It may seem daunting to imagine adopting a comprehensive semester-long curriculum like the Legislative Semester. Don’t despair! Although some schools have successfully implemented the entire program at once, it is also possible to adopt in phases, or to utilize only some elements of the program. For more information about each element of the course, see the Curriculum page.
Option 1: Classroom Deliberation
Best for individual teachers interested in a more interactive and experiential style of teaching, or schools which find the Legislative Semester appealing but would like to explore it first without committing to the full program.
The first part of every semester is devoted to the exploration of current, controversial public policy issues using classroom deliberation. The main goals are to provide opportunities for students to 1) explore current controversies and develop their own opinions on issues 2) provide frequent and authentic opportunities to articulate their ideas and support their opinions with evidence and reasons 3) express their ideas using civil discourse while listening to and respecting the varied opinions of others, and 4) learn about the foundations of American Government through the lens of live policy debates.
Parliamentary procedure is used to structure these discussions in the classroom. This method gives students authentic experience in using the formal rules that govern public bodies, and facilitates a controlled environment promoting equality of participation in the discussion of controversial issues. In the context of increasing polarization and vitriolic rhetoric, utilizing the formal structures of parliamentary procedure is even more useful for teachers who may be nervous brining up issues like immigration policy, abortion rights, or gun control.
Implementation: Using our Guide to Parliamentary Procedure (forthcoming Spring 2017) any individual teacher or group of teachers can utilize these strategies in their classroom.
Option 2: Classroom Deliberation, Bill Writing, and Committee Hearings
Best for individual teachers or teams of teachers interested in devoting a full quarter of their class to an authentic, experiential and student led curriculum. This is the next step for teachers who have experimented with Classroom Deliberation and would like to further involve students in experiencing the legislative process.
After devoting significant time exploring current controversial issues and becoming comfortable with the intricacies of parliamentary procedure, students identify a problem which concerns them and form small groups to research that issue with the goal of writing a bill. The bill writing process presents an opportunity for extensive research and authentic problem solving. Students also gain valuable experience collaborating with their peers, coming to a consensus on the content of the bill, and writing a position paper that lays out a concise argument for their policy position. For the culminating event, the students are divided into committees of 10-14 and spend a full day discussing, amending, and voting on the bills written by their classmates. Committees are chaired by students who use the skills they have developed through classroom deliberation to give each bill a fair hearing while offering a platform for equitable participation to all students .
Implementation: If you are an individual teacher wishing to pursue the Classroom Deliberation, Bill Writing and Committee Hearings, or if you are wishing to integrate multiple class sections for these experiences, please contact us to discuss your plans. We will be able to provide whatever level of support is necessary given your goals, ranging from access to free curriculum materials and instructions, to guided implementation at each step along the way.
Option 3: The Full Legislative Semester
Best for and individual or teams of teachers who have committed to a semester long legislative simulation, coordinating the events of the semester between all class sections.
In order to work towards the culminating experience of a full legislative session with multiple class sections of students, a few additional elements need to be interwoven into the curriculum. Early in the semester, after students explore issues and develop their own ideas and opinions, they will declare their party affiliation. This sets the stage for additional authenticity in the Committee Hearings and Full Session. After party declaration, students then elect their party leadership both within each classroom and for the full legislature. Leadership Elections provide a powerful opportunity for student engagement and allow interested students to take on larger roles within the simulation. Adding the elements of Party Declaration and Leadership Elections will allow your school to fully enact the legislative process from start to finish, by creating a fully functioning legislature complete with a Speaker of the House, and leadership of the majority and minority parties. Students then use the now familiar structures of parliamentary procedure to independently conduct the Full Session from start to finish.
Implementation: In order to manage the coordination and logistics of bringing together multiple class sections for common events and experiences, please contact us to discuss your particular school context. We are happy to work with schools who would like to adopt the entire curriculum at one time, or who are interested in phasing in the full simulation after adopting individual elements. Some consultation and training will be required to successfully integrate all of the events of the semester into a cohesive and seamless experience for your students and your teaching team.