Greetings from the FJCC! This short post today is intended to discuss a couple of ways that you can approach Locke and Montesquieu along the lines expected by Benchmark SS.7.C.1.1. (just don’t ask me to spell ‘Montesquieu’ without having to look it up every time!). 

One thing to note is that these are pretty much the only two names that you will find mentioned in the Florida civics benchmarks. At the same time however, remember that the limits of the benchmark, and thus the assessment, focus on the theories, NOT the histories, of these two men, and how they influenced the drafting of the Declaration and the Constitution.

If our work with teachers is to be believed (and of course anecdotes are not data!), this has been on of the more difficult benchmarks for them to cover, in part because research suggests that this may be the first exposure ever for many students to the idea of the social contract, natural law, and separation of powers. Indeed, as the linked article suggests, it may be their first exposure ever to social studies, history, and civics content of any kind (though we might hope otherwise!). With this in mind, the lesson plan developed by folks here at the FJCC attempts to provide both a strong content foundation and a pedagogical approach that can work effectively, emphasizing student engagement with the material. 

This post is not intended to walk you through the lesson at all;  rather, I want to suggest ways in which you might adapt the lesson for time or integrate elements of the lesson outcomes into your classroom. These suggestions should also be considered as in many cases applicable throughout the lessons that we offer. 

  1. This lesson, and many others, require students to create a visual representation of a specific term or concept. We know that visuals often help students learn difficult concepts much easier. while addressing the needs of different types of learners. We also know that in many classrooms at all grade levels, interactive word walls serve as a means of helping students grasp and recall difficult vocabulary. A suggestion that came up in a recent PD centered around this lesson involved having students ‘blow up’ their illustration of terms such as ‘social contract’, ‘natural law’, or ‘checks and balances’ into larger illustrations that can be posted on an ‘illustrated concept wall’ and interacted with throughout the year (as these terms will occur again and again!). Perhaps the class could select the one or two illustrations that best help them grasp the concepts, and those could be the ones left on the wall all year (while other students’ work is on the wall for the duration of a unit). 
  2. These concepts, and the content necessary to understand them, can be somewhat difficult to grasp. At the same time, perhaps you want to flip the classroom a little and have students do a lot of the groundwork at home. It was suggested that perhaps students could use the ‘kid-friendly’ readings available for this Benchmark at Escambia’s wonderful Civics site. To access the readings, simply click on each ‘Read More’ under the Overview section! 
  3. Another good alternative for this lesson is to split it in two (this would require work on the part of the students, as they would have to do some of the readings and classwork at home). Have one group of students address Locke’s theories and the other address Monte…Monta..Montesquieu’s theories, completing their section of the lesson. You could then use an adapted jigsaw model to have the students share and teach each other. 
  4. An option to have students share out ideas here might also involve using padlet rather than a traditional written response. This would be interactive, and allow the students to share their thoughts in ‘real time’ and give each other feedback on what they have learned. Padlet is free and open to all teachers, and pretty easy to use in the classroom. 

These are just some possible suggestions for adaptations to the lesson we have for this unit that could still allow you to teach the Benchmark with fidelity. How do YOU approach teaching Locke and Monty? 

In our next post, I will talk about some great video resources that can be used to teach, or at least introduce, the benchmarks!