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Term IV Rationale

Centrality to Disciplines
The topic I chose for this unit allows students to engage with Social
Studies content while still meeting the criteria for certain literacy
standards. This is purposeful in the intent that hopefully my students
will learn how being a literate individual and having knowledge of our
laws and government are concomitant for being a democratic
participant in our growing democracy. The Literacy learning standards
for my unit are as listed below.
Describe how a text presents information (e.g., sequentially,
comparatively, causally).
Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and
secondary sources.
Identify key steps in a text's description of a process related to
history/social studies (e.g., how a bill becomes law, how interest rates
are raised or lowered).

In his article Patriotism and Accountability, Professor Norguera states,
To acquire this form of political literacy, our students must have an
understanding of American and world history that goes far beyond
regurgitating facts, dates and events, or passing state history exams. They
must also understand the complexity of politics in ways that exceed what is
typically made available to them in the mainstream media. In short, they
must learn, as Paulo Freire once admonished, to "read the world" so that
they might have a clearer understanding of the forces shaping their lives.
Being able to advocate for certain rights, and critique our system of
governance is a paramount skill that cannot be ascertained through factual
engagement. This unit will allow students to utilize the skills of textual
comparison and analysis, and research, to advocate for either change or
the status quo within a segment of our constitution, and witness how these
basic literacy skills intersect with political knowledge to create change.
Norguera states that the onus of creating such a politically conscious
populous is largely on educators.

It is also important to remember that as educators a great responsibility

has been invested in us to impart knowledge that will prepare our students
to become citizens in this democracy. This is not a responsibility that can
be taken lightly.
(Pedro Antonio Norguero, Patriotism and Accountability:The Role of
Educators in the War On Terrorismby Pedro Noguera and Robby Cohen
New York, New YorkPublished in In Motion Magazine October 15, 2006)

Interests to Students
At The Philadelphia School, the 8th Grade has spent a significant
portion of this year learning about the United States Constitution. A lot
of the material that they have learned will soon culminate in a research
project that is due by the end of February. For this project students
have to research a controversial issue that could have potential
ramifications on our constitutional rights. Such issues for example are
gun control, immigration reform, and abortion. Since students have
spent a significant amount of time learning about how our
constitutional rights were created and protected, I felt that it would be
in their interest to learn how certain rights are upheld and changed at
the judicial level, and what the processes for both would look like.
Since The Philadelphia School is a project based learning school, I felt
that having students simulate a Supreme Court Case would help
provide them with better knowledge of the Judiciary rather than
knowledge about the Judiciary. Scardamalia makes this distinction very
From a pragmatic standpoint, a more useful distinction is between
knowledge about and knowledge of something. Knowledge about sky
diving, for instance, would consist of all the declarative knowledge you
can retrieve when prompted to state what you know about sky-diving.
Suck knowledge could be conveniently and adequately expressed in a
concept net. Knowledge of sky-diving however, implies in an ability to
do or to participate in the activity of sky diving. It consist of both
procedural knowledge and declarative knowledge that would be drawn
on when engaged in the activity of sky-diving. It entails only knowledge
that can be explicitly stated or demonstrated, but also implicit in
intuitive knowledge that is not manifested directly but must be
inferred. Knowledge of is activated when a need for it is encountered in
action. Where as knowledge about is approximately equivalent to
declarative knowledge, knowledge of is a much richer concept than
procedural knowledge. Knowledge about dominates traditional
educational practice.

(Page 9, Scardamalia, Knowledge building: Theory, pedagogy, and

Having students participate in a simulation will help them obtain a
richer learning experience by allowing them to draw on and
demonstrate their procedural and declarative knowledge of formal
debate. The knowledge in this exercise that can only be obtained
through demonstration will help students gain a better perspective on
how the Supreme Court can act as an agent of change.

