The Choices Blog

History and Current Issues for the Classroom

Author: Jillian Turbitt (page 1 of 4)

Fake News? Teaching Media Literacy through Choices Curriculum

By Ryan Sprott, International School of the Americas

More students are arriving to our classroom with uncertainties about what constitutes “fake” and “real” news. To address these questions, my co-teacher Laurie Smith and I used a recent Choices Teaching with the News lesson to strengthen students’ media evaluation skills. The following passages outline specific pedagogical strategies we implemented during this unit.

Syrian Refugees and the Executive Order

We began with an overview of the Syrian Civil War. Our hook was a virtual reality video titled For My Son. The short film follows one man’s story as he travels from Aleppo to the Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan. Students reported that the virtual reality experience made the refugee crisis more personal to them and increased their curiosity on the topic.

Next, students annotated the executive order introduction with a partner in preparation for a collaborative timeline. This timeline drew on students’ collective knowledge of history to investigate the range of historical factors that may have led to Trump’s executive order. This helped students connect the executive order to recent news as well as to content we have studied this year in world history.

Media Literacy

Once students increased their background knowledge on the Syrian refugee crisis and the executive order, we moved into a whole class brainstorm and discussion on how to evaluate media for credibility. This prepared students for the Choices’ Evaluating Media Sources document. Since we had a limited amount of time, students, with a partner, analyzed two media sources supportive of the executive order and two opposed to it. They then added their findings to our collaborative media evaluation chart. For this, we transferred the questions on the Evaluating Media Sources activity onto a large board in our classroom as shown in the video below. Students used this as an opportunity to reflect upon one another’s contributions.

Afterwards, students engaged in a discussion protocol where they shared their learnings with their peers in order to brainstorm ideas for their projects. They then presented their finished projects via a gallery walk where they explained how their work reflected their stances on the executive order. As evidenced in the following student reflections, this project encouraged students to be more intentional about consuming news, and they gained specific skills to determine credibility within news sources.


Student Reflections

Henry

The Task

In the 21st Century, information can be passed across the globe in an instant. Factors such as the internet and mass media outlets make this possible. But what happens when they begin to spread false information? In the aftermath of an event such as a controversial executive order, it may be challenging for consumers to separate facts from opinions, that is why the ISA Sophomores engaged in a study of fake news, and how it should be interpreted.

After sifting through a handful of articles, we expressed our personal stance on the situation in a creative work of our choosing.

The Work

The Reflection

Before this unit of study, I didn’t know enough about the situation to formulate a valid enough opinion on the matter. Being raised with liberal values, my initial response to the executive order was “That’s not good.”, with nothing more complex to complement that thought. I was well familiar with the term ‘fake news’ and had heard it flying about the media, but never before had I troubled to dig beyond the topic’s surface level. I suppose I had placed more trust in news sources before, as I mostly assumed ‘fake news’ to be another cheap excuse to be used by politicians. Now, I realize that the media is just as vulnerable to lies, bias and misconception as anything else.

During the span of this unit, I discovered to what extent news sources can get away with spreading false or synthetic information. More so, I realized how much this is made possible due to consumers’ lack of skepticism when being fed information. Consumers have allowed this problem to grow out of control by persisting in gullibility and carelessness for verifying facts. Not only this, but factors such as the internet have allowed the issue to even exist on such a large and dangerous scale.

Now, I am of the belief that measures should and must be taken in order to repair and redefine a corrupted system. This phenomena of bending truth has not only highlighted the power of information, but also its fragile nature. Should the responsibility of maintaining an honest society fall into the wrong hands, we may very well end up like a dystopia.

My final product, ‘One Bad Apple…’ , acts as a reflection of my current stance on the immigration dilemma and the ‘fake news’ issue by summarizing my opinion into an idiom that is simple and easy to understand. President Trump’s Administration claims that the travel ban will protect the United States from radical Islamic terrorists, however, this targeted demographic only makes up a small minority of a much larger range of people who are also being affected by the executive order. Refugees who seek safety in the US are being denied access because of the ban, along with individuals simply attempting to have a better life. The executive office is associating all Muslims with the few who are extremists, hence the “one bad apple” idiom being used. By discriminating against an entire ethnic group, we are departing from the very virtues that founded this nation.


Audrey

The Task

We learned how to evaluate media sources critically that way we could make educated and informed decisions, especially regarding complex issues. We learned this skill in relation to Trump’s immigration executive order which happens to be a current event that has been heavily debated and discussed with “fake news.” We looked at 14 media sources with both pro and con stances on the executive order, and at the end of the unit we had to create a final, creative model that showed our opinion and what we had learned from this unit.

