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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.

Processing the Results of #Election2020 

As the 2020 Election season draws to a close, there are several uncertainties in #CivicsInTheMiddle classrooms. Educators are preparing to be flexible and responsive in helping students process possible court challenges, emerging election returns, the workings of the Electoral College, and the policy impact election results may have on students’ daily lives. To support educators to #Teach2020 and beyond, is hosting several professional development opportunities to help classrooms navigate the information landscape and create a classroom environment that puts Maslow before Bloom in helping students digest the results.
For a complete listing of professional development opportunities from and our Civic Learning Partners, please visit our Professional Development Calendar regularly.

Veterans Day Resources

November 11th is Veterans Day. Many schools use this day to connect students with veterans in their community and honor those who served our nation. With the current pandemic, schools will have to rethink the traditional assemblies and guest speakers that typically marked the occasion.  

There are several resources to engage students in a meaningful observation of Veterans Day, embracing civic learning's proven practices for traditional, remote, or hybrid classrooms.  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.

The winter cohort will begin on January 5th. Educators can express their interest at the Guardians of Democracy homepage. Those who complete the 5-week online course will earn a Bronze Certified Guardian of Democracy Educator badge via Badgr and the University of Central Florida Center for Distributive Learning. Participants can earn 15 PD hours through the Illinois Civic Mission coalition for FREE. Graduate credit is available through the University of St. Francis for completing a three-course series.

Additional courses on Simulations of Democratic Processes and Taking Informed Action Through Service Learning will be offered later in the year. Register your interest at the Guardians of Democracy homepage.

Timely PD Opportunities from Facing History and Ourselves

Our Civic Learning Partners at Facing History and Ourselves have webinars this month that will be of interest to #CivicsInTheMiddle classrooms.
  • After the Election:  What is Next for US Democracy?- Join Facing History and Ourselves and the New York Times Learning Network for a lively community conversation featuring Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Nicholas Kristof, 300th Anniversary University Professor and former Harvard Law School dean Martha Minow, and legal scholar and Harvard Law School professor Randall Kennedy as they examine what’s next for US democracy, the role of teachers and education, and the future of youth civic participation.  November 12th, 6:00-7:00 p.m CT
  • LGBTQ Voices in History:  Meeting the Illinois 2020 Mandate- How can we center the often-omitted LGBTQ individuals' voices to build more equitable schools and communities? How does learning the history of marginalized groups foster empathy, connection, and social awareness among the young people in our classrooms? In this interactive workshop, participants will focus on Facing History and Ourselves’ core themes of identity and membership and share best practices for integrating students’ social, emotional, and academic development into the classroom curriculum. November 18th, 3:30-5:00 p.m. CT
  • Confronting Chicago’s History of Racial Bias:  A Conversation with Dr. Eve L. Ewing- Join a conversation with writer, sociologist, poet, and professor Dr. Eve L. Ewing where she will discuss the history explored in Facing History and Ourselves’ upcoming new unit, The Red Summer in Chicago which sheds light on a defining moment in Chicago’s history: a week-long episode of racial violence in 1919 that would claim the lives of thirty-eight people. The racial violence of 1919 and its legacies are essential to understanding the systemic racial injustice we witness today.

New Open Source Social Studies Journal ASSERT  

Annals of Social Studies Education Research for Teachers (ASSERT) is a new practitioner-focused research journal. Its mission is to provide practicing K-12 teachers access to key peer-reviewed insights from social studies research written by the researchers who conducted it. The ASSERT commitment is that every article published will remain free to all, in perpetuity. 

The inaugural issue of ASSERT is focused on the civic learning practice of Teaching Controversial Issues.  Contributions include: Got PD? Webinar Archive  

The challenge of teaching during a pandemic has caused many of our normal professional practices to take a back-burner. Workshops around anti-racism, the new middle school civics course requirement, current and societal issues can be hard to schedule in an already crowded school day.

To support teachers with timely PD, created a Webinar Archive of our 2020 offerings to date that can be used by individuals and PLCs to support professional growth. Each webinar is approximately one hour and is linked to a blog that shares classroom resources around the webinar topic.

New webinars are added to the archive weekly. For a complete listing of professional development opportunities from and our Civic Learning Partners, please visit our Professional Development Calendar regularly.

