Lesson 2: Federal Govt Revenue and the Deficit

The U.S. Department of the Treasury Source

The purpose of this lesson is to look at federal taxes as the main government revenue source and the implications of federal tax cuts. We will also consider the current national deficit and who is profiting from the deficit.

I will walk students through a brief review of federal tax revenue and the deficit to give context. I will be presenting a video and sharing text by Robert Reich, as well. I will provide students with close reading prompts for the video presentation. I will also include a reading log to accompany the article text.

Prior to the review, students will have an opportunity to recall and share a few pieces of previous knowledge regarding federal tax revenue and/or the deficit.The students will be watching a Robert Reich video “The Yuge Republican Lie About The Deficit” (3:00), and will consider some close reading prompt regarding Reich’s claims, reasoning and evidence. We will discuss. Students will then read “The Big Economic Switcheroo” by Robert Reich. They will note in a log: important ideas and information. Another column offers space for thoughts, feelings, and questions about the text. Students will then pair-share their insights and apply a close-reading lens to their discussion.

The resources for the lesson include my powerpoint presentation, Robert Reich’s video: “The Yuge Republican Lie About The Deficit” (https://robertreich.org/post/183414097535), and the text of his video: “The Big Economic Switcheroo” (https://robertreich.org/post/181848967520).

Understanding Racism through Music

This lesson can be used more as an introduction to a variety of topics. When I use this lesson in my classroom, it will for more of an introduction to the Harlem Renaissance and Jim Crow Laws throughout the 1920’s. In this lesson, the class will listen to Billie Holiday’s, “Strange Fruit”, and follow along with the lyrics. After listening to the song, students will turn to a partner and talk about what they heard and read from the song. The class will come back together as a whole group and share what they heard and what they think that tells them about this decade. Then students will listen to a section of a more modern song that talks about similar problems, “Sing About Me, I’m Dying of Thirst”, by Kendrick Lamar. While listening to the lyrics and following along with the lyrics printed out in front of them, students will make connections between the two songs. Students will turn to a partner once more to chat before coming all together as a bigger group to discuss. Depending on time constraints, students will then have the opportunity to look for a song like “Sing About Me, I’m Dying of Thirst”, that can compare to “Strange Fruit”.

This kind of lesson may be able to be used in middle school, but depending on what songs you choose to use, may be better suited for high school classes. There are many more modern songs used today that can be used to compare to “Strange Fruit” or similar songs of the time, making this lesson easier for students to relate to. It is also important to emphasize the kind of language used in each song that is chosen too. While there are many more modern songs that can relate to “Strange Fruit”, a lot of those songs can have language that is not appropriate for school.

Strange Fruit sung by Billie Holiday
Sing About Me, I’m Dying of Thirst sung by Kendrick Lamar

Townshend Act Lesson using Mission U.S.

This lesson is designed with 8th grade U.S. History students in mind, but could easily be applied to any age group or class that is studying what led to the American Revolution. The activity planned for this lesson has the potential to be done on individual iPad’s or computers, however I have found that the most effective way to utilize Mission U.S. is playing through one computer and making decisions as a whole class. Mission U.S. is a free online “choose-your-own-adventure” game designed for educators to teach American history topics ranging from the American Revolution to Reconstruction. Most of the decisions of fairly irrelevant to the story, but any choices still teach important concepts and engage the students with a sense of choice. On the other hand, a few key decisions change the entire outcome of the “game” and so far students have been very heated in their debate over what route to take.

The process in this lesson would usually begin with 5-10 minutes of students working on their own to locate definitions for the vocabulary words on the provided worksheet. All vocabulary words are relevant to the choose your own adventure chapter and students are not expected to complete all the definitions before the game begins — they can use time at the end of class to find more or write the definitions as they are covered during the chapter. Receiving student input to make the decisions as a group is another critical part of the process for this lesson, and ideally the program “Plickers” is used. Plickers allows an instructor to print what is basically a QR code that links to each student in a class on the Plickers website. The QR code sheets can be rotated 90 degrees, with each rotation representing the answers A-B. After creating a set of questions created on the Plickers website, the instructor can use an app on their phone (or iPad with a camera) to quickly scan the room as students hold up their QR code with the answer they choose. (For this game, I leave the question blank and make answer options “A”, “B”, “C”, and “D” to act as placeholders for all the decisions in Mission US) Once all the students have been scanned in, and the website shows which students have been scanned and which have not, the instructor can display a bar graph that shows which answer was the most popular. Choices are made based on the group’s majority decision, and discussion about key points is consistent through the whole lesson.

Finally, the students are responsible for one more task while the “game” is being played. On the back of the worksheet with vocabulary words there is a portion called the “Response Log.” Students can choose four of the decisions they found interesting and write what they wanted to choose, not what the class majority chose, and why they wanted to make that decision.

I look forward to doing this lesson with you all!

Salem Witch Trials Role-Play

With Halloween right around the corner, I thought it would be fitting and fun to do a lesson focused around the subject of the Salem Witch Trials. I had this in mind as being an end-of-unit activity that would have students use what they’ve learned about this time in history. Considering the subject matter, this lesson would most likely come into play with 9th or 10th grade students. This lesson will focus around the essential questions of: What was the social climate of 17th century Salem? What connections can we draw between 17th century Salem and today?

With that being said, I plan on briefly summarizing main events of the Salem Witch Trials at the start of the lesson in order to set the tone for my class. Then, I will explain to my students that they will be using what they’ve learned to try and place themselves at that point in history. Students will then draw slips of paper that determine whether they will be a “towns person” or “witch” in this activity. I plan to explicitly make an announcement to students that the purpose of this activity is to try and determine which one of their classmates was a witch and it is up to the townspeople to find them. In order to assist students with their investigation, I will display guided questions on the board that students may ask one another to help them determine the role their classmates are playing. During the next ~10 minutes, students will be questioning one another and participating on a classroom witch hunt.

The purpose of this lesson will be to give students a better idea of what the social climate was at the time of the witch trials, as well as teach students about how mob mentality ran rampant at this time in history through their reenactment of this concept in the lesson. Furthermore, students will directly be addressing the essential questions of this imagined unit in this lesson since they will be placing themselves at the time in history we would have been learning about. The purpose of this is to have students build a deeper connection with what they are learning through their performance from a specific point of view. I hope this will be a fun and engaging lesson that I can use in my future classroom in order to show students that things that were present in 17th century Salem – like paranoia and mob mentality – still show themselves in society today.