In eighth grade social studies, students explore the historical events that shaped the United States and study its government system. As these upper middle school students prepare to enter high school, they learn about the responsibilities they will face as U.S. citizens. Teachers can engage students in learning this information with interactive projects to expand their understanding and demonstrate their knowledge.
Civil War Journals
Help students develop the ability to empathize and understand the effect that the tumultuous Civil War had on American citizens by with the creation of Civil War journals. Add an air of authenticity by allowing students to create antique paper by crinkling it, soaking it in tea and singeing the edges.
Assign each student a point of view from which to imagine the Civil War. Create a list of potential points of view, including individuals from the North and the South and people of all ages. Write these points of view on slips of paper, and allow the students to draw one to determine their point of view.
As you move through your exploration of the Civil War, pause periodically to ask students to create an entry in their journals based on the events they have just learned. At the end of the unit, students may bind their journals with leather cording to create an authentic look.
Responsibilities as a Citizen List
While we benefit greatly from U.S. citizenship, there are responsibilities we must fulfill, including paying taxes and voting. Ask students to demonstrate their understanding of these responsibilities by creating a “Responsibilities as a Citizen” poster. Provide each student with a sheet of paper and instruct them to produce an attention-getting poster that clearly outlines the responsibilities that come with U.S. citizenship.
Display these student posters around the classroom, allowing all students to view the work of their peers, and reminding everyone what they will need to do to be a responsible U.S. citizen.
There are constant debates regarding modifications that could improve the U.S. system of government. After discussing how the government system works, allow students to think of ways the system could be improved. Divide students into groups, and charge them with developing a new government system. Tell students they can use our current government as a framework, or they can develop a whole new system.
Instruct each group to create a diagram that explains who would be in charge in their system and how this individual would be selected. Ask them to include information about how laws would be developed and put into place, as well as what would happen if a law were violated. As students finish their government re-invention project, ask them to create a flag to represent their governmental system.
Allow each group to present its new system to the class. After seeing all presentations, ask students to vote for the government they feel would be best to live under, and discuss why they feel that way.