Occupy Wall Street

Teachers' Edition: Grades 3-6 (Lesson Plans)

Key Concepts:  direct democracy, popular right to assemble, redress of grievances in a democratic order

Duration:  two (2) double-blocks (middle and high school), four (4) class periods (elementary school)

Goal:  Students will understand the social and political limits placed on central components of American democracy while differentiating between representative and direct democracy.

Objective:  Students will compare and contrast the current Occupy Wall St. protest tactic of establishing encampments in public spaces with similar tactics employed by the Bonus Army of 1932, noting similarities and differences in the means and ends of both groups.

Essential Question:  Does the occupation of public space offer a successful vehicle for protest, given the nature of representative democracy and the legal limits placed on the rights to assemble and petition for redress of grievances enshrined in the Bill of Rights?

Common Core Standards:  CCR Standards 7-9

21st Century Skills:  Critical Thinking and Problem Solving


Session One:

  • Introduce topic and question, then direct students to Wikipedia articles on Occupy Wall St. and the Bonus Army; read and take notes (non-tech alternative - distribute copies of articles); discuss, in large group, similarities and differences between the movements, in terms of motivating issues and remedies desired; explain the difference between direct and representative democracy.
  • Access copies of the First Amendment online (non-tech alternatives - distribute paper copies or access the document online and project for class to view), read, and discuss OWS and the Bonus Army again, in light of the protections guaranteed by the Constitution.  Discussion question: Did the Bonus Army and/or OWS cross the line between free speech/free assembly and trespass/unlawful assembly?
  • Break the class into small groups of four (4) students each, appoint a group leader.  Have each group create a Google Presentation with two slides, one each for OWS and the Bonus Army (non-tech alternative - use poster board and draw a table with two (2) sections for OWS and the Bonus Army, one for similarities and one for differences).  Discussion Question: Did the Bonus Army and/or OWS have the right to occupy public space and press their demands for change?
  • Session Two:

  • Have the students present their findings to the class, by group, using Google Presentation.  Each student should have a speaking role in the presentation. (non-tech alternative - have students present their poster board)  After the group presentation, open the floor to audience questions and comments.
  • Assessment: assess students based the rubric below:
  • Students’ names: _________________________________________________________

    Oral Presentation Grading Rubric



    General presentation (audience appeal)

    Excellent = 5
    Good = 4
    Average = 3
    Below Average = 2
    None = 1

    Creativity, Originality, and Effort

    Exceptional = 5
    Good = 4
    As expected = 3
    Less than expected = 2
    Not apparent = 1

    Applied Knowledge (use of material and concepts learned)

    Solid application of learned material = 5
    Very good application of learned material = 4
    Adequate application = 3
    Weak application = 2
    No apparent application = 1

    Comprehension (understanding of topic/assignment)

    Excellent comprehension = 5
    Good comprehension = 4
    Average comprehension = 3
    Weak comprehension = 2
    No comprehension = 1

    Highest Possible Average Points


    Total Average Points


    Letter Grade


    Grade Scale: 5 (A), 4 (B), 3 (C), 2 (D), 1 (F)


    Materials Needed

    Non-tech: paper, poster board, colored pens and/or pencils


    Computer access to Internet and Google suite; document camera, if necessary; OWS Primary and Secondary Sources

    Wikipedia articles
    OWS website, blog, and Twitter feed


    Vocabulary Preview


    CNN video discussion

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