In our state, we have spent a great deal of time over the past five years reading, learning, unpacking, and then teaching the common core standards. In order to ensure that schools teach the “whole child,” our state Board of Education also adopted Social, Emotional, and Character Development Standards, which were the first of their kind in the nation.
These standards are comprehensive and used by teachers and counselors to teach and monitor the non-academic aspects of our students. Our state leaders have seen the value and importance of both “soft skills” and social and emotional learning. Along with the academic common core standards, there is one specific area of the SECD standards that all schools are being asked to focus on: civic responsibility.
Defining and Teaching Civic Responsibility
Because this focus is new, many schools are still defining the concept. Civic responsibility is a broad term, but in the school setting, it is typically defined as being an informed, engaged, and respectful citizen. Students who are engaged in their community as volunteers, dedicated to safe communities, and demonstrate leadership skills are viewed as being on the path to becoming civically responsible as they transition into adulthood.
Since time is our most valuable asset as teachers, the question I usually hear is, “When will I have time to teach civic responsibility?” As our teachers have learned the common core standards and the SECD standards, it is clear that there are many ways to integrate the concepts to cover multiple standards at one time.
Tying New Concepts Into Common Core Learning
Here are some ideas to help you bring the concepts of civic responsibility into your common core curriculum:
- Using technology to publish: Many high schools have community service or volunteering requirements for students. These are great ways for students to build “soft skills” and understand the importance of community roles. Students can meet this standard by creating a post, webpage, or multimedia presentation of their volunteering experience. This project is especially helpful for building community connections—schools can easily share and publish these projects so the community can see how the students are giving back.
- Range of writing over time: As we work with our middle school students to develop them into future leaders, using this standard can help both the student and the teacher to monitor growth in this area. Students can journal either weekly or daily about leadership opportunities and experiences. This technique fits well because it allows the student to see growth over time in this area.
- Using sources: The National Archives is a great place for finding primary sources for students to read. For example, this lesson about Jackie Robinson is engaging and thought-provoking. The stimulating question, “The election is over and the candidate whom you supported did not win. You hope the new president will support issues that concern you. What do you do? Why?” is a very timely reflection for our students.
- Using and supporting claims: As our juniors and seniors start to plan for post-secondary life, civic responsibility begins to take on a different context. These voters—or soon-to-be voters—should have knowledge of both the government and those who lead us in the government. Many of our political conversations are perfect for requiring students to support their claims with evidence from a reliable text. It’s also a great idea to work in writing concisely and providing facts to support, which covers an additional writing standard.
- Speaking and listening: Because the speaking and listening standards are a little harder to assess formally, they may not be focused on enough. These conversations, either one-on-one or collaborative, really are the core of the vision behind civic responsibility in schools. Future adults need to be able to “reflect on ideas under discussion,” “follow rules for collegial discussions,” and “acknowledge new information expressed by others and, when warranted, modify their own views.” If only all adults would follow these same rules, social media would be much more cordial!
- Regardless of the grade level, here is an additional resource full of ideas that can be implemented in the classroom. The common core standards are not directly linked to each of the lessons, but the lessons provide a starting point for ideas across many different disciplines.
These suggestions are just a starting point for how schools, teachers, and counselors can use the pillars of civic responsibility to support common core standards. These standards emphasize supporting claims with factual textual information, as well as speaking and listening respectfully, to align perfectly with the concepts of being a good citizen. Hopefully our state—and the other forty-nine—can use these standards to produce effective citizens to lead our nation in the future.
With the upcoming election, now is the perfect time to teach students more about civic responsibility, our government, and the voting process. Our FREE interactive Get Out the Vote lessons focus on essential social studies topics to meet state standards. Download your copy today!