Thursday, December 04, 2008

Voices Rising: Helping Students Think Like Historians

On December 4, 2008, teachers at the Madeline English School in Everett, Massachusetts continued their development of document-based lessons to use in their classrooms. These lessons focus on a specific essential question and utilize primary source document(s), helping to bring history to life in the classroom.

Additionally, the questions posed to the students within the lessons are inquiry-based, meaning that students construct their own learning by researching, analyzing, and interpreting documents and other resources to reach conclusions and form opinions.

For example, Mr. Donohue is developing a lesson titled:
Issues and Arguments Surrounding Slavery

The lesson focuses on the economics of Ancient Rome, the American South, and the American North before the Civil War and how each economy impacted laborers (slaves and mill workers). Mr. Donohue’s lesson also explores the justification of slavery and working conditions of the disenfranchised by those in power.

Students are encouraged to explore specific websites, books, and primary source documents such as the Statistics of Lowell Manufacturers (see below). They will use such documents to try to understand the conditions of mill workers in the Northern United States, compare those conditions with those of the slaves in the South and Ancient Rome, and create their own opinions of whether slavery was truly an economic necessity.

The final product will feature podcasts of the students’ findings and opinions.

Because the Voices Rising program includes the school districts of Everett, Malden, and Medford, teachers are given the opportunity to develop lessons and units cooperatively.

Manufacturing Statistics
University of Massachusetts Lowell

Examples of lessons’ guiding questions:

• How did the lives of Native Americans change with the arrival of the colonists?
• What changes occurred on Beacon Hill from the late 1700's-1860 for men, women, children (black and white)?
• What motivated abolitionists’ in the North?
• How did Irish Americans react to the abolitionist movement and the quest for African American Rights?
• What were the characteristics of social equality of the postbellum struggles women faced in 1830-1870?

Teachers will continue to refine their lessons with the guidance of historians at Suffolk University in Boston. As well as providing insight, resources, and general suggestions on the lessons’ topics, the historians’ feedback ensures historical accuracy.

Everyone involved is excited to see the positive impact these document-based lessons have on our students’ understanding and appreciation of history!

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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Lesson Planning Workshop

On September 23, 2008 Voices Rising teachers met for the first Lesson Planning Workshop at the McGlynn School in Medford.

Teachers began the process of thinking about ways to integrate the historical content they are exploring in the Voices Rising project into their classrooms. Teachers were asked to consider the content and primary sources that align with the curriculum and grades that they teach. The lessons participants develop will be woven into project-based units later in the project year.

The teachers explored the use of the Voices Rising wikispace to work collaboratively with the historians, project staff, the library liaison who will be assisting with primary source research, and other teacher participants. The role of the wikispace in the project was discussed and teachers had the opportunity to use the computers in the McGlynn Library to try the various features of the wikispace.

Participants then met with other teachers to talk about how they might design lessons that requires students to use primary sources to interpret historical events. Before the end of the workshop all teachers convened by grade and discussed the standards, essential questions, goals and objectives of their individual lessons and their combined unit.

While the lessons teachers create are early in their development, teachers began to think about the content that will encourage their students to study history as historians- utilizing historical thinking that will ask students to use primary sources of information for inquiry, evaluation and interpretation of actual events.

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Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Project Participants Begin Lesson Planning

Workshop participantsThe first after-school workshop was designed to assist teachers to begin thinking about ways to utilize the wealth of historical content being explored in the Voices Rising Project. Teacher teams are creating primary-source-based lessons centering on one of the project’s national parks. These lessons will be developed into units as the project year progresses.
Throughout the school year participants in the project will be communicating with each other, with the library researcher, with the historians and with the project staff through seminars and workshops and via an electronic communication tool (WebBoard). The role of the WebBoard in the project was discussed and its features presented.Workshop participants planning lessons
An important component of the Voices Rising Project is to encourage students to act and think like historians. Participating teachers explored ways to design their lesson activities so that their students will use primary sources as evidence of historical events. Providing students with the resources to study history as historians- this “historical thinking” will enable students to utilize primary sources of information for inquiry, evaluation and interpretation of historical events.
The teachers at the workshop convened by grade to plan and discuss the standards, essential question, goals and objectives of their individual lessons and their combined units.

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