It’s been awhile since I’ve visited the iCivics site. You can see my last post about it here (2012!). The site, founded by Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, offers interactives, games, and lesson plans for learning about civics. And it’s all free!
There is a lot of curriculum available on the site, and teachers can log in and add students to a class, giving them assignments that the teachers can then monitor. One of the tools that looks really great for 5th graders and up is the Drafting Board tool. This is a robust, thought-provoking interactive that leads students through steps that result in crafting a persuasive essay. I’ve embedded the iCivics introductory video to Drafting Board below. This PDF thoroughly explains how to use the tool.
There are several things that appeal to me about Drafting Board. It scaffolds the process of writing a persuasive essay based on evidence very well. The teacher has the capability of differentiating the assignment by choosing different “challenge levels” for students. Though there is a lot of reading involved, all of the passages have accompanying audio for students who need that support. These features make this a great UDL resource.
One of the lessons is about whether or not 16-year-olds should be given the right to vote – a topic that is frequently brought up by my students. (Actually, they think “all kids” should have the right to vote.) Another one that would tie in very well with my 5th grade unit on The Giver is the question of whether or not students should be required to do volunteer work in order to graduate.
Even if you don’t have access to 1-to-1 devices for your students, Drafting Board would be a valuable whole-class lesson, or even a center for groups of students, inviting an educated discourse about controversial topics.