The Work

The Reflection

Before this unit of study, I used to think that there could only be one side to this executive order. I hadn’t actually read through the executive order nor had I really thought about all the events that led up to this executive order. I wasn’t really taking in all the information and evaluating it critically and thinking of the complexity of things. Then I learned these things about fake news and real news, and all of the bias in media. I read through analysis of the executive order and really immersed myself in lots of information. Now I think that you can have many different opinions because it is such a complex issue that doesn’t have a real black and white answer. The catch to that is your opinion should be supported by accurate and relevant information that way you have an educated opinion. This is such an important global issue that requires a lot of thought and information before you can just set on one side. My final product reflects my current thinking about this topic because this zine tells the story of fear taking over the globe that is now preventing people to take in credible, accurate information. This coincides with the recent executive order and my opinion on being informed in order to make a decision. I am hoping that people will look at this zine and try to make an educated, informed decision.


Sofia

The Task

We’ve been bombarded with notions of “fake news” thanks to the manipulative rhetoric of the 2016 presidential election. Most of American youth choose to swallow whatever media is within hands reach, giving journalists an unimaginable power over the perception of the world. Students at ISA, however, do not buy into it. A unit over evaluating media taught students how to identify credible sources. We did this by researching President Trump’s executive order on Middle Eastern immigration and creating a final product to reflect our educated position.

The Work

Poem on the executive order

The Reflection

Fear of the other has transcended the ages and managed to poison even the most intelligent. In the United States, fear of Islam penetrates politics. President Trump issued an immigration ban on seven predominantly Islamic countries. Before this unit of study, I was fiercely against the ban; I thought nothing could defend the violation of human rights, but then I learned about the justified fear citizens experience. Despite my newfound understanding, I still believe that the executive order is a violation of human rights and further distances the US from philanthropic goals.

I learned that the basis for the ban was mostly religious. If the president truly wanted to shield the US from “terrorists,” he would’ve banned Saudi Arabia, a country that has high amounts of terrorist activity. He didn’t because of our economic ties– greed over protection, racism over unity. I also learned that the United States has issued a lot of immigration bans in the past. The Chinese Exclusion Act, the Immigration Act of 1924 (anti-Japanese), and the cancellation of Iranian visas in 1980 are just a few of many examples.

After learning all of this, I realized that immigration bans are based on genuine concerns. The concerns, nevertheless, are rooted in irrational fear that can be resolved through education. My biggest take on the unit was on the demonization of Muslims. Willingness to learn can resolve much of the stigma. My final product, a poem, is a touching attempt to encourage the humanization of Islam.

English Language Arts Performance Outcomes: Investigate the World

  • Develops a clear position based on evidence from sources that considers multiple perspectives, and draws well-supported conclusions on a globally significant issue/topic.

When researching the executive order, I had to develop a concise position that reflected upon credible evidence. The executive order is a complex topic that requires careful consideration. By looking two sources, I drew upon multiple perspectives to gain broader insight on the global issue. I looked at the authors of both articles and dove into the rhetoric the publisher tended to use. I absorbed information with a grain of salt in order to create a final product that reflected accurate understanding of the topic.

Join us at #NCSS15

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We are excited to be traveling down to New Orleans for the National Council for the Social Studies 95th Annual Conference this week. Come visit us in the exhibit hall. We will be at the head of International Alley in Booth 1000. We will also be presenting five workshops.  See our workshop descriptions below. Can’t wait to see you in NOLA!

Freedom Now: Exploring Multiple Voices of the Civil Rights Movement

Friday at 3:20pm
Convention Center R03
This hands-on session introduces participants to multiple, everyday voices of the civil rights movement through Brown University’s Choices Program’s unit Freedom Now: The Civil Rights Movement in Mississippi. Curriculum provided.
Presenters: Nicole Means, West Felicina High School, St. Francisville, LA

Colonization and Independence in Africa

Friday at 3:20pm
Convention Center 232
Case studies from Ghana, Algeria, Kenya and the Democratic Republic of Congo explore the contested nature of colonization and decolonization. Participants examine how cultural perspective can impact historical inquiry. Choices Program C3-aligned curriculum is provided.
Presenters: Mimi Stephens, The Choices Program, Brown University, Providence, RI

Climate Change and Questions of Justice

Saturday at 8am
Convention Center 225
Experience Choices’ C3-aligned curriculum (provided) that explores multiple perspectives on the causes, consequences and responsibilities of climate change, and ultimately asks students to develop policy on this global dilemma.
Presenters: Mimi Stephens, Choices Program, Brown University, Providence, RI

Competing Visions of Human Rights: Questions for U.S. Foreign Policy

Saturday at 2:40pm
Convention Center 225
What should U.S policy be regarding human rights? Let students decide by analyzing primary sources, evaluating multiple perspectives, and reviewing cases to develop their own view. A C3 Framework-aligned Choices curriculum is provided.
Presenters: Mimi Stephens, Choices Program, Brown University, Providence, RI

The U.S. In Vietnam: Lessons Learned?

