  on civil rights and social justice topics, but there are times the titles I buy, borrow or appropriate don’t have all the things I need. Recently, I came up with  what I wanted students to be able to connect or identify with when using picture books.  So I read the book and ask myself:

“Does this Book Contain?”

  • Images of Oppression:
  • Images of Difference
  • Obvious  Questions
  • Denial of Legal Rights
  • Acts of Resistance
  • Hard Facts
  • A Realistic Ending

 

If they do, then I know I have a pretty good teaching tool.

So here’s how I’d teach it

  • I would draw on prior knowledge regarding the Civil Rights movement. Kids could do a turn and talk, then put what they know on post its. I would have them put them up where we could all see it. 
  • I’d ask how we could sort: people, places, events, actions, vocabulary, whatever…
  • I’d commend them on their knowledge and tell them that they are going to help decide if the books we have in class will be effective to learn about this very big topic.

Now it is time for a  vocabulary sort . Use this link to find the document. 

A vocabulary or content sort can be sorting words into groups, but you can also match definitions or concepts with words or phrases.  I keep everything in ziplock baggies, pass them out to small groups, and give them five minutes for the matching.

Today I want you to look through the baggies and match words or phrases with definitions.

  • When the groups are done I just call on kids and see if we have the ideas matched with the correct terms.
  • In pairs, students will select books and use sticky notes to indicate where they find evidene from the vocab sort done earlier.

This takes a while. Kids have to read the books, look for evidence of the criteria and mark them with stickies. It can also be done with a worksheet, but I haven’t developed one for this activity yet.

  • To wrap up, I do a simple share of what they found and I ask them why they think having these criteria help indicate if the story is worthwhile or not.

Today we looked at some pretty big ideas like Oprresion  and images of difference. We found out that effective stories about strugglles for civil rights include realistic images, language and ideas. We will use these criteria in creating projects in coming days.

I’ll save the projects for an upcoming post. Meanwhile:

Happy Teaching!