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Civics - Unit 0 (Introduction)

Learning to Participate

Introduction: Unit Overview

This kick-off unit engages students with the course, helping them understand what the course is about, what they will do in the course, how they will work together as a class, and how their work will be assessed. The unit includes five lessons. The first lesson focuses students’ attention on making change for the common good; it introduces the course’s Essential Questions and helps students “unpack” the questions through a vocabulary-development exercise.


The second lesson engages students with two of the curriculum’s key concepts: power and participation. Students take part in activities around each concept and then generate questions they hope to answer over the course of the Participate course. A key component of inquiry-based instruction is allowing space for students to develop their own questions. This lesson is the first of many opportunities students will have to ask their own questions throughout this course. Thus, the lesson lays a foundation for the skill of asking questions and offers an opportunity for you to show students that you are invested in their questions. 


The third lesson explores identity. Students are introduced to young Chicago-area activists and think about aspects of identity represented by these young people. They explore their own identities and consider how identity might influence the ways in which they participate as powerful civic actors.


The fourth lesson focuses on building a classroom community that will support the collaboration essential to success in the course. While we recognize that many teachers like to establish classroom rules/agreements on the first day, we suggest waiting until students have learned what this class will be like and gained some knowledge of their classmates. These insights will help them generate agreements important to the kind of classroom community necessary for Participator’s success. These agreements, when practiced over time, become the norms for the classroom.


The last lesson in the unit introduces the course assessment, including a Timeline of Learning tool they will use throughout the course. Keeping their Timelines of Learning up-to-date throughout the course will be one key to students’ completing the course assessment successfully; we therefore urge you to set aside time for students to work on the Timelines throughout the course.

Lesson 1: Introducing the Participate Course

This lesson begins with an introductory activity designed to help students get to know each other and themselves. After being introduced to the purpose of the course, students take part in a Wave activator to identify changes they would like to make to our community or democracy. A brief simulation introduces how decisions are made in different forms of government. Students take part in a vocabulary-development exercise to help them unpack the course Essential Questions. Finally, they learn about the structure of the course and predict what they will learn. 


ESSENTIAL QUESTIONS:

  • What knowledge, skills, and dispositions (intention to act) does a person need in order to be a powerful civic actor in our democracy and in our community?
  • How will I use my rights and responsibilities to promote the common good in our democracy and community?

ENDURING UNDERSTANDINGS:
  • Democracy is a system of government based on big ideas. One of these ideas is that the power of government comes from the people. Another is that people must be informed and participate for our democracy and government to work.
  • Individuals in a democracy have many rights. These rights allow them to exercise their power. But these rights are limited, and some individuals’ rights are more limited than others.
  • Individuals and organizations work outside government to promote the common good in our community. The work they do reflects people’s different ideas of what is important in our society.
  • People’s identities shape the choices they make as powerful civic actors. These choices include the issues they use their personal power to affect and the strategies they use to influence those issues.


Part 1: Introducing Each Other and the Course Goal

1) Start of class, write the following instructions on the board:

Fold the piece of cardstock lengthwise (like a hot dog). On one side, write your name big enough for others to read it. 

On the other side write three things about yourself that you would be willing to share:  

  •     A positive trait people say you have
  •     A national, community, or school leader, today or in history, who inspires you
  •     Something in the news that makes you happy or angry


2) As students come into the classroom, greet each student and hand each a sheet of card stock and a marker, pointing out the instructions on the board. You may want to remind students to keep their answers classroom-appropriate and let them know that they will be sharing what they write with the class.


3) When students have had an opportunity to complete their name plates, ask them to stand in a circle, holding their name plates where everyone can see them. Ask a student volunteer to be the first to introduce themselves and share one of the things about themselves from the back of their name plate, explaining that you’ll go around the room clockwise from the person who starts.  Allow a few seconds for students to decide which item they’ll share about themselves and then ask for a volunteer to get the introductions started.

4) After everyone has introduced themselves, ask the students to gently toss their name plates into the center of the circle. Then have each student pick up a name plate other than their own. Students’ task now is to identify whose name plate they have, share one other thing about the student from the name plate, and return the name plate to its “owner.” 


