Tips for teachers using
Fasttrack Civics
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More tips for teachers using Fasttrack Civics
  If you are using the binder / site license option, start with # 1.
If you purchased the printed paperbound workbooks, skip to # 3.

1.  Job One: Help students get organized as school begins!

   Students are naturally excited as the year begins, so tap that enthusiasm and show them that staying organized will help them succeed in school and in life.  The practice they get keeping their Civics class materials neatly organized builds this vital skill every day. 

   Download and make copies of the supply list handout (click here for PDF file) to show students how to set up their binders with dividers and tabs.
  Tell students that they can make their own dividers and tabs from construction paper, or buy ready-made dividers.

   The handout pages for each new unit of Fasttrack Civics will go in the New section.  After each unit is completed,
it should be moved to the Old section. 

   Homework, project papers, and other assignments will go in the Other section.  Some lined notebook paper should go in the Paper section.

2.  Get the unit packet pages ready to go!

   Copy and hole punch the pages for the first unit from your binder of master pages, and set them out for students to pick up assembly line style.  Have them put the pages in the New section.  Use pastel colored paper, if possible, for each unit's title page and (on the back) the list of the unit's pages.  That will help indicate the starting page of each unit, with its focus questions and vocabulary list.  The page list has a space where students can jot down any related textbook pages you want them to read.  

Remember, you must have a current school-wide
site license to copy any
pages from Fasttrack Civics.
Please contact us if you need to renew or
check the status of your school's site license.

3.  Begin by linking to what students already know.

   The title page of each unit has several focus questions you should read aloud as you introduce that section.  See if students can offer at least partial answers for some of them.  Then, ask students to check off any words in the vocabulary list they already know something about.  These are good ways to activate prior knowledge, and interest students in what lies ahead.

4.  Use the Internet support site to get students interested and involved.

   The Internet support site has links to interesting sites and resources.  Work these into your teaching and classroom activities.  Use a variety of methods, such as direct instruction, individual work, projects, and group activities.

   Remind students to complete any maps by using the same colors as shown on the Internet site, and to shade land and water areas very lightly! 

5.  Use great DVD and YouTube resources.

   Start building your own collection of classroom video hits - there are some suggested sources on this web site.  Create a three ring binder with dividers organized by unit.  Each video you preview gets its own page (or pages for longer videos).  Jot down running notes of the content, with the timing of the various scenes from the start of the video.  Mark the best parts with a highlighter.  As that notebook grows it will improve your classroom year after year!

    Preview all videos for classroom use carefully, then pick the segments that will best meet your instructional objectives.  Shorter is often better than longer.  Don't show boring or confusing video clips at all.  If you show video clips longer than about eight or ten minutes, pause the playback at intervals to emphasize a point or ask a few questions to check for student understanding.

6.  Get your classroom Audio/Visual game on!

   Great videos won't impress students if the picture or sound quality is below par.  Don't project your videos on the classroom white board - it shows bad glare to the students near the center of the room, and won't show the video very well to anyone.  Use a pull down screen, and adjust for the largest clear / bright image possible. 
There is a link from the Home Page that will give you suggestions for setting the best screen resolution of your LCD projector.

   Sound matters just as much as the video image.  A small stereo amplifier and a set of speakers will lift the presentation from blah to WOW!  Those speakers in the LCD projector itself can't fill a classroom.  The little speaker sets meant for desktop computers at home are not much better.  You don't need to spend a lot - check with parents who might have an old amplifier or pair of speakers sitting in a closet, or get a deal at a local thrift store.  Here's a diagram for an LCD projector setup with lots of flexibility:

    You can download (in PDF format) and print the diagram above by clicking here.

7.  Begin each class with a "warm-up" activity.

   Have three to five review questions (fill in the blank or short answer) on the board or big screen that students can answer on paper quietly as they arrive in class.  This gives students a specific, every day routine that helps them get settled and focused, and it gives you time to take attendance.  Let them use their notebook binders to find the answers they don't know, and correct any answers as you go over the answers.  That way, every class starts with success, and with everyone tuned into the main points of the previous lesson.  Be sure to add a positive comment or two - "Great, it's good to see everyone today, and everyone is on board."

   It is also a good idea to end each class with either a written "exit ticket" or a few verbal questions, to reinforce key points before the bell.  Example: "Anyone in these two rows: What are two kinds of democracy that first started in ancient Greek and Roman societies?"  "Direct democracy and indirect democracy, which is also called representative government!"  "Great, exactly right!"

   Before dismissing students, be sure to end on a positive note: "I really appreciate that everyone was on time and attentive today," or "Good questions and comments today - I enjoyed it!  See you tomorrow!"

8.  Don't forget to have fun!

   No one is going to enjoy a Civics class without some excitement, suspense, and fun. 
Make time to work in activities, videos, projects, and current events news stories that students will still be talking about when they get home.

  Encourage short class presentations by students - perhaps one each week - on public issues.  You can keep presentations on controversial issues balanced by assigning students in pairs so both sides are presented.  Clip, copy, or save links to printed items or Internet pages that might build interest in particular units.  You can also create "web quests" to send students exploring some of the links on this web site or other good ones that you discover.  As time permits, share short news stories and videos you come across in print or online that shed light on human life as it is lived and experienced through individual, family, and community life.

   Below:  A classroom showing a 60 inch wide pull down screen and LCD projector arrangement.  This size works well for showing standard format (4:3 screen ratio) videos and web sites.  A 72 inch wide screen, however, will offer better visibility for videos with wide screen (16:9) format.

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   Copyright 2009, 2018 by David Burns.  All rights reserved.