Choices Teaching Fellows

"I like the rigor of the readings.

I think it is important to challenge seniors to start reading more complex and difficult readings so as to prepare them for college level readings. "

Steve Perez

Hanford High School
Richland, WA

Hanford High School is in the southeast portion of the state. We have a school population of around 1600. We have the highest per-capita education level in the state. This is reflected in the expectations of both students and staff for higher level classes.

What course do you currently teach where you use Choices material.

I use the Choices material as my main curriculum for International Problems class. This class satisfies the state requirement for Current World Problems. The goal of the class is to engage students in critical thinking and problem solving while trying to give them introductory knowledge of American foreign policy in the Twentieth and Twenty-First centuries.

How do you use the Choices unit(s) in the course?

I use Choices almost exclusively as foundation for my curriculum. As good as the Choices program is, I find I need to vary my strategies and infuse other readings or activities to challenge students and to meet varying needs. As an example, in my first unit, Genocide, I follow the Choices curriculum as far as the readings and activities and we finish the unit with the presentations and then the role plays as a unit assessment.

In the second unit, America's Role in a changing world, we jigsaw readings and a couple of exercises on vocabulary in small groups, and then a Socratic type discussion. The evaluation uses the vocabulary list at the back and I randomly choose twenty words for each student and they have to write a cohesive essay on U.S. policy using those words, showing their understanding of the words in the essay without giving a straightforward definition. In the third unit on the middle east I add some primary source documents such as the Letter to Ali ibn Husain, The Sykes Picot Agreement, Balfour Declaration, UN resolution 181, and the Truman statement regarding UN Trusteeship to help form a working background for the students as a supplement to Part I. Then I break the class into three groups to look at the issues from the U.S., Israeli and Palestinian point of view. Students then create a timeline from that perspective, where we have a chance to talk about propaganda, perspective and the implementation of foreign and domestic policy to achieve a desired outcome. We then go on and use the maps (after I have a map quiz of the Mid-east of which I REQUIRE 90% accuracy) that show the impact of the aforementioned agreements and then we look at the impact of these and the development of US policy and involvement in the region.

What do you like most about this/these unit(s)?

I appreciate the thoroughness of the units while at the same time recognizing that it is nearly impossible to cover all the nuances of the situations in such a short unit of study. I also appreciate the use of primary source documents to supplement. I also like the rigor of the readings. I think it is important to challenge seniors to start reading more complex and difficult readings so as to prepare them for college level readings. Additionally, the role plays are wonderful for the students to work on and present. I like the simplicity of the 4 options. They allow for the students to see policy in black and white, but then when they have to give their own view of policy, they can meld various aspects of policy together to fit their own views and beliefs.

What do your students say about Choices units?

A majority of my students enjoy the material for its succinctness and material presented. They really enjoy the role plays!

How do you adapt/modify the Unit to fit your needs?

My last unit of the semester is what I call my "hodge-podge" unit. I use the Global Environment Problems text as my starting point. We look at data in the readings and have a discussion of what scientific research is and how it is used to help make public policy decisions. I then have the students brainstorm topics in the sphere of "International Problems" that we have not talked about. The brainstorming session usually generates 35-40 things kids feel are important global or regional issues. Then students choose a topic and research, compiling data to help them make informed judgments and policy recommendations. The last part of their research paper is a persuasive piece that urges others to help be part of the solution rather than part of the problem. They like this because we spend a lot of the semester looking at problems that do not seem to have answers and now they leave with a somewhat hopeful outlook. I am thinking of amending this unit again this year. I may begin the semester with this unit. Part of the adjustment is to get kids in small "organizations" where they do most of the above research and policy planning. Then they have to put a plan of action into practice and report on the progress at the end of the semester in a "World Day" type of evening presentation.