Thursday, January 22, 2015

Teaching the Filibuster in my Flipped Classroom

Every year, when I teach the Legislative Branch, I feel like I discuss the filibuster the same exact way.

Yes, the filibuster is a stalling tactic. Yes, this option is only available in the Senate. Yes, you can end a filibuster with a vote for cloture, which requires 3/5 of the members present to agree its time to vote on the bill. Yes, Strom Thurmond forever carved his name into the history books by filibustering one of the greatest civil rights measures ever, talking for just a little more than an entire day.

It makes for a great story. One that is met with many gasps from students and comments such as, "there's no way I'd sit through that," or "can the speaker go to the bathroom?"

In about 15 minutes, my filibuster story is typically over and we're moving on to the subject of committees..."what are they, what do they do, and why are they important?"

This year, however, I feel as if I have a little more time to devote to this important and controversial issue. The issue of the filibuster, as we know, has been the topic of debate for years. Since I've flipped my classroom and freed up more valuable "face-to-face" time with my students, I feel like I can actually spend some time discussing this concept with my students...as well as encouraging them to apply the information that they've learned. It's great!

Here's my plan for the filibuster...

  1. Students will view an instructional video concerning the composition of and lawmaking process in the Senate.
  2. Students will take notes on the video on a Google Doc assigned by me through Google Classroom (this allows me to keep better track of students' note-taking).
  3. When all students have completed the video, we will play a cumulative Kahoot! review game (I've been adding questions to a Kahoot! review game after every video the students have watched for this unit).
  4. After the students have proved they understand the main concepts discussed in the video (through the review game), they will post suggestions for bills the United States Senate should hear to a Padlet wall I created for the activity.
  5. When all students have proposed at least one idea, the students will discuss their proposed bills in front of the "Senate," their classmates.
  6. Prior to the discussion of bills, I will choose 2/5 + 1 of the students and instruct them to oppose any effort to close discussion on the bill, which would lead to a vote. These students will create the cloture proof minority...in effect filibustering the bill.
It's important for students to remember that a filibuster can occur even without someone talking seemingly without end. Most filibusters today do are not so called "talking filibusters," but simply occur when a minority of Senators can overpower the majority.

I'm excited to hear my students' opinions about the filibuster and whether or not it is an appropriate characteristic of our government.

Follow me on Twitter to hear results of the activity!

If you're interested in reading more about the tools I'm using, check out these posts:

Thanks for reading!!