Being An American

October 29, 2009

I’m always looking for ways to keep my lessons interesting for my students, which range in age from 18 to 62. Many have really excelled in essay writing since the class first started and when I came across the Bill of Rights Institute’s national Being An American Essay Contest this week, I got the idea of doing a similar essay contest like this in my class.

 The national contest asks students to share their thoughts on American citizenship by answering the question: “What civic value do you believe is most essential to being an American?”

The national contest is open to students: in grades 9-12 who are U.S. citizens or legal residents and are either attending public, private, religious or charter schools; being home-schooled; or participating in a GED or correspondence school program but are no older than 19 years of age.

Since a majority of my students are too old to participate in the national contest, I decided to do a class contest and modify some of the guidelines from the national contest to coincide with the lessons we are learning. Also, for students that were not born in the United States, I am modifying it for them.

What’s great about the national contest is that it provides supporting contest materials, including lesson plans meeting national academic standards at no cost to teachers who want to incorporate the essay topic into the classroom. I’ll be using those with some modification to help with my lessons. This contest has not only helped me be more creative with teaching writing and U.S. history, it has given the students a goal to achieve. We’ll be working on the essays for several weeks.

For anyone who is interested in getting more details about the national contest essay, click here. National contest entries are due by Dec. 1, 2009. Teachers much submit essays online at that Web site for a chance to win cash prizes and a trip to the nation’s capital (awarded both to teachers and their students).

I’ll keep you posted on how my class is doing on their essays.

Kathleen Collins, pre-GED instructor

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