It’s been a provocative season of demonstration lessons with 4th and 5th grade teachers! Using the lesson study process, teacher groups planned a lesson, then gathered to watch the lesson be taught and studied how students interacted with the material. In the past week plus, I’ve been at five schools where young learners took on a variety of historical challenges, including:
- analyzing correspondence between John and Abigail Adams to consider what the American Revolution meant for women;
- interpreting images to hear multiple perspectives on British efforts to manage the American colonies;
- using primary images and texts related to different events to evaluate their role in leading to the American Revolution;
- evaluating competing narratives to determine who was at fault for the Boston Massacre; and
- identifying who lived at Fort Vancouver and how each cultural group contributed to its success.
The impact of the lessons on student learning varied from session to session, but the impact on teacher learning seemed consistently strong. Here are a few representative snippets of participating teachers’ conversation and writing:
Observing other 5th grade students grapple with challenging text/images impacts my universal understanding of how students learn. To be given highly engaging historical documents and to work collaboratively with their peers stretches their thinking and informs me about my own expectations for student learning. It’s easy to feel isolated at times in regards to teaching history. Being a member of the lesson study team broadens my own perspective and fosters a need and a desire to dig deeper personally into historical thinking, teaching, and learning.
I saw a way to involve my Intensive Reading students in a more active way rather than just being passive learners.
I saw that I did not have to teach history the way I was taught as a student… Planning lessons with a group & revise them has heightened my teaching abilities and my students will benefit greatly.
As we begin to revise the lesson, we are generating more thoughtfully developed ideas and questions.
I was surprised by how each of the teammates helped support one another.
We can’t work in a vacuum. Self-reflection is important, but our teaching will improve much more drastically by peer review and debriefing.
It takes me from direct instruction to guided, researched, and discovery learning. It makes me feel that history is really alive!
I’ve used different strategies before to make history more exciting – but never to make it more real!
At first, we were concerned about who would be the demonstration teacher. Then, there came a point in our planning where we realized that any of us would do it – because the only thing we’d be worried about would be to stay accountable to each other.
I’ve learned that students will rise to the occasion if you ask them to.
I’ve learned that there is so much about the past that I don’t know, but that I can tell the students ‘as you’re learning, I’m learning too.’
It’s led me to see that history is more than recall.
This has reminded me that I need to be open to my students as people. It’s made me a better kidwatcher.
One historical question should lead to another. That’s really happening for me now – and it didn’t before this year.
I’m looking forward to meeting with teachers June 29 & 30 to study what students did with the revised lessons. I should note that this work was made possible by a Teaching American History grant from the US Department of Education. That program, along with many others (including the National Writing Project), is described as wasteful and inefficient by House Bill 1891 and targeted for closure. You can read more about HB 1891 here
Teachers: Please add your input to the comments section!