5) Discussion Questions: 

  • Based on this activity, what’s one thing you have in common with at least one other student in the class?
  • What’s one thing  someone said that you would like to know/learn more about because it is different than what you think or believe? 


6) Tell students that, in this class, who they are as individuals matters. What they have in common with others and their ability to talk to people they disagree with are also important. Why? Because in this class,  they will be learning how to be powerful civic actors--that is, people who know how to make change for the better, in our democracy and our community. Making change in a democracy means that all voices must be heard--and not everyone agrees about the best way to solve our problems. Students’ voices and ideas will be a cornerstone of the class. They will be discussing controversial issues--issues on which people don’t have the same views. They will be trying to persuade others, in writing or orally, but also learning how to find common ground. 

Part 2: Thinking about Change and How to Achieve It

1) Acknowledge that the class is based on the idea that knowing how to make change for the better is important. 

Do you think there are things that need to change in our school, neighborhood, city, state, or country? (All answers accepted.) 


2) Tell students that you are going to do a Wave Activator to bring out some of their ideas about change that is needed--or why it is not needed if that is their view. Explain that a Wave is a way to hear a lot of good ideas really quickly. You are going to give students a prompt; they will have a few moments to think about their response. Then you’re going to challenge them to respond in just a few words and to stay on their toes so everyone in the class will have a chance to respond in just two minutes. Responses should be just a word or phrase.  You will ask someone to volunteer to start and responses will go around the desk clusters (or up and down rows, around the circle, etc.).  Students can pass but you will come back to them; it’s fine to say the same thing as another student.


3) Present the prompt:  Based on your experience--in your school or neighborhood, in Chicago, in Illinois, and in the United States--what is something you believe needs to be changed? Give students a few moments to think or write down their reactions; then ask for a volunteer to start the Wave, coming back to students who pass at the end.  


4)  Discussion Questions:

  • What stood out to you in the class answers? Did you agree or disagree with most of the ideas? 
  • Did you notice any patterns in the answers?
  • What was participating in the Wave like? Was it easy or challenging?
  • If your ideas are very different from the ideas of your classmates, will that affect your participation? What would help you feel free to speak up? 

5)  Let’s dig into the changes people suggested in the Wave. 
  • What changes did you hear suggested that sounded interesting, worth exploring, and/or worthwhile?  
  • Compile a list on the board as students respond.

6) Explain that students are going to see some different ways of making decisions by deciding in small groups which change listed by the class is most important. The class will be organized into four groups and each group will use a different way of deciding which change is most important. The groups are going to make their decisions one at a time so everyone can see the different methods being used.  
 
7) Students will be organized into four groups and give each group one of the versions (A-D or 1-4) of  the Making a Decision Cards (below). Give the groups a few minutes to read through their directions and decide how they will start their decision-making demonstration for the class. Each group can take no more than 10 minutes to reach a decision. 
CARDS:  Making a Decision

Making a Decision (Version A or 1) 

The oldest member of your group should decide which change is most important. 
 Making a Decision (Version B or 2) 
Create a subgroup of your larger group made up of the tallest and shortest members of the group, plus the group member with the longest hair. This subgroup should decide which change is most important. 
Making a Decision (Version C or 3) 

As a group, discuss which change you think is most important. When everyone has had a chance to air their views, vote on which change is most important. If no change has a majority*, continue your discussion, focusing on the two or three changes that got the most votes. When everyone has a chance to air their views, vote again.  

*A majority is one more than half. So if your group has 8 members, a majority is 5 (half, or 4, plus 1). 
Making a Decision (Version D or 4) 

In your group, choose three group members to make the decision for the group. Once these representatives are chosen, members of the group can provide their ideas for a few minutes. Then the representatives should discuss the options among themselves and vote on a decision. If no change gets a majority (2 votes), the representatives should continue to discuss the changes until they can get a majority for one of the changes. 

If the group is not happy with the decision, they can elect new representatives if a majority of the group wants to do so. In real life, this could only happen when an election is scheduled, but you can do it at any time. 
8) Have Group A come to the front of the classroom and try to reach a decision using the process described on their version of the handout. When they have finished, draw students’ attention to the four Signs:  Types of Decision-Making (Simple definitions) and ask which type of decision-making Group A represented.  Continue the process with Groups B, C, and D, each time having students identify the type of decision-making demonstrated by the group. 