Sunday at 8am
Convention Center 216

The Vietnam War remains a central reference point for U.S. decision makers. Explore ten C3-aligned lessons in the Choices’ Vietnam curriculum (provided), while also evaluating and analyzing lessons learned.
Presenters: Mimi Stephens, The Choices Program, Brown University, Providence, RI

Using Choices Values Cards to Examine Value Differences Between Generations

Anyone that has used the Choices Program curriculum units would agree that the Prioritizing Values Activity is a simple, yet powerful, strategy for encouraging students to think carefully about how their own beliefs, presuppositions, and values impact their opinions on political and social issues. I developed a lesson to use in a Sociology course that builds upon the Prioritizing Values activity that I wanted to share with fellow educators. This lesson is an effective way of introducing concepts of demographics, shared culture, generational shifts in values, and changes in public opinion. In my experience, it also encourages students to discuss values and worldviews with people outside of their own generation. After completing this lesson, I received several emails from students and parents, thanking me for providing an impetus for meaningful discussions in their homes.

I start the class by asking the students to define the concept of “culture.” After some class discussion, I provide several anthropological definitions, many of which include “shared values and beliefs” as part of the definition of “culture.

I then pass out an envelope with the ten Choices value cards:

  • Community
  • Cooperation
  • Democracy
  • Equality
  • Freedom
  • Justice
  • Security
  • Self-reliance
  • Stability
  • Tolerance

 

And this Handout

Before I ask them to rank these values according to their own definitions and beliefs, just as the Choices lesson has them do, I explain that while culture is, in part, a collection of shared values, individuals do not share and prioritize these values in the same way. People may have different definitions of these values and also may rank some values as more important than others.

I then ask them to put the Values in order of importance to them as individuals, emphasizing that this is about examining their own personal values and that the order of other students’ value cards should not influence their own ordering of values.   After they have had adequate time to order their cards and answer the questions provided, I collect the assignment and enter their rankings on a spreadsheet.

On the spreadsheet, there is a row for each value and a column for each student. This allows you to use spreadsheet functions to do all of the addition for you. For the purposes of data collection, I assign the inverse number of points to their ordering. For example, if the student ranked “Freedom” as #1, I added 10 points to the Freedom row on the spreadsheet. This seems like a lot of work but it actually only takes 10 minutes or so to enter all of the data for 100 students (several classes compiled together). After adding up all of the rows, I sort the final column with the totals for each value and add ranking labels (#1) to each value. This is what it looks like when all student data is compiled, sorted, and ranked:

pic1

This can then be easily transformed to a graph to show the relative “importance” of each value for the collective student group.

pic2

The percentage data labels are merely an indication of how each value was ranked by the students. The higher the percentage, the greater amount of support for that value as important among the students as a group. It can be misleading because it does not mean, for example, that 15% of students ranked Equality #1 (though a graph that did show the data this way would be very easy to generate from the spreadsheet). I call this a “strength of ranking” score because it reflects how strongly the value is regarded among the population group.

Assignment #1 is then returned to students and we have a class discussion about their individual and collective rankings. At some point in the discussion, I ask the class where we get our values and why we place more importance in some values than others. The most common answers are “our parents” or “our family.” At this point, I hand out assignment #2.

Cautioning students to not reveal their individual or the classes’ rankings to the parent or family member that provides the data for assignment #2, I instruct them to go home, hand the selected person the cards, and show them assignment #2 without providing any additional information. Students report back that the discussion prompted by completing the questions on assignment #2 is an interesting one, especially if they show their own rankings and talk about the similarities and differences after the parents or family member completes their own ordering.   Here is the chart for the parents’ generation collective rankings:

pic3

Two differences between the two age cohorts’ value rankings stand out immediately. First, the top 4 for each group is completely different, with Freedom being the only value that makes the top 5 for each group. Secondly, there are less very high and very low percentages in the parents’ age cohort rankings. For example, notice that there are only 2 values higher than 12% in the parents’ age cohort, compared with 4 in the students’ data. The same trend can be seen on the other end of the spectrum too with the parents’ lowest ranked value, Tolerance, receiving a 7% “strength of ranking” score. I interpret this as meaning that there is less agreement on the importance of these values among this group than among the student group.

After a class discussion comparing the composite rankings of the student and parent age cohorts, students receive assignment #3.

