Why do we have government?
What is the common good?
Should government provide for the common good of the people?
This is a question that all citizens should continuously ask themselves and others as active participants in our democracy. Unfortunately, your answers most likely pigeonhole you into a specific political party, far from the ideals George Washington desired for the then infant democratic experiment.
With less than 100 days left in our quadrennial exercise in the circus that is the U.S. Presidential Election, it is imperative that social studies teachers prepare themselves for the inevitable and (hopefully) welcomed questions and comments about our political process from our students.
Regardless of your political views, it is important that we as social studies teachers instill a desire to be a part of the political process in some capacity. That being said, using Discovery’s Social Studies Techbook, I found a great way to activate student knowledge and thought processes regarding the purpose of government. Prior to delving into a full lesson, it is important to set the tone with a warm up / activator to get students in the right mindset for learning and doing. The University of Michigan has a clear and concise explanation on how to develop an effective lesson starting with planning for mastery.
Framing Student Learning: If you are teaching in the secondary level, it is highly likely that your students are coming from several different classes throughout the day, and must cope with largely disconnected learning. Solution? Students should begin working on a new activator related to your content as soon as they walk in the door. I am a fan of consistency in my warm ups and activators – they largely take on a similar format with regard to how questions are framed, how students are to set up their notebook page (date, write out entire question AND answer, etc.). However, if you are looking to mix it up, here is an incredibly comprehensive list of activators to drive your thinking.
When framing, you should be explaining what you expect students to know and be able to do by the end of this class period via the mastery objective,(i.e., how will you measure student success? I am a subscriber to the “no secrets” classroom, so I show them the exact question I will be asking them at the end of the lesson) essential question(s) and the day’s itinerary.
Frontload Vocabulary: As per the Techbook main page on the Principles of American Government, it may be important for you to briefly review what a “principle” is for your students: “Principles are fundamental beliefs or rules. Different cultures and societies have principles that they use to guide their decisions. Governments also have principles. The following activity will introduce you to the principles of the U.S. Government.”