January 11, 2016 - Sara Holbrook

We the People! We the Poets! Writing in Social Studies

Signing of the Constitution

Signing of the Constitution

Let’s face it, studying the writing of the Constitution can be a real snooze fest. Don’t believe me? Turn to the closest kid and ask ‘em. Watch their eyelids droop and their heads begin to nod. Bunch of guys in powdered wigs and funny pants gathered around a table in paintings muted by time? Snore!

Michael and I love to play stump the poet, responding to teacher requests by coming up with engagement strategies to make lessons come alive through quick writes, so when eighth grade ELA/Social Studies teacher Libbie Royko told us of her lesson goals, we pulled this together for a grand experiment.

Libbie Royko

Libbie Royko

Teaming with Libbie, we introduced the sleepy subject through images that illustrated why and how the work of those dead guys impacted the lives of Americans over the years. We acknowledged that the constitution was certainly not perfect, it overlooked a whole lot of Americans. The magic of the document they conceived lies in the fact it is amendable.

We showed students four images:

  1. An oil painting of the Continental Congress. We imagined the sounds and the smells.
  2. A photo of a suffragette march from the early 20th Again we used our imaginations to awaken our senses.
  3. A collage of photos from a 1965 civil rights march. We chose photos with signs demanding voting rights.
  4. A collage of photos from 2012 and citizens marching against voter suppression.

Images are readily available on the internet. (sorry, we don’t have permission for use of these photos).

Students viewed the images and then partnered up to write refrain poems about the images, observing, discussing, synthesizing and then summarizing through refrain poems. If you want a step-by-step instructions for this lesson, the full lesson is available for purchase ($4, cheap!) here: http://www.outspokenlit.com/lessons-to-download/

Thank you Libbie and the eighth grade students of Eastlake Middle School. If you think of another application for this lesson, let us know and we will post your work on poems to share. We will be presenting at OCTELA with Libbie in February. Join us for more practical ideas.

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“Sara and Michael bring infectious energy and joy leavened with deep knowledge of best practices in literacy to their work with children and teachers.” Ellin Keene – Author of Mosaic of Thought and The Teacher You Want to Be
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