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|May 21 is the anniversary of the first presidential convention, begun in Baltimore by the Democrats on this date in 1832, providing a teachable moment for the discussion of American presidential conventions, campaigns and elections.|
|U.S. History, American Presidential Conventions, the American Presidency, Politics, Campaigns and Elections, Leadership, Historic Firsts|
The K-12 TLC Guide to American Presidential Conventions
The K-12 TLC Guide to the American Presidency<
The K-12 TLC Guide to Politics, Campaigns and Elections
The K-12 TLC Guide to Leadership
The K-12 TLC Guide to Historic Firsts
1. Focus on the first presidential convention.
2. Focus on the history of presidential conventions.
3. Focus on the function of the presidential convention.
1. The basics:
2. How have presidential conventions changed over time?
3. What is the agenda of a presidential convention? What business is conducted?
4. How are host cities determined for presidential conventions?
1. Direct students to the General Resources Section of the K-12 TLC Guide to American Presidential Conventions and have them research the function of presidential conventions. Indicate to them that, once they have been given adequate time to complete their research, you will bring them together for a symposium on The Function of American Presidential Conventions and each student will expected to contribute to your discussions of issues such as:
2. Assign each student a different convention that you consider to be of particular interest, and have the students use the K-12 TLC Guide to Presidential Conventions as a starting point for their research. When the research is complete, bring the students together for a symposium on The History of Presidential Conventions, with each student contributing "intelligence" collected from their research.
Suggested conventions to include in your students' research:
Democratic (1832, 1844, 1852, 1856, 1860, 1864, 1872, 1884, 1892, 1896, 1900, 1908, 1920, 1944, 1948, 1960, 1968)
Republican (1856, 1860, 1864, 1868, 1884, 1900, 1904, 1912, 1920, 1932, 1948, 1952, 1980)
Topics for discussion:
Conclude the symposium by having each student make a list of the 5 presidential conventions they consider to be of greatest importance to American history. Collect the lists, and combine them to make a master list. Make a poster headed: American Presidential Conventions and list in rank order below the heading the 5 conventions most commonly mentioned on the student lists. Display this poster in a prominent location within your classroom.
b. When possible, Teachable Moments break the information to be learned into small manageable chunks, so that each student or student/group can research a single chunk of knowledge with the responsibility of bringing that knowledge back to the class and sharing it with their classmates.
c. Rather than focusing on the teacher as an information provider, Teachable Moments provide opportunities for teachers to assist their students in the acquisition of information and the sharing, assessing and assembling of information into a coherent body of knowledge that is orderly and understandable.
d. Remember, your goal is to help your students be successful. You want to constantly challenge them, but you want them to rise to each challenge and be successful. Work with the students, not against them. Before starting each Teachable Moment, tell students exactly what they need to know and exactly what you expect of them. The objective is to make the students look good by showing them the way to success, and helping them achieve success.
The introduction is also a good time to allow students to select their topics for research. Research topics can be assigned, but students will take greater ownership in their topics if allowed to select. A number of different methods can be used, but, for each, the teacher will need to have prepared ahead of time a list of available topics. For example, students can:
2. Select topics from the list in an order determined by a blind lottery of the students.
3. Select topics from the list in a rotating order week by week (by seating assignment, alphabetical, an initial lottery).
Development of the proper skills required to effectively use their research tools is critical to student success. Obviously, students who do not possess the skills to conduct the research for which they are being held responsible are doomed to failure. It is the teacher's responsibility to make sure that the students acquire the research skills they need, and to assist the students in maintaining and refining these skills.
The best exercises available for research skill development are the 5-Minute Quests provided with each entry to the K-12 TLC Daily Almanac. As an example, Click Here to see the 5-minute Quest for today's Daily Almanac. The Quests are provided at three different levels to accommodate varying student abilities, and the use of these quests each school day will go a long way toward building critical student research skills.
It is suggested that use of the 5-minute Quests begin as a teacher-led class exercise for the first few days to familiarize the students with the process and skills, and then make the 5-minute Quests a routine out-of-class exercise for which students are to accept responsibility. For example, the 5-minute Quests are short fun exercises that students and parents can enjoy doing together from home. It is also ideal to have a computer in the school library dedicated to the just the Daily Almanac and the 5-minute Quests, so that students can use the Quests before and after school, during lunch and/or during their scheduled library periods.
