Classroom Congress

Crafting and Creating their Bills

The idea:

This year I’m charged with teaching U.S.History. The schedule allows for 1/2 of a class period, the other half devoted to IRLA. In 2015, I created a Humanities block course for ELA/US History and believed I could draw from that for this year. And I’m not sure exactly why, but believe there are many reasons, that didn’t work.

Back to the curriculum design drawing board.

To the basics and critical information: voting and what Congress does, and does not do. Or won’t do.

Donating a total of $150 over three class periods, for $50 each, the students formed committees on which Bill they wanted to promote. A simple explanation of the contents of the Bills, and then I had the four corners trick.

Using this template: http://www.princetonmodelcongress.com/delegates-write-bill

and this shared Google Doc: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1qlITc_B27UZAM4ou6vbIdYqnMhgGcMxQ0YX6ltRO4ds/edit?usp=sharing

Messy Screenshot, but you get the idea

Once they created their shared Google Doc with each of the committee members, they began the process of crafting the WHEREAS/HEREBY and ENACTMENT CLAUSE statements. One area I wanted them to practice is the Comment on a Google Doc: for example, each committee member needed to insert a comment on the Bill. The comment could be what they contributed, what they agreed or disagreed to, what was changed, etc. The purpose was twofold: one, to build their skills with collaborating documents and more importantly, to see their ‘fingerprints’ on the work. I ended up with mixed results.*

Finally, they were read to present their bills to the Classroom Congress. Each committee stood up and stated their proposals. I presided as both Executive Branch and overseer and role-played the part: each student was called “Honorable” before their name, and address in formal voice protocols and procedures. Clarifying questions could be asked, but not open to debate. Motions were carried and votes were tallied:

Second Period, true to their altruistic nature, voted for Bill #3 to buy cases of Cup of Noodles and water any student in need could have. They learned a valuable lesson about coalitions: the more people were in the Bill 3 group, therefore won. Elections have consequences. If you want to effect change, you must get people on your side.

Third Period, also true to their nature, voted for the supplies, which infuriated the Snack Group. The Snack Group is comprised of competitive, intelligent girls from the class, and felt the supplies would be a waste of money and only serve a few. I may need to use my Veto power here. Not sure.

Fifth Period didn’t let me down either. Only one boy voted for his own Bill, (supplies) while everyone else voted against their self-interest and voted for snacks. I say self-interest because every student in the room recognized of all the classes, they throw, break, destroy and damage my supplies. There was one committee who didn’t want the money at all, that they didn’t “deserve” it. I told them if they wanted to make that case they could, and that turning in a blank paper wasn’t acceptable.

Fascinating.

On Monday, I’ll have them write a reflection, and then tell them I’m going to Veto all of them and they have to get a 2/3 majority vote to overturn the veto. JUST KIDDING.

But not about the reflection. Here is a Google doc link draft: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1BT3AH1cL6SnQ8xXBXLGzjDlJiALptUgPcpzntsX-pQ4/edit?usp=sharing

One thing I would normally do is create a rubric ahead of time to add to the daily instructions/targets. Any ideas or additions you have to this process, please share in the comments on this blog. This was a successful trial run of my first Classroom Congress and made the week go by fast and fun, and I snuck in a lot of informational text. It made this somewhat dry process engaging for all of us. Plus: SNACKS!

Resources:

https://lowenthal.house.gov/legislation/bill-to-law.htm

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