9) Tell students you would like them to stand by the sign or raise your hand in an online setting, that fits each description you read; allow time for students to explain why they chose the decision-making method they did:
  • Which decision-making method was most efficient/quickest?
  • Which decision-making method seemed most chaotic or disorganized?
  • Which decision-making method left a lot of people unhappy?
  • In which decision-making method did you feel heard? 
  • Which decision-making method did you like best?
10) Discussion Questions: 
  • What type of government does the United States, Illinois, and Chicago have?
  • Why do you think this form of decision-making was adopted by these governments? 

11) The Civics curriculum will help us understand how to influence decision-makers in our local, states, and federal government.

12) Open the President Obama Talks about Change Handout and answer the Critical Thinking Question: What is change?
Signs:  Types of Decision-Making (Simple Definitions)

Totalitarianism or Authoritarianism


Decisions are made by one person

 Oligarchy


Decisions are made by a small group of (usually wealthy) people

Direct Democracy 


Decisions are made by all the people

 Representative Democracy 

The people elect representatives to make decisions for them

Part 3: Previewing the Essential Questions and Course Content

1) Review the Essential Questions below or from the top of Unit 0. Your student coursework will be organized around these two Essential Questions.  


ESSENTIAL QUESTIONS:

  • What knowledge, skills, and dispositions (intention to act) does a person need in order to be a powerful civic actor in our democracy and in our community?
  • How will I use my rights and responsibilities to promote the common good in our democracy and community?

2) The Essential Questions are packed with vocabulary words that you may not be familiar with.  Let's identify these words (below).
knowledge, skills, dispositions, intention, civic actor, democracy, community, rights, responsibilities, common good. 

3) In your own words rewrite the Essential Questions (above). 

4) You are going to be investigating  the Essential Questions by looking at several different topic areas. Please open the Participate at a Glance handout and notice how it shows the units of the course, with “Big Ideas” for each. Please complete the predictions column of the handout.
Essential Questions: Key Word Definitions
Knowledge: Facts, information, and ideas acquired by a person through experience or education.
Skills: Abilities needed to complete specific tasks. 
Dispositions: Tendencies to act in a particular way.
Intention: Plan to take action.
Civic actor: Person who takes part in the public life of a community.
Democracy: System of government based on the ideas that the power of government comes from the people and that people must be informed and participate for the government to work. 
 Community: A group of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common.
 Rights: Freedoms or protections to which an individual is legally entitled.
 Responsibilities:  Things one is required to do as part of a job, role, or legal obligation.
 Common good: What benefits all people rather than the individual or a small group.

Closure:  Let's revisit the name plate exercise at the start of this lesson and unit.  

Discussion Questions:

  • Can you recall any specific positive personal traits from your classmates that could be useful in them becoming a powerful civic actor or a leader that works for the common good?
  • Can you think of an example from the current news (or the news of past year) that illustrates any of the ideas discussed in this lesson? Example: types of decision making, types of government, democracy, common good, authoritarianism, civic actor, rights, etc. 


Assessment:

Resources: 

The following resources can be used to extend and deepen the learning in this unit. 


Facing History and Ourselves, https://www.facinghistory.org/. Facing History curricula include a number of lessons designed to help students understand identity, their own and others, easily accessible using a search on the keyword identity


Mikva Challenge, https://mikvachallenge.org/. This Chicago-based organization sponsors a variety of activities that directly engage young people in “doing democracy.” 


Responsive Classroom, https://www.responsiveclassroom.org/tag/building-classroom-community/. The Center for Responsive Schools provides resources for developing the classroom community and implementing culturally responsive teaching. 

 

Teaching Tolerance, https://www.tolerance.org. Teaching Tolerance magazine, a project of the Southern Poverty Law Center, has many lessons on identity, as well as on power. The site is easily searchable.   


Who Rules?, https://www.icivics.org/teachers/lesson-plans/who-rules. iCivics is a nonprofit launched by former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. It provides numerous free games and lessons, including this one on forms of government.

