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Civic Mission


Civics In The Middle

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A special edition newsletter for Illinois civics teachers to support the implementation of the state’s middle and high school civics course requirements and K-12 social science standards in a remote learning environment.

Civics In the Middle Resources for Continuity of Learning

COVID-19 upended many of the routines and traditions that undergird our lives. Teachers are called to create meaningful learning experiences to further develop student knowledge and skills in a homebound environment. curated a number of resources to help you and your students navigate the challenge of remote learning. The Continuity of Learning in Civics page has materials related to:

  • Best Practices in Distance Learning for Educators
  • Best Practices for Distance Learning for Students and Families
  • Lesson Plans and Resources for Civics, Grades 6-12
  • Resources for Creating Distance Learning Opportunities
  • Teaching About Pandemics

This resource will be updated regularly. We hope to go beyond sending you links, but, be the link for the support you need to prepare students for college, career, and civic life in these unprecedented times.

Election 2020 Webinar Series: End Game and The Illinois Fair Tax Amendment

This election year brings an opportunity to engage students in the proven practices of civic education outlined in 6-12th grade civic course requirements. will provide a plethora of resources and lesson plans to support this important work. 

On April 21 from 3:45 to 4:30 p.m. Dr. Shawn Healy, Director of the Democracy Program at the Robert R. McCormick Foundation and Adjunct Lecturer at the University of Illinois at Chicago hosts a webinar titled End Game that will examine the results of the primaries and caucuses, polling data, Illinois-specific dynamics, and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the current election cycle.

On Tuesday, May 12, Dr. Healy will unpack the upcoming referendum to amend the Illinois Constitution to explore, Does the Progressive Tax Add Up for Illinois? Both webinars will conclude with classroom resources you can use with your students to engage them in current and societal issue discussions, simulations of democratic processes, and service-learning during this election year.

Register today for these webinars to support #CivicsInTheMiddle classrooms in this election year. Those who register can join live or receive a link to view the recorded presentations and accompanying resources.  

Learning Keeps Going

To help continuity of learning, a coalition of education organizations collected free tools, strategies, and best practices for teaching and learning online. The Learning Keeps Going Coalition provides support for both educators and families to navigate the unprecedented challenges the coronavirus poses with webinars, tech tools, lesson plans, and resources to support equity and access, SEL, and digital citizenship.  

Civics In Real Life 

Our friends at the Florida Joint Center for Citizenship publishes bi-weekly lessons to help students explore Civics In Real Life with current events. There is a lot to know about the government and how “We the People” interact with the government and each other.  Topics include Executive Orders, the Common Good, The Preamble in Action, and Public Health and the Social Contract. Check out these easy-to-use one-page lesson plans today.

Earn Your Civic Microcredentials:  Become a Guardian of Democracy Educator partnered with the Lou Frey Institute at the University of Central Florida to provide educators the opportunity to earn their micro-credentials in the proven practice of current and controversial issue discussions in the classroom.

Participants will create a Portfolio of Practice throughout the course exploring:  
  • The benefits of student-to-student discussion
  • Various discussion strategies with demonstration videos and classroom-ready guides
  • How to navigate common obstacles and concerns from parents and administrators
  • Tools for online learning to incorporate in classrooms
Participants in past cohorts ranged from pre-service professors, first-year teachers, instructional coaches, administrators, and seasoned civic educators. Here are some of their reflections.

"When I think about engaging students in current and controversial issue discussions in the classroom, I used to think it scared me and made me nervous, but now I think I am prepared and confident."
6-12 grade department chairperson from a suburban school district

"When I think about engaging students in current and controversial issue discussions in the classroom, I used to think that there were a plethora of landmines to be concerned about, but now I think that with the right combination of establishing a classroom environment and well-thought-out, specific strategies, landmines can be avoided and phenomenal discourse is bound to happen."
6-8 grade AVID teacher from an urban district

"When I think about engaging students in current and controversial issue discussions in the classroom, I used to think I’m never going to be able to do it properly and cause a huge chaotic controversy in my small rural school, but now I think it’s doable and no matter where I’m teaching I’ll be able to handle the conversation using strategies from Guardians of Democracy: Current and Controversial Issues Discussions." 
1st-year teacher from rural high school
The summer cohort will begin in June. Interested educators can find out more information and register their interest in participating at the Guardians of Democracy homepage. Those who successfully complete the 5-week online course will earn a Bronze Certified Guardian of Democracy Educator badge via Credle and the University of Central Florida Center for Distributive Learning. Participants can earn 15 Professional Development (PD) hours through the DuPage Regional Office of Education for a nominal fee. Graduate credit is available through the University of St. Francis for an additional fee. Additional courses on Simulations of Democratic Processes and Taking Informed Action Through Service Learning are coming Fall 2020.

Civic Engagement From a Distance

Many civic educators throughout the state have had to re-think how to engage their students in the proven practice of service-learning in the remote learning environment. How can students apply their learning to an authentic audience and take informed action that has real-world impact? We asked our Regional Civics Instructional Coaches how they are rethinking civic engagement for their students during the COVID-19 stay at home order. Here are some of their ideas.

