Sometimes Big Questions don’t direct learning; they emerge from it. Lost in thought and feelings of despair over the latest tragedy in Florida, I decided to ditch my regularly scheduled government programming and opt instead to hold a congressional hearing simulation on gun control. My classroom will become the Senate Judiciary Committee considering a bill called the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act. This bill passed the House of Representatives in the fall and is slated for debate in the Senate this spring. In a nutshell, the bill says that any person from a state which has legalized concealed carry can travel into any state which has outlawed the practice. Essentially then, should this bill become law, a person’s right to concealed carry would have to be honored by all 50 states. Students assume the roles of actual Senate Judiciary Committee members who question other students who are playing the role of interest group representatives giving testimony on their positions for and against the bill. Continue reading
Here’s what I have so far…
Does our system of government succeed or fail in preventing the abuse of power?
Do interest groups frustrate or promote democratic ideals?
Is popular sovereignty a reality or an illusion?
Are the media and political elites a corrupt or wholesome influence on our system of government?
Do political parties improve or impair the ability of Congress and the executive branch to function according to the Framers intent?
Have the Court’s interpretation of the due process and equal protection clauses violated or honored the rule of law?
Is federalism an impediment to or a pathway towards effective public policy?
Here’s how I am using these…
- At the beginning of the year each student received a document with these seven questions
- As we move through the different units, we stop to integrate the content we are learning with one or more of these questions. This unit we are examining federalism and the role of the 14 Amendment, and so we are looking through questions 1, 6 and 7.
- At the end of the year students join together in small groups, select one of the questions, develop a thesis and present a argument using all of what they have learned in the course.
This is the very similar to the approach I used in US history.
If you want to learn how to make and use essential questions, check out this cartoon and sign up to get Think Alouds showing you how to do it.