Lesson 2: Power and Participation

This lesson introduces two concepts key to understanding the individual’s role in a democracy: power and participation. Students generate questions about power and then watch an animation that introduces some of the complexities of power--its sources, how it is used, and what individuals can do to maximize how effectively they use their own power. Students then generate questions about participation and are introduced to three types of participants in democracy.


ESSENTIAL QUESTIONS:

  • What knowledge, skills, and dispositions (intention to act) does a person need in order to be a powerful civic actor in our democracy and in our community?
  • How will I use my rights and responsibilities to promote the common good in our democracy and community? 


ENDURING UNDERSTANDINGS:

  • Democracy is a system of government based on big ideas. One of these ideas is that the power of government comes from the people. Another is that people must be informed and participate for our democracy and government to work. 
  • People’s identities shape the choices they make as powerful civic actors. These choices include the issues they use their personal power to affect and the strategies they use to influence those issues.

Part 1: Exploring Power

1) Please take a moment to recall earlier discussion(s) regarding change and some of the change you would like to see in our communities and our democracy. 


Discussion Questions:

  • What is power?
  • How does power relate to making change?

2) We are going to watch an animation. Open the Viewing Guide for How to Understand Power Handout and take notes on key ideas from the animation. This animation has some complicated ideas and it’s okay if you don’t understand everything; there is even a spot on the viewing guide to make notes of things you don’t “get.” As you watch, you should write down questions about power that come up for them in their notebooks.


3) Watch the TedEd: How to Understand Power animation.  Please share the first three rows of the Viewing Guide for How to Understand Power Handout.

4) Debrief - Discussion Questions:

  • Did the animation raise any new questions you would like to the “Questions about Power” chart? 
  • How was power defined in the animation? Do you think this is a good definition of power? How might you refine it?
  • Which source of power is most interesting or important in your view? Why?
  • Do the laws of power help you understand how power works? What questions do you have about power’s role in everyday life?
  • In the United States, have we done a good job of creating rules and institutions to keep individuals or groups from getting too much power? Give examples to support your answer. 
  • What are the sources of an individual’s power to make positive change in our democracy and community? 
  • What was the most important thing you learned from the animation? Which idea would you most want to share with your parent, guardian, older sibling, or other adult? 
  • What questions have we answered fully? What questions have we answered partially?
  • What powers would you add to the list based on the video?


5) Open the Understanding the People’s Power handout and review the instructions. Students are to share the most important thing they learned from the animation with an adult family member or adult. At the same time, they should ask the adult for one example of how they have tried to make change in our community or democracy.
Part 2: Exploring Different Ways People Use Their Power to Participate
1) What did you learn from the adults you talked to? How did the adults react to the ideas from TedEd: How to Understand Power animation? What civic actions did your adult participate in? Let's list the examples of the civic actions that adults shared.

2)  Questions about Participation - Discussion Questions: 
What do you think is meant by shareholder advocacy? (all answers accepted) 
  • How does what you have learned about adults using their power connect to the ideas about power presented in the video? 
  • After watching the video and talking with adults and other students about power, do you think you have power that you didn’t think about before? Explain. 
  • Has looking at power changed your thinking on whether you have power? Why or why not?
  • What questions should we add? Did we find the answers to any questions? Did you learn any new power that eighth-graders have that we should add?
  • In what ways can eighth-graders exercise their power and participate in civil action?

3) Scholars who have studied how people use their power have described three types of participants in democracy. Read over the Three Types of Participants in a Democracy visual below.  One is not more important or more powerful than the other and all three types work to solve problems and make our democracy and community better.  Let's go back to the discussions you had with an adult and their participation in civil action.  Were their actions done by personally responsible, participatory, or justice oriented participants, or more than one type of participant?

.
 Three Types of Participants in a Democracy


Personally Responsible  


Personally responsible participants have good character. They are honest, responsible, and law-abiding members of the community. Example Action: Contributes food to a food drive.
 

Participatory 


These participants are active. They take leadership positions within community and government groups. They work within the system to make the system better.
Example Action:  Helps organize a food drive
 Justice Oriented

Justice oriented participants look at the underlying causes of problems. They question how our society works. They take action to change the system when it is unfair to some people. 