Alia Bluemlein-Have students choose a “current event issue”- there is nothing more timely right now than COVID-19 - and investigate the topic/issue (i.e. should Governor Pritzker raise fines for people ignoring social distancing guidelines?) After their analysis, have students draft a letter to the editor of your local newspaper expressing their thoughts. Region: Boone, Northern Cook, Lake, McHenry,  and Winnebago Counties

Candace Fikis
-Have students create a PSA-type video that could encourage others to stay at home or encourage their classmates to continue to learn (engage in e-learning/remote learning) and not give up at this time.  Those positive messages might be nice to share with other students and or the community. Food pantries are hurting during this time because of a lack of food and monetary donations.  Some research about this problem and a video explaining it to others/offering ideas to help them is also another idea. Loom is a good video tool and will allow students to upload their video to their Google Drive or Google Classroom, which many more are using nowadays. Posing a question on Google Classroom for example about brainstorming ideas to solve the food pantry shortage will allow the students to engage in some dialogue virtually. Region: Southern Cook, Grundy, Iroquois, Kankakee, Kendall, and Will Counties 

Bonnie Laughlin-Schultz
-Have students think about the way that COVID-19 is shifting political campaigning, both the ability of candidates to campaign and the way that the election may be held. Students could look at this week’s election in Wisconsin and consider implications for November. What can their local community, state, and the country do to ensure access to voting and safety? Students could investigate options (vote by mail, safety precautions, etc.) and write a letter to their Congressperson expressing their opinion about how the election should be held or their desire to ensure a fair/safe/democratic election. Region: Clark, Clay, Coles, Crawford, Cumberland, Douglas, Edgar, Edwards, Gallatin, Hamilton, Hardin, Jasper, Lawrence, Massac, Moultrie, Pope, Richland, Saline, Shelby, Wabash, Wayne, and White Counties

Matt Wood
-  Social interaction is something my students have expressed they really miss now that social distancing is stretching on through April. Flipgrid is a vlog (Video Blog) service that allows students to review material and reflect on it via video. It can be locked down so the video can only be viewed by you the teacher, but it also can be shared out so students can respond to one another. This is ideal in creating that opportunity to reinforce a Socratic Seminar style of learning. Students who are shy about participating can also put stickers over their faces to hide or can even just record an audio response. This is great for those introverted learners!

Now is also a good opportunity to get students into podcasts. I’ve always felt the kids really feel empowered when they know what you know, so letting them in on where the information is coming from can be really valuable. Our school’s 8th-grade Civics team does a “News Cruise” where students check-in on a news topic and how it is reported on differently depending on the outlet and then record it on a Google Form/Doc. This could easily be paired with Flipgrid for a discussion on the media’s role in informing the public. Region: Central Cook, DeKalb, DuPage, and Kane Counties 

News Literacy Resources for Distance Learning

The recent closure of Illinois schools in an effort to #flattenthecurve has required many schools to engage their students in meaningful learning experiences to further develop student knowledge and skills in a homebound environment. 

Many schools are leveraging technology to deliver instruction. With the increased use of technology comes the need to make sure students are wise consumers, engagers, and producers of information with their devices. Rumors are swirling in this current crisis. We can help our students navigate this “infodemic.” Here are some news literacy resources to start with. 

General News Literacy Resources
  • The News Literacy Project provided open access to its Checkology subscription-based service to teachers and parents for the remainder of the school year. The package is twelve interactive lessons building on news literacy skills.
  • Crash Course - Navigating Digital Information is a ten-episode series that covers fact-checking, lateral reading, deciding who to trust, using Wikipedia, interpreting data and infographics, click restraint, social media, and evaluating evidence, photos, and videos.
  • The Stanford History Education Group has a portal for Civic Online Reasoning that provides free lessons and assessments that help teach students to evaluate online information that affects them, their communities, and the world.
  • iCivics created curriculum units for both middle and high school students around news literacy as well as an online game called NewsFeed Defenders.
  • Factitious is a game that tests students’ news sense. They updated the game to include COVID-19 information.
  • The Center for News Literacy at Stony Brook University has a Digital Resource Center that teachers can sign up for to curate resources for classroom use.
  • NewseumED has wonderful infographics as well as lesson plans.
  • Facing History and Ourselves partnered with the News Literacy Project to create a timely unit on media literacy called “Facing Ferguson” that is appropriate for high school students.
  • The American Press Institute has activities and lesson plans for all ages.
  • Edutopia vetted a five-minute film festival with nine videos on news literacy.
  • LAMP, or Learning about Multimedia Project, has materials that shine a light to “challenge stereotypes, fake news, and more.”

COVID-19 News Literacy Resources  

At, we endeavor to link educators with resources that address essential questions with proven strategies and tools to prepare students for college, career, and civic life. This monthly newsletter provides civic educators with timely professional development opportunities, classroom resources, and inspiration with #CivicsIsBack success stories. For weekly updates on emerging research on civics, “teachable moments” and related materials, follow our blog.

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