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Civic Mission


Civics In The Middle

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A 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.

Courageous Conversations to Promote Anti-Racism

In our July newsletter, we shared several resources to promote anti-racist practices in the classroom. This month, is partnering with the DuPage Regional Office of Education to host a series of Courageous Conversations around anti-racist practices for multiple stakeholders. The series will explore how to have courageous conversations at home, in the classroom, and in the community.

Experts will discuss ways to be more socially responsible, empathetic allies of people of color and marginalized groups as we strive toward a more "perfect union." Each webinar is free, and professional development credits are available for Illinois educators.

For those who missed the webinar on July 20 for parents and the community on How to Raise a Socially Conscious, Anti-Racist Kid with Amber Coleman-Mortley, Sonia Mathew, and Dr. Shawn Healy, a recording is available at in our Anti- Racism Toolkit for Parents. Classroom Toolkits created a series of toolkits to enhance your classroom practice and meet civics course requirements and related standards. Whether you are teaching face to face, remotely, or in a hybrid model, you can find resources and strategies to prepare your students for college, career, and civic life.
  • Our Curriculum Design Toolkit has resources aligned to both the middle and high school civics course requirements. Items are categorized by the proven practices of civic learning embedded in the laws. Recordings of our summer webinar series to support both the disciplinary content and pedagogy in the requirements are included for you to use in your PLCs in the 2020-21 school year.
  • The Election 2020 Toolkit will help classrooms use the November elections as a teachable moment with activities aligned to simulations of democratic processes, instruction on democratic institutions, current and societal issue discussions, and service-learning. The site also answers frequently asked questions about voting in Illinois.
  • On July 1, 2020, the Illinois Inclusive Curriculum Law went into effect. This law requires public schools to teach students before completing eighth grade about contributions made by lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people to state and U.S. history. Our LGBTQ+ History Toolkit has curated resources to help in this endeavor.
  • Our Distance Learning Toolkit contains resources to support best practices for the continuity of learning in remote spaces.

Addressing Equity through Including Student and Family Voice in Classroom Learning 

This past spring, the COVID-19 crisis highlighted issues of equity and access as schools responded to support students with both academic and social-emotional supports. For students to thrive, whether it be in person, remotely, or some hybrid model, we must put "Maslow before Bloom" and value the voices of students and families in creating systemic support for classroom learning.

The Institute for Education Sciences and Regional Educational Laboratory-Pacific published a six-page guide  Addressing Equity though Including Student and Family Voice in Classroom Learning. 

Incorporating student voice and/or family voice into student learning is a promising strategy for teachers striving to foster culturally responsive classrooms to enhance education access, opportunity, and success for students who are historically marginalized within the pre-kindergarten to grade 12 education systems. Creating culturally responsive classrooms is particularly important during and following the COVID-19 pandemic, as students are facing increased academic and social challenges, and are being disconnected from their traditional learning communities.

All educators are civics educators with the messages we send to BOTH our students and families around power, justice, empathy, and representation through policies and practices. This guide is a powerful tool to include multiple voices to support our youngest community members authentically. 

#Teach2020 Virtual PD Series  

This fall, will host a series of afterschool webinars to help classrooms #Teach2020. In each one hour webinar, educators will get connected with up-to-date resources to engage their students in inquiry, leading to informed action related to the November elections. The Civic Instructional Coaches will provide ready to use ideas to enhance your classroom practice.

Each webinar will take place from 3:30–4:30 p.m. Central time. Those who register can participate live or be sent a recording post-webinar. Illinois educators can earn 2 hours of professional development credit through the Illinois Civic Mission Coalition for viewing the webinar and completing an application activity.

  • 9/2The State of the Race: Get an update on the state of the race post-conventions that will impact both state and national policy. Get connected with information and free resources to enhance your classroom practice.
  • 9/16Access to the Ballot: Delve into policy issues relating to access to the ballot in the COVID-19 era and beyond. Learn about current initiatives to create more informed and equitable voting opportunities. Get connected with free resources to engage your students in informed action around critical issues of power, justice, and representation.
  • 9/30Polls, Political Advertising, and the Press: Learn how to navigate the information landscape around the 2020 election to equip classrooms with the knowledge and skills for informed and equitable voting. Walk away with strategies and tools to help students become savvy consumers of political information in the 2020 election and beyond.
  • 10/14The Electoral College: Is there a better way? Explore calls to amend the U.S. Constitution to replace the current Electoral College system. Walk away with free resources to engage your students in inquiry around the Electoral College system so that they might communicate conclusions and take informed action on the question, "The Electoral College, is there a better way?"
  • 10/28Engaging Your Students on Election Night: Join as we prepare for #ElectionNight2020. Get an update on the state of the races, the latest polling data, and trends. Walk away with free resources and strategies to engage your students on election night.
  • 11/4Processing the Results of the 2020 Election: Join your peers to analyze the results of the election and examine unanswered questions that remain. Get connected with information and resources to help your students process the election and the emerging agendas of the White House, Congress, and the Illinois General Assembly.

For a complete listing of professional development opportunities from and our Civic Learning Partners, please visit our Professional Development Calendar regularly.

This P.D. opportunity is made possible by the generous support of the Robert R. McCormick Foundation Democracy Program.

Reunite, Renew and Thrive: SEL Roadmap for Reopening School from CASEL

Many students and teachers are experiencing trauma related to current events impacting our communities. Putting Maslow before Bloom in all of our interactions (classroom teaching, professional development, community outreach) is essential as we implement proactive measures to anticipate challenges in the upcoming school year.  

