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iCivics and Do I Have a Right? as Models for Curriculum Design

iCivics is an organization whose governing board includes retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, who founded iCivics in 2009. Their website (www.icivics.org) disseminates curriculum targeted primarily at middle and high school students. The curriculum is adjustable, ranging from full units, to print-and-go lesson plans, to game guides with instructions and pre- and post-game discussion questions and activities. The curriculum is centered around digital games in which students take on a role within or dealing with the U.S. government. The games (there are 19 of them at present) are all designed to be playable in a 45-minute class period, either alone, or in small groups, or as a whole class. Most materials are free, but teachers must register for a free account for curriculum materials. Some print materials are for sale.

One of the games, Do I Have a Right?, deals with constitutional law, specifically the amendments. Players run a law firm, with different lawyers who specialize in different areas of constitutional law, based on the amendments. Players have seven days to establish the new law firm by meeting potential clients, determining if they have a case, and if so matching them with a lawyer who has expertise in that particular amendment. Knowing the amendments by number is tremendously helpful in this game, because it is fast-paced as more potential clients come in and must be screened and matched with an appropriate lawyer. If learners don’t know the amendments when they start playing, they will have a much better understanding by the end of the game.

Do I Have a Right? is newly available in Spanish as well as English, and an available (with registration) extension pack includes English learner supports. The game can also be played on mobile devices.

All of the games and accompanying curricula on the site are a fantastic resource for social studies teachers. Since Do I Have a Right? is also available in Spanish and the extension pack includes supports for English learners, it is also a wonderful resource for Spanish and ELL teachers. Informally, students can be encouraged to play the game during choice time; more formally, and entire instructional unit can be planned around game play. Teachers who are interested in incorporating digital game playing in their instruction in an intentional, strategic would do well to start with the materials on iCivics; they are classroom-ready and can serve as a template for similar teacher-created units on other topics.

This organization is the recipient of a 2015 MacArthur Award and serves over 150,000 “teacher-users.” Its games’ adaptability, curriculum supports, and reputable team all make it a model resource for using games for classroom learning.

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