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This past weekend, I had the distinct pleasure of attending the Florida Council of the Social Studies state conference. While there were a number of excellent sessions, I was excited to attend one of the last sessions, given on Sunday morning to a packed house. This session, brought to us from teachers at Randall Middle School, focused on how this school prepares students for the Civics EOC. The session was so good that I wanted to share with you how they approach this effort, as well as provide you with the oportunity to contact them. They have given me permission to offer both; we are all in this effort to create good citizens together, after all! Extensive description of an EOC boot camp model is provided after the break!

What is EOC Boot Camp?

‘EOC Boot Camp’, as they called it, is an effort to provide students with extra tutoring and remediation to better prepare them for that end of the year exam in Civics. It occurs throughout the month of April (with the dates determined through a PLC conversation), and it involves ALL social studies/civics teachers in the school. Naturally, the schedule is crafted to offer students a great number of opportunities for attendance and review. Sessions are held before and after school, during lunch, and, most intriguingly, on weekends. The weekend sessions are 150 minutes or so long, and generally involves 3 separate 50 minutes review opportunities, broken up by benchmark. Students can attend whichever one or ones that they wish, and they know in advance what will be covered when and where! Excitingly, the teachers who presented this session stated that they had over 150 students attending on the weekend!

Identifying the Problem

In order to identify areas of concern, the teachers use a district developed Diagnostic Assessment (crafted in part with the use of Florida Joint Center for Citizenship resources) to determine which benchmarks are most in need of review. The data analysis, as it should, occurs in a PLC meeting, where they also plan out the schedule for review. Ultimately, ten standards with the lowest overall scores on the diagnostic are selected, with the caveat that they want to address the needs of as many students as possible.

A Collaborative Effort

One of the key characteristics of good citizenship is the ability to collaborate with others to achieve the common good, and this review effort is an illustration of that! The teachers involved in the boot camp suggest engaging parents from the start, in a number of ways. Every parent receives a letter describing the boot camp, and the same details are shared in a mass email, in a newsletter home, and through the electronic gradebook. They also send home a permission slip, to ensure that parents are as aware as possible of this opportunity. Of course, administration must also buy in to the effort, and they are kept in the loop and chain as well.

What Happens in Boot Camp?

Generally speaking, a concerted effort is made to avoid simply teaching the same lessons again to the same students. The PLC selects additional lessons and activities to review and remediate the standards. This does not mean that everything is entirely new; rather, the teachers make sure that the students that they are working with have not previously engaged in the lesson that is being done. This requires some pre-planning on the part of the teacher team to ensure that students are properly dispersed and not seeing the same lesson twice. After all, it didn’t work the first time for the students, did it? This diversity of approaches includes prior lessons (especially from the FJCC), DBQs, RAFTs, Webquests, real world scenario activities, and speed vocab quizzes. These are all approaches that we might wish to take in our own classrooms all of time, but might be unable to because of time. These remediation opportunities really do give a teacher a chance to flex the old creative muscles!
Within the sessions, the teachers have an opportunity for far more one on one support with struggling students. It also allows for more small group interaction between teacher and student, and more effective and consistent peer to peer tutoring. This is, really, a model of care that is great to see, and ideal for civics education.

Opportunities Outside of the Boot Camp

Naturally, not all students are able to attend the boot camp sessions. So what do you do for them? The teachers at Randall have taken a number of approaches. Lessons and reminders are posted on bulletin outside the classroom. Extra copies are also kept in classroom file folders, and the same resources are shared online in an electronic grade book group created just for this purpose!
‘Bellwork question days’ are also used to help students review in class, reaching more students than might be possible through the boot camp. For this, questions are drawn from the Diagnostic assessment, and students write out the question by hand. They then write out the correct answer and, most importantly, explain why it is correct and why the other three are wrong!!!! I have to admit that that gives me a little thrill, because if students can explain why something is wrong, that means that they probably have a pretty good idea of concepts, processes, and models.

Giving Students What They Need

Ultimately, this Civics EOC boot camp really does give students what they need, where they need it. Kudos to the teachers at Randall for going above and beyond with this effort. If you want more information on logistics or just want simple advice, please contact the team at Randall:
Ashley Caldwell: ashley_caldwell@sdhc.k12.fl.us
Anthony Rivera: anthony_rivera@sdhc.k12.fl.us
Leslie Davis: leslie_davis@sdhc.k12.fl.us
Helen Anderson: helen_anderson@sdhc.k12.fl.us

Thanks to that team for a great and useful session, and for the work they do in preparing their students for both the EOC and for good citizenship!