Thursday, September 24, 2015

Losing the Bill of Rights::Gaining a Teachable Moment

Today, we did one of my FAVORITE U.S. Government lessons! With all of the issues in the Middle East, it turned into an even more  POWERFUL lesson than usual about what people do when their rights are being violated. 

If you teach Government, and if you teach 4th - 5th grade or middle school, you MUST show your students "Future Fright - Losing the Bill of Rights". It is a bit on the mature side due to some language I actually skip the interrogation section because it isn't terribly necessary to the story and there is a pretty heavy swear word. However, the response and respect, that this video provides kids for the Bill of Rights, and the other protections we have built into our government, is unmatched!! There is such a deep appreciation and reflection that is so mature for fifth grade students. The video follows a family who have been physicians, for 7 years, in another country. While they were gone, America was taken over by a dictator who did away with the Bill of Rights. You can find the video in sections, FOR FREE, either on Discovery Education or Youtube. Viewing Guide available HERE.
While watching the video, I have the students keep an eye out for Right violations important vocabulary word. I provide a laminated copy of the Bill of Rights as a reference, for each table. They then keep track of a minimum of 3 violations. We then share out afterward and discuss what rights were violated. I also have them self reflect and answer a short exit slip, at the end of the lesson. 

In the video, the family realize how "different" America has become and they decide they don't want to be there any more so they start planning their escape. This year, that led to a POWERFUL discussion, due to the recent news coverage on the Syrian refugees. An impromptu learning opportunity opened up and I pulled out this weeks TIME for Kids magazine where the FIRST article was about the refugees, why they were fleeing, who was taking them, how they are escaping, what America is doing to help. etc. 
It. Was. So. COOL! 
The kids have made so many connections with this! We are currently reading Number the Stars during our read aloud because I love all the connections there are between what the Nazi Regime did and what our Government protects us from. 
We added to our classroom "Brain" that President Collins, in the movie, is acting like Hitler and how the Bill of Rights protects us from violations which the Jewish people were subjected to.
 I also believe in having a constantly VISIBLE not just "available" world map in the classroom to encourage geography connections. 
There was totally a moment today where the whole class was crowded around the map figuring out where the refugees were coming from and where they were headed. Later, someone asked, "Why don't they just come to America" and without my input or direction, another student pointed on the map and explained, "Because, look how far they would have to travel in their little boats, it would be just too far!" I love that this kind of critical thinking is possible when students have an available resource in the classroom. 

Don't you just LOVE it when connections are so fluidly made through curriculum and student brains!?!
On. Educator. Cloud. Nine. 

Here are more Government Activities: 
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