Some Tips…

Parents,

I have probably been inundating you with a lot of information regarding our country’s foundations. Just when you probably thought you’ve had enough, here’s more information for you:

  • Please make sure that you are keeping up with my updates posted to Edmodo! You will receive information regarding updates I make to the class page and deadlines for your child’s assignments!
  • Every lesson has a PDF attached describing what your child must do for his or her assignment and how it is to be done. Please, check those out and read them over!
  • Check our schedule on the Edmodo page to find when assignments are due. It will give you a good visual sense of these deadlines.
  • There is homework for Lessons 1-4. However, there is no homework for Lesson 5, as students’ group projects are due on Monday, August 14th.
  • Remember what is going into the final project: Students have been using class time to prepare their presentations on Voice Thread, to gather materials (such as pictures, research snippets and talking points), and ask questions to either myself or the iCivics or NCSS organizations on Twitter. If your child is unsure as to what the expectations are for a good presentation still, there’s a few things you can do:
    • Review the presentation rubrics. I posted all rubrics for the instructional unit at the beginning of the course.
    • Each group has a series of folder. Check the folder “Final Presentation” to access the rubric and other materials to assist.
    • Have your child rehearse his or her speaking part with you. This could be a great way for your child to feel more comfortable when delivering his or her presentation in front of class.

Please let me know of any issue that comes up. You can contact me using the information I have provided on my profile page on Edmodo.

Thank you once again, and your support has been wonderful.

Sincerely,

Mr. Assante

Inside the Constitution

As students are advancing on their instructional unit on the Constitution (as well as on their group projects), I figured it would be good to include a general breakdown of its contents for your reference:

The Preamble

This is the introduction to the Constitution. It is saying that a new Constitution has been adopted to “form a more perfect union;” meaning, the structure of the American government under the first constitution, “The Articles of Confederation,” have been changed to ensure that the country remains peaceful and prosperous.

Article I

This section describes the powers given to Congress and describes the rules of running for the House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate. First, Congress is responsible for raising and levying taxes, raising a military, controlling business (or, commerce), the coinage of money, and declaring war. Terms are unlimited in Congress, with House Representatives being 25 years of age when they assume the position and Senators being 30 years of age when they assume the position. Members of the House are elected to two year terms while members of the Senate are elected to 6 year terms.

*Congress’s check on presidential power is the Senate’s confirmation of presidential appointments and the impeachment process.

Here is the website for the White House: Official Page of the President

Article II

This section outlines the Executive Branch. Very little is said about the Presidency, save for when he (or she) assumes the Oath of Office, the hosting of foreign guests, serving as the Commander in Chief of the military, and addressing joint sessions of Congress. This was probably done because the Framers were concerned that a powerful figurehead like a monarch could rise to power in this position.

*The President is the head of the Executive Branch. The most mentions of the Executive Branch in the Constitution is the selection of advisors. Our Executive Branch today consists of 15 Departments (such as State, Education, and Defense) and employs 1 million people.

*The President can veto, or reject, authored legislation from Congress. Congress, in turn, has the power to override that veto by a 2/3 vote in the House of Representatives.

Here are the official websites for both houses of Congress: House of RepresentativesU.S. Senate

Article III

The Judicial Branch. Justices appointed to the Supreme Court and the Federal Courts are not elected. This was done because the Founders felt that anybody who was to interpret the Constitution must not be in the fray of politics. The justices are essentially the guardians of the Constitution.

*The Supreme Court and the Federal Appellate Courts are not trial courts. Yes, there is federal criminal court, which is in a separate realm from what we are discussing here. These courts hear complaints of one’s constitutional rights being violated. A complaint is usually made in the Appellate Courts, and if the Supreme Court is interested in hearing the case, it may do so. However, filing motions with the Supreme Court and the Appellate Courts could take years.

*The justices have different interpretations of the Constitution. They don’t simply declare a law unconstitutional because they don’t like it. There has to be a sound reasoning, or legal precedent that influences their ruling. Supreme Court opinions are readily available for anyone to see, and they’re quite interesting to read: The Supreme Court

Let it also be known that every state has its own constitution and its own form of government. Every state has a governor (who is the head of the executive branch within a given state), but not every state has two houses of Congress (Nebraska only has a one-house legislature). Judges at the state and local levels are elected to office and not appointed. And yes, every state has its own Constitution.

Arizona’s Official Webpage: State of Arizona

That’s the amazing thing about our federal republican form of government: all different governments (local, state, and federal) co-existing with one another. Please take the time to review these links to become familiar with them all.

