Category Archives: Class Reflection

Who Decides What History We Learn?

         

          Tuesday during class, Dr. Stohr mentioned in passing how difficult it must be to pick which famous figures in history we learn about. This statement sparked my imagination; if I were to create my curriculum from scratch, who would my students learn about? Further, what in general would my students learn about? In a quick google search “deciding what people in history to teach about,” I stumbled upon a WordPress blog from a curriculum creator while reading; this quote struck me. 

“Debates about curriculum content will be fiercer in history than in most other subjects because many people feel their histories are an important part of what makes them who they are, and the range of what can be taught is so broad” (Newmark, 2020).

I couldn’t help but think, “how true” history in a general sense is so broad, and everyone has a different history. If permissible, we would all advocate for our own desired history curriculum. However, each state uses a committee of educators, curriculum specialists, academics, and community members to create its own standards for history (Schwartz, 2021). As we know, politicians too have a say in education and what our students are being taught; I wondered what you all think? Who should have the final say? Personally, I believe teachers/educators should have more say as they are the ones teaching. Further, I think different outside groups that advocate for our populations (i.e., a woman’s rights or Black rights group) can work with committees to adopt a more culturally aware history curriculum. Truthfully, America has had a dark history, but it should not be swept under the rug; instead, we should teach a well-rounded and authentic history. 

 

An interesting extra site to look at:

https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2015/02/who-should-decide-how-students-learn-about-americas-past/385928/

Virginia History and Werowocomoco

I grew up in Michigan. When I moved to Virginia in 7th grade, I found it strange how Social Studies classes focused heavily on Virginia history, particularly Confederate generals. However, as I continue work on my 4th grade Digital Toolbox, I discover new Virginia historical gems. One thing that pleasantly surprised me is Virginia curriculum’s focus on Native Americans. I know shamefully little about Native American history and am looking forward to continually delving in.

Fourth graders learn about Native American tribes in Virginia; specifically, the framework incorporates tribe names, languages, locations, and habitats in addition to farming, hunting, and clothing practices. The curriculum also relays information regarding Powhatan and Pocahontas as well as modern American Indians. Although the framework mentions that Native Americans were forced inland, it does not put much weight on Native American oppression. Of note, students learn about recent archaeological dig sites including Werowocomoco.

In this blog post, I focus on Werowocomoco, a historically important Powhatan Indian town confirmed as an archaeological dig site in 2002. In class, we have discussed in depth the importance of using primary sources for student engagement. Artifacts from Werowocomoco are a great example of potentially useful primary sources. This website provides images and descriptions of American Indian artifacts and historical items. This one provides useful information about the Werowocomoco research project with maps, history, excavation information, and more. Lastly, this resource provides additional information and videos regarding Werowocomoco including an entire page dedicated to teacher resources. This is a great potential field trip opportunity as science topics can also be incorporated. Virtual field trips are even an option.

What are your thoughts on Virginia’s focus on Virginia history? As a teacher, what modifications are you planning on making to ensure history is honest and inclusive? Additionally, did you find these resources helpful? What facets of these resources would you consider utilizing? What resources (primary or otherwise useful) have you come across while working on your digital toolbox?

Teaching Columbus: Mythbusting

Hi all,

During our last class I was chatting with Bethany and Emily about the challenge of teaching  problematic historical figures to the younger grades. Bethany pointed out that the SOL for grade 2 specifically asks teachers to “describe the contributions” of Christopher Columbus. The first time I encountered the Columbus section of the The People’s History of the United States, I had to literally put the book down and walk away. It was that upsetting. Knowing what I know about Columbus, I was more than surprised to see him included on the agenda for second grade.

So how do you teach terrible history to young children? Do we sugarcoat figures like Columbus and hope to bust the myth later, when they’re old enough to learn about slavery, genocide, and caging women and children in pens? Or do we give them the tools to think critically about the towering historical figures that our country still celebrates?

