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Unit Overview

1. Introduction

2. Rights Scorecard

3. Amendment Comics

4. Separation of Powers

5. Vocabulary Assessment

6. Graphic Images

7. Search and Seizure

8. A Debate on Cruel and Unusual Punishment

9. Due Process

10. Project

 

 


Freedom in America and the War on Terror:
A three-part unit on Democracy and Liberty in the United States in 2007

Sam Garchik,
Teacher
COMPASS Alternative Learning Center, Marion, Iowa
Linn Mar School District


Essential Question:
Given our government’s laws, how can America prevent terrorism?

National Council for the Social Studies Thematic Strands
Individuals, Groups and Institutions
Power, Authority and Governance
Civic Ideals and Practices

Grade Level and Setting: 9 – 12, alterative government or current events class.

Class Periods Required: Up to 15 45-minute periods (depending on interest and prior knowledge). A school year at COMPASS consists of 4 quarters, each roughly 9 weeks. Each week at COMPASS contains 4 days of 4, 90-minute instructional blocks. The unit should last 2 COMPASS weeks in class, but you may adapt the lessons to fit your schedule as you wish. Also, at the COMPASS center, we give students 10-minute in-class breaks between instructional sessions, so that each class resembles 2 40-minute periods.

Purpose, Background and Context: On September 11, 2001, terrorists hijacked and crashed four planes in the United States. Nearly 3,000 Americans died that day as a result. Since then, the federal government has expanded its ability to fight terrorism by undergoing a massive reorganization, gathering increased amounts of domestic intelligence, and creating a global network of detention centers. Some critics have argued that these measures violate basic freedoms in the Bill of Rights, the first 10 amendments to the United States Constitution. In this unit, students will evaluate the adequacies and inadequacies of this government’s response to terrorism. By introducing students to the basic workings of the federal government by examining the government’s response to the attacks of 9/11, this unit offers a relevant, timely framework to teach the foundations of American Government. Also, this unit aims to create a real-world understanding of the Bill of Rights in action that alternative school students may apply in their everyday lives.

Objectives for Student Understandings:

  • Students should understand the structure of the United States Government as a function of the Constitution of the United States, and thereby see how political systems organize citizenry to main order and achieve social goals.
  • Students should understand what tools our government is using for the War on Terror, and how changing political realities lead to new ways of thinking about liberty.

Objectives for Student Skill Development: By the end of this unit, students should be able to read for understanding, evaluate primary and secondary documents using a variety of strategies, develop an increased vocabulary, learn to make choices based on reasoned arguments, translate facts that are read into other methods of information delivery, assess contrasting theories, generalize from given facts, predict and draw conclusions based on partial information, predict consequences of actions, and verify the value of evidence.

Materials, Resources and Readings: Notebooks, as well as pencils or pens, for each student should be provided, as they will be collected at the end of each lesson. In many cases, personal choice, teaching style, or student capabilities will do a more effective job of working through the below material, but the included worksheets should offer support if any of the material is unfamiliar. An overhead projector and a black/white board will be helpful, as well as access to a copy machine. Lastly, there is also a graphic novel adaptation of the 9/11 Report written by Sid Jacobson and Ernie Colon (ISBN 978-0809057382). It may help provide teachers and students with a more complete understanding of the attack and the War on Terror.

Challenges for Differentiation at the Alternative School Level: Programs of differentiated instruction in alternative schools present different challenges than curriculum design at traditional schools. From this writer’s perspective, alternative schools have smaller class sizes, and students that are often more intellectually homogenous than at a traditional school. To compensate, this unit uses small groups of 3 students or less to create knowledge. On the other hand, students at alternative schools have much more heterogeneous learning styles than those at traditional schools. Consequently, this lesson presents the principles of American Government, required of all students in Iowa High Schools, using a variety of instructional tools and methods.

Use of Bloom’s Taxonomic Structure: In 1956, Benjamin Bloom proposed a systematic way of looking at educational methods. In his theory, students build on skills as they learn more advanced ways of examining content. This unit uses Bloom’s framework to articulate successively complex lessons as the unit reveals more intricate understandings of the United States Government during the War on Terror.

Assessment: At an alternative school, there are higher rates of special education plans and higher rates of absenteeism. As a result, alternative school units require lessons that can be scaled up or down. Consequently, project based learning that focuses on grading work based on completion and attendance offers the best chance for student success. The rubric below, coupled with a flexible staff that can work with students to provide them with multiple opportunities for success, should allow every student to pass this unit. The entire unit will cover 150 points worth of in-class time. Each teacher uses a different grading system, but this offers a way to measure the work. Also, some of the lessons have pre-assessments built into them.


Table of Contents

The unit lesson is divided into three basic parts. Part 1 provides students with knowledge of the Constitution and the workings of government. Part 2 provides students with the context for our current government’s role in the War on Terror, and Part 3 asks students to use the tools of government to fight an improved War on Terror.

A Note on Grading: Each school and each teacher uses different grading systems in their classrooms. Due to absenteeism, it is rare for a student to attend for every single lesson, so I have found that a grading system based on attendance and participation is my preferred method when whole class discussions (Lesson 1, 2, 4, 6, 7, and 9) take place. On the other hand, it is important to assess students for their work when their work is the product of individuals (Lessons 3, 5, 8, and 10). You should tell students at the start of each lesson how they will be assessed, and, if you follow this model, I recommend telling them at the start of the unit that they will be graded primarily on contributions in small groups and class discussion. Those students who do not participate in discussion, but still complete their work, should, of course, receive credit for their work.

 

Lesson Number

Theme

Page

Points

Bloom

Differentiated

1

Introduction

4

5

Knowledge

N

2

Rights Scorecard

6

10

Comprehension

N

3

Amendment Comics

8

30

Application

Y

4

Separation of Powers

10

5

Analysis

N

5

Vocabulary Assessment

11

10

Synthesis

N

6

Graphic Images

12

5

Application

Y

7

Search and Seizure

13

5

Application

N

8

Torture

15

20

Analysis

N

9

Due Process

18

10

Evaluation

Y

10

Project

20

50

Synthesis

Y

Vocabulary for Understanding our Federal Government, the Bill of Rights, and the War on Terror

Lesson 1

Constitution: The system of fundamental law and principals that describes the nature, functions, and limits of a government or another instruction. In the U.S., it was formally adopted in 1787.

Bill of Rights: The first 10 amendments to the U.S. Constitution, added in 1791 to protect certain rights of citizens.


Lesson 2

Amendment: A change made to the Constitution. Requires 2/3rds majorities in both houses of Congress, as well as passing by a 2/3rds of state legislatures.

Due Process; The regular, public course of justice through our court system.


Lesson 3

Exclusionary Rule: A Supreme Court ruling stating that illegally obtained evidence, including that obtained through torture and illegal searches, cannot be used in court cases.

Habeas Corpus: A concept stating that defendants in criminal cases have a right to be charged with a crime and brought before a judge to stand trial for the crime.


Lesson 4

Legislative Branch: Passes laws to govern the U.S.  Contains the House and the Senate.

Judicial Review: The power of a court to strike down a law as being unconstitutional. This power is held in the Judicial Branch

Executive Branch: Contains the President and the agencies that carry out laws passed by Congress.

Veto: The power of a president to turn down a law passed by Congress. A law may still be passed if 2/3rds of the members of the House and 2/3rds of the Senate vote for it.


 

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