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Guest Post: A teacher’s journey

This guest post is written by Amy Johnson, a fourth and fifth grade teacher in Longview Public Schools.  In it, Amy describes the how Teaching American History Grant support influenced her teaching and has improved her district.

Roanoke & Jamestown Storyline, Winter 2012

Sadly, our Teaching American History grant is coming to an end…but the impact and inspiration this  project has had on me and numerous others will keep the work alive. Reflecting on the opportunities during the past three years as a collaborator, a teacher and a learner I am forever grateful to have been a part of such a program.  The professionalism, the high level of collaboration, and the friendships made with fellow educators have forever changed me.

Reynolds Memorial, Gettysburg National Park, Spring 2010

Starting out three years ago, little did I know what a huge impact the TAH grant, with a group of middle school teachers, would have on me professionally and personally.  Experiencing, Causes of Conflict: The American Civil War, in 2009-2010 was just the beginning of the journey for me.  Lesson study, with a group of fellow teachers as collaborators, introduced me to lesson design and analysis for the very first time.  Again, little did I know the process would become a passion.  Because of this project and the collaborative spirit, brilliant pieces of student work emerged…evidence of student learning beyond what I thought possible.  I became a learner in this process and was moved by the experiences during my first year because I saw results and excitement in my students.

North Bridge, Concord Massachusetts, 2011

As the TAH grant moved into  2010-2011, Causes of Conflict: The American Revolution, once again I found myself immersed in lesson study and design.   In a group of fellow elementary teachers I was confident, taking risks to create even more engaging opportunities for my students.  It was at this point I realized how much I became a learner too…I was learning about the birth of our nation in Boston.  As an American it was a personal experience.  This experience excited me and I couldn’t wait to bring back to my students. I was living a moment in history and I was able to give it life in my classroom. Again, it paid off.  Because I lived it…student engagement and evidence of student learning skyrocketed.  And, then something special and unique happened.  We became a close cohort group of teachers who could collaborate in an atmosphere of trust.  As a group we found ourselves naturally collaborating and creating engaging lessons for our students.  It was exhilarating and had such power professionally.  I am changed.

As this chapter closes I know with confidence the work started seven years ago continues.

Teaching with Primary Sources Workshop, March 2012

Amy moved from a recipient of  professional development recipient to a pd leader when she organized a Library of Congress TPS workshop for her district earlier this month.  Her students and her district are lucky to have her! Teaching American History grants made a real difference for thousands of teachers and their students and will be missed.

Teaching With Primary Sources Lesson: How does imperialism impact a country?

In previous posts (here and here), I’ve described the work high school teachers from the Evergreen and Vancouver school districts did in a professional development cycle funded and guided by the Library of Congress’ Teaching with Primary Sources Western Region affiliate.  This blog post is one of five describing specific lessons created by teacher teams and explored through demonstration lessons using this protocol.

This demonstration lesson, taught at the beginning of a World History unit on the Age of Imperialism, was taught at Heritage High School February 16, 2012.  The students used primary source documents to consider core questions regarding the historical theme:  What is imperialism?  In what ways does it benefit countries? How does it hurt them?

The debrief led participating teachers through some provocative questions: In what ways do primary source images help students? How do they lead to miscues? How can we help students attend to text? Why is sourcing documents important? What is the “right” question?  As with many of the lessons, the tension between providing too much – and too little – context was explored.

The following artifacts from the lesson and its revision are posted for your consideration:

The lesson study team was composed of Julie Harris and Tami Perkins.  They join me in encouraging you to use the comments section below to discuss the lesson.

What do you see in the lesson and the student work?

How did you adapt it for use in your classroom?

How did your students respond?

Teaching With Primary Sources Lesson: Propaganda

Mexico unido ante la agresion 1942, S. Balmori

In previous posts (here and here), I’ve described the work high school teachers from the Evergreen and Vancouver school districts did in a professional development cycle funded and guided by the Library of Congress’ Teaching with Primary Sources Western Region affiliate.  This blog post is one of five describing specific lessons created by teacher teams and explored through demonstration lessons using this protocol.

For this lesson, the teacher team collected World War II propaganda images and arranged them by nations (United States, Great Britain, Mexico, Italy, Russia, Japan, France and Germany.)  During the demonstration lesson, held March 1, 2011, at Evergreen High School, students used the images to consider two interrelated questions:  How do countries use propaganda to manipulate people? and How do these posters reflect national priorities in a time of war? The debrief conversation focused on the way in which this served both to develop important media literacy skills as well as an introduction to central nations involved in the World War II.
Artifacts from the lesson are posted here:

The group found that asking the students to separate their observations, inferences, and questions about the images was especially valuable.  Teacher observations of student conversations and student work analysis led the team to discuss some valuable questions:  What is the optimal point in the unit sequence for this lesson?  Should this lesson be used to catalyze study of the conflict or to demonstrate student understanding at the end of the unit?  In what ways should contemporary connections be developed into this study?

The lesson study team was composed of Steve Doyle, Tyson Bjorge, Tulani Freeman, Kinsey Murray, and Greg Ross.  They join me in encouraging you to use the comments section below to discuss the lesson.

What do you see in the lesson and the student work?

How did you adapt it for use in your classroom?

How did your students respond?

Teaching With Primary Sources Lesson: What is the role of the government, the community, and the individual in times of hardship?