Example Action:  Researches why people are hungry and takes action to solve the problem’s root causes. 

4) You are going to have an opportunity to further develop your understanding of the types of participant by taking part in a card sort activity. You will be organized into groups and each group will be given a set of Civic Action Cards and Civic Action Card Sort Organizer Handout


5) Debrief - Discussion Questions:

  • Did your group disagree on how to classify some of the actions? How did you resolve your disagreements? Could both points of view be correct?
  • What did you learn from the discussions in your small group? Do you understand the three types of participants better as a result of talking with your group?
  • Do you think we need all three kinds of participants? Why or why not?
  • Which kind of participant do you most often see in day-to-day life? In the media? 
  • Could you be a personally responsible participant sometimes and a justice oriented participant at other times? Explain.
  • What kind of participant--personally responsible, participatory, or justice oriented--are you now? What kind of participant do you hope to become? What strengths do you have that will help you achieve that goal? What strengths do you need to develop? 
  • Challenge: Add any new question about participation or power.

Closure:  Think of a school problem and sketch one picture of you addressing the problem using one of the different type of participants:  personally responsible, participatory, and justice oriented. Then write a sentence explaining which type of participant you think would be most effective addressing the problem and why. Be willing to share with the class. 


Assessment:

Lesson 3:  Exploring Identity

In this lesson, students are introduced to young Chicago-area activists and identify and categorize characteristics of those young people that are important to who they are as civic actors. Students identify aspects of their own identities that they think will be significant in becoming powerful civic actors and represent those aspects of their identities in self-portraits.


ESSENTIAL QUESTIONS:

  • What knowledge, skills, and dispositions (intention to act) does a person need in order to be a powerful civic actor in our democracy and in our community? 
  • How will I use my rights and responsibilities to promote the common good in our democracy and community? 


ENDURING QUESTION:

  • People’s identities shape the choices they make as powerful civic actors. These choices include the issues they use their personal power to affect and the strategies they use to influence those issues.

1) Please take a moment to recall earlier lessons when we discussed changes you would like to see in our democracy and community. With that in mind: What would you say if a newspaper reporter came in and asked if young people can be effective in making change? 


2) In groups, think of examples that would help demonstrate to the reporter that young people are effective change-makers. The examples can be current or historic and can be specific individuals or larger movements in which young people were active. When we gather back as entire class, please share your examples as we make a list of examples titled Young People Can Effect Change.  

Fred Hampton (1948-1969)

3) We are going to add to our Young People Can Effect Change list of examples by looking at some examples of young people who are trying to make change in our democracy and community today. Studying these young people will help us understand the Enduring Understandings. 

4) Open the Profiles of Young Chicago-Area Activists handouts and read each of the brief profiles. Look for qualities, beliefs, and characteristics that influence the way these young people use their personal power. Underline any key details about each person that you think tells them something about the person’s qualities, beliefs, and characteristics. 

5) Let's take a moment to see young Chicago activists participating in civil action: 
6) Open the Categorizing Characteristics of Identity handout and complete in groups. Remember to look at the details/characteristics you underlined and place them in categories; some categories are provided on the handout, but you can also create your own categories if something you have noticed doesn’t fit in any of the existing categories. For example: “Let’s look at Diego Garcia. How many of you underlined that Diego believes young people can make change? Where would you put that? Yes, I’d put it in the “person’s beliefs” category too. It’s a personal belief that motivates Diego to act so it’s an important part of his identity as a civic actor.” 

7) Discussion Questions: 
  • Which characteristic(s) do you think most influenced how and why the young people chose to be involved with their government and community? 
  • Which characteristic(s) do you share with the young activists? 
8) Who Are You? I am going to ask you a few questions and I want you to write down some responses. You will not have to share your responses, the idea is just to get you thinking: 
  • Who are you? What are some of your qualities, beliefs, and characteristics? How do you identify?
  • What are your interests?
  • What communities do you belong to?
  • What issues are most important to you?
  • Have you ever tried to make change? What part of your identity encouraged you to act or not to act?
  • Need help? Let Oprah help: Oprah: Who I Am Meant To Be-Self Assessment 

9) Self-Portrait Assignment:  You are going to create a self-portrait that conveys something important about your own personal identity. Note this is a very personal assignment and I hope that we have built a positive and comfortable environment where you are excited to share with your peers.
  • The self-portraits can be drawings, collages made from images in magazines, silhouettes with aspects of identity inside the silhouette, or cartoon-style drawings--encourage students to be creative as long as they convey something important about their identities through the portraits. Students should also write captions or titles for their self-portraits that draw attention to an aspect of their identities they wish to highlight. 

