Interactive Alternatives in
Civics / History
Brian Surkan
The Walker School
Humble Beginnings
Shoe Tax
Classroom Risk
Mock Congress
Day 1: Project Introduction
Roles
• 1 – President
• 1 – VP (opposite gender of President)
• 4 – Senators (2 for each gende...
Day 2: Elections
Day 3: Role Assignments
Day 4: Writing Bills
Day 4: Cocktail Party
Day 5: Committee
Day 6: House / Senate
Day 7: Re-Elections
Special Circumstances
• Speeches cite achievements / press
• Only vote of confidence for incumbents
• ...
MC: Variations and Considerations
• Contextualize Mock Congress in history
– Favorite Elections: 1928, 1932, 1936
– Requir...
Simulations & Seminars
7th Grade US History
Full Seminar Format
Student - Centricity
Persona Projects
Student Responsibility
• Student Participation Grade
– Encourage intrinsic motivation / citizenship
– Value contributions ...
Civics through Movies
• Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
– Compliments Mock Congress
– Illustrates how Constitution protects m...
History through Movies
• The Patriot
– Tensions between Patriots, Loyalists & Neutrals
– Tactics, morale, relations to sla...
Questions?
Other Resources
• The not so Wild, Wild West: Property Rights
on the Frontier
– By: Terry L. Anderson and Peter J. Hill

•...
Sources 1 (order of appearance)
• clipartoday.com/…/School_4_tnb.png
• thecoloradoobserver.com/…/classroom.jpg
• 3.bp.blog...
Sources 2 (order of appearance)
• 11 Alive Video and Image
• Photo by Brian Surkan @ The Walker School
• broadinstitute.or...
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Interactive Alternatives in Teaching History v01

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Interaction and communications are integral to the flow of my civics class. Students maintain a student blog for each class, containing a summary of class events and homework assignments. Additionally, technology facilitates simulations which help students to integrate civics concepts into their daily understanding of reality. For example, in Mock Congress, students apply their prior study of the Constitution to a simulation of the legislative process—complete with lobbyists, press, and (virgin) cocktail parties—to understand how the system works by living it. Take-home tests and dynamic projects also provide them with opportunities to collaborate and communicate in innovative ways.

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  • I’m Brian Surkan and I have taught history and civics for 10 years at three different independent schools around the country.Today, I’d like to take you through a selective tour of my evolution in creating a more interactive classroom.My fundamental assumption is that students learn best when actively participating.It involves:SimulationsAlternative assessmentsClassroom layoutTransferring ownership of learning to the studentsFeel free to ask questions at any time.
  • Started teaching 10 years agoSan Jose California18-32 students per classMostly:Student Reading in Traditional History TextLecture/Discussion Next DayTake NotesPop QuizzesTest
  • Shoe TaxDiscussed the nature of pure democracy: majority rulesTest votes: Boys should wear dresses / Rich child should share their moneyFinal Vote of class: Boys or girls (whichever is majority) should receive candy the next dayShoe tax the next day before entering classroomPay for candy delivery (in front of students) with shoesDistribute candy ONLY to the group who had voted it for themselves the day before
  • Second simulation: Classroom RiskAfter our first World History test, we were all too tired to start something new, so we invented classroom riskStudents broke into teamsEach team chose a color of sticky notesStudents conquered a country by answering a question about itIf another team owned it, a series of questions followed until one team missed a question which the other knewQuestions became increasingly difficult as easy questions were exhaustedLater it evolved into white board lists to save on sticky note paperCould also be used as review before the tests
  • In my first year of teaching, it became clear that:7th Grade Early US History: Embraced ideals of the founding father’s intentions8th Grade: Approached history more cynicallyI wanted 8th grade students to realize how the pristine ideals of the Constitution translated into modern realityCocktail partiesCommitteesBack Scratching / NegotiatingHouse / Senate SessionsMock Congress quickly became one of the favorite simulations.
  • Both the roles and the process are introduced on day one.Requirements, templates and examples of every document are posted to Teacher Blog
  • Initial Elections Process:Gender used to represent statesEach presidential candidate needs a VP of opposite gender2 Senators of each gender Candidates post speeches on Student Blog before classFor reporters / re-election campaignsAvoids unprepared, unprofessional speechesCandidates dress up and make speeches in classAll students voteElection losers can apply for another roleLobbyists & reporters submit a Resume and Cover Letter (fabricated details)
  • Every student was required to draft a bill to give them some skin in the game:Compelling purposeRelated to sponsor (if a lobbyist)Sponsor signature spaceApproval signature spaceCitation and Explanation of ConstitutionalityThere are always a number of “General Welfare” clauses cited for ConstitutionalityEvery year, somebody cites the DOC as the Constitution
  • The lobbyists and press (disguised as waiters and waitresses) provide refreshments as they wishMaximum gradeEVERYBODY is trying to solicit support/sponsorship for their bill:One sponsor = move on to House or SenateMajority of one house = Skip that house and move to otherMajority of two houses = Straight to PresidentEach Senator can sponsor 4 billsEach Member of the House can sponsor 2 billsVP can only be the THIRD signatory on Senate bills, but without limitAttire is gradedBeing on task is graded
  • Three different committees are created to simulate reality (based on types of bill submitted):Joint Economic (or Taxation) CommitteeSenate Budget CommitteeHouse Ways and Means CommitteeBills are distributed by committee specialty where possibleNo more than 2/3 of bills can survive each committee
  • VP is President of SenateHouse elects a speaker from among themHouse and Senate can each approve no more than 2/3 of billsBill sponsors propose bills where possiblePresident assesses bills as they are processed by the House
  • Please let me know if you find an innovative grading technique. I’ve been retooling it to reduce the grading load, but it is still considerable.
  • When I moved to the Walker School five years ago, I evolved toward a seminar classroom format with spontaneous simulations.This was inspired, in part, by teaching Spanish I and German I in complete immersion.
  • Every first year teacher has to prove himself in his new school, and my first year at Walker was no different.Luckily, two of my students nominated me for the 11-Alive Class Act award in the first few months of school, accelerating my credibility with parents. For better or worse, many believe what they see on television.
  • From the two facing rows, my room evolved into a complete circle, symbolizing mutual respect and learningI often join the students in the circleStudents sometimes take on role of facilitatorCenter area used for simulations
  • Increasingly, I’m trying to integrate role-play into discussions about various periods in historyThese vary from playing roles during class to conducting outside research to support it.Most commonly, these happen during wars:Civil WarWWIWWII
  • Sometimes movies help us to provide and discuss a broader, richer context with the students and then determine the degree to which that context applies to periods of history.
  • Probe audience for questions. DO NOT GO TO NEXT SLIDE UNLESS SOMEBODY ASKS FOR SOURCES.
  • Interactive Alternatives in Teaching History v01

