Hypothetical Heights

By C. Ezekiel Ohan, October 8, 2009

Grade Level

  • High School


  • Other

Subject Area

  • Arts
  • Language Arts
  • Social Studies
  • Technology

Lesson Time

72 minutes for classroom activities and 30 minutes for homework


In impoverished communities it often happens that young people yearn to escape their neglected neighborhoods once they’ve graduated from high school.  Their concepts of home are often different than those who’ve grown up with a higher standard of living, as their neighborhoods offer fewer opportunities.  We set the challenge: “What would it take for you to come back and take residence after graduation?”  If the neighborhood could be improved and opportunities broadened, then the occurrence of returning would increase due to the potential higher standard of living.  The entire seventh and eighth grades brainstormed during the length of the initial class of this project with the instruction that they as individuals must return the next day with three personal selections that they must substantiate. Eight proposals were adopted with eight design groups from the seventh grade classes who were then partnered with eight support groups from the eighth grade section. This lesson plan will use one project to illustrate the areas of preparation, participation, performance, and package from the thematic unit.

National Standards

Standard 7.  Understands alternative forms of representation and how they serve the purposes of constitutional government Standard 10.  Understands the roles of voluntarism and organized groups in American social and political life Standard 16.  Understands the major responsibilities of the national government for domestic and foreign policy, and understands how government is financed through taxation Standard 19.  Understands what is meant by “the public agenda,” how it is set, and how it is influenced by public opinion and the media Standard 21.  Understands the formation and implementation of public policy Standard 28.  Understands how participation in civic and political life can help citizens attain individual and public goals
Standard 5.  Understands unemployment, income, and income distribution in a market economy

Common Core Standards

Anchors for Reading:

Key Ideas and Details:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.1 Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.

Integration of Knowledge and Ideas:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.7 Integrate and evaluate content presented in diverse media and formats, including visually and quantitatively, as well as in words.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.8 Delineate and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, including the validity of the reasoning as well as the relevance and sufficiency of the evidence.

Range of Reading and Level of Text Complexity:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.10 Read and comprehend complex literary and informational texts independently and proficiently.

Anchor Standards for Writing: 

Text Types and Purposes:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.1 Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.2 Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.3 Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, well-chosen details and well-structured event sequences.

Production and Distribution of Writing:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.4 Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.5 Develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.6 Use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing and to interact and collaborate with others.

Research to Build and Present Knowledge:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.7 Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects based on focused questions, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.8 Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources, assess the credibility and accuracy of each source, and integrate the information while avoiding plagiarism.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.9 Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.

Range of Writing:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.10 Write routinely over extended time frames (time for research, reflection, and revision) and shorter time frames (a single sitting or a day or two) for a range of tasks, purposes, and audiences.

Anchor standards for Speaking and Listening:

Comprehension and Collaboration:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.1 Prepare for and participate effectively in a range of conversations and collaborations with diverse partners, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.2 Integrate and evaluate information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.3 Evaluate a speaker's point of view, reasoning, and use of evidence and rhetoric.

Presentation of Knowledge and Ideas:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.4 Present information, findings, and supporting evidence such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning and the organization, development, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.6 Adapt speech to a variety of contexts and communicative tasks, demonstrating command of formal English when indicated or appropriate.

Anchor standards for Language:

Conventions of Standard English:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.L.1 Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.L.2 Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English capitalization, punctuation, and spelling when writing.

Vocabulary Acquisition and Use:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.L.5 Demonstrate understanding of figurative language, word relationships, and nuances in word meanings.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.L.6 Acquire and use accurately a range of general academic and domain-specific words and phrases sufficient for reading, writing, speaking, and listening at the college and career readiness level; demonstrate independence in gathering vocabulary knowledge when encountering an unknown term important to comprehension or expression.


