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Showing posts from September, 2020

Teaching Civics through History: The Great Debates

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by Mary Ellen Daneels, Civics Instructional Specialist
Next week, the nation will have its first opportunity to see the major candidates for president debate one another and address some of the most essential questions facing our nation regarding COVID-19, protests, health care, and the vacancy on the Supreme Court of the United States. How can we best prepare your youngest community members to wise consumers of this information?

The Museum of Broadcast Communications (MBC) created a series of cross-curricular modules that can be used by classrooms in remote learning, hybrid, and face to face environments. The museum’s Executive Director, Susy Schultz, and Carol Summerfield, MBC Board Member and Executive Director of the History Center, joined IllinoisCivics.org this week for a webinar modeling a sample lesson from the museum’s Great Debates resources. If you missed the webinar, you can access a recording to view at your convenience.

The Great Debates website provides an interactive …

Participate in the Kids Voting IL Statewide Mock Election

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by Mary Ellen Daneels, Civics Instructional Specialist
The Illinois Civics course requirements at both middle and high school require the use of simulations of democratic processes in the classroom. This proven practice is an important component of civic preparation because:Games and other simulations contribute to civic learning by allowing young people to act in fictional environments in ways that would be impossible for them in the real world; for example, they can play the role of president of the United States or an ambassador to the United Nations. Games and simulations can be constructed so as to be highly engaging and motivating while also requiring advanced academic skills and constructive interaction with other students under challenging circumstances. Guardians of Democracy Report (2011), pg. 34
Simulations like mock elections can demystify democratic institutions that gird our republic by providing an opportunity for students to apply the knowledge, skills, and dispositions…

Access to the Ballot

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by Mary Ellen Daneels, Civics Instructional Specialist
In one week, early voting will start in many locations in the State of Illinois. Navigating the new systems concerning ballot access can be daunting in the face of a pandemic. This week, IllinoisCivics.org partnered with high school interns from the Citizen Advocacy Center to help #CivicsInTheMiddle educators unpack new election protocols, deadlines, and issues related to exercising suffrage rights in the 2020 elections.


Dr. Shawn Healy, Director of the Democracy Program at the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, was joined by Katie Li, a senior from Naperville Central High School, and Shreya Joshi, a junior from Waubonsie Valley High School, an Illinois Democracy School. Dr. Healy engaged in a lively Q and A with our young guests to share research they conducted over the summer related to: Misinformation about votingNew voting procedures in response to COVID-19Concerns about Election DayWhat students can do to engage in civic advocac…

Current and Societal Issue Discussions for In-Person, Remote, and Hybrid Classrooms

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by Mary Ellen Daneels, Civics Instructional Specialist
Current and societal issue discussions swirl all around us and affect our daily lives. Which presidential platforms BEST reflect the policy issues that are important to me?How should the federal government prioritize and distribute vaccines for COVID-19?To what extent should internet access be a public good?Should standardized tests be administered while schools adjust to teaching students remotely? Who benefits if Illinoians vote “yes” for the amendment to change Illinois’ personal and corporate income tax from flat to progressive? The middle and high school civics course requirements outline that students engage in these critical conversations in the classroom. Previous blog posts shared how teachers can engage students to reflect on their lived experiences to inform these important discussions and methods to establish classroom norms and a community to provide a safe environment for such conversations, whether in person or on…

Creating Classroom Norms and Community

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by Mary Ellen Daneels, Civics Instructional Specialist
One of the proven practices embedded in the Illinois civics course requirements for 6-8 and 9-12 grades is current and societal issue discussions. Facilitating student-to-student discussions in remote or hybrid learning environments takes a reimagination of traditional strategies used in the classroom. Two weeks ago, we shared tools to help students reflect on the past to inform the present in hopes that classrooms would use students’ lived experiences with remote learning in the spring to recalibrate practices for the fall. Today we will explore how to create norms and community in the classroom. These ideas are excerpts from our IllinoisCivics.org Remote Learning Toolkit which provides a wide range of supports for families, students, and educators.
Engage Students in Creating Norms One of the essential questions addressed in any classroom is "How Should We Live Together?" Students must feel safe and secure in the learn…

The State of the Race

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by Mary Ellen Daneels, Civics Instructional Specialist
This past week, IllinoisCivics.org kicked off our fall programming with a post-convention webinar updating educators on the State of the Race. Dr. Shawn Healy, Director of the Democracy Program at the Robert R. McCormick Foundation compared and contrasted the conventions and their respective impacts on polling. Dr. Healy also provided an overview of how the pandemic and political polarization might shape how the electorate participates this fall and key races in the Land of Lincoln to watch, including the referendum on the Fair Tax Amendment.

This was the first in a series of webinars to support educators in using the 2020 elections as a teachable moment to meet the 6-8 and 9-12 civics requirements. A recent article by the School Library Journal titled, “Vote of Confidence: When it Comes to Teaching the 2020 Election, Educators Have a Plan,” author Kara Yorio states:
For educators who teach about elections, it is even more complica…