In my experience, students are engaged and enthusiastic about continuing the project with their grandparents’ age cohort. Often, parents are interested in knowing how the grandparents will rank the values and join the post-ranking discussion with the students. It is fascinating to hear students talk about the discussion with three members of their families about values and what life experiences shaped their ranking orders. This is the chart from the grandparents’ value rankings:

pic4

This lesson is a very simplified version of social science research that can be done with students of all ability levels. While I never took it further myself, this method could also be used to examine gender differences in the prioritization of values as well as aggregating data by other demographical categories.

If you decide to do this project with your students, I have a few suggestions:

  • Do not tell students about assignments #2 and #3 initially. I suspect students would do their initial rankings differently if they knew parents and grandparents would be asked to do the same task.
  • Be aware that students’ individual life situations may require exceptions or alterations to the assignment. For example, students may have parents older than the assigned parents’ cohort age range.
  • Emphasize to students that the aggregate data is the only part that will be shared with the rest of class and that individual responses, from students and their family members, will not be shared.
  • Consider discussing the meanings of the values with the students before they do the ordering task. I found it helped to come up with a “crowd sourced” broad definition of what is meant by each value.

I hope this post will get you thinking about creative ways to engage your students as the new school year begins. It is likely that many teachers, especially those with training in statistics and quantitative research methods could improve the validity and presentation of research results significantly. If you have suggestions for improving or expanding the lesson, I would be very interested to hear from you.

 Jeremie Smith
Outreach Coordinator
Center for Global Studies
University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
smith193@illinois.edu


Have you done something creative with our Prioritizing Values Activity ?  Tell us about it in the comments section below. 

Using Digital Tools to Teach Human Rights

by Choices Teaching Fellow Rita Jordan-Keller

As an enthusiastic supporter of Choices curriculum, it has been my passion to introduce the many units of Choices to my students with new and innovative approaches. As a Choices Teaching Fellow, it has been exciting to include and expand the uses of technology in various ways to optimize the experience that my students have with the many different units provided by Choices.

My School

I teach at Ridley High School which is a suburban school about fives miles outside of Philadelphia. We have approximately 2,100 students who come from various socio-economic backgrounds, mostly lower middle class families. Currently, I teach Human Geography to 9th grade students, Sociology and International Relations to juniors and seniors. As a Social Studies teacher for over 25 years, I have experienced and witnessed the many changes and challenges of engaging students with different courses involved in such a wide and diverse department. I have also seen that technology, in particular with *Canvas can be a vital tool in the classroom and enrich a student’s understanding about the world. Two years ago, our administration mandated that every student would have an iPad so I feel fortunate that our students have daily and quick access to global events.

International Relations

I would like to share some of the teaching strategies that I have used in our International Relations class. With global events and human crisis impacting our world every day, I have found Competing Vision of Human Rights  to be one of our fundamental units in the International Relations class. Whether it is the suffering of Syrian and Yemen refugees, the brutality of ISIS, or the despair of kidnapped young women and girls in Nigeria, the policies of the United States with regard to human rights are complicated and should be examined and evaluated.

*Note: At Ridley High School, we use Canvas Instructure with our students and teachers. For those of you unfamiliar with Canvas, it is a relatively new learning management system. It is known for its user-friendly online environment. It includes basic functions such as sharing documents, submitting assignments, and assigning grades, as well as personalized features for individual students.

Ideas for Integrating Technology

What I would like to share with you in this blog are some ideas and suggestions that might be helpful if you would like to integrate technology using Competing Vision of Human Rights. Let me be clear though, it is not necessary that teachers have the resources of Canvas or iPads in the classroom. However, if you have access to laptops or occasionally iPads, you may wish to add these ideas and suggestions.

Philosophical Chairs

These suggestions apply to my International Relations course where students are from 10th to 12th grade. First, a non-tech opener for the Human Rights unit is the worksheet that I call Philosophical Chairs. I use this assignment successfully for all the Choices units for different courses. On page 56 of the Teacher Resource Book, there is a student handout entitled, “Focusing Your Thoughts.” I use this assignment twice. Initially, I instruct the students to respond to the beliefs in this handout. Students then stand and take a position in the classroom on either side of the room either supporting or opposing the particular belief. Those students who are unsure stand in the middle of the classroom listening to both sides that are given turns to speak. Students who are unsure must move at some point when they are swayed to one side or another. Students seem to enjoy this fiery exchange of thoughts and ideas while discussing controversial approaches involving the United States. In this way, I can gauge and learn the pre-knowledge of my students. It is after the Choices role play that we revisit “Focusing Your Thoughts” and see if students have changed their attitudes about U.S. policies and human rights.