The student will be able to:
  • design (Artistic & Technical Drawing)
  • decorate
  • construct (Industrial Design)
  • communicate verbally (Public Speaking)
  • invite and correspond with corporate liaisons (Etiquette)
  • research and analyze using primary sources
  • take field trips (Relative to his or her proposal.)
  • receive guest speakers
  • fundraise to promote selected bid
  • establish a documented portfolio regarding his or her proposal
  • present his or her bid within a public forum
  • engage City Hall (Ideally the Mayor’s office will attend and judge the presentations.)
  • invite the community to attend the presentations
  • contact media for coverage: newspapers, radio stations, TV
  • experience ownership of his or her selection
  • sequence their academic day in various content areas
  • cultivate a variety of disciplines: e.g. design/tech/speech
  • benefit from an interactive approach strategy


From the Social Studies Department:
  • Internet access
  • portfolio – three-ring binder
  • slip covers / page protectors
  • computer  paper
  • glossy photo paper
  • camera
From the Art Department:
  • 3ft x 5ft plywood board [for ”Master Landscape” model of area]
  • pencils
  • erasers
  • paints
  • rulers
  • compass
  • poster board
  • permanent markers
From the Industrial Technology Department:
  • 2ft x 3ft plywood board: one per group.
  • 3mm thick foam construction board: [up to six sheets per group bid]
  • transparencies [to simulate glass]
  • various kinds of tape (transparent, masking, athletic, etc.)
  • Basic cutting and measuring tools
  • various glues
  • aerosol protective spray
From the Computer Tech Department:
  • software: PowerPoint for presentation
  • software: Excel software for documentation and logistics
  • hardware: streaming and live feed capability [presentational purpose]
  • overhead projector
From the English Department:
  • dictionary and thesaurus
  • standing microphone
  • podium
  • camcorder
  • overhead projector
  • access to the school stage [In order to practice stage presence and positioning.]


  • demand: the ability and desire to purchase goods and services
  • cost: the total spent for goods or services including money and time and labor
  • benefit: an advantage, help or aid
  • surplus: when the quantity of a good supplied exceeds the quantity demanded at the existing price
  • scarcity: the condition of something being scarce or deficient; an inadequate amount of something; a shortage
  • supply: an amount of something available for use
  • investment: the act of investing; laying out money or capital in an enterprise with the expectation of profit
  • expenditure: the cost of goods delivered or services rendered, whether paid or unpaid
  • tradition: custom; a specific practice of long standing
  • citizen: a native or naturalized member of a state or other political community
  • public service: a service that is performed for the benefit of the public or its institutions; employment within a government system
  • community standards: the local norms bounding acceptable conduct
  • personal standards: how you treat yourself, how you treat others, how you conduct your behavior and perform the tasks that are expected of you


Prior to initiating this thematic unit consult first with colleagues in the various departments to gauge their interest. If significant interest does exist then approach your principal for permission and support: Now go get those young minds! Classroom Activities: 1.  Ask the question “What would it take for you to stay or return to your neighborhood?” 2.  Take the entire class period to allow the students to brainstorm without restriction of ideas. 3.  Inform the students that their top three selections must be handed in the following day as well as their reasons for their selections.  Then, during the cutting rounds, they and their classmates will decide which ideas will be included or not. 4. Reduce selections down to one or more. [At the teacher’s discretion.] 5. Upon selection of bid/s divide the classroom into halves.
  • Lobbyist: This group is responsible for the portfolio and its contents that define the bid. They also fundraise, correspond, set up interviews with local business executives, network and assist their client.
The other half of class involved with the design and construction of the proposal will be known as the
  • Client: This group is responsible for the design, the construction, anticipated costs of build, guest-speakers, fundraising, interviewing, initiating field trip visits, tracking progress of the group, and deadline management.
Both groups have license to modify, add, or delete issue-related aspects of the bid. 6. If more than one client and lobbyist exist then a honeymoon period (T.B.D by the teacher) is used to allow screening for the best potential partners. Contracts are drawn up and signed so the commitment will be recognized and exclusive. Clauses can be included for the emancipation of either party at the risk of penalty or possible disqualification from the design-based project. 7. Approved bids are now designed without restriction in Social Studies for two days.  After which internet images are used to compare and contrast.  The students should then research materials to see how financially viable their bid would be to build in the real world. Economics are guided using the average expected cost of similar structures. 8. In Art class, the students should create paintings or other artistic renderings of their envisioned construction. 9. In Art class or Industrial Tech class, the students should make technical renderings of their models, showing the angles of front/side/floor and third angle projection, in preparation for the next stage, which is construction. 10. In Industrial Tech class, the students should use their paintings and technical renderings to begin to be build models (on the 2ft x 3ft base board) under the tutelage of the Industrial Tech teacher.  (Permission slips are distributed and signed waiver slips collected for the use of equipment.) 11. The completed model is then transported to the Computer Tech department where photographs can be taken and prepared for a PowerPoint display and statistics showcased for the hypothetically viable investment, aka “the bid.” 12. With the commencement of Step 7 the student groups will manufacture and begin the practice of presenting their bid. This is procured with the enlistment of the English department. The portfolio is also enhanced as the daily achievements are documented and tracked with attention being paid to the categories of speech and vocabulary. 13. Concurrently with Step 7 the Lobbyists begin to build the portfolio and establish fundraisers. Once corporate contacts have been established the courtship begins and valuable information is disclosed by the interviewee. The information is used to shape and mold the most effective and efficient choices involving the bid. 14. The infrastructure of the Project Portfolio for each lobbyist group is as follows:
  • Title Page: Hypothetical Heights
  • Table of Contents
  • Mission Statement
  • Group Bio
  • Group shot
  • Bid – Short Description
  • Photograph of designed model formatted to fit page
  • Letter of Inquiry – Sample [lobbyists to respective industries]
  • Research and Analysis [bid proposal]
  • Correspondence [documented interaction and information]
  • Glossary [vocabulary pertaining to communication within the selected industry]
  • Index
  • Business cards
All materials to be in 12 font, single spaced, and under slip covers. Double checked prior to intermediate and final submission. 15. Three full rehearsals are executed upon completion of the PowerPoint presentations, and are used to prepare for the presentation of the  proposals which will be assessed by a panel of judges [Appointed by the Teacher/Project Leader].  Then the presentations take place.  The groups responsibilities are as follows: The Clients are accountable for:
  • product-knowledge
  • appropriate “corporate” attire
  • Master/Mistress of Ceremony
  • Props
  • Presentation of model
  • Close (Allotted time for proposal is fifteen minutes.)
The Lobbyists are accountable for:
  • behind the scene set ups
  • acquisition of necessary props
  • equipment
  • promotional/informative literature (pamphlets regarding the Client and their bid)
  • VIP seating for executive guests
  • accommodating the media
  • presenting within the allotted time of fifteen minutes
If more than one bid exists then the groups will randomly draw numbers from a basket to determine the positioning for the finale.