Examples: 

10) Debrief - Discussion Questions: 
  • How would you describe our class based on what you learned from the portrait display? Did you see any examples of power and participation?
  • What part of your identity do you think most defines who you are and how you view the world?
  • Did you learn anything new about any of your classmates?
  • Suggest that students can add to their portraits as they learn more about themselves and their power in this class.

Closure: Remember that this lesson is built to help you understand the:  


ENDURING QUESTION:
  • People’s identities shape the choices they make as powerful civic actors. These choices include the issues they use their personal power to affect and the strategies they use to influence those issues.

Closure Sentence:  With that in mind, complete the following sentence:  The fact that I am ____________ [a part of your identity important to you] could affect how I use my power as a member of the community because  _________________________________. 


Assessment:

Lesson 4: Developing a Productive Learning Environment

In this lesson, students are briefly introduced to the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) Student Bill of Rights (SBOR) and discuss how it relates to the Participate course. CPS describes the Student Bill of Rights (SBOR) as “a living document that spells out the rights that every student has and that everyone, including students themselves, should respect. The SBOR can evolve with student sentiment, policy, and societal change.  This makes the SBOR important to talk about and an important aspect of its continued evolution.  Learning about the SBOR provides a foundation for considering the characteristics of the Participate classroom that students want to see. Students use a Popcorn Activator to identify the type of classroom they feel they need to succeed in this class. They then develop agreements to help ensure they create the kind of classroom community they want. These agreements, when practiced over time, become the norms of the classroom environment.


ESSENTIAL QUESTIONS:
  • What knowledge, skills, and dispositions (intention to act) does a person need in order to be a powerful civic actor in our democracy and in our community? 
  • How will I use my rights and responsibilities to promote the common good in our democracy and community? 

ENDURING UNDERSTANDINGS:
  • Individuals in a democracy have many rights. These rights allow them to exercise their power. But these rights are limited, and some individuals’ rights are more limited than others.


CPS Student Bill of Rights (SBOR)

Part 1: Envisioning an Ideal Classroom Community/Learning Environment

Remind students that one of the Enduring Understandings  for this class focuses on the rights that people have and the limits on those rights. Review the idea that a right is a legally protected freedom a person has. Students have rights as residents of Chicago, Illinois, and the United States, and Universal Human Rights. They also have rights as students in a Chicago public school.

1) Project the Visual: Chicago Public Schools Student Bill of Rights Overview. Explain that a bill of rights is a formal declaration of people’s rights. Go over the five items to make sure students understand them.
Chicago Public Schools Student Bill of Rights Overview

Preamble

Every student has rights. A right is a freedom or protection that a person has. Rights define what is allowed of a person or owed to a person.

Your rights are part of you regardless of your age, race, creed, color, gender, gender identity, gender expression, religion, national origin, citizenship/immigration status, weight, sexual orientation, physical and/or emotional condition, disability, marital status, or political beliefs. Your rights belong to you and cannot be threatened or taken away.

Every student has a right to:
  1. Free Public Education
  2. Speak, Advocate, Organize, and Participate
  3. Health, Nutrition, and Personal Care
  4. Fair Consequences
  5. Safe, Secure, and Supportive School Environment

2) Remember your voices and ideas make up the cornerstone of this Civics class.We will be discussing controversial issues with people with different points of view from your own. You will be collaborating with your classmates on a variety of projects and engaging with members of the larger community. You are not just going to be learning Civics but also be engaged in civic life. You will be trying to persuade others, in writing and orally and will be learning how to find common ground. That said, given the special nature of this class, which of the rights in the Student Bill of Rights might have special relevance to this Civics class?