Pre-Reading Strategies

With the use of Canvas, I have the ability to set up discussion assignments using the questions in the text for students to consider such as, “How do national governments ensure human rights”? Having a student post his or her response and then responding to another student’s post expands the conversations and insures that everyone is involved. I then display students’ responses on a screen for all to see and discuss or inquire further what a particular response may mean. Throughout the entire unit, the use of discussion assignments from time to time adds substance and clarity to complex questions involving Human Rights.

Expressing Human Rights and Social Movements

A particular activity in the Competing Vision of Human Rights unit that I focus on is “Expressing Human Rights and Social Movements.” My instruction begins with an overview of basic Human Rights agreements including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. After further discussion regarding the role of national governments, the United Nations and other promoters of human rights, I use various YouTube videos such as Amnesty International’s Price of Silence and other musical videos to create a “hook” to engage students. Playing for Change is a wonderful web site that introduces worldwide musicians who advocate for peaceful change and human rights.

As a homework or class assignment, I have students research a particular social movement throughout history such as the civil rights movement, women’s movement, the GLBT movement, the Arab Spring, the Iranian Green Revolution or other global social movements. Students create a brief overview using Google Slides or another free presentation apps.  I use Flowvella for brief presentations and have found this format to be easy and quick. It also utilizes multimedia such as images and videos. Students can present their mini-presentations from their laptops or by using Canvas. Another possibility is having students take a “museum tour” of social movements. Students can walk through the room examining each other’s presentations on laptops or iPads and answer some brief questions about each one.

There is much more that a teacher can do with digital tools with this particular part unit. See additional ideas and suggestions.

Extension and Enrichment

Finally, since I teach the Human Rights as my last unit for the semester in International Relations, I extend the unit and add an enrichment that serves as our Final Exam for the course. Personally, I take exceptional joy at what my students have created in the past few years with the Human Rights Project. Briefly, students research different human rights organizations throughout the world and create a presentation to the class. As part of their final exam, students are also required to contact the organization, request more information, and create a flier informing others about the good work going on and how they can help. Their Human Rights fliers are then set up in our school cafeteria to inform others on how they can help. Much of their research and ideas have been inspired from what they have learned from Competing Vision of Human Rights.

It is my hope that you find these ideas and suggestions helpful in your classroom. Over the years working with the different Choices curriculum units, I have found my students to be more engaged in learning, developing and deepening their critical thinking skills and become more informed about the many challenges facing us all in this world. For me, the best part of my teaching is working with such promising young people and a curriculum that is current, thought provoking and enriches the lives of my students! The Choices curriculum fulfills all that and more!

If you have questions or comments about this blog post, I invite you to email me at rjordan-k@ridleysd.org.

Scholars at the 2015 Leadership Institute

One of the highlights of our Leadership Institute is hearing from Brown University scholars.  This year’s scholar presentations will investigate both the recent history of the Middle East and multiple perspectives on current U.S. policy towards the region. Read on to see who will be joining us this summer.

Institute applications are due Monday, March 16th. 


Faiz Ahmed is an Assistant Professor of History at Brown University. He is currently working on a book about the drafting of the 1923 Afghan constitution and the role of Turkish and Indian jurists in establishing a modern legal regime in Afghanistan.  He holds a J.D. from the University of California’s Hastings College of Law and a Ph.D. in the history of the Middle East with a focus on the “socio-legal” history of the Ottoman Empire, Iran, and Afghanistan, from the University of California, Berkeley.  Ahmed is proficient in Arabic, Persian, Ottoman Turkish, and Urdu.


Stephen Kinzer is an award-winning foreign correspondent and a Visiting Fellow in International Studies at the Watson Institute for International Studies at Brown University. Kinzer spent more than twenty years working for The New York Times, primarily as a foreign correspondent. He was the Times bureau chief in Nicaragua during the 1980s and reported from Germany during the early 1990s. In 1996, he was named chief of the Times bureau in Istanbul.


Peter Krause is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at Boston College. His research and writing focus on international security, Middle East politics, non-state violence, and national movements. He has published articles on the causes and effectiveness of political violence, U.S. intervention in the Syrian civil war, the politics of division within the Palestinian national movement, the war of ideas in the Middle East, and a reassessment of U.S. operations at Tora Bora in 2001.


linda-miller-lgLinda Miller is an Adjunct Professor of International Studies at the Watson Institute for International Studies at Brown University and Professor of Political Science Emerita at Wellesley College. Miller has published widely on U.S. foreign policy, the Middle East, world politics, and European affairs in British, American, and Israeli scholarly journals.


petzenBarbara Petzen is the founder of Middle East Connections, which offers innovative, multimedia workshops to help teachers, students and community organizations undermine stereotypes, introduce multiple perspectives, and focus on complex understandings of the Middle East and Muslims.  Middle East Connections has a limited amount of grant funding to subsidize professional development workshops for educators.  Middle East Connections also creates and facilitates custom study tours to the Middle East, having led groups to Morocco, Turkey, Israel, Palestine and Jordan, and are happy to work with educators to create a meaningful tour that meets specific goals.


