8th Grade Social Studies: Civics and Citizenship
This course explores the topics of civics and citizenship through the study of the history and the people of the United States of America, with an emphasis on the students’ own experiences and ideas about their world and the circumstances of others in our society. There following themes are of central importance to the course: Information Literacy, Governance, identity, diversity and technological change. The principal goal of this course is to connect specific concepts and issues in U.S. current and historical events to help students understand theeir role and importance to their society as a whole. They will be challenged to analyze how their personal choices can and do affect society, and as a result, they will be challenged to think about and apply that new understanding to what they each indivisually see as “good citizenship.” Some of the events and trends discussed can be as varied as: the topic of war, The writing and functions of the United States Constitution, issues on immigration, race in American relations, and the on-going industrial and technological revolution. In our exploration of the conflict and consensus that comes with citizenship, we will also focus on how various groups have struggled for positions in the complex fabric of the nation, and how group alliances and fractures have contributed to the relationship between the past, present and future of the country and perhaps the world. Class discussions and projects will require students to consider the relationship between the past, and the issues that dominate our national and international policies and news today. The class will use an array of primary and secondary resources, as well as film and literature.
A Sample of the texts and literature that have been used in the course consistently is given bellow:
Eyewitnesses and Others: Readings in American History, Volumes I and II, Holt, Rinehart and Winston (Take home handouts as needed).
Animal Farm, by George Orwell (take home reading).
Warriors Don’t Cry, by Melba Patillo Beals (take home reading).
Fast Food Nation, by Eric Schlosser (take home reading)
Nickel and Dimed, by Barbara Ehrenreich (Excerpts readings)
Waging a Living Documentary, by Roger Weisberg (in-class viewing)
Many other readings will also be used in part or whole to enhance different lessons or units. We will also use internet-based resources widely to keep up with information and events as they occur. We will use a variety of print and web based information to conduct research throughout the year.
Students will utilize the internet frequently. A significant amount of time, both: in and out of class, will be devoted to finding answers through research. Students will develop their skills by using one or more digital presentation programs. A variety of assessments and projects will be used throughout the year, including expository writing, argumentation, mind mapping, simulation and self-assessment. Students will also have the opportunity to assess the class on a regular basis through informal and formal periodic assessment.
II. Procedures and Policies
This course should give every student the opportunity to grow and benefit through enhanced knowledge of the subject matter. My goal is for students to be interested constantly in the subject for themselves and for their classmates. I want every student to do well, but “well” to me means that the student is interested in learning and actively participating by challenging him/herself to grow in his/her knowledge of American and world history and curent events. If the student is experiencing a problem with the class material or requirements, he/she should feel free to address it to me at any time.
1. A spiral (or other) notebook for class notes and homework assignments that will not be handed in. Using the laptop for taking notes is discouraged in this class as the only mode of note-taking, so taking notes manually should be practiced by students on a daily basis. Students are welcomed to talk to me about their prefered mode of note-taking, I am flexible in this respect.
2. A separate loose-leaf notebook/folder for homework assignments that will be handed in that might need to be written by hand in class.
3. A USB memory stick to save assignments from home or for having a way to save material worked on at school, or to bring assignments completed at home to print at school, etc.
4. A writing utensil (pen/pencil), and a highlighter.
5. A folder for collecting and organizing class handouts.
B. Homework/ Grading
1. Students will receive regular take-home assignments, which will require them to read, write, communicate with people, and to think and reflect. Since each student meets at different times suring the week, students should give careful and regular consideration to how they organize their time and work to meet those demands.
2. Doing homework is very important. Normally, homework is given one class and then discussed or treated in some way in the next class. If a student does not do the work on time, the group suffers. Absences aside, late or missed assignments will be penalized. In the case of an absence, students are still expected to get homework from my SS Internet page, look at Canvas or ask a friend in their block and arrange to complete it in a timely manner.
3. Students should not approach grades as goals, but instead should focus on the processes of learning and the progress of their own improvement. Students should seek to be pleased and fulfilled by the work they do. Assessment criteria will be made clear for each graded assignment with an explicit rubric that explains what criteria will be assessed. Students should carefully read and understand the parameters of each assignment. Evaluations will be done through a variety of assessment tools, such as in-class work, projects, presentations, homework, and tests. Points will weight all work. However, a letter grade for each individual assignment can always be calculated from the points given. For each day an assignment is late, ten percent will be subtracted up to fifty percent. Any assignment more than five days late will not be accepted.
4. Progress Reports will be given to students who are performing bellow a C grade for more than two weeks. I like to give students the chance to improve their performance in class by first approaching them and giiving them the responsibility to respond. If problems continue parents will be notified of the concerns and a plan will be arranged for improvement. If the student is performing at or above the C level grade, reports will be written during scheduled/expected times. If parents or students have any questions about how their child/themselves are performing, they are always welcomed to contact me directly through email.
D. Parent Communication
1. Eight grade students should receive a greater degree of autonomy as they are preparing for their transition into high school and adulthood. Students will be expected to keep up with class-work, and will be given more responsibility than they are perhaps used to from their past experiences. Students will receive their first progress report/grade at the quarter mark (except those times outline above in the “progress reports” section). If concerns arise prior to this date, I will be contacting individual parents, and parents are always welcomed to contact me.
2. Whenever concerns arise, or the student or parent has a question, please feel free to contact me at school between 8:15 – 4:00, or at home before 8:00pm. Email is also a good communication tool.
3. The website for my classes will be up and running from day one. Feel free to use it when wanting to review this course description, upcoming homework assignments, homework partners, or other pertinent information. Canvas will be used for class documents, internet discussions, projects and more, but for deadlines or due dates, students and parents should consult this website. Parents without internet or Canvas access may request these materials in their analog form.
E. Extra help/ Extra curriculum.
1. There is a movie and literature curriculum which functions outside of class, and which students may use to supplement and increase their learning opportunities. These film/book sharks will count as extra credit assignments, and will receive credit according to their level of completion.
2. If a student has a particular passion in a topic in social studies that is not covered in our class but has connections to our topics and would like to pursue an independent study for extra credit, s/he should talk to me and arrange for completion schedule and extra credit options.
3. Any student needing extra help is welcomed to make an appointment to see me outside of class. Please make an appointment to see me.