Interests to Teacher
As a government major in college I learned about how laws and
systems of government are created and upheld, and how they can
conflict due to various circumstances. More importantly, I learned that
these obstacles that are concomitant with having laws and systems of
government are both perennial and inevitable. As a Government major
with a tract in International Relations, I recall my most meaningful
experience being a UN General Assembly simulation. In my
Introduction to International Relations course that winter, that
simulation was what provided me with what Scardamalia would refer to
as knowledge of how the UN makes decisions rather than knowledge
Supreme Court proceedings and verdicts is something that I am
not relatively familiar with, and would appreciate the opportunity to
learn more about. Having my students simulate a Supreme Court Trial
would help me as a teacher, and them as students, witness how
change can be made through our judiciary, and provide us both with
deeper knowledge of this process.

Accessibility to Students
Although most students have participated in a formal debate before,
they have not used certain debate skills in a court simulation. This unit
will provide them with an experience that places what was an abstract
exercise into a particular context. By requiring that students engage in
learning all the skills that I present to them, and having them
undertake one role that may utilize one or a certain number of skills,
students will be able to have a variety of hands on experiences that
will allow them to individually grasp something from the unit that they
themselves feel is meaningful. Since The Philadelphia School is a
project based learning school, the structure and performance
objectives of this unit are in a familiar context in which they learn.

Accessibility of Resources
As I stated earlier, the 8th Grade has spent most of this year learning
about the United States Constitution, much of which has been in
preparation for a research project that is due in the middle of March. As
a result of their research project, many students already have
resources that they are familiar with, and that provide them with
general information and texts on abortion and the Hyde amendment.
Even though this may not be the exact case for every student, all
students will have adequate research skills as a result of their research
project, and will be able to find the information and texts needed for
this unit. Most students have participated in a formal debate in
younger grades at The Philadelphia School, so the skills that I will be
presenting them with will not be entirely new. Through texts that
students have and will acquire during this unit, along with scaffolds
that I am providing them within my unit, they will learn how to apply
certain debate skills in a different context. Sipes statements in
Introducing The Categories of Response and the First Type of Analytical
Response, regarding performance directly speaks to this.
In this category, childrens responses indicate that they are entering
the world of the text in order to manipulate it or steer it towards their
own purposes.
(Page 86, Sipe, Introducing The Categories of Response and the First
Type of Analytical Response

Opportunities For Multiple Connections

Current events have made this unit particularly unique in the way that
multiple connections can be drawn to the units content. CNN stated,
Obama said Saturday he would nominate a successor "in due time,"
but Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell insisted the
next administration should make the appointment. "The American
people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme
Court Justice," the Kentucky Republican said. "Therefore, this vacancy
should not be filled until we have a new President."
The recent passing of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia could
potentially have monumental ramifications for the overall opinion of
the Supreme Court, and how the court might rule on major cases that
are soon to come. This issue has been a very frequent topic of

discussion in class as many of the issues that students have

researched for their papers may reach the Supreme Court some time
later this year. Students have begun to draw connections with the
importance of the political make up of the Supreme-Court in reference
to how certain issues will be decided upon, and what kind of changes
will ultimately follow in our country. However, regurgitating factual
information and reading news articles on this current event will only do
but so much to help expand on what they will learn in this unit.
The Supreme Court Simulation will push students to utilize multiple
intelligences so that they are better able to understand the
complexities of debate, and how Supreme Court decisions are upheld
or struck down. Gardner states,
In as much as nearly every cultural role requires several intelligences,
it becomes important to consider individuals as a collection of
aptitudes rather than as having a singular problem-solving faculty that
can be measured directly through pencil and paper tests. Even given a
relatively small number of intelligences, the diversity of human ability
is created through these profiles. In fact, it may be the total is greater
than the sum of the parts.
(Page 27, Gardner Chapter 2, A Rounded Version)

Works Cited
1. (Pedro Antonio Norguero, Patriotism and Accountability:The Role of
Educators in the War On Terrorismby Pedro Noguera and Robby Cohen
New York, New YorkPublished in In Motion Magazine October 15, 2006)
4. Gardner Chapter 2, A Rounded Version
5. Sipe, Introducing The Categories of Response and the First Type of
Analytical Response
6. Scardmalia, Scardamalia, M., & Bereiter, C. (2006). Knowledge
building: Theory, pedagogy, and technology. In K. Sawyer (Ed.),
Cambridge Handbook of the Learning Sciences (pp. 97-118). New York:
Cambridge University Press.