Teacher Review for C-SPAN Classroom: Classroom Deliberations

Classroom Deliberations provides saves you time with great resource sets for you to teach controversial issues in your social studies class

Brian R.
Classroom teacher
East Orange Campus High School
East Orange, United States
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My Grades 10, 11, 12
My Subjects Social Studies
My Rating
Learning Scores
Engagement
Pedagogy
Support
My Students Liked It Yes
My Students Learned Yes
I Would Recommend It Yes
Setup Time 5-15 minutes
Great for Further application
Homework
Individual
Small group
Great with Advanced learners
How I Use It
Classroom Deliberations are great resource sets for helping your students dig into current, controversial issues in public policy. I often do this as a professional development workshop for social studies teachers as well as for my students. Generally speaking, I pick a topic, do a warm-up activity, watch the background videos, watch the pro/con videos, and then wrap up with a mock Congressional hearing.

There are a lot of topics on the website, and I usually try to pick one of the more recent ones for which the participants would have a diverse set of views. Once I pick a topic, I have my students either do an A/B writing activity or a Take a Stand activity. Either of those allow students to express their opinion about the issue when we get started and it engages them in thinking about the topic. The Take a Stand activity is fun, and it gets students moving around. I can't rely on my students to have access to technology at home, so we usually watch all of the videos together. We'll watch the background videos and pause after each one to go over what was said. Then, I break the students down into "Pro" and "Con" groups before we watch the "Pro" and "Con" videos together. This way they can know ahead of time what arguments they are trying to make and what information they'll need from the video. If I knew my students could watch the videos at home, I'd likely flip the classroom and have them watch the background videos for homework as well as the "Pro" and "Con" videos.

I love wrapping up with a Mock Congressional hearing. This requires students to take on roles of Representatives and witnesses testifying on the issue. It's fun and it taps into students' creative and competitive natures. But it also helps provide a simulation of the democratic process and helps students envision and experience what Congressional hearings are actually like. This part can be fun, but in larger classes the challenge can be ensuring that everyone has a way to participate - either as a committee member, a witness, or a reporter sitting in the audience.

When I do this as a professional development workshop, the teachers have an exceptionally great time with the mock Congressional hearing. I think they really enjoy the participatory aspect of it. When I do this in my social studies class with my students, the challenge is making sure they understand the material. I spend more time on the vocabulary and on the background information with my students to make sure that they are actually prepared to watch and understand the videos. Sometimes, I also find that specific guiding questions for the videos help my students key in on a particular video.
My Take
Overall, I love the website and the resources provided. They are structured in such a way that you can take a resource set and use it with your students without doing any additional prep work to find video clips, background readings, etc. This type of lesson is so important for creating opportunities for deep learning, but they can take a massive amount of time to research and put together properly. The Classroom Deliberations website takes all of that time out of the process and let's me focus on actually facilitating the learning experience for my students.

The website has been around for a while so some of the issues have become a bit dated, but I solve this issue by focusing on the most recent issues - which will feature the most current video clips and policy issues. The great thing is that the website is constantly updated with at least half a dozen new issues every school year, so while some content may go stale there is no shortage of relevant content available.