ABA Launches New Initiative to Help Classrooms Follow SCOTUS  

To help teachers follow the evolving court docket, identify essential questions that reflect current and societal issues and topics for moot court simulations, The American Bar Association Division for Public Education is joining with UIC Professor of Law Steven D. Schwinn (@sschwinn) to provide accessible insights into the Supreme Court — from the impact of the election to the cases before the Justices and the drama at oral argument. Classrooms can join these conversations on the ABA Public Education's Twitter for streaming videos (@abapubliced) or visit the ABA Division for Public Education’s YouTube channel. Each installment is less than 30 minutes in length. Current offerings include: For those looking to take a deeper dive into election-related issues before the court, Dr. Schwinn recommends the following: Ideas for Responding to Student Trauma Compounded by COVID-19

The COVID-19 crisis is compounding traumatic experiences for many students, say researchers with the Appalachia Regional Educational Laboratory (REL AP), part of the Institute for Educational Sciences. To help schools address a likely rise in complex trauma cases in students, REL AP worked with health and education leaders to develop a free detailed handout of common trauma symptoms and best practices for supporting students, with adaptations for virtual learning settings. The handout and other REL AP resources addressing student trauma are available for free on the REL AP website.

EIU Teaching Social Studies in Historic Times Conference
Eastern Illinois University will host its annual fall social studies teachers conference on Friday, November 6. Co-sponsored by Illinois Civics, this year’s conference will be free and is a great opportunity for teachers and pre-service teachers alike. 

This year’s theme—Teaching in Historic Times—reflects many of the happenings of the past year, as we awaited election 2020 and heard much about voting, elections, and democracy; as teachers and students have grappled with a global pandemic and accompanying shifts to remote learning; and as we witnessed protests for racial justice across the country. This year’s conference aims to bring us all together for a day of conversation about teaching in historic times, equipping teachers and preservice teachers with tools to help students reckon with the modern historical moment and tackle many other social studies topics—face to face or remotely. 

All sessions will be held on Zoom, and attendees register for each session, meaning you can attend just one session or the full day. Teachers may earn up to six CPDH credits for attending the conference--and even view conference presentations on-demand if live attendance is not possible.  For more information--a full program, registration forms, and Zoom session links--go to the Conference Website.

Engaging Student Voice with the Question Formulation Technique
One of our favorite #CivicsInTheMiddle strategies to engage student voice in creating, revising, and using questions to frame current and societal issue discussions is the Question Formulation Technique (QFT) from the Right Question Institute (RQI). To support teachers in a range of classroom situations, the RQI has created resources to iterate the QFT in remote or hybrid classrooms.  To read more about how the QFT has been used to support the implementation of the Illinois Civics Course requirements and K-12 Social Science standards, read this blog from RQI.

Strategies to Support Current and Societal Issue Discussion in an Era of Polarization

Processing the elections' results and facilitating discussions of current and societal issues per the Illinois civics course requirements in an era of polarization can be daunting. ALL teachers are Civics teachers. We all send messages to students about power, equity, and justice through our classroom practices, how we engage students’ voices, and the content we curate. We asked our Illinois Civics Instructional Coaches to share resources they use to engage students in dialogue around essential questions that face our communities. Here are their recommendations.

Alia Bluemlein:  I love using the “looks like, sounds like, feels like” stems before engaging in a current and societal issues discussion. This can be done with a “jot thought” in small groups or as a whole class. I often find that the “feels like” can be easy to overlook but is crucial and sets the students up for success when asking them to think metacognitively and reflectively after a discussion. Region: Boone, Northern Cook, Lake, McHenry,  & Winnebago Counties  

Candace Fikis: Use sentence starters to help students develop the sentences to discuss, agree, disagree, and even question one another in a civil manner. Region: Southern Cook, Grundy, Iroquois, Kankakee, Kendall & Will Counties

Tracy Freeman: I believe during a remote time, you have to have an established set of ground rules for your class. The students need to create them and agree with them. We used Teaching Tolerance FRAME. I also model sentence starters and use early on to generate proper dialogue.  Region: Champaign, DeWitt, Ford, Livingston, Logan, Macon, McLean, Piatt & Vermillion Counties  

Bonnie Laughlin-Schultz: I think setting the stage and creating a classroom culture of respect is essential. Facing History and Ourselves has great resources on contracting with students - I have used their strategy in traditional and virtual classrooms and found student-generated ideas about what good and respectful discussion looks like to be very helpful. The #5 in their directions, having students reflect on potential scenarios, I think it is a great way to be proactive about the difficulties of engaging in such discussions in polarized times.       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:
Maybe try to approach a controversial topic through a new lens using poetry. This can allow the students to read someone else’s take on a controversial event without igniting political parties. Students can also be encouraged to express their views via poetry. Using primary sources, students are encouraged to re-envision a New National Anthem. This is a way for students to present views in a creative expression that opens communication with classmates; and allows for an “author discussion” in class. If you aren’t comfortable teaching poetry, is full of lesson plans about many controversial topics. Region: Carroll, Jo Daviess, Lee, Ogle, Rock Island, Stephenson & Whiteside Counties  

Corie Yow: We use accountable talk stems and silent signals to promote civil discourse.  The silent signals are from Edutopia; however, my school has slight variations for some signals. 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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