So, not all my posts are angry rants about the world – sometimes, good things happen, too.
A couple things you should know (or be reminded of):
(1) I’m a student teacher, working with a fourth grade class. My teaching assignment this semester is to teach an integrated social studies lesson to my class. Integrated means it should include elements from other content areas (specifically literacy and the arts). I have a partner to work with, and we have to plan the entire lesson and teach it by ourselves. Totally awesome and exciting, and something we should do more often.
(2) In the fourth grade in good ol’ North Carolina, social studies revolves around the state. And only the state. Period. If it doesn’t deal with NC, it’s not taught. Social studies, itself, is often skimped on because it’s not tested – so a lot of kids don’t learn much of anything about social studies, ever.
Government being the most boring topic (others include geography, Native Americans, pirates, etc), we had a tough time thinking of ways to get the information to them without boring the crap out of them.
Originally, I wanted to go over the branches and such, and then do a mock election – the kids could make posters and give speeches (hello, art and literacy!) and they would get to learn the voting process. I still think it’s a good idea, particularly for state government, since a lot of kids that know what an election is think you just vote for the president. To have them run for governor or mayor would give them both insight on the election process and the executive branch, as well as awareness of voting for local officials. Alas, our teacher thought it was beyond them (I really think, in this case, she is selling them short – though she is a great teacher), and decided a mock debate would be better.
So, on Tuesday we taught them the branches of North Carolina government. We started by going over what they already knew (mostly dealing with the federal government) and questions they had, then showed them a Powerpoint slide as we explained the branches:
Sadly, it was really hard to find pictures to put in my slide, so that picture of the justices is Maine’s Supreme Court. Ours doesn’t have a group photo – must not be how they roll. Regardless, the kids seemed to understand (for the most part). We did a short activity to explain the concept of checks and balances, and then we closed by having them all write down issues that they might want to debate next week. It went really really well.
The next day we were there (Thursday), we assigned their groups and gave them their issues (“we should stop cutting down trees”, “pools should be open in the spring”, and “we should be given more challenging homework”). They got started on the research and everyone seemed excited! Score!
Today, Tuesday, we did the debate – and every group had great ideas on both sides. We had to cut off the kids for time, and we were worried they’d run out of things to say! The class voted on each issue (21-3 to stop cutting down trees, 20-4 to open pools in the spring, and 14-10 in favor of more challenging homework), and we talked about majority and tied the debate into lawmaking and such.
There are lots of things we could have done better – we should have tied government in a bit better at the beginning, gone over the logistics a bit more, etc, but overall the lesson went so so much better than expected. AND, after revising it a bit, I’d love to put it online somewhere (because there are NO good NC lessons online, since it’s only taught in North Carolina.)
We taped the first and last lessons, and I’m currently putting them on my laptop so I can watch them and edit them into a nice video for the class (maybe) or at least my teacher and professor.
Rock on, happy lesson time!