Category Archives: Causes of Conflict 2010-2011

History On Location Day Three: Boston

Link to Day One’s post here; Day Two’s here.

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Day Three began with a talk from Frank Cogliano linking our study of the early colonies to the period of the American revolution – an experience of becoming more British, but less English.  Cogliano then led us along the Freedom Trail, including stops at the Granary Burial Ground, Faneuil Hall, the Old South Meeting House, and King’s Chapel.  The day concluded with a classroom implementation session with Gloria Sesso and a tour of Harvard.

Teacher-participants, please weigh in:

  • What do you think were the important ideas we considered?  What valued do you see in studying this historical period?
  • What historical questions were answered?  What new historical questions developed?
  • What new ideas or questions about the teaching and learning of history were you left with?

History on Location 2011 Day Two: Salem

Link to Day One’s post here.

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Day Two started at the Harvard Club of Boston, where John Demos talked about the visible and invisible worlds inhabited by the New England colonists.  We then went to the Rebecca Nurse Homestead, where we toured the Nurse home and graveyard then relived the trials in the reconstructed meetinghouse.  Next, we toured the Peabody Essex Museum, a museum’s whose roots are closely tied to Salem’s maritime history.  We closed the day there with Gloria Sesso, who shared ideas about how to incorporate art into history lessons.

Teacher-participants, I turn this over to you:

  • What do you think were the big ideas we studied here?  Why do you think these are valuable episodes and themes to study?
  • What historical questions were answered here?  What new questions developed?
  • What new ideas or questions about teaching and learning history did this exploration leave you with?

History on Location 2011 Day One: Plimoth Plantation

As part of the Causes of Conflict Teaching American History Grant Project, teachers travel annually to historically significant sites for study produced in partnership with the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History.  In previous years, middle school teachers studied the Civil War and high school teachers studied the Civil Rights Movement.  Descriptions and resources from both of those trips are posted on this blog; use the search tools to find the entries.  This year, elementary teachers studied the New England colonies, from early contact through the American Revolution.

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Our study began with talks by John Demos, followed by a trip to Plimoth Plantation.  Demos started with a talk Sunday night on just who the Puritans were, disavowing us of our inclination to think of them as repressed, guilt ridden, and austere:  in short, the Puritans weren’t puritanical.  Monday, we went to Plimoth Plantation, a living history site interpreting the Wampanoag and Plimoth experience.  There, Demos helped us understand the worlds of these early settlers:  their home and community lives.  Interpreters on the Mayflower II, the Wampanoag Home Site, and the 1627 English Village brought these worlds to light.  Education specialists Summer Confuorto and Kim VanWormer guided our visits and analysis of the 1621 Treaty as described in Mourts Relation.

Teacher-participants, I turn this over to you, as I will the next several entries:

  • What do you think were the big ideas we studied here?  Why do you think these episodes and themes are important to study?
  • What historical questions were answered here?  What new questions developed?
  • What new ideas or questions about teaching and learning history did this investigation leave you with?

Teacher Professional Development: The Gift that Keeps Giving

from Tempered Radical - Bill Ferriter

It’s always a pleasure to run into former students and find out that the work you did together continues in delightful and surprising ways.  When I taught middle school, for example, I was never sold on the school’s approach to teaching a foreign language.  How were students supposed to learn Spanish in 50 minute doses three times a week?  As it turns out, something important was going on:  One of the most common characteristics when I run into those kids today is that they’ve continued their language studies – the other common characteristics being that they’re brilliant, wildly idealistic, and unusually good looking 🙂

While I’m sold on the professional development I’ve been doing through Teaching American History grants over the last five years, I do wonder about their continued impact.  Plans for sustainability are always called for in the proposals – but they’re awfully difficult to commit to convincingly.  What a thrill it was, then, to be invited to Hudson’s Bay High School in Vancouver, where three former TAH participants teach.  There, I was treated to a Lesson Study Demonstration Lesson, work they were inspired to continue following their experience int the TAH project.  Lesson Study brings them together to discuss alignment between meaningful student learning targets and powerful teaching strategies, important work that investigates teaching, learning, and assessment through collegial interaction.

When they invited me to observe their Lesson Study, I was impressed to hear that it was happening.  But once we got talking, I was thrilled to learn of a range of tools they’ve brought to Bay from our TAH work together that has enhanced a professional learning culture amongst their staff and students.  In addition to Lesson Study, teachers there are:

  • Working together as teams to plan
  • Maintaining student work portfolios
  • Doing repeated, aligned assessments to see growth over time
  • Examining student work collaboratively and discussing whether it’s sufficient to assess learning

While they say this came from TAH program inspiration, I know that it’s taken tremendous courage and conviction on their part to push this kind of cultural change.  It makes you wonder:  What else is going on?  While the work we’ve done has always benefited from excellent evaluation processes during its duration, it sure would be nice to be able to do some longer term studies…

November’s Batch

Time for another review of opportunities that have passed my desk over the last month that you might have missed:

National History Day Judge Recruitment: Want to support middle and high school students’ enthusiastic historical inquiry?  The Southwest Washington History Day Competition will be held February 26 in Vancouver and we need judges!  If you’ve done it before, you know how wonderful it is to talk to kids about their research and applaud their projects; if you haven’t, you’ve been missing out and it’s time to turn that around.  Register to judge here.  No prior experience necessary; let me know if you have questions.

