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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.

The First 100 Days

This past month has been a testament to the importance of the work we do together to prepare students for civic life. Teachers have risen to the challenge of helping students process the recent violence at the Capitol. A special Social Studies Network Chat on Twitter (#sschat) on the evening of the riots provided a safe space for teachers to reflect, ask questions, and share resources as they prepared to meet students the next day. Through our Illinois Civics Hub Facebook Page, teachers collaborated in realtime to curate materials for classroom use. We at endeavored to support classrooms with curated materials to address questions about topics like the 25th Amendment, impeachment, and appropriate discussion strategies.

Classrooms are now charged with helping our students look ahead, as we welcome new leadership in both Springfield and Washington D.C. The Illinois Civics Hub recently hosted a webinar about the first 100 days of the Biden administration with Dr. Shawn P. Healy. You can access a recording on our Webinar Archive at

To start your exploration of the first 100 days of the Biden Administration, here are some resources to start with.

  • iCivics has produced an infographic to show students how precedent, tradition, and legitimacy have helped create democratic norms for the peaceful transfer of power.
  • The FDR Library provides a historical perspective of the first 100 days of a presidency during times of crisis.
  • The First 100 Days lesson from our civic learning partners at Mikva Challenge has students identify what they think should be the top priorities for the new President and Vice President of the United States and how they should use their first 100 days to make an impact. Students also explore the idea of political capital.
  • The History Channel has "fast facts" on the first 100 days.
  • How did Washington's first 100 days stack up against his successors? This lesson from Mt. Vernon helps students explore this question.
  • This four-minute interview from NPR answers listener questions about the importance of a president's first 100 days.
  • PBS NewsHour has video resources and can be used to teach remotely hybrid or traditional environments.
  • The First 100 Days from the Bill of Rights Institute has students learn the executive branch and how new presidents establish their vision and agenda for the United States. They will explore the constitutional role of the presidency and the relationship with the Congress after elections and inaugurations.

Resources for Black History Month

A history that should be celebrated all year long gets a spotlight in February with Black History Month. President Barack Obama commemorated the importance of this month in a 2016 speech:

But Black History Month shouldn’t be treated as though it is somehow separate from our collective American history -- or somehow just boiled down to a compilation of greatest hits from the March on Washington, or from some of our sports heroes. There are well-meaning attempts to do that all around us, from classrooms to corporate ad campaigns. But we know that this should be more than just a commemoration of particular events. 

It’s about the lived, shared experience of all African Americans, high and low, famous and obscure, and how those experiences have shaped and challenged and ultimately strengthened America. It’s about taking an unvarnished look at the past so we can create a better future. It’s a reminder of where we as a country have been so that we know where we need to go. 

As you think about how to commemorate Black History Month in your classroom, below are some resources to get you started.

KQED Youth Media Challenges

Looking for a new way to engage your middle and high school students this spring? Prioritize student voice and choice. The NEW KQED Youth Media Challenges are free, standards-aligned media-making projects designed for classes across content areas, including STEM, humanities, and the arts. Each project asks students to create a piece of media for an authentic audience beyond their classroom.

Submissions open in February, and select pieces will be chosen on a rolling basis for public media broadcasts. Check out the new challenges and curricular supports that make it easy to do this project with students online or in person.

RISE Challenge Illinois

The Environmental Education Association of Illinois has teamed up with Earth Force, Federal Emergency Management Agency Region 5, and the Association of State Floodplain Managers Foundation, to create RISE Challenge Illinois.

The mission of RISE Challenge Illinois is to create a generation with the knowledge, skills, and motivation to improve community resilience to natural disasters. Part inquiry-based learning, part competition, and part summit, RISE Challenge Illinois engages students in exploring their local communities to identify real-world environmental issues and develop solutions and action plans for making their communities more resilient. There is no cost for schools or students to participate.

Visit RISE Challenge for more information.

Summer Institutes at the National Constitution Center

Join other teachers from across the country and constitutional scholars from across the philosophical spectrum for virtual summer educator programs with the National Constitution Center (NCC). During these programs, educators work with content experts to deepen their knowledge of the history and modern understandings of constitutional topics. Through working with master teachers and the education teams from the Center, participants discover and develop innovative, nonpartisan ways to make the content relevant to their students. 

These summer programs are open to educators working with grades 5–12 at public, charter, independent, parochial, and other schools. They are free to attend, but successful applications are required. Visit the NCC website for information

Putting #CivicsInTheMiddle Winter 2021 Professional Development

The new year brings new opportunities to teach civics using the proven practices of current and societal issue discussions, simulations of democratic processes, and service-learning to help students explore essential questions around power, justice, and representation. Join this winter for a timely series of webinars that spotlight local, state, and federal issues. 

Each one-hour webinar will take place on a Wednesday from 3:30–4:30 p.m. CT. and connect educators with resources to engage their students in inquiry, leading to informed action. Those who register can join in person or be sent a recording post-webinar. Illinois educators can earn 2 hours of professional development credit through the Illinois Civics Hub at the DuPage Regional Office of Education to view the webinar and complete an application activity.

