Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Government and Civics Lapbook

We're back at it with lapbooks! After last year's very successful venture with lapbooks during our WWII unit, I have decided to try to integrate it more in all (or most) of our Social Studies units this year. Our very first unit is Government and Civics so we jumped into lapbooks right away! Today is our unit test and I'm anxious to see how we did!
According to the Tennessee standards the students are to identify and explain each of the three parts of the constitution; the preamble, the articles, and the Bill of Rights. Within each section students should understand the purposes, the branches of government, the levels of government (local, state, federal) and their individual responsibilities. We will be adding amendments to the pocket on the right as we progress through American history. By the end of the year we'll have amendments 13, 14, 15, 16, 18, 19, 21, and 25 (in addition to the Bill of Rights).

We examined the preamble and then dissected what the preamble tells us about the constitution. We used dictionaries, thesauruses, and prior knowledge to help make it more meaningful. 
How a bill becomes a law
We of course watched the School House Rock song, but we learned more in depth about the process. To incorporate writing we worked on persuasive writing and wrote letters to our congressperson about ideas we had to make East Tennessee/Johnson City a better place. We wrote the process out like a timeline. 

Branches of the Government
This is a pretty straight forward flipbook. The only modification I made was to have them split the legislative door into two parts (senate and house of representatives).

Another focus of Tennessee standards is to analyze how the state government was set up to mirror the federal government. We did this through examining the two constitutions and looking for similarities and differences.

Levels of Government
The circles were made using a cardstock stencil that I made and the students can cut and assemble with a brad. I like how they interlock with each other to show smallest to largest and how the local government must still work within the state government's constitution (etc). 
The Bill of Rights
I'd mentioned on a previous post how we go about learning the Bill of Rights. This is the flip book that we made to keep the information in our lapbooks. I traced the alphabetical organizer cards from an index card box and then made lines and numbered them. The students then just had to cut them out and assemble to prepare to write down the information. 


This pocket will be used for the additional amendments we learn about as we progress through American History! 

I hope you see something that you might be able to take away and try in your classroom! Although some of this is specific to Tennessee I'm sure there are parallel lessons that could be done for any state. 

Mrs. J

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Friday, August 10, 2012

We the Peeps of the Classroom...

So begins our classroom constitution... "We the peeps of the classroom..." Setting up a functional classroom is such a challenge and classroom rules are a big part of what makes a classroom successful (or disastrous). I wish I knew more how to do this as a first year teacher because my first year was... rough. Mostly because I didn't know how to set up the classroom. I could manage one just fine during student teaching, but starting with a bunch of blank-slates staring at me was overwhelming to say the least.
Day 1
As part of my state's Social Studies curriculum, the 5th grade has a large focus on the United States Constitution, its purposes, and its parts. So, three years ago I started setting up my classroom rules into a "Constitution" and integrating a lot of my Social Studies content. It takes about three weeks in all (but I was out for a three day training in the midst of that) which seems like a long time, but we always had a "draft" form of our rules to guide our behavior and the student "buy in" is phenomenal. I'm going to break it down into little pieces so you can see how this all grew into our full constitution we have today.

Day 1: In our Morning Meeting we had a discussion about our hopes and dreams for the fifth grade. What do you hope to accomplish? How do you want this year to be different? We did a think-pair-share where each student had to come up with an academic goal and a non-academic goal for this year. Once we had all shared we summarized what we heard on to our list.

Days 2/3
Days 2/3: Again in Morning Meeting, we discussed how we could help each other accomplish these goals through our actions. We tried to keep it all framed in the positives because it would be very easy to get negative (and also to go off on rabbit trails). "Don't spit." "Don't kick" "Don't Punch." is well covered in "Be in control and think about your actions."

The next day we took a look at our rules and tried to see if any of them related to each other. The students color coded them by how they saw the relationships. In the picture you can see that all of the "Be nice..." theme rules were colored in orange. This list served as our rules until our official copy was made. These eventually became our "Articles" in the Constitution.

Day 4/5: Morning Meeting/Social Studies

We started studying the Preamble to the Constitution. We did many things, but one of things that I think was most useful was breaking the Preamble down line by line and examining what it means. We used prior knowledge,  dictionaries, and thesauruses to figure out all those fancy vocabulary words to finally get down to the "nitty-gritty" of why the Constitution was written. We put this in our Government Lapbook that we are building together.

Day 6: Students write a preamble for our own Constitution. They had to think about why we need rules and how they help us accomplish our goals. They worked in teams to break it down for themselves and I encouraged to make it in their own language. The teams then displayed their preambles and students went around with post-it notes making comments about which parts they liked from each preamble. Then together, we picked the best of each one and made a combined preamble. This is ours...

Day 7-12: We begin our study of The Bill of Rights. There are many things that we do to study Amendments 1-10, but my favorite is to do the hand motions while we learn them. You can see them HERE. I've added some and changed a few (because it doesn't address all of them), but essentially they are the same.
Another of  my favorite things to do is assign each student an amendment (or a part of an amendment such as 'freedom of speech') and have them create a poster that contains three things. First, the poster must state the right that the amendment is protecting, then the remaining 
two are to be drawings. One drawing shows what life is like with the amendment in action. The second drawing shows what life would be like without the amendment. I'm very clear that I accept stick figures, but they must be stick figures in very clear and detailed situations  These usually end up more in comic form which is great. Then we do a museum walk to enjoy our classmates work. 
Museum Walk
Days 13/14: We bring it all together at Morning Meeting as soon as we finish the Bill of Rights and we wrote down our inalienable rights that we have in the classroom. This year's class was not as easily led by me as last year's class was so there were a few that I had to just about give them, but they still think they came up with it, so I'm pleased. We added it to our constitution. The following day we all voted to ratify the Constitution and signed it into law. 

They are so proud of the Constitution and will talk about it with anyone who visits our class. It's been great for management too. The students have really bought in to the whole concept and have been referencing it when students are making bad choices. Hopefully this continues, but I'm thinking this is going to be a great year! 
Our complete (and massive) constitution!