Social-Emotional Learning is a complementary practice to civic education. Our friends at the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) engaged with 40 partners to publish Reunite, Renew and Thrive: SEL Roadmap for Reopening School. "The SEL Roadmap is designed to support school leaders and leadership teams in planning for the transition back to schools, in whatever form that takes. Schools at any stage of SEL implementation can use this roadmap to build upon existing efforts around community-building, school climate improvement, student well-being and mental health, trauma-responsive learning environments, restorative practices, and social and emotional competency development."

Consider making the back to school roadmap part of your fall preparations.

Free P.D. Opportunities from the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center

Our friends at the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center reopened their doors to visitors and continue to offer timely and relevant virtual P.D. opportunities. Here are two offerings in August that will be of interest to civics teachers.  

  • Discussion- WE DISSENT!: The Women Who Stood with RBG on Sunday, August 2, 2020, 2:00 p.m. CDT: Ruth Bader Ginsburg has often said that true and lasting change in society and law is accomplished slowly, one step at a time. Join us in conversation with Dean Emerita of Loyola Law School Nina S. Appel and The Honorable Judge Carole Kamin Bellows as they reflect upon their legal careers, what it meant to break the "glass ceiling" at a time when women accounted for less than 3% of the legal profession, and their unique relationships with the Notorious RBG. 
    • The event will be moderated by  The Honorable Judge Abbey Romanek, Vice President, Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center. 
  • Combating Hate: Confronting Antisemitism & White Nationalism Three Years after Charlottesville on August 4, 6:30 p.m. (CDT): Three years after Charlottesville, join us for a unique opportunity to learn about the ongoing fight against white-nationalist extremists through stories from a former extremist and two leaders on the frontlines of fighting hate in America.  
    • Upstanders Christian Picciolini, former extremist, peace advocate and founder of the Free Radicals; Amy Spitalnick, Executive Director, Integrity First for America; and Eric Ward, human rights expert, and Executive Director, Western States Center, will speak about their journeys and the work they are doing to break the cycle of hate.
    • Their presentation will leave attendees energized and introduce them to Upstander leaders across the country who are taking direct action to renounce violence, promote tolerance and inclusion, and safeguard democratic values.  

For information about visiting the museum and other programming, visit the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center website.

Engaging Students Voice to Establish and Maintain a Climate for Civic Learning

Details have yet to emerge for the 2020-21 school year for many districts fully. Whether you will be face-to-face with your students full time, part-time, or engaging with them virtually, middle and high school civics classrooms require a safe, inclusive space for civic inquiry.

Our Curriculum Design Toolkit has a myriad of resources that can be used face to face or virtually to build community. We asked our Illinois Civics Instructional Coaches to share resources they use early in the semester to engage student voice in creating a climate for civic learning. Here are some of their responses.
Candace Fikis- I give students a blank frame on paper and have them put themselves in the middle of the frame and then fill the frame with lots of things that make them who they are or frame their perception of the world (age, gender, race/ethnicity/nationality, interests, experiences, beliefs, etc.). Students share the things that frame their perspective and find commonalities and differences in others. It helps them to know where their classmates are coming from/their perspective when they participate in a discussion.  It also helps them identify maybe some of their biases. This strategy aligns well with What's My FRAME? from Teaching Tolerance. Region: Southern Cook, Grundy, Iroquois, Kankakee, Kendall & Will Counties   

Tracy Freeman: Creating a set of classroom norms or expectations is crucial.  An activity to help establish, from the very beginning, what your (the students included) classroom tolerates in a classroom helps set the tone. This Edutopia article lists ten different ideas at all age levels to develop a classroom culture. Another strategy I have used from here is "paper tweets". The students can call out or recognize positive things that were done in the classroom (early in the year) to help set a platform for dialogue. As time progresses, the students "tweet" out what they see all over the school. Region: Champaign, DeWitt, Ford, Livingston, Logan, Macon, McLean, Piatt & Vermillion Counties  

Bonnie Laughlin-Schultz:  One of the things I have tried in recent years to set the stage for controversial issues and student discomfort with "hard history" is to have students brainstorm on day one WHY we are taking this class (in my case, U.S. history, but Civics would work as well). Then I try to remind them throughout the semester of the reasons they brainstormed, and tie that to our content. I think sometimes that can help push through that initial discomfort students have with talking about hard topics in history or current events. If I were in a traditional classroom, I might put some of the reasons on a bulletin board so I could physically point to them. I tie a question on the final exam to what students brainstormed as well, asking them to go back through the course material and think about this. I am already planning to use this one in an online course I am teaching in fall, to set the stage.

I also like and have used this prompt from Facing History and Ourselves to set the stage for talking in particular about issues that touch on race. It asks students to journal about how people feel when we talk about race (or another topic) and why, and then students brainstorm generally (not necessarily about their feelings). I think this helps cut through some of the tension. This one I think, too, would translate well into a remote/online setting.  Region: Clark, Clay, Coles, Crawford, Cumberland, Douglas, Edgar, Edwards, Gallatin, Hamilton, Hardin, Jasper, Lawrence, Massac, Moultrie, Pope, Richland, Saline, Shelby, Wabash, Wayne & White Counties

Heather Monson:  Many teachers avoid controversial topics because they aren't comfortable with the unknown or fear what a student may say. With our current social justice issues in our country and keeping in mind the SEL needs of students, it might help a teacher to understand the difference between "calling out" a student for behavior versus "calling in a student" and engaging in a productive conversation.  This article from Teaching Tolerance helps frame how to call students in rather than calling out the students. Region: Carroll, Jo Daviess, Lee, Ogle, Rock Island, Stephenson & Whiteside Counties  

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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