Visual Thinking in Government

The learning goal is for students to explore the power distribution and relationship between people and their governments. The hook is a lightning project. To hook students into this lesson time was used to up the level of anticipation. This project could be larger and could take more time, but the same learning goals can be attained through a speedy project consisting of research, creativity and student lead discussion. 

As American students my 8th graders  take for granted the idea of the Bill of Rights and protected freedoms. They fail to realize that their way of life is unique and not experienced by the majority of humanity. The American system is not the norm, but having only grown up in this country many fail to understand that the world is a diverse place. 

In pairs students have to brainstorm creating a list of types of government. They must curate the top 5 that they know the least about.

 Using reliable and verifiable sources, students must research the government to find it’s source of power and the relationship between the people and the government. (What does the government do for people? What do the people do for the government?)

After gathering information students must find a creative visual way to showcase this information that would appeal to an audience of their peers. Slides have been banned in class because they regurgitate information instead of diving deeper to enhance understanding. Students are  provided with paper, markers, colored pencils and craft supplies. They are also open to use any other online platform that will show their creative ingenuity and the information in a clear and concise way.

For 80 minutes students worked in their self selected pairs researching, verifying and creating. The inability to slap the information into a slides format turned out to be the most challenging part of the assignments. Students struggled with how to be creative in a short amount of time and way to represent information in a visual manner. 

This is quite an observation since we are learning that his generation is the most visual generation we have taught before. They are used to being entertained through pictures, movies and tik toks. Advertisers appeal to this generation through visuals and yet they struggle to identify way to create visuals themselves. 

The purpose of this project was not only to get students to explore the world around them in terms of government, but to start down the road of how to represent information in a visual manner. Their entire next project will be based on this concept and hopefully open their eyes to their abilities as creators and artists. 

At the end of the 8o minute class students were then asked to present one of the 5 government systems that they researched. They are challenged with showcasing the visual that they were most proud of or the government that they found the most interesting. They also could not read from their visual. Again, I am trying to move them away from the slides format. 

When challenged students achieve spectacular feats. Some students created poster boards, the low tech version of slides, but others created “fortune tellers” the little devices made of paper that unfolded to give information about different governments. They created a game out of it all within the class period. 

Another group created shadow boxes that layer paper on top of each other to show different government structures and told us about the governments instead of reading about them. While another created short stories about government systems and their effects on the people. 

A forth group group created 5 different skits in which one person acted as the government while the other person acted as the citizens. 

Wrapping up the session we discussed where these governments existed in the world and how they operated. The goal is making connections to the real world in 2020 every class period. The students lead the discussion with me only jumping in to add supporting details or information that was outside their range of knowledge. 

The lightning project was successful in exploring the world around us through research and creative thought. The students left the room that day not fully realizing all that they had achieved in a short amount of time. They are internalizing lessons of the world and creativity through learning activities that do not correlate to a direct grade. 

Later in the week we will reflect on our growth by using the 8th grade rubrics from the first day of class and take the time to fully realize all that has been accomplished in such a short amount of time. 

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