Post-Peer Review Thoughts & Bill of Rights Lesson

At this stage in my teaching career, I found it valuable just to articulate my lesson thoughts to another person. Just like when writing a paper, a certain amount of myopia sets in for me when planning a lesson. My closeness to the material might make me overlook otherwise obvious concerns. For example, I decided to have the students evaluate each other’s presentations by a rubric. However, I hadn’t included any assessment requiring the students to demonstrate that they understood the content of those presentations.

Similarly, when listening to other people’s plans, the first questions to pop into my mind were about the practical execution of their lessons, not the fundamental ideas underlying them. For example, Stephen’s Civil War tug-of-war lesson sparked my (and others’) interest and led to lively discussion about how to make sure it would go smoothly.

Let’s not limit ourselves to our peers for feedback, however. Whether or not a demonstration like the tug-of-war went as planned, I’m sure it would be engaging for everyone. If we then explained to the students what it was intended to show, and asked the students of ways to improve it, I expect they’d be full of suggestions. Indeed, as long as we’re transparent about what we hope the students will learn, students should always be available as a source of feedback about an activity’s efficacy. That, more than anything, is what I see Professor Pappas modeling in our course.

Following is the lesson outline that I brought to class for peer review. It’s intended to be one component of a ten-lesson unit on the Bill of Rights. The students will have already been introduced to the content of the amendments, and will have been studying the Constitution as a whole in the preceeding unit. I want to provide the students with an opportunity to engage with a specific topic a little more deeply, and perhaps learn about the process of legal reform inductively through it.

If anybody would like to take a look at it, I’d be much obliged!

-Aram Glick

Bill of Rights Issue: Research/Presentation

  • Class: 33 8th grade students

CONTENT

  • Knowledge: History and current state of controversial issues related to the Bill of Rights
  • Skills: Effectively conveying information to an audience

PROCESS

  • A pre-test will be given, asking the students what they know about the laws relating to various Bill of Rights-related issues.
  • Students will form 11 groups of three. They can choose their groups. (?)
  • List of suggested topics will be provided. For example, “Can schools ban students from wearing certain kinds of clothing?”
  • Groups must sign up for their topic, to avoid overlap. Topics not on the list of suggestions can be chosen, if they clear it with the teacher.
  • Content to be covered:
    • What is written in the text of the Bill of Rights that relates to this topic?
    • What is the controversy?
    • What Supreme Court cases have changed our interpretation of the BoR, and how?
    • What is the current stance of the law on this issue?
  • An example will be provided, as a pre-recorded video.
  • In-class time will be provided for group work, planning, and practicing.
    • However, students will be expected to do some research outside of class.
      • Once groups and topics are settled, they will be asked to each research separately, and compare notes in class.
      • They will be asked to provide the teacher with a short bibliography of sources and a short outline of their presentation before they present.

PRODUCT

  • Presentation – about 10 minutes long?
    • Students must present their findings to the rest of the class.
    • Possible (suggested?) format:
      • First, introduction to the relevant BoR passage and to the controversy
      • Second, brief “debate” over the issue (one group member arguing each side).
      • Third, open the floor to a brief class discussion about what others think
      • Fourth, explanation of current legal stance.
    • Students may use visuals, or change the format if they clear it with the instructor.

EVALUTATION

  • Peer reviewed
    • Rubric will be provided.
      • Questions include, “How well do you understand the controversy? How well do you understand both sides of the argument? How engaging was the presentation?”
      • They will be asked to provide at least one other comment, as well.
  • A post-test similar to the pre-test will be given the day after presentation is over, to determine how much the students learned about Bill of Rights-related Constitutional law.

6 thoughts on “Post-Peer Review Thoughts & Bill of Rights Lesson”

  1. Aram-Wow I really like how you’ve set up your lesson. I also really like that you laid out the content using the specific knowledge and skills (maybe others?) that you want the students to gain from this lesson. I am definitely going to steal that format. My only real suggestion is that is sounds like you are having the presenters facilitate a short class discussion on their topic, and it might be difficult for some 8th graders to effectively facilitate a class discussion in such a way. You will have to monitor and assist carefully, to make sure that all of your students are on task and engaged.

    1. Good point. I was hoping to make it as eighth-grade accessible as possible with an example and a clearly-laid-out format, but asking to lead a discussion might or might not go well. It might be better to keep the presentation focus on the presenters, and allow some other opportunity for the students to reflect on the issues raised.

  2. Looks like an interesting approach that should generate some good debate. Here’s some material that might be of use.
    1. In 1990 did a series for Prentice Hall on Civic Decision making. Some useful source material here
    2. Here’s a very detailed case I worked up with a lawyer friend. Too detailed for 8th grade. But it might be useful to modify. Mock Trials for the Classroom See the Jack Whitmore case about a student who appeals his expulsion for a variety of violations of dress and hair codes.
    3.

  3. Hey Aram,
    Looks like quite the lesson. The content and execution seems to be centered around student engagement, making the Constitution and Bill of Rights applicable to their everyday experience. I think it’d be helpful to introduce the lesson plan as a two week process; letting the students know early on the objectives and direction of the class helps manage the behavior and productivity of the classroom. If I ever end up teaching a lesson on civics or Constitutional rights, I’ll definitely be stealing some elements of this (with your permission, of course.) Great start.

    1. That’s a good idea, and I hadn’t thought of it specifically before. Since it’s going to be a two-week long unit on the Bill of Rights anyway, letting them know ahead of time what we’re building to seems more than reasonable. Hopefully it would let some excitement start building, as well.

      And of course, teaching ideas on the internet are there to be swiped! Feel free.

  4. I totally agree with you on the fact that we should get more than just our peer’s analysis of our lesson, but I think that should also be taken with a grain of salt. While there are some students that would want to give you actual effective feedback, there are others that would try to make the lesson easier so that they and their peers would have to do less work in the future. As a whole though, it is a very good idea to take feedback from students, and it is something that something more teachers should take advantage of.

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