 

Read more about the 2015 Leadership Institute.

Choices Leadership Institute leads to a 15-hour course for my District

snyder-125By guest blogger Lori Snyder, Choices Teaching Fellow and high school teacher from Longmeadow, MA.

I teach Asian Studies and Honors World History at Longmeadow High School in Longmeadow, MA, and I attended the Choices Program’s 2014 summer leadership institute, China on the World Stage: Weighing the U.S Response. As a follow up to the institute, this winter I developed and led a 15-hour course for teachers in my district. In this blog I’m sharing the course outline I developed. I cannot say enough about the positive experience I had both as an institute participant and leading the course when I returned. To anyone who is thinking about applying to this year’s 2015 leadership institute on the Middle East I say “Go for it!”

IMG_3921

The scholarship at the institute was top-notch and very relevant to what I teach. In addition, Choices curriculum, and especially the options role play, offered a fresh approach to the topic in my classroom. The opportunity to methodically go through a specific unit, prepare and perform the option role play, and collaborate with fellow teachers from across the country had a significant impact on my understanding of the benefits that the Choices curriculum has to offer, and its value to me as a classroom teacher. Finally, I found the session “Behind the Scenes at Choices” absolutely fascinating. We had a chance to have a panel discussion with the Choices writers and videographer who develop the curriculum. They are truly a bridge between the scholars and the classroom.

The course I developed for my Longmeadow colleagues was called Critical Thinking in the Social Studies: The Choices Program.

The class met for 6 sessions, for 2.5 hours each. The entire history department and several other teachers signed up for a total of 11 teachers. For completing the course, teachers received 15 hours of Professional Development Points and one in-district salary advancement credit (SAC). As the instructor, I had the option of doubling the PDPs and SACs or being paid a stipend of $750.

Session 1

photo 1

I introduced the Choices Program and approach to my colleagues. They participated in a values lesson, which introduces them to the concept of values and the role they play in formulating public policy. I also introduced them to the free Teaching With the News lessons and Scholars Online videos, both of which are free on the Choices website. I ended the session with a quick overview of how a Choices unit is organized. Teachers were given the opportunity to download the free Human Rights unit that is available as an iBook through iTunes. Finally, I assigned each teacher one of four specific Choices units including the French Revolution, Middle East, Afghanistan and Immigration, based on courses they teach, in order to do a close case study. All teachers agreed to do the background readings and study guides as preparation for session 3.

Session 2

This was primarily a working session in preparation for session 3. Each group gave a 30-minute overview and critique of their assigned unit, conducted part of a lesson from the unit, explained the unit’s options role play, and discussed how they envisioned using it in their classroom with their own students.

Session 3

Small groups of teachers presented their assigned units. Teachers enjoyed taking on identities and being interviewed for the French Revolution Newscast, analyzing the different causes for the Iranian Revolution, and reading different first hand accounts of various recent immigrants in America. During this session, we discussed at length how we would use the curriculum and how we might make changes based on the ability of our students. This session gave the teachers a good taste of the variety that Choices has to offer. Finally, the teachers voted and decided to do the Options Role Plays from The French Revolution and U.S. Immigration Policy in an Unsettled World.

Session 4

Participants prepped for the Immigration Options Role Play and the French Revolution Options Role Play. Teachers were expected to make Google presentations and to include relevant historical images and direct quotes from the provided materials.

Session 5

This session was dedicated to running the French Revolution role play and debriefing it. To start, I showed them the brief video on the role play that can be found in the Teachers Tools page on the Choices The teachers had a lot of fun being creative and critically selecting from the materials provided in their options briefings. We had presentations, props, music, drama and much enthusiasm. As a result, all of the ninth grade world history teachers have committed to using the French Revolution unit in June.

Session 6

In this final class we conducted the Immigration Options Role Play and we discussed the importance of an “Option 5” or a personal option.  This being our second role-play, we were all more comfortable with the process and felt that we did a better job allowing for cross-examination and impromptu questioning by the Senate Committee. We ended by discussing how we would evaluate our students and how we would deal with larger class sizes. Teachers then filled out an evaluation form for the class as required.

In addition to teaching this course, I also submitted a local grant proposal to see if we can secure additional funding to purchase more Choices units. I invited our new principal to observe the French Revolution role play session so he could see first hand the quality of the Choices Program and the professional, collaborative and collegial learning that was going on as an entire department. We will know by June if we received the grant.

