The Kids' Guide to the US Bill of Rights
This Fall’s Course for Middle School Students!
[CC Flickr image credit: Kathleen Tyler Conklin]
-Is a parent’s right to educate their child at home protected by the US Constitution?
-What does, “It’s a free country!” really mean?
-Do kids have rights in public schools? What are they?
What important information for children to consider! Understanding the Constitution and The Bill of Rights are among the most important documents for a US citizen to understand. The topic is replete with opportunities for self-reflection and debate.
Here is my plan to convey these complex ideas to children in an online classroom. The course will incorporate each of the following aspects to help students really engage with the information:
How I will make complicated concepts clear to children in an online course
Reading and conversation about the reading: The students will read from our text book, which is “The Kid’s Guide to the Bill of Rights” by Kathleen Krull.It is a simply wonderful book that is full of engaging and interesting conundrums about a kid’s rights. I will support their reading with a tool called VoiceThread.
VoiceThread allows a teacher to read a piece of text out loud, and then ask questions about the text. The students are able to think about the questions and respond to them immediately. Shy students can re-record their comments until they convey the idea that they want to share. I used VoiceThread quite a lot last year, and was continually impressed by the quality of the conversations that the students had. Here is an example of a conversation where I asked the students to pick out an important passage and tell us why they thought that it was important:
Children can respond to your questions, but they can also respond to each other’s comments. You can download the conversations and play them during class. The online classroom does not have to be teacher driven! Students can start conversations around the ideas that they think are important.
Interactive Online Classes: In the WizIQ online classroom, I will engage students in conversations about the topics. The WizIQ classroom is equipped with everything that I need to run an interactive, lively class. There are Breakout Rooms so that the students can talk in small groups about an idea. There is a Media Player so that I can share news stories and videos in the online classroom that tie the ideas in the Constitution with the lives of children today. For example, there is currently a big hullabaloo about a German family that is seeking asylum in the US because they want to homeschool, and the German government prohibits homeschooling.
There is a lot of information about why the US government should not grant them asylum and additional information about why they should. How I look forward to really understanding this case and discussing it with students!
The WizIQ classroom is equipped with 6 way audio and video voice streaming, a chat box, emoticons, and a myriad of ways for students to ask questions.
Weekly Essay with mentoring: During the online class, I will introduce the kids to the concepts of the 5 paragraph essay. I will use online tutorials to walk them through creating their first couple of essays. Here is an example of an essay map tutorial I created last year. They will get started on the essay during class and submit it to me by Wednesday of each week. I will then use Canvas to provide them with feedback on their draft. With Canvas, you can provide both voice feedback as well as written feedback. It is very much like sitting down next to a kid and talking to them about his writing, but it is even better, because you have created a permanent record of the conversation. The kid can refer back to it whenever he needs to. I use it to explain little bits of grammar or standard writing rules.
Online Quiz with immediate feedback: While I am not a fan of stressful testing, the weekly quiz does give students something to strive for. I use WizIQ’s online test maker to create simple fill-in-the-answer or multiple choice tests for my students. I give them a list of questions on Monday, and they take a quiz on Fridays. That way, I can review the results before class on Monday, and respond to any misunderstandings that have developed.
Online Education can be better than LIVE education for some children
[CC Flickr Image by OpenSource.com]
Students can easily watch entire lessons again: If there was something that a student didn’t understand in class, s/he can easily find it and review it. The videos shown in class can also easily be made available.
Students have time to think before they respond in VoiceThread. Shy students are more likely to speak up, when they know that they can review their words before they are made public. Quick-to-speak students will likewise be able to listen to themselves, and be more likely to realize that they are talking too much.
The parents of children(who are easily distracted) can be supported. Homeschooling necessitates attentive parents. A parent can easily participate in the class with a child who needs extra learning support.
Teaching Online is “Real Teaching”
Before I understood the array of tools available, I thought that online education would always be a pale imitation of actually being in a classroom. I now know that, with the right systems in place, real learning and intellectual growth can occur. I am so looking forward to helping young people understand real material from the online classroom.