This page strives to highlights standards-aligned classroom inquiries that have been taught in Illinois educators' classrooms.
Teachers at Beckemeyer Elementary School in Hillsboro, IL were kind enough to share a unit of inquiry that fourth-grade students engaged in earlier this school year. Shonda Ronen, a first-grade teacher and Teach Plus Illinois Teaching Policy Fellow was the elementary team leader for the Illinois Task Force to Revise the Social Science Standards and now continues to promote the implementation of the new standards across the state. Ronen has been working with Marcy Jorn, a fourth-grade teacher in her building, and her class throughout this inquiry-based civics unit earlier this school year.
Mrs. Jorn's 4th grade class engaged in an inquiry based civics unit in April. This unit aligns with the newly adopted Illinois Social Science Learning Standards by encompassing all of the Inquiry Skills Standards and Civics Standards at the fourth-grade level. In the area of civics at the fourth-grade level, students are asked to “Explain how rules and laws change society and how people change rules and laws in Illinois” (SS.CV.4.4), “Explain how a democracy relies on people’s responsible participation, and draw implications for how individuals should participate.” (SS.CV.2.4), “Identify core civic virtues (…) and democratic principles (…) that guide our state and nation.” (SS.CV.3.4), as well as "Distinguish the responsibilities and powers of government officials at the local, state, and national levels." (SS.CV.1.4).
Ronen and Jorn kicked off the unit by generating student interest with the School House Rock Video “How a Bill Becomes a Law”. The students were intrigued by the fact that a bill starts as simply an idea. This inquiry was structured to be very open-ended as students could choose to investigate how a bill becomes a law and then try to come up with an idea to drive change at the school, local or state level. This flexibility allowed students to distinguish the roles of the different officials. They quickly learned that some of their proposals didn't need to go to the Senator or Mayor but were more related to our own district and could be heard by the principal and superintendent/school board. Other proposals needed to be brought to the Mayor, Representative or Senator.
Students came up with their own ideas for change and then were grouped based on like questions or ideas. Groups utilized their textbook, other resources and trade books, and even using kid safe search engines to conduct research along the way. Throughout the unit local officials such as the school Superintendent David Powell, Mayor Bryan Sullivan, Representative Avery Bourne, and Senator Andy Manar visited Jorn’s classroom to speak with the students about their role and answer students’ many questions.
In culmination of the unit and to practice taking informed action, students wrote letters to the principal and met with him to discuss allowing an additional recess, wrote letters to the Mayor and Senator Manar to urge various bills and laws, as well as made flyers for the school and community to advocate for the issues they’d been researching. Their learning journey was also featured in the local newspaper! Students could demonstrate that they truly understood the fourth-grade civics practices after taking the lead on this inquiry.
Thank you for sharing Shonda and Marcy!
**Inclusion of an inquiry in the spotlight DOES NOT indicate an endorsement of curriculum by the State of Illinois**
Classroom Inquiry Ideas
Tried a great inquiry in your classroom? Use the button below to submit information about your inquiry to be included in the spotlight. Inquiries do not need to have gone perfectly to be included, there is value in learning what you'd do differently next time!