Teacher’s Center

Your community for active learning strategies

Last month, our Forum site lit up for a several days with discussion over the challenge of using INTERACT materials in a small classroom. Teacher’s Center member Michael Hutchison started the conversation with a query about using the Government Activators II unit entitled “Campaigns, Elections, and Political Parties” in his small class of ten students. The unit features seven different political parties with students working on campaign committees in each.

 

While a simple answer might be to reduce the number of political parties to a level that fits the class size, the responses from other members were much more creative. Bob Berndt from St. Louis, Missouri, said he occasionally has been able to combine classes for end-of-unit projects. When using the INTERACT simulation World, he had teams from two classes come together for the “war” and “peace” conferences. He also suggested trying a cross-curricular arrangement combining different subject areas, an example of which would be Black Gold, where students explore the geological and geographical characteristics of petroleum. This unit can be combined with government classes to look at environmental laws and regulations, or international studies classes examining geo-political issues.

 

Sarah Goldman Bohn of Baltimore, Maryland, also has small classes and wrote that she often modifies the materials by either limiting the number of groups or giving each student more responsibility. When using a Storypath unit on Colonial Boston, instead of creating “family groups,” Sarah has each student assume the role of one of the characters in the different families responding to the different issues as a representative of the family. While this limited the amount of interaction each family might have had, they still had group interactions because the community meets frequently as a whole. Other INTERACT units can be modified in similar fashion.

 

In other cases, modification can be a little more involved. Jennifer McMakin of San Diego, California, has been using Caravans and Empires with small groups of 15 to 20 students for some time. She found that limiting the numbers of groups in Caravans was an easy modification. However, Empires was little more challenging because it wasn’t clear how the roles would play out over the course of the simulation. She eliminated one group and had some students double-up on roles when necessary and made some alterations to the map.

 

What’s great about all these testimonials is the innovation teachers put forth in effectively adapting materials to fit their class, a true sign of differentiated instruction. We’d like to hear more from members who have questions, comments, or ideas about any level of instruction. A major advantage of the Teacher’s Center community is that there are so many ways to converse with other members and so many assets to tap into.

 

The Blog and the Forum pages are great resources for exchanging ideas. The Blog archive has articles that resonate today (everyone is invited to either comment or write their own). Example: “September, 2010 Blog – U.S. Immigration” talks about ways to cover the history of U.S. immigration and using Google Earth to track the immigration to the United States from all over the globe. The Forum page contains a wide range of subjects members have written about including using technology in the classroom (also covered in August and September, 2012 Blog articles) using INTERACT simulations with a single student, using INTERACT simulations with large classes and “The Best Darned Ideas for using INTERACT in your Classroom!!

 

We encourage all of you to continue your participation with Teacher’s Center and send us your thoughts and ideas.

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Comment by Michael Hutchison on April 16, 2013 at 5:42pm

Hi, Greg,

Believe it or not, my 10 student government class actually decreased by one since I made the original post back in February/March.  I liked Bob's suggestion about combining classes, but that might be more difficult for me since the classes aren't really joined in any way, and for them to do the elections activity would require a lot of work out of my supervision.  Not that I have to be there, but if I do have questions/issues that students need addressed, I'm right there to answer.

We had a similar situation with another Government Activators activity on Due Process.  In that activity there are 11 Supreme Court cases student groups do a "case study" over.  Unfortunately, my largest class is only 15 (if everyone is there).  What I did was to re-work the activity a bit, where I let students randomly select a case, and then do the case study.  I had them complete the case study form, but I also elected not to have the other students do the case study reviews.  I just streamlined the activity down a bit.

Depending on the number of students I have in any one Government class next year (we offer Government as a one semester course for seniors), I'll revisit what I did and adapt if I have larger classes.  I'm certainly not complaining about small class sizes, though!

I'll also plan on some similar adaptations for some of the Interact materials with my US History classes.  We are currently studying the Vietnam War, and I want to try the "Trial of Lieutenant William Calley" simulation.  We're getting close to the end of the school year, and I need things to keep students focused as we get closer to the end of May.

Michael H.

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