Civics Education Resource Site

Curriculum Design Toolkit: Creating a Safe and Reflective Classroom

All teachers are civics teachers. We send messages to students about power, equity, justice, and representation by our classroom routines, relationships, and curricular choices. While the following resources have explicit connections to the civic learning practices in both the middle and high school civics course requirements, they are also best practices for all teachers.

Engaging students’ lived experiences in curriculum design

Let’s Go There: Making a Case for for Race, Ethnicity and a Lived Civics Approach to Civic Education by Cohen, Kahne and Marshall explains:

Fundamentally, a Lived Civics approach signals to students that their personal and community-based knowledge is valuable. It is not the total understanding of civic engagement and democratic processes, but it is a critical starting place for exploration and interrogation, placing questions of power, belonging and effective methods for social change on the agenda.

Please review the entire Let’s Go There report for a more thorough understanding of the lived civics approach.

Engaging students’ lived experiences to inform instruction

Your students will come to you with lived experiences that can inform and enhance your classroom practice. Take time to have them reflect on their experiences from the past, have a voice in recalibrating classroom practices to create routines for success, and engage in a collective renewal of goals throughout the school year.

The following activities can be used to help students reflect on their lived experiences with the essential questions being explored in the curriculum. Choose one to start with and use the others to check in throughout the year to recalibrate classroom practices.

  • Have students individually complete the following sentence, “When I think about (topic), I feel_____ because____.”

Use some of the Visible Thinking Routines from Project Zero

  • Compass Point Reflection has students identify something that is worrisome, exciting, a need to know, and a suggestion for moving forward.
  • Color, Symbol, Image students share and discuss color, a symbol and an image they think represents the topic for inquiry.
  • 3-2-1 Bridge can be used to have students identify 3 ideas they have about the topic at hand, 2 questions they have, and 1 idea they have for moving forward.
  • Claim, Support, Question can be used to have students make a claim about the topic at hand, support it with evidence from their past experiences, and ask questions they have.

Collect the responses and display them in a chart or word cloud. Discuss the responses. Engage in a proactive conversation about what can be done to address past issues and create new routines.

Engaging student voice in creating online norms

One of the essential questions addressed in any classroom is “How Should We Live Together?” Address this prompt at the start of school in the context of the classroom, whether in person or online. Students must feel safe and secure in the learning environment. Student voices should be included in establishing and maintaining expectations.

  • Ask students to imagine a space that was educational, productive, and comfortable for learning. What does it look like? What does it feel like? What does it sound like? Capture these ideas in a collective online document and then discuss the norms that both teachers and students can operate under to make that vision a reality.
  • Class Contracting from Facing History and Ourselves can be used to help students discuss expectations and norms of how class members will treat each other.
  • Have students jot down their needs for a successful learning experience with a common google doc or with a tool like Padlet. Have students in breakout groups organize the ideas into categories and share them with the larger group to reach consensus.

Tools for building community in traditional, remote and hybrid classrooms

Many of your students belong to one or more communities. Why? They feel a connection, they are curious, the community adds value to their life. Successful communities are built with intention. You will have to build your classroom community with intention too.

Leveraging Technology to Build Rapport and Collaboration

Twenty-first-century workplaces require skills like communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity. Start with what you know and then slowly add new tools to your toolbox.

Don’t forget families and students! Here is a Comprehensive Student/Parent Tutorial Guide to help these educational partners navigate online spaces.

Have students examine their own implicit biases to promote understanding and empathy across differences

Tools for Formative Assessment and Reflection

How do we know students are learning? How can we use assessment not merely as an "autopsy" of learning, but as a tool for reflection that enhances the learning process?

Visible Thinking: Harvard University Project Zero hosted a one hour webinar that demonstrated how the resources above can be used in remote learning spaces.