For a complete listing of professional development opportunities from, please visit our Professional Development Calendar.

Opportunities for Teachers & Students with the Constitutional Democracy Project

The Constitutional Democracy Project has virtual learning opportunities for both teachers and students this winter. First, Dean Angela Onwuachi-Willig's lecture, “The Trauma of Injustice,” will discuss cultural trauma experienced by Blacks as a group in response to legal outcomes in cases involving the killings of unarmed Blacks by police and quasi-police officers. This lecture is free and open to the public on Wednesday, February 3 from 3:00 PM - 4:00 PM CST.

You(th) Decide is a forum for high school students to explore and deliberate on a case before the Supreme Court of the United States by asking students to study a pending case before the Court and to convene for a day of deliberation with peers, law students, and law professors. This year's case, Lange v. California, is a Fourth Amendment case involving constitutional limits on police conduct. The You(th) Decide forum will be held on Friday, March 5, 2021 from 9 a.m – 1 p.m. (CST). The event is free. Register on the Constitutional Democracy Project event calendar.

iCivics Joins with Kami

iCivics has teamed up with Kami, a leading digital classroom app, to support civic instruction in traditional, remote, and hybrid classrooms. Using the Kami app, students can annotate and mark-up iCivics lessons within their web browsers, empowering them to think, collaborate, and succeed in more creative ways. Features include:

  • Text box: allows students to place text anywhere in the document (great for worksheet completion!)
  • Highlighter: students can mark up readings and activities (active reading support)
  • Dictionary: allows students to find definitions of words
  • Text-to-speech: reads text aloud

Visit iCivics to view an introductory video and find out more about this new partnership.

Creating and Using Performance Assessments

The Illinois Social Science standards and civics course requirements require new thinking about assessment. One of the key questions when designing instruction and examination based on the standards and the requirement is how we will know if students have learned it. The Regional Educational Laboratory Program - Northeast & Islands has released a free online course that will guide teachers in developing, scoring, and using high-quality performance assessments within a comprehensive assessment system.

Using five, self-paced, thirty-minute modules, participants will learn foundational concepts of assessment literacy, and the role performance assessments play within a comprehensive assessment system. By the end of the course, participants will have the opportunity to create a high-quality performance assessment that can be administered either in-person or during remote learning.

To learn more about the benefits of performance assessment, including ways to engage students in the process and the assessment itself, find out more about the course today.

Are You Listening to 60-Seconds Civics?

60-Second Civics is a daily podcast that provides a quick and convenient way for listeners to learn about the United States government, the Constitution, and history. The podcast explores themes related to civics and government, the constitutional issues behind the headlines, and the people and ideas that formed our nation’s history and government.

60-Second Civics is produced by the Center for Civic Education. The show's content is primarily derived from the Center’s education for democracy curricula, including We the People: The Citizen and the Constitution, Foundations of Democracy, and Elements of Democracy.

It's easy to subscribe! Listen on YouTube, iTunes, or Stitcher or subscribe via RSS to enhance your traditional, remote, or hybrid classroom.

Supporting Student Voice with the Civic Action Project

n the next few months, the Constitutional Rights Foundation is hosting a free series of student and teacher webinars to support the Civic Action Project (CAP). CAP is designed to help students understand the connections between addressing real problems, policy, and civic engagement. Civics educators in Illinois will find CAP helpful in meeting the service learning requirement in middle and high school course requirements. 

The first webinar for teachers will occur on February 3, 2021, at 6 p.m.CT. During the webinar, participants will learn three approaches to teaching the CAP live, remotely, or in face-to-face classrooms. Find out more and register at this link.

Apply for Street Law’s Supreme Court Summer Institute

Applications are now open for educators to apply to be part of the Street Law Supreme Court Summer Institute. This teacher professional development institute brings a select group of high school social studies teachers to Washington, DC, for an immersive six days of educational activities related to teaching about the U.S. Supreme Court. The Institute is co-sponsored by the Supreme Court Historical Society.

The application period for the 2021 Supreme Court Summer Institute opened on October 5, 2020. The deadline is March 15, 2021. If you have any questions, please contact Cathy Ruffing, Senior Director, Teacher Professional Development Programs & Curriculum, at

We the Students Essay Contest from the Bill of Rights Institute

Students are invited to participate in the Bill of Rights Institute (BRI) annual We the Students essay contest. This year’s prompt is, What is the relationship between Equality and Justice? Student prizes range from $500 to 7,500.

Students in grades 8-12 are invited to explore this question in an essay, written with 500–-800 words, and goes “beyond dictionary definitions” and expresses understanding and reasoning about the connection between these two principles. This reasoning involves a combination of observation, experience, and some pretty big ideas.

Essays are due on or before April 15th, 2021. For more details, visit the BRI Contest website.