Four areas are assessed at a maximum value of three points each. The highest score is therefore twelve points. The following are the noted areas accompanied by the point-based grading system:
  • Preparation = three points (One each for being: organized, accountable, and delivering on time.)
  • Participation = three points (Each student documented/accredited for their individual workload.)
  • Performance = three points (One each for: stage presence; appropriate positioning; vocal projection.)
  • Package = three points (One each for correct: promotion, attire, props.)
Twelve to ten points = A Nine to seven points = B Six to four points = C Three to one point = D (Note: Students were instructed to design a tracking sheet that would make sure that their groups were accountable and on time, and also to prepare for the stages that lay ahead. By using a group-driven structure each individual member was able to showcase their respective strengths (e.g. graphics, organization, public speaking, constructing, fundraising, etc.), while simultaneously learning from the others.)

Enrichment Extension Activities

Built into this project are opportunities to correspond and network with leading executives within many industries. The students will invite these executives to lunch (during the school lunch hour) and treat them to the meal (financed from fundraising), which will be eaten in the teacher’s lounge (where the interview sessions are scheduled). Field trips are devised to help the students calculate both the tangible and intangible aspects of their bids, and once they have a more thorough grasp of these, they will be better able to strive for their ideals.

Teacher Reflection

Both selection and quantity could have been pre-determined by the teacher to save time. Indeed, a solo selection could be the way to go. The students had an incredible learning curve due to the content being sequenced from one content area to the next; i.e. Social Studies into Art into Industrial Tech into Computer Tech, etc.  Indoctrination of a skill set that is continually revisited, alongside pertinent instructional strategies, allowed what is seemingly complicated to remain quite simple. Hooking the imaginations of your students while introducing them to approved resources will allow them to discover the fruits of their labor. Encourage the students to defend their selections and discoveries that will lead to the respective proposals. The next time this strategy is used deadlines will be more prominent, as well as an added incentive of group bonus points for being on time.  This tactic could be implemented for efficiency if nothing else.
  1. I appreciate that there are not limitations to brainstorming during the first part of the lesson. The “lobbyist” and the “client” idea can be used in other subjects, as well. I like this idea of two groups working together on separate tasks for a greater cause. The group-driven instruction and accountability tracking sheet are an innovative approach to instruction. This a lesson that has a college-prep feel to it. I can see myself participating in something like this in my graduate work. I will work on converting this same concept into a math lesson for next year.

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