The Socratic Symposium often can be most effective when every student/student group comes to the symposium with unique information to contribute. If each student/student group has been given the task of only researching a single "chunk" of the total information to be covered by the symposium, then each student/group will come to the symposium with a narrow perspective that is uniquely their own. This creates a learning environment in which each student becomes dependent upon their classmates for the rest of the information, and establishes among the students a collegial sense with each of the students contributing information that is essential to the group. This gives each student a position of importance within the class, and provides an excellent basis for lively discussions and interactions, as students learn from students with the teacher guiding the process from the side.
The role of the teacher is that of Socrates, asking probing and leading questions, maintaining an orderly exchange of information, and making sure that students allocate their time wisely so that the entire base of knowledge is covered. The teacher needs to maintain control, but should do so by saying as little as possible. Students need to talk in order for the exchange of knowledge to take place, and it is the teacher's responsibility to make sure every student is engaged as an active contributor in the exchange.
Using this approach, students will occasionally come up with information that is news to you as well. These are moments to savor. Don't be threatened by them or shy away from them. Challenge the students to extend your knowledge as well as theirs. Don't hesitate to admit that their information is new to you, but, as any good learner should, question their information to make sure they understand it, that it is factual and that it comes from a reliable source. Is the information factual and supported by reliable resources, or is it conjecture (perhaps an urban legend) that is just being propagated by the source and now the student? You don't want to embarrass or deter students who bring "new" facts to class, but you do want them to know that their knowledge will be challenged and that they need to have their facts straight when they arrive. If everything checks out, compliment the student(s) responsible, and encourage them and their classmates to "stump the teacher" whenever they can. You will be amazed how much smarter you will become using this approach over the years!
Suggested Concluding Steps:
1. The Five Best List:
a. When appropriate, have each student make their own list of the "5 best" from the list of items. Students should do this without discussion with other students. Students are not held responsible for their selections, so it is a non-threatening exercise, yet it forces them to think critically on their own and gives them a voice in the final selection.
b. Collect the student lists and use them as ballots to create a class list for the rank order. Count the ballots as a class without identifying which ballots belong to which students. This exercise will allow each student to see how their choices compare to those of their classmates.
c. List in rank-order the five items which received the most votes, and ask for comments from the students. Do they agree with the final order of the top five? Do they agree these are indeed the top five? Are there other items they feel should have been included on the top five? Why do they think these were left off?
d. For better or worse, the top five now comprise your class Hall of Fame for this topic. It is suggested that you use a piece of poster board and a marking pen to create a Hall of Fame list that can be displayed in the classroom. Not only does this display create a sense of permanence, validity and importance about the exercise you have just completed, but it also provides a ready resource to which you and the students can quickly refer whenever you return to this topic. By adding to the display each Hall of Fame as you complete each Teachable Moment, you are creating a public record that will become ingrained in your students' minds as a daily reminder of the essential knowledge that has been chosen by your class to be of the highest value and importance.
2. Word Association Chart:
a. When you are concluding your discussion of an important concept that you want to especially impress upon your class, ask each student to list five adjectives that come to mind when they think of the concept. Collect the lists, and combine them to make a master list, rank-ordering the words depending upon the number of lists that include each word.
b. Create a Class Word Association Chart, and add to the chart the name of the concept followed by the five words at the top of your rank-ordered list. Display the chart permanently in the classroom where everyone can see it, and add to the chart whenever you have an important concept that you want to impress upon your students.
c. Addition to the word association chart will: 1. Impress upon the students this is important, 2. Serve as a permanent reminder of important concepts through the year, and 3. Cause students to reflect back on the symposium when this concept was discussed.
3. Assessment Distribution Charts:
a. For activities such as a symposium on the life and times of an American President, it can be helpful to conclude by allowing students to grade the president (A-F), and submit their grades to the teacher on a secret ballot.
b. From the secret ballots, a class assessment can be determined and recorded on a poster board to be displayed in the classroom. On the poster board, clearly indicate what has been assessed, the raw totals for each grade received from the student ballots, the percentage of the total for each grade, and, if possible, a bar graph illustrating the totals for each grade received.
c. Posting these assessments will help students to recall the class discussion of the issue or person, and it will help them to relate mathematical distributions to an activity to which they have contributed.
Whatever the approach, a creative, imaginative, energetic, caring teacher is still the key component in quality education, and it is the mission of the Teachable Moments to create an environment that allows quality teaching to promote the best possible learning opportunities for all students to reach their potential each and every day.
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