Nurture Community and Connection with Remote Book Clubs

Remote book clubs can help students feel a sense of control during times of uncertainty, build reading into their daily routines, and make meaningful connections with one another through an exploration of literature. The Facing History and Ourselves Remote Book Clubs: Nurturing Community and Connection is a freely downloadable guide that includes resources to help educators launch student-centered remote book clubs. It includes tips for identifying interesting books and getting them to students, teacher-planning checklists, and student-facing handouts that support discussion and engagement. Check it out today!

Sharpen Your Skills at NewsLitCamp

Our Civic Learning Partners at the News Literacy Project (NLP) are hosting a free virtual NewsLit Camp on February 5th, 2021 with Block Club Chicago, Better Government Association, Chicago Defender, ProPublica Illinois, and the Rockford Register Star.

NewsLitCamp is a unique opportunity for middle and high school educators and librarians to connect with journalists in their local newsroom and hone their ability to teach students how to sort fact from fiction. You can listen to educators and journalists who have participated in NewsLitCamp in this engaging and brief video.

So, how does NewsLitCamp stand out?

  • NLP asks for your input to make sure they address topics that are most relevant (register now to put in your two cents!).
  • NLP focuses on news literacy education and offers sessions led by reporters and editors, including examining how journalism works, discussing news media bias, and even learning digital forensics.
  • NLP provides participants with a unique opportunity to connect directly with journalists and learn more about how to help students navigate our increasingly complex information landscape.

Keep your school year exciting. Register now!


Lead4Change Student Leadership Program gives students purpose and connection in any learning environment. The free program includes a series of lessons leading to a service project in the community and a social studies integration guide. With lessons accessed through print, editable PDFs, and Google Classroom, the resources are a great fit for in-person, hybrid, or virtual learning. Plus, Lead4Change provides ideas for service projects respecting physical distancing.

Register for FREE access to the resources. Upon registration, a Welcome Kit will be mailed and a member of the Lead4Change outreach team will offer support to advisors delivering Lead4Change in any teaching environment. Please direct questions or needs to

Every Teacher is a Civics Teacher- Civics Across the Curriculum Series

The Democracy Schools Network is hosting a webinar series centered on the various elements of Democracy Schools. This series's theme is “Every Teacher is a Civics Teacher: Best Practices for Civic Learning and Organizational Supports.” Sessions will occur from 4-5 p.m. on the first and third Thursdays of the month until April 2021.  

Educators, administrators, and students are welcome to attend.  Registration information is available on the Professional Development calendar.

ISU Hosts Teacher Con 21- Do You Read Me?

Registration is open for Teacher Con2021, a virtual history, and social sciences symposium. This collaboration is between the Regional Office of Education 17, Illinois State University Department of History, and McLean County Museum of History. The symposium will take place on February 4-5 with a keynote address by Dr. Gholdy Muhammad. Visit the Regional Office of Education #17 for more information.

Civics for ALL:  Resources for Differentiation

All teachers are civic teachers. The way we engage student voices, the norms we employ in our classroom, the content we select in our curriculum, and the way we support rigorous learning for ALL students send messages about power, representation, and equity to our students. While several civic learning partners like iCivics and My Casemaker provide supports for a variety of learners, we asked our Illinois Civics Instructional Coaches some of the tools they use to differentiate for students in their classroom.  Here are some of their ideas:

Alia Bluemlein:  One of the things I really love to use, particularly in this unique learning environment, are technology tools that allow me to reiterate instructions and “talk” to students, even when they aren’t in class. I have found using Screencastify as a Google “Add-On” to read through a document and model my wonderings aloud is great (and reteach information from SlideShows, infographics, etc.), as well as using to give explicit instructions on asynchronous days. Another tool that has been helpful in facilitating discussions is Google Meets (even if you primarily rely on Zoom) as these will record the discussions to watch/access later on. Region: Boone, Northern Cook, Lake, McHenry, & Winnebago Counties  

Tracy Freeman: I have used MOTE as a free voice messaging system to leave comments (to connect examples from class). I also use Screencastify to read through documents if needed. We are blessed to have an account at Learning Ally which has many books pre-loaded and we also have “Snap and Read” which allows them to do a screenshot and it will be read to them. The easiest thing to do is pre-read for vocabulary and provide some context prior to the assignment. Students are asked to highlight vocabulary that is difficult so we can discuss those words before going over the assignment. Region: Champaign, DeWitt, Ford, Livingston, Logan, Macon, McLean, Piatt & Vermillion Counties

Corie Yow- Rewordify is a free online tool to help differentiate and simplify a complex text. You can enter a sentence, passage, entire chapters, or websites to get an easier version.  It also highlights the changes, so students can see and hear the original words to help boost vocabulary. NewsELA is an online resource to find articles on various topics. You can increase or decrease the Lexile level, so your students can read the same article but differentiated to meet their needs. You can have the text read aloud, and you can even get articles in Spanish. You can assign articles to classes paired with other platforms such as Clever, Canvas, or Google Classroom. Region: Bond, Calhoun, Christian, Effingham, Fayette, Greene, Jersey, Macoupin, Madison, Menard, Montgomery & Sangamon 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 #CivicsInTheMiddle success stories. For weekly updates on emerging research on civics, "teachable moments," and related materials, follow our blog.

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