“History 419, Teaching Civics Literacy, is off to a great start here at UIC. We have 12 students enrolled in the course, including three licensed teachers. So far, we have tackled the concept of what we mean by Civics Literacy, and we’ve explored the standards and the Illinois Civics Mandate. After laying that foundation, we worked on some essential concepts in a series we referred to as “Auto Shop.” In these classes, we dug deep into how to teach Federalism, the Constitution, The Bill of Rights, the Court System, the branches of government, and separation of powers/checks and balances. We solidified our understanding of basic concepts, but also discussed how to teach these concepts in such a way that helped foster informed and resilient students who know how to be civically engaged and how to take effective action. We will return to Elections and the Law-making process, a class that was preempted by the Polar Vortex, after we embark on a few “Behind the Wheel” classes. These class sessions will apply basic concepts of government to such topics as Civil Discourse, Policy Making, and News Literacy. I am especially excited to host a greatest-hits array of guest speakers: Mary Ellen Daneels (who will lead us through methods of civil discourse), Jill Bass from Mikva Challenge, John Silva from the News Literacy Project, as well as Heather Van Benthuysen and Cristina Salgado from CPS. They will talk about Student Voice committees and the CPS Participate! curriculum. We are even going to have a game day, where we will simulate students playing “Politicraft: An Action Civics Card Game.” We will wrap up the course by exploring service-learning and global citizenship.

Throughout the course, we have tried to focus on our discussions on finding the “sweet spot” between students who are enthusiastic but uninformed about how to take effective action — and students who are mired in apathy and a lack of agency. In the sweet spot, students understand how the system works, how to use that knowledge to take effective action, and how to keep trying in the face of defeat.

Assessments for the course include weekly reading reflections, an interview of a civics teacher, a service-learning project proposal, two lesson plan outlines, and creating a personal web page for civics education. I would be happy to talk with you about how the course is going and to hear your great ideas for making improvements! “

The course syllabus is below – please feel free to use anything you’d like, courtesy of Julie Peters.