Lesson Study: I posted twice on Lesson Study this month – once on Peter Pappas’ always worthwhile blog Copy/Paste; a second time here.  Add your voice to the conversation!

Summer Institutes:  Both Gilder Lehrman and NEH have posted their 2011 summer professional development seminars.  These are unbelievable no- or low-cost opportunities to study historical themes with top scholars in interesting locales:

Spring Institute: The US Holocaust Memorial Museum is running an institute for teachers March 3-5 (Deadline January 28)

Scholarships: The Colonial Dames have posted another opportunity for Grade 5-12 teachers in Washington State to advance their instructional capacity with $1000 grants.  Apply here by March 4.

Other odds and ends related to our work:

Civil War

American Revolution

Civil Rights Movement

Education Reform

If there is something I missed that you want others to know about, add it to the comments section!

It’s Elementary! Lesson Study with 4th & 5th Grade Teachers

I can't find the attribution for this - but it's too perfect to avoid posting!

4th graders can tackle and understand difficult primary documents and it motivates them to talk about history.  I have more confidence using questions as a starting point for lessons.

I’m back at my desk today after spending most of November in schools with 4th and 5th grade teachers and their students.  Teachers used the Lesson Study cycle and protocol to guide their inquiry into teaching and learning history.  I was duly impressed by many things, including:

  • The teachers’ commitment to engaging students in meaningful historical inquiry.  They’re definitely fighting against the tide:  many are working in a context where attention to the social studies is getting squeezed out of the curriculum, where the lip service to the importance of teaching history is at odds with mandated times and texts that fill every minute between school bells.  These teachers helped their students think deeply about first encounters between Europeans and Native Americans, Columbus’ intent, the starving time in Jamestown, the Roanoke settlement, and why Jefferson sent the Corps of Discovery west – in a manner far more evocative than was hinted at in their basal readers.

This is the best experience I’ve had!  On day two of the summer institute, I was overwhelmed and ready to quit.  I’m thankful that I stuck it out:  I never would have done any of this, just read the textbook and answered the questions.   Now I’m more comfortable to go beyond:  This is huge!

  • The teachers’ eagerness to entice students with primary documents.  Many of these teachers hadn’t previously worked with primary sources, but all were curious about doing so and thrilled with the results.  They were surprised by what happened when students willingly struggled to make sense of a mysterious and elusive past through nuanced artifacts.  

As one who has only used primary sources for the CBA, I was quite excited to see how engaged the students were in researching primary documents.  I can see how having the students use primary sources can help the students become engaged in a history lesson.  They also will be able to form their own opinions based on evidence they gather, rather than just rehashing what they read.  With this process, students have a better chance of becoming critical thinkers that question rather than follow blindly.  I will definitely use primary sources with my class.

  • The teachers’ attendance to embedding lessons with necessary scaffolding.  Primary sources offer authentic literacy challenges, and these elementary teachers took seriously their students’ needs when anticipating and evaluating the lessons.

This lesson study experience helped me to see the larger view of teaching social studies.  I see a clear reason for learning social studies and a connection that can be made to students’ lives today.  I’m going to build connections across the curriculum through reading strategies.

  • The teachers’ openness to working with each other.  In a profession where isolation is the norm, Lesson Study demands a high degree of intimacy and vulnerability.  I found it in spades, qualities of real professional learning teams.

Collaboration is so important for addressing needs, relevance, and skills.  This process has inspired me to teach history in an engaging way.

Furthermore, this month reinforced my belief in the Lesson Study approach.  In the reflection guide we asked teachers to complete, they overwhelmingly affirmed the following three statements:

  • The LS process caused teachers to pay close attention to student learning of historical content and thinking skills;
  • The lesson debrief process was engaging and helped teachers reflect on and improve the lesson; and
  • As a result of the LS process, teachers are likely to teach the targeted content/skills differently.

The next round comes in the spring, following our Gilder Lehrman Institute coordinated trip to Plymouth, Salem and Boston with John Demos , Frank Cogliano, and Gloria Sesso.  I’m looking forward to it!

Lesson Study Planning Fall 2010

I very much enjoyed yesterday’s workshop with elementary teachers planning their fall demonstration lessons.  The importance of this work seems to resonate through so many of the voices I’ve been hearing lately, whether in Jill Lepore’s writing on the Tea Party, the lessons of the Virginia’s textbook debacle (both of which I wrote about earlier this week), or Melissa Manon’s assertion that

Learning to use history to think critically makes history interesting, shows students (including life-long learners) that history is worth learning, and encourages us to value our past and find use for it in the present.

This is the kind of professional development that I hear called for repeatedly – collaborative, content rich, and collegial.  Most importantly, it’s focus lies on the classroom and student learning.

We began the day with Rich Christen reminding teachers where we’ve been thus far.

Slides: Where have we been? Where do we want to go?

Next, I took teachers through a review of the Lesson Study Cycle and a criteria based review of student work samples they brought to the session.

Slides: What is Lesson Study?

Organizer: Work sample analysis

Teachers then brainstormed a list of attributes of a “good” demonstration lesson.  From their list, we modified a sheet that we’ll use as part of our debriefing sessions to guide reflection and gather project data.

2010-11 Lesson Study Review Sheet

Teachers spent the rest of the day planning their lessons.  I’ll be spending a big part of November in the schools as a part of this process.  We’ll use this protocol each time.

It will be a great month, full of learning!