In previous posts (here and here), I’ve described the work high school teachers from the Evergreen and Vancouver school districts did in a professional development cycle funded and guided by the Library of Congress’ Teaching with Primary Sources Western Region affiliate.  This blog post is one of five describing specific lessons created by teacher teams and explored through demonstration lessons using this protocol.
What is the role of government, community, and individuals in times of hardship?  This enduring question was the focus of a demonstration lesson taught to AP US History students at Evergreen High School on February 24, 2012.  Student groups examined document sets arranged around several themes related to the Hoover administration:  The Great Crash; Farmers, the Dust Bowl, and Exodusters; Jim Crow atrocities; The Bonus Army; and the response of Hoover’s administration.  Student groups huddled around laptops as the eagerly investigated images, sound files, and films, generating observations, inferences, and generalizations.

Lesson Materials:

I watched the students who worked with the Jim Crow collection.  As they moved from one source to the next, they made connections between items.  Their visceral reactions to the images led them to take a deeper look at the texts.  As they moved through the pieces, they began to get angry:  How could this have occurred over such a long period of time?  Why weren’t government forces intervening?

The debrief discussion was filled with interesting questions:  Does it matter what order students view a document set?  What group-roles need to be assigned by the teacher, and which best develop organically?  What kind of support would lead non-AP students to the same deft interpretation of the sources as the students we observed?

The lesson study team was composed of John Harvey, Mike Dillman, Jon Lauderbaugh, and Tim Trevarthen.  They join me in encouraging you to use the comments section below to discuss the lesson.

What do you see here?

How did you adapt it for use in your classroom?

How did your students respond?

Teaching With Primary Sources Lesson: The “White Man’s Burden”?

The Sleeping Sickness Gordon Ross (1911)

In previous posts (here and here), I’ve described the work high school teachers from the Evergreen and Vancouver school districts did in a professional development cycle funded and guided by the Library of Congress’ Teaching with Primary Sources Western Region affiliate.  This blog post is one of five describing specific lessons created by teacher teams and explored through demonstration lessons using this protocol.

This lesson, taught to a 10th grade World History class in a demonstration lesson at Mountain View High School on February 23, 2012, asked students to consider questions as relevant today as they were during the so-called “Age of Imperialism”:

When, if ever, is it valid for one nation or culture to intervene in another to impose its values?How did the imperializing countries justify imperialism?

Students, organized in teams and small groups, explored those questions through primary document sets.  The students demonstrated interest in the documents and the period and formulated interesting observations and analyses.  During the debrief, teachers discussed perennial questions:  How much background information is necessary for students to make sense of the sources?  What are the tradeoffs between quantity of documents and quality of interrogation?  How can we best organize individual responsibilities within a group setting?

Artifacts from the lesson are posted here:

My favorite moment during the observation came from one of the students whose attitude through much of the session might best be described as blase and above it all: Her contributions to the group discussion – and her attention to interpreting the materials – were minimal.  After analyzing each document, the groups were asked to ascribe a rating the document’s creator might place to the question of whether or not country’s have a responsibility to intervene in other nations’ affairs.  After comparing ratings on one doc, she suddenly awakened to the activity.  I’m wondering, she asked her group, why the other groups gave this document such a different rating than we did.  Are they seeing something different than we are?  Her comment reminded me of the value not only of asking students to make ranking decisions but also of the worth of fostering inter-group conversation during groupwork.

Within the debrief, the teacher team discussed key instructional dilemmas including the question of how much background knowledge is sufficient to guide inquiry, the challenges in accessing parody, and the challenges of fine-tuning questions to invite appropriate connections.

The lesson study team was composed of Jeanne Silvey, Larry Asher, Jim Stoda, and Natasha Flak.  They join me in encouraging you to use the comments section below to discuss the lesson.

What do you see here in the lesson and the student work?

How did you adapt it for use in your classroom?

How did your students respond?

Teaching With Primary Sources Lesson: 1918 Influenza Epidemic

In previous posts (here and here), I’ve described the work high school teachers from the Evergreen and Vancouver school districts did in a professional development cycle funded and guided by the Library of Congress’ Teaching with Primary Sources Western Region affiliate.  This blog post is one of five describing specific lessons created by teacher teams and explored through demonstration lessons using this protocol.

This lesson, using the 1918 influenza epidemic as a starting point from which to understand dimensions of the 1920s, was taught to two US History classes in demonstration lessons at Columbia River High School on February 10, 2012.  Students gathered in the school computer lab to explore the document set, organized into a Prezi.  Based on observations of the first class, the group revised the question tool for the second class.  The format, inquiry model, and reflection tool seemed to serve the students well.

Artifacts from the lesson are posted here:

My favorite moment of observation came when the student I was watching opened the Prezi and saw a photo of a room overflowing with patients on cots.  He grabbed his teacher and asked where the photo came from. The teacher explained that because the influenza was a major event of the day, many photos were taken and remain available. The student looked at the teacher incredulously: You mean these photos are real? Sure, said his teacher. The student’s jaw dropped: Even the baseball game we saw yesterday?

The exchange made clear how difficult it is to whittle away at our students’ misconceptions: Despite the fact that the student had been exposed to primary sources for months, it took until this moment for it to finally sink in that these were real artifacts allowing time travel to an unfamiliar past. I felt lucky to have witnessed the breakthrough!

The lesson study team was composed of David Douglas, Luke Glassett, Tara Rethwill, and Lindsey Siler.  They join me in encouraging you to use the comments section below to discuss the lesson.

What do you see here in the lesson and the student work?

How did you adapt it for use in your classroom?

How did your students respond?