I am so thrilled that I was able to participate in the 2014 Choices leadership institute and conduct this course for my colleagues. Everyone in my department is enthusiastic about this new source of outstanding quality curricula. Having the entire history department go through the process of learning the Choices approach together was a unique and professionally satisfying experience. Teacher feedback regarding the course was overwhelmingly positive. I anticipate that the department will be consistently using Choices curriculum for years to come.

Editor’s note: Applications for the 2015 summer leadership institute, which will focus on the Middle East, are due by Monday, March 16.

Modifying Choices Materials for all Students

By Richard McNeil, Special Education Teacher, Massapequa High School, NY

Why Choices?

In my eternal search for the perfect combination of informational and awesome, I found the Choices Program: a resource that covers U.S. History, Global History, and current events, utilizing many different perspectives, mediums, and opportunities to help students become active citizens. I could not pass this up. This could easily turn into a blog post about my love of The Choices Program. But I digress. In my special educator mind I realized that I could not hand this material over to my students without some modification. As a special educator it is my job to give students in my classroom the same opportunities as general education students. Through the years they have ranged in age from 12 to 21 years old and have had at least one of the disabilities listed under IDEA; many have had multiple disabilities. By opportunities I mean access to quality, rigorous content that will help to prepare my students for not just college but life as a local, national, and global citizen.

Modifications

How do I modify? The first thing I do is make a template that includes the Choices logo. I try to match the look as best I can. Choices deserve the recognition, and let’s not forget this is copyrighted material. Once my template is complete I begin to add the rich content to a graphic organizer. There are usually three columns: 1st column is the readings, 2nd is definitions, and 3rd are questions.

I try to keep the readings as intact as possible. However, if necessary one can simplify words, paraphrase paragraphs, or simply cherry pick specific sections of the text.

I then bold difficult or more advanced vocabulary. The number of terms I bold depends on the student, grade level, or the population of the class. You may also include the definition or have the students write it.

The Choices questions are placed in the third column. If there are no questions I will create them according to the text. In addition, the students are always assigned the task of creating their own questions.

If you want to expose your students in a special education classroom settings to the Choices materials you must modify. The exact modifications that you can make will change with student population, course type, and of course your own personal teaching style.

Modification Breakdown

  • Create a template.
  • Insert and modify readings.
  • Bold, Underline, Highlight key or difficult terms.
  • List vocabulary with or without definitions.
  • List the Choices/Teacher/Student questions.

See Richards Modification to Iran Through the Looking Glass: History, Reform, and Revolution. Read more about this unit at choices.edu/iran.

 

New Tools for the Options Role Play and Deliberative Dialogue

Choices recently reorganized its Teacher Corner web pages.  All of the tools listed below and more can be downloaded from the Teacher Corner and adapted to your classroom.

A big thank you to Choices Teaching Fellows Amy Howland and Deb Springhorn for their Common Core-aligned assessments and other valuable Role Play tools.

TOOLS FOR ROLE PLAY PREPARATION

How can you be sure each Option group is ready to present?  It can be useful to have students complete a check-in or “ticket” as entry into the Role Play.

  • Areas of Concern: This chart is designed as a check-in tool prior to the role play. We have provided a blank template and a completed sample – both based on our unit, China on the World Stage.  For less advanced students, you could provide them with the “description of the issues” and they would complete just the third column, which asks them to identify the priorities of their assigned option on each set of issues.  This could be done in groups or individually. More advanced students could be tasked with completing the entire chart.
  • Options Analysis Chart: In preparation for the role play, students in each option group could complete the section of this graphic organizer that pertains to their assigned option. The rest of this chart is designed for use during the role play.
  • DSC_7382Option Group Preparation Sheet & Undecided Citizens Preparation Sheet: Choices Teaching Fellow Amy Howland, a world history teacher at the Pacific Rim Charter School in Hyde Park, MA,  has created two excellent worksheets to assist each group in its preparation.  At the end of each sheet, she includes the Options Role Play Rubric to give them a clear understanding of what is expected during the role play.

TOOLS FOR THE ROLE PLAY

  • Options Role Play Note-taking Sheet: Students can use this handout, developed by Amy Howland, to record the main idea of each option and the questions they have about each.
  • Options Analysis Chart: This matrix can be adapted to the specific content of the unit.  Students complete the matrix as they listen to the presentations of their peers.  Members of each option group may be asked to complete the section for their own option as part of their preparation.


TOOLS FOR DELIBERATION & PERSONAL OPTION OR OPTION 5

Once all options have been presented and all questions asked, it is time for a deliberative dialogue focused on the issues raised by the Options. Because students may be unclear about what deliberation is, and how it differs from debate, the following tools may be useful.