The Importance of the Constitution

As your child is working through the instructional unit, it is important to note a few things as to why we are studying the Constitution. One of my presentations, done on Prezi, states that Thomas Jefferson and John Adams (political rivals at the time) corresponded with one another in the years after their respective presidencies. It’s so funny: Jefferson, who was a staunch Anti-Federalist, was Adams’ Vice President from 1797-1801. He decided to run against the Federalist Adams in 1800 because he severely disagreed with Adams’ policies (the U.S. was on the verge of going to war with France, after several spies with ties to France were caught in the country; Adams started censoring the press because they kept criticizing his polices…sounds familiar, right?).

The President and Vice President were selected under different circumstances back in 1789. Essentially, whoever placed second in the election would become the Vice President. This is markedly different from today, where the presidential candidate chooses someone as his or her running mate, and therefore that person is the candidate for Vice President. Very rarely today do you see people from different political parties running on the same electoral ballot.

So, two colleagues and rivals, clearly. It must’nt have been a fun electoral season, and indeed, it wasn’t. With the U.S. on the verge of switching control from one political party (Adams’ Federalists) to another (Jefferson’s Anti-Federalists, or “Democratic-Republicans”), there was fear that the country would be embroiled in a violent takeover of power. The election of 1800 was decided by the House of Representatives, who gave the presidency to Jefferson. When he assumed the office on March 4th, 1801, nothing happened. There were disputes over appointments Adams made to his cabinet in the last few months of his presidency, but our federal republican system remained intact.

Which now brings us to the correspondence. Jefferson’s presidency ended in 1809, and correspondence resumed between the two. Their letters displayed their passionate arguments on their respective feelings for how the still-young republic should run. That debate was still going on even when the two men died within hours of each other on July 4, 1826; one could even argue that it is still happening today: given all the changes in the structure of government, what should its role be? Should we still have a large federal bureaucracy? Should Congress be the only branch that declares war even though it hasn’t declared one since 1941? Should we allow the election of justices to the Supreme Court to ensure an activist approach to protect the will of the people?

I think documents such as the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were deliberately designed to be imperfect, so that we can continue the discourse regarding their contents. Otherwise, their words are taken for granted and all discussion ceases. However, that discourse can only be done in the school systems, which was something that the founders (especially Jefferson) felt strongly about implementing: who was going to tell the story of the Revolution long after they passed?

Us teachers, along with you, the parents, have the responsibility to do so. For your reference I have included here a link to the Constitution Day website, which has many sources for teachers, students, and parents alike. Please take the time to dive into these materials as we progress through the unit. Constitution Day Website

Why Social Studies?

During this unit on the Constitution, I would like for you to take a minute to stop and reflect why it is important that we study this subject. Almost every year I teach a Social Studies class, it is bound to happen that a student will ask me, “Why do we have to learn Social Studies? We’re not going to use it.” First, I’d always tell the student, “Good question,” and then continue with topics such as voting, paying taxes, and even applying for a driver’s license. In almost any circumstance of every day life, we’re interacting with at least something that has to do with our country’s history: news reports on the latest developments coming out of Washington, D.C. or even what is happening within our own state capital and city hall.

Students may not immediately see the connection amongst all the aforementioned, but the knowledge of how government works and how laws shape their lives will be something they can take with them for a while. I’d like to direct your attention to some sources tagged here, so you can review it with your child (in case the question comes up as they are completing their assignments).

Social Studies EducationNational Council for the Social Studies

Greetings

Dear parents,

If you are reading this, that means that you are able to access this blog that I have prepared especially for you. I would first like to welcome you all to this page, as I have been working hard on getting it up and running. I do hope that this message finds you well and in good spirits, and that your children are ready to learn for the 2017-2018 school year.

Fifth Grade is one of those funny grades where students are transitioning from being elementary school students to middle school students. They’re caught in limbo, if you will, but with a little guidance and persistence, they will go far this year. We will be concentrating on a lot of things for our classes in Language Arts, Social Studies, and Religion, so I would like to present just a brief overview of what we will be doing:

Language Arts: The curriculum is centered around our novel study and reading groups. We will be applying our skillsets learned between Pre-Kindergarten through 3rd Grade to our learning content. Such skillsets include foundational skills in reading literature, reading an informational text, and using the writing process for different types of written works.

Social Studies: We will be focusing on U.S. History this year, from the beginning of time through 1865–that’s a rather long time period, indeed!

Religion: Our focus is on the Sacraments and the Liturgical Season. We will be matching up certain parts of our textbook to where we are on the Liturgical Calendar. For example, I am not going to teach the instructional unit on Christmas around Easter time in March…

Here’s a few resources that I have for you regarding your fifth grader as we move through the school year. I hope you find them useful: PBS Fifth GradeVery Well Fifth Grade

Sincerely,

Mr. Assante