Taxation: Fair or Not?

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SWBAT work collaboratively in a group to discuss the topic of taxes and what the benefits/potential drawbacks are to taxation.

Big Idea

Some colonists were angered by taxes imposed by the British, but what's the big deal?

Cue Set

15 minutes

We begin our new unit, Voices of the Revolution with some concrete experiences regarding some key ideas and concepts.  Giving scholars concrete experiences that relate to the new unit helps some scholars to access their prior knowledge and helps other scholars to build background knowledge regarding the new content.  

Most scholars have heard of taxes, but they don't really understand what they are.  Therefore, this lesson seeks to provide scholars with an understanding of what taxes are, why we have them and how they can be beneficial.  Also, the lesson aims to point out potential pitfalls regarding taxation. Students will actively practice speaking and listening skills as they explore the topic of taxation with their classmates. 

During the Cue Set scholars watch a BrainPop video on taxes.  As scholars watch, they think about the following questions: 

1. What are taxes? 

2. Why do we have taxes?  

3. How could taxes be beneficial?  Negative?  

Here are scholars watching the Brain Pop video.  Scholars have 1 minute to discuss the answers to the questions with their small groups.  The thinking here is that scholars can have the opportunity to rehearse answers and to hear correct answers before it is their turn to share with the whole class.  Then, I pull 2 friends from my cup to share with the whole class and I take 3 volunteers.  If needed, we will watch the video a second time.  


Teaching Strategy

10 minutes

During the teaching strategy, I actually make the experience of taxation even MORE REAL.  Our classroom is on a paycheck system (scholars get paid to perform their classroom jobs for which they apply each quarter).  Scholars earn additions or deductions from their paycheck based on adherence to our PAWS values (Productive learning, Always follow directions, Will respect others and Self-to-self). We have a school store twice per quarter where scholars can buy real items (pencils, snacks, erasers, etc.) with their money.   

I explain that today I am going to begin taxing them 50% of their paycheck.  They money deducted from their paycheck will be used to fund my other reading class' end-of-year party. The idea here is that I am taxing them, but using the money for a service that will not necessarily be beneficial to them.  I want them to feel the way some colonists felt in the 1750's.  

Then, we discuss the following questions in small groups: 

1. How does this tax plan make you feel? 

2. Is it fair?  Why/Why not? 

Here are scholars discussing.  After the discussion, I pull 2 friends from my cup to share and I take 3 volunteers.  

Here is an example of one of the small group discussions: 

Guided Practice

20 minutes

As we move into our guided practice, we begin to focus on how the colonists and British may have felt about taxes.  Each scholar receives an identity card (either Colonist I, Colonist II, Parliament member or Citizen of Great Britain).  Scholars read the identity card and then have a 5 minute discussion in small groups assuming the identity of the person on their card.  Here is a sample Bag of Identities.  

Using their identity cards, scholars discuss the following questions:

-Do you think the taxes placed on the colonists are fair?  Why/why not?

As scholars discuss, I circulate to promote discussion.  I say things like, "Tell me what you think.  What is your identity?  What do you think about the taxes?"  I encourage some of my ELL scholars in the most need of support to repeat the motto on the identity cards.  

The cards serve as a scaffold, but they also provide scholars with the opportunity to hear multiple perspectives regarding the issue of taxation during the American Revolution.  This will help scholars as we move forward in the unit and read literature about this topic.  

Here is a discussion that one group had: 


Independent Practice

5 minutes

Today is a short lesson since it is an introductory lesson.  Therefore, instead of running small groups as usual, I give scholars a quick exit ticket.  They write their answers to the following questions on a 1/2 sheet of blank paper. 

1. What are taxes? 

2. How can taxes be beneficial?  

3. How can taxes be unfair? 

This is the Smart Board screen that accompanies the part of this lesson. 

I collect the exit slips to gauge who has a clear understanding of taxation and who will need more support & background knowledge as we move forward in the unit.  This will be helpful so that I can cater my whole group and small group instruction to the needs of the scholars.