  • Guidelines for Deliberation: This handout offers a concise explanation.
  • Preparing for Deliberation: This worksheet helps students prepare for the discussion they will have.
  • Screen Shot 2014-09-24 at 3.32.40 PMSpeaker Deliberation Cards: These cards can be an excellent guiding tool for students before or during the deliberation to keep them on task or to set goals.  For instance, do you want to encourage a quieter student to speak more?  Hand her the “Speak at least twice” card.
  • Rubric – Option 5 Essay: After students complete the deliberation, they will write their own personal Option, sometimes called Option 5. This rubric, aligned with Common Core Standards, can help them understand the expectations. This rubric was createdby Choices Teaching Fellow Deb Springhorn from Lebanon High School in Lebanon, New Hampshire.

TOOLS FOR ASSESSING THE ROLE PLAY, DELIBERATION, AND YOUR OWN OPTION

  • Assessment Rubrics: The following rubrics, each aligned with specific standards from the Common Core, provide excellent assessment tools for you and your students.
  • Options Role Play Rubric (developed by Amy Howland)
  • Rubric – Option 5 Essay (developed by Deb Springhorn)
  • All other handouts also lend themselves to use for assessment.

Visit our revised Teachers Corner page to download all of our tools, adapt them, and make them work in your unique classroom!

 

Global Issues Since the Fall of the Wall: A Course Made for Choices Materials

Blog Post by Choices Teaching Fellow Deb Springhorn

21st-century-skillsFor 30 years I have lamented the lack of time to teach the current global situation in the context of a world history course that is supposed to go from the prehistoric to the present in one year!  Given the global paradigm shift after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the rapid shift again after 9-11, it has become even more imperative to prepare students for global citizenship by developing their understanding of complex global issues and instilling the disposition to see others as they see themselves.  Choices Curriculum units and Teaching with the News lessons do just this.  The goal in developing the course, Global Issues Since the Fall of the Wall was to create an interdisciplinary, common core based course that would incorporate as many materials from the Choices Program as possible.  Beyond the Choices materials, students will read articles from a wide variety of journals and literature of several genres.  They will examine photographic images by James Nachtwey as a way of seeing themselves in such places Somalia, Bosnia, and Rwanda.

This year long course is divided into four units:

  • The New World [dis]Order of the 1990s: Nationalism, War, and Genocide
  • America After 9-11: The Single Story of Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq
  • The Frustration and Hope of “The Arab Spring”
  • Globalization: Geopolitical, Environmental, and Economic Issues.

Each of the four units is organized around 21st Century Skills, reflecting the Common Core.  Choices Curriculum units and Teaching with the News lessons combine with the philosophical, literary, and artistic elements to provide students with an in-depth awareness of the complexities of the current global situation.

The web site for the course has unit overviews, detailed day-by-day plans, resource links, and annotated bibliographies of all the sources used for each of the units.  The attached document illustrates each of the four units with materials from the Choices Program  already incorporated in the first version of the course as well as others that will be added as the course continues to evolve.  The key literary works are listed as well to show the literary connections.

Cultivating Decision Makers after AP Exams

by Derek Reichenbecher, Choices Teaching Fellow
Howell High School, Farmingdale, NJ

I have been teaching Advanced Placement US History II for twelve years. A tricky part of teaching the class is that the American History timeline must be completed in time for the Advanced Placement Exam in early May. This leaves a full month between the completion of curriculum content and the district final exams. In order to motivate students as summer nears, I encourage them to apply what they learned throughout the year to the world they inherit. To do that I combine two Choices units: The Teacher’s Guide for the Fog of War and The U.S. Role in a Changing World. Students begin by completing background briefings in the US Role. This work and subsequent discussions help dovetail earlier class discussions with current policy and issues. We then watch and discuss the Errol Morris documentary THE FOG OF WAR, incorporating the accompanying lessons from the Choices’ Guide. After screening the film, students are asked to layout an overview of their preferred American foreign policy through a written assignment. They are expected to reference their own understanding of history as well as the issues and resources discussed through the Choices Program. Four pathways provided by the Choices unit are helpful as the students organize their own priorities and concerns. If time allows, students also explore the Choices role play at the end of the U.S. Role unit and deliberate on the best possible path forward for the United States.

It is critical that as teachers we not only provide students with facts and information, but also encourage them to think critically about their world. By using the Fog of War and the Choices Program units I aspire to create a classroom environment where students consider themselves as decision makers. Ultimately, the goal is not just to teach history, but also to support the students in making a connection between the knowledge they acquire and the country they are one day going to help govern.

The Fog of War Trailer

 

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