3) We are going to focus on defining what a safe, secure, and supportive school environment would mean for this Civics class to be successful. Making the work of Participate possible will require careful thought to what the classroom environment should be like. In order to hear what a lot of students think about the kind of classroom environment needed, we will be doing the Popcorn Activator: 

Popcorn Activator

Prompt: What word would describe the kind of classroom environment we need in this class?

  • You will have a minute to jot down some characteristics of a safe and productive environment for the Participate course.
  • When the teacher gives the signal to start, share out your responses without raising your hands.
  • If two or more students talk at the same time, make eye contact to decide who will go first. Then share out in that order.
  • All students should share before any student shares for a second time.
  • It’s okay to repeat a word someone has already said.
  • When there is a pause, take that time to think about what you’ve heard and make connections. Get ready to share again when everyone else has shared.

The Popcorn will only last for three minutes.


4) Discussion: 

  • What things that you heard stood out to you?
  • What patterns did you notice in the answers?
  • What are some things you realized or are wondering about?
  • How did you feel during the Popcorn discussion?
  • What did you find yourself thinking or doing during the Popcorn discussion?

5) As a class, identify and discuss similarities, selecting five to ten characteristics that the class can agree on. Please think about the challenges of creating the classroom you have described and write a few ideas about how those challenges might be overcome. 

Part 2: Creating Classroom Agreements
The only way to maintain students’ ideal classroom learning environment is to agree on and follow a set of agreements. Agreements are different than rules; they set parameters for how individuals act. In our class, do we act in a certain way because we have learned certain “how to behave at school” rules? Would we benefit from developing some agreements to support our classroom learning environment? Setting down some agreements for the class can be a good way to equalize power in the class.

1) In groups, nominate three agreements that they think will be useful in a classroom doing the kind of work students will be doing in this class. Agreements can be for students, the teacher, or both. Document each agreement to discuss and vote on. If you have difficulty coming up with agreements, here are some examples:
  • Be positive.
  • Speak your mind, but don’t dominate the conversation.
  • Agree to disagree.
  • Give the benefit of the doubt.
  • Assume good intentions.
  • Ask questions.
  • Converse, not convince.
  • Be present.
  • Listen to one another, before giving feedback (peer to peer, teacher to peer).

2) We will share out all suggestions to the class. 
Note: If any are too vague to be helpful, ask the groups that nominated them to describe what each would look or feel like in practice; agree with students on edits to make the suggestion clearer.  If any are in conflict with safety concerns, school/district regulations, or your professional judgment about maintaining a productive and safe classroom, point out the conflicts and ask students what should be done when a right comes in conflict with another right or interest. 

3) Conclusion & Consensus: 
  • Are there any suggested agreements your group thinks we should eliminate? Think about it for a minute or two. If so, we will let the group who originally suggested those agreements make the case for keeping them and conduct a class vote.
  • How could we categorize or group these agreements? We should have several categories. 
  • Vote on the proposed agreements. 
  • Will these agreements help us achieve the classroom environment we want? Is anything missing? 

4) Post the resulting list of agreements in the room/website
Congratulations on creating these classroom agreements! Remember these agreements won’t actually describe your classroom unless the agreements are followed on a regular basis (i.e., become norms). 
What ideas do you have for holding each other accountable for “living” the agreements? In groups discuss how to solve some dilemmas that might arise in the classroom in terms of living by the agreements and come up with ideas with how to respond. Each group will be in charge of one of the situations described in the Using the Class Agreements Handout.

5) Review the three situations, asking groups to share their strategies they came up with for holding the class accountable for living by the agreements. Document possible solutions. Which of the posted strategies could become general strategies for accountability? Vote on them. Document the agreed-upon strategies for accountability in the classroom with the agreements. 

Closure: Bring closure to the lesson by having students complete an exit ticket listing their favorite thing about the process of creating the class agreements and their least favorite thing about the process, as well as a concern they have about the agreements or the strategies for accountability.


Assessment: As an assessment, ask students to reflect on the activities they took part in in this lesson, identifying skills they used in this lesson that could be applicable in working for the common good.