Civil Issues and Design

By Maggie Nelms, July 7, 2009

Grade Level

  • Middle School


  • Other

Subject Area

  • Social Studies

Lesson Time

Part I: 150 minutes for classroom activities; Part II: 100 minutes for classroom activities, 120 minutes for homework


In this lesson, students will discuss and debate the effectiveness of the methods used in the past to resolve civil issues. They will research civil issues that they find interesting and will then discuss the methods used in small groups. They will then identify current civil issues within their school, propose solutions in an essay, and once again share their issue and solution in small groups. This lesson aligns with social studies standards as students are learning about civic responsibilities and rights. This lesson will also differentiate according to interest, engaging students in the challenge at hand.

National Standards

Civics Standard 27.  Level III. Understands how certain character traits enhance citizens' ability to fulfill personal and civic responsibilities 3. Understands the importance for individuals and society of commonly held civic responsibilities such as paying taxes, being informed and attentive to public issues, monitoring political leaders and governmental agencies and taking appropriate action if their adherence to constitutional principles is lacking, deciding whether and how to vote, participating in civic groups, performing public service, serving as a juror, and serving in the armed forces Standard 11. Level III. Understands the role of diversity in American life and the importance of shared values, political beliefs, and civic beliefs in an increasingly diverse American society 3. Knows major conflicts in American society that have arisen from diversity (e.g., North/South conflict; conflict about land, suffrage, and other rights of Native Americans; Catholic/Protestant conflicts in the nineteenth century; conflict about civil rights of minorities and women; present day ethnic conflict in urban settings)    

Common Core State Standards

English Language Arts Standards Writing 

Grade 6-8

Text Types and Purposes:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.WHST.6-8.1.B Support claim(s) with logical reasoning and relevant, accurate data and evidence that demonstrate an understanding of the topic or text, using credible sources.

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.WHST.6-8.1.C Use words, phrases, and clauses to create cohesion and clarify the relationships among claim(s), counterclaims, reasons, and evidence.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.WHST.6-8.2.A Introduce a topic clearly, previewing what is to follow; organize ideas, concepts, and information into broader categories as appropriate to achieving purpose; include formatting (e.g., headings), graphics (e.g., charts, tables), and multimedia when useful to aiding comprehension.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.WHST.6-8.2.B Develop the topic with relevant, well-chosen facts, definitions, concrete details, quotations, or other information and examples.

Production and Distribution of Writing:

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.WHST.6-8.4 Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.WHST.6-8.5 With some guidance and support from peers and adults, develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach, focusing on how well purpose and audience have been addressed.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.WHST.6-8.6 Use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing and present the relationships between information and ideas clearly and efficiently.

Research to Build and Present Knowledge:

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.WHST.6-8.7 Conduct short research projects to answer a question (including a self-generated question), drawing on several sources and generating additional related, focused questions that allow for multiple avenues of exploration.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.WHST.6-8.8 Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources, using search terms effectively; assess the credibility and accuracy of each source; and quote or paraphrase the data and conclusions of others while avoiding plagiarism and following a standard format for citation.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.WHST.6-8.9 Draw evidence from informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.
Range of Writing:

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.WHST.6-8.10 Write routinely over extended time frames (time for reflection and revision) and shorter time frames (a single sitting or a day or two) for a range of discipline-specific tasks, purposes, and audiences.

English Language Arts Standards: History/Social Studies

Grade 6-8

Key Ideas and Details:

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.6-8.1 Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.6-8.2 Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of the source distinct from prior knowledge or opinions.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.6-8.3 Identify key steps in a text's description of a process related to history/social studies (e.g., how a bill becomes law, how interest rates are raised or lowered).

Integration of Knowledge and Ideas:

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.6-8.7 Integrate visual information (e.g., in charts, graphs, photographs, videos, or maps) with other information in print and digital texts.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.6-8.8 Distinguish among fact, opinion, and reasoned judgment in a text.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.6-8.9 Analyze the relationship between a primary and secondary source on the same topic.
  • Range of Reading and Level of Text Complexity:
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.6-8.10 By the end of grade 8, read and comprehend history/social studies texts in the grades 6-8 text complexity band independently and proficiently.

English Language Arts Standards: Speaking and Listening

Grade 6-8

Comprehension and Collaboration:

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.6-8.1 Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade level topics, texts, and issues, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.6-8.1.A Come to discussions prepared, having read or researched material under study; explicitly draw on that preparation by referring to evidence on the topic, text, or issue to probe and reflect on ideas under discussion.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.6-8.2 Analyze the purpose of information presented in diverse media and formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively, orally) and evaluate the motives (e.g., social, commercial, political) behind its presentation.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.8.3 Delineate a speaker's argument and specific claims, evaluating the soundness of the reasoning and relevance and sufficiency of the evidence and identifying when irrelevant evidence is introduced.

Presentation of Knowledge and Ideas:

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.6-8.4 Present claims and findings, emphasizing salient points in a focused, coherent manner with relevant evidence, sound valid reasoning, and well-chosen details; use appropriate eye contact, adequate volume, and clear pronunciation.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.6-8.5 Integrate multimedia and visual displays into presentations to clarify information, strengthen claims and evidence, and add interest.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.6-8.6 Adapt speech to a variety of contexts and tasks, demonstrating command of formal English when indicated or appropriate. (See grade 8 Language standards 1 and 3 here for specific expectations.)


Students will be able to:
  • recognize current civil issues that exist in our world today
  • explain ways that people from the past handled civil issues
  • propose solutions to current civil issues that exist today


LCD projector laptop to project PowerPoint presentation computer lab with internet access or students’ home computers if available


  • PowerPoint presentation (teacher)
  • printed copies of PowerPoint for students
  • copies of the design process


  • passive resistance: resistance especially to a government or an occupying power characterized mainly by noncooperation
  • civil disobedience: refusal to obey governmental demands or commands especially as a nonviolent and usually collective means of forcing concessions from the government


1. Before you start, print copies of the PowerPoint in the notes version for students to take with them as they work on this project. 2. Introduction to civic responsibility: project the PowerPoint presentation using an LCD projector onto a wall or projection screen in the front of the classroom. 3. You can read and elaborate on the text in the PowerPoint or you can ask a student to read it to the class. 4. The first part of the PowerPoint gives the example of the African American civil rights movement.  Students will see a slide that says “class discussion.” You should pose the question to the class and allow several students to share their opinions about whether the forceful solution to the prejudice problem was effective or not. This should take about five to ten minutes. 5. Continue with the PowerPoint, reading and elaborating or asking a student to read. 6. Once you get to the next “class discussion” slide, follow the same procedures. 7. The next four slides introduce Part I of the challenge to the class. The directions are clearly typed but they will need to be read aloud slowly and clearly so that auditory learners can grasp the directions too. 8. Once you introduce students to Part I they will need access to computers to complete the project.  If you do not have a computer lab or computers in your classroom they will need to complete this at home.  If they do not have internet access at home then they may need to come before or after school to use the media center. 9. The rest of the directions for Part I and Part II are in the PowerPoint. 10. You will assess the students’ final drafts using the persuasive essay rubric attached.    


Persuasive Essay Rubric The lesson is differentiated according to interest.

Enrichment Extension Activities

Link this project with the Language Arts teacher and see if he/she can read a book about civil issues at the same time. For the next year: save these papers, get the next group to create a new solution on the paper they choose to read from this collection. Compile the papers into a book and have a copy in the library for other teachers to use; spread the design process to all!    

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