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 4: Constitutional Convention  
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Workshop 4

Workshop Session
Lesson Plan
Teacher Perspectives
Student Perspectives
Essential Readings
Other Lessons

Student Perspectives: Constructivist learning

Alvin: He has the students do a lot of the research. He splits up the different parameters of the country and gives a topic to each of the students and says go out and in a couple of days come back with a paper. Then he says, "You're going to get up in front of the class and you're going to teach the subject." We get up there in front of the class and we talk about it and we get a discussion going. When we're done, he kind of steps in. He says if he notices something a little off--maybe we didn't explain something fully. He's more knowledgeable than we are but he also likes to throw hypotheticals in there. He'll say, "Well, what if this situation came up in this type of economy?" He likes to get you to think. He wants you to relate it to your own personal experiences. Mr. Johnson has really done a good job of showing me that there's more to government than just Supreme Court cases and facts. It's your personal opinions as well.

Brionna: You really become interested and it’s a lot easier to learn that way. It’s more fun because you’re not just sitting and listening to someone tell you the facts. You are more involved in it. You express your own ideas. [The teacher] listens to you and gives you feedback. It’s really dynamic. I like learning through simulation because it really puts you into the situation so you know how people who did it before thought [and] what they had to do to get their ideas out. It puts it in perspective because you really understand how different people think and how you need to negotiate to come up with something that will work for a majority of people.

Chris: [This] is kind of a self-taught class. The way Mr. Johnson has approached teaching, the class is all student-run. He assigns each student a particular facet of government, a social issue, and something dealing with religion, and we come and present it to the class. Hopefully we know the subject well enough [to] teach it.

Elliott: Most of the things we do in class have given us opportunities to think outside the box. We're learning [about] a lot of different countries at the same time. We wouldn't understand any of it if we weren't given the opportunity to relate it to things that we already know. As you're watching current events, being able to understand why countries use things and maybe why they shouldn't helps you instead of just being able to recall facts about it. You're not just thinking America-centric. You understand why each country needs a different form of government. We're given opportunities to apply what we're learning in constructive ways. We do a lot of group learning. Instead of him lecturing, we're able to interact with our classmates. It's teaching us how to be independent. When you have to study something yourself and then go up in front of class and explain it to everybody else, it forces you to do the research in a way that you can explain it in common language to your classmates, which is harder than writing a paper. You become a more dynamic learner.

Jade: Doing an interactive project, such as the simulation, is actually the best way to learn because you learn through experience. By actually studying the policies and the histories of all these countries, we are trying to learn how to devise a plan for another country. The best way to learn how to do that is to actually do it, not read about it.

Lauren: He doesn't lecture so much because a lot of times when you lecture teenagers, they don't listen. They'll go right to sleep. He does a lot of group work and that helps a little bit because you're working with more than one mind and he'll come around and observe us and see if we have any questions. Since I'm not as good in government, I have other people to work with, other people to help me to understand what's going on. There are a few teachers that lecture and there are a few teachers that just hand you something to work on by yourself and don't come around and check on it. Mr. Johnson does lecture a little bit but there is interaction with the students. He'll call on us. He'll ask us our opinion or ask us a question and expect an answer. If you really don't look like you understand, he won't call on you because that can be embarrassing.

Victor: Students learn best from each other so if we are our own teachers, it makes the information sink in deeper. It's not information that's just fed to us from a teacher. Not to say that's always wrong or negative, but when it comes from our peers our ears are a little more open.

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