    1. 1. Interactive Alternatives in Civics / History Brian Surkan The Walker School
    2. 2. Humble Beginnings
    3. 3. Shoe Tax
    4. 4. Classroom Risk
    5. 5. Mock Congress
    6. 6. Day 1: Project Introduction Roles • 1 – President • 1 – VP (opposite gender of President) • 4 – Senators (2 for each gender [state]) • 7 – House Members • 5 – 7 Reporters • 5 – 7 Lobbyists
    7. 7. Day 2: Elections
    8. 8. Day 3: Role Assignments
    9. 9. Day 4: Writing Bills
    10. 10. Day 4: Cocktail Party
    11. 11. Day 5: Committee
    12. 12. Day 6: House / Senate
    13. 13. Day 7: Re-Elections Special Circumstances • Speeches cite achievements / press • Only vote of confidence for incumbents • President / VP Run Separately • No new candidates • Non-politicians have 3-5 votes each • Politicians have 1 vote each • 10% of politician’s grade linked to re-election
    14. 14. MC: Variations and Considerations • Contextualize Mock Congress in history – Favorite Elections: 1928, 1932, 1936 – Require relevant bills / identities for the time • Add extra days between deadlines • Choose Tuesdays for deadlines over Mondays • Find innovative grading techniques
    15. 15. Simulations & Seminars
    16. 16. 7th Grade US History
    17. 17. Full Seminar Format
    18. 18. Student - Centricity
    19. 19. Persona Projects
    20. 20. Student Responsibility • Student Participation Grade – Encourage intrinsic motivation / citizenship – Value contributions beyond tests / homework • Student Blogs and Class Jobs – Class summary & homework bloggers – Janitor • Student-led Discussions – Current Events – Reading Reviews
    21. 21. Civics through Movies • Mr. Smith Goes to Washington – Compliments Mock Congress – Illustrates how Constitution protects minorities • Harry Potter V: The Order of the Phoenix – Limits to the Role of Government – Unintended Consequences • Hunger Games – Reconstruction in the South – Local v. Centralized Government
    22. 22. History through Movies • The Patriot – Tensions between Patriots, Loyalists & Neutrals – Tactics, morale, relations to slaves / blacks • Colonial House (1873 Montana) – What was it really like in the West? • 1900 House – What was life like just before WWI? – How many modern inventions were American? • 1940 House
    23. 23. Questions?
    24. 24. Other Resources • The not so Wild, Wild West: Property Rights on the Frontier – By: Terry L. Anderson and Peter J. Hill • The Myth of the Robber Barons – By: Burton W. Folsom, Jr. • Keynes v. Hayek Rap – Stimulates discussion about Economic policies
    25. 25. Sources 1 (order of appearance) • clipartoday.com/…/School_4_tnb.png • thecoloradoobserver.com/…/classroom.jpg • 3.bp.blogspot.com/…/6a00e554ae4b6e88340115700e5987970b450wi.jpg • worldmapsonline.com/…/World-Map-mural_detail.jpg • cityofclarkston.com/.../vote-button.gif • 1.bp.blogspot.com/.../coming_in_next_to_last_812925.jpg • 4.bp.blogspot.com/.../Lobbyist%252520vs_%252520Voter%255B2% 255D.jpg • prmarketing.com/.../reporter.gif • 1.bp.blogspot.com/…/i%2527m+just+a+bill+school+house+rock.jpg • plug-in.bestbuy.ca/.../original?v=mpbl-1&px=-1 • i00.i.aliimg.com/…/Used_shoes.jpg • Personal photos by Brian Surkan @ Challenger • flickr.com/photos/perkinsy/6330361223/sizes/l/in/photostream/
    26. 26. Sources 2 (order of appearance) • 11 Alive Video and Image • Photo by Brian Surkan @ The Walker School • broadinstitute.org/.../HapMap3-fullsize.png
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