In search of an answer, I went to Google and found some great resources that might help us begin to bust the myth of Columbus at an early age. Teaching History has a great post on different approaches to teaching Columbus from K-12. I especially liked the recommendation for the book Discovering Christopher Columbus: How History is Invented. The book includes primary source documents appropriate for young learners (as early as second grade, I would say); I firmly believe that primary source work can help teach students to think critically about original documentation, to consider multiple and differing perspectives (including colonized cultures), and moreover, to understand that history is itself constructed. I think books that work with primary sources are a good, age-appropriate start to teaching students how to think critically about the past (the lesson that history is a construct is huge, I think) and are a good way to start grappling with problematic figures like Columbus.

Anyhow, this is all just my two cents. How would you teach Columbus or other figures like him, especially to young children (K-2)? Should we remove Columbus from the SOLs, or should we be forced to reckon with a fuller account of our history?

Helpful Teaching Practices: The Civil Rights Movement

Civil Rights Movement Timeline - Timeline & Events - HISTORY

In class, we discussed Rosa Parks. The Kohl excerpt (compiled from review of over 20 history textbooks) oversimplifies history while also painting Rosa in an overly emotional light using words such as “tired,” “angry,” and “stubborn.” Important figures including Ann Robinson are not addressed at all, and Rosa’s refusal to stand is inaccurately painted as the beginning of the movement. Thankfully, we used critical thinking skills and interaction with primary sources to poke holes in Kohl’s narrative. We can engage students with primary sources; carefully chosen documents (which can be adapted as needed) paint a significantly more accurate picture of the truth than many textbooks/secondary sources.

After this week’s class’s discussion and as I formulate my Bibliography, go over curriculum frameworks, and read my literature circle novel, I worry about how to approach difficult discussions. Specifically, as teachers, how can we both be honest about history but sensitive to the ages of our students? Also, how do we navigate today’s political climate while still being honest about history and honoring our students first? With a governor who bans Critical Race Theory, I worry about walking the line between educating children, telling the truth, fighting injustice, and losing my job.

I found this resource, which discusses five essential practices for teaching the civil rights movement, really helpful. The practices include educating for empowerment, knowing how to talk about race, capturing the unseen, resisting telling a simple story, and connecting to the present. This resource even makes some suggestions that Dr. Stohr implemented during her model lesson such as encouraging critical thinking when encountering Kohl’s excerpt.

How have you addressed these delicate topics with students or your own children? Did you find this resource helpful? What aspects of this resource could you implement in your classroom? As I mentioned in a previous comment, I also read Raising White Kids by Jennifer Harvey, which gives great tips on approaching race conscious teaching. Are there any additional resources you all recommend?

How would you improve student learning and skills with primary sources?

Hello classmates!

As I reflect on activities that we have completed in class, my mind ponders on what the most effective ways of assessing the proficiency of student primary source analysis skills. As a class we chose objects of our preference and analyzed them in four parts: 1) meet the artifact; 2) observe its parts; 3) try to make sense of it; and 4) use it as historical evidence. Through this process, we made inferences by carefully examining the physical appearance of the object and hypothesizing its purpose.

We also learned how to analyze, especially compare and contrast, between different primary sources, such as an image of King George and an image of George Washington. We carefully examined what objects and symbols were included in the image and why those objects may have been included. This way, we inferred what message the illustrator was trying to deliver.

I have been thinking about how else students could show that they are proficient in their primary source analysis skills, and I thought of something I found pretty interesting and creative. Instead of having the students use primary sources to make inferences and develop and understanding by a repeated “observe and think” process, I think students can benefit from creating their own creative primary sources. By this, I mean students can tackle on writing letters or poems in the eyes of a critical historical figure or a commoner of any status. For example, after learning about Abraham Lincoln and his relevance to the history we learn today, a student could write a letter to a fictional friend and explain his thoughts/feelings on the topic at hand. Not only will students be able to identify and understand what happened, but they will also gain the opportunity to use advanced skills in understanding the emotions/intentions behind primary sources.

My question for you all is can you think of any ways of incorporating primary sources or just building on primary source analysis skills without necessarily providing an actual primary source? Be creative:)

Teaching Primary Sources: The Jim Crow Museum at Ferris State University

Protestors, July, 1963

Hi all,

As I’ve been working on my bibliography for this week’s digital toolbox assignment, I’ve been thinking a lot about the challenge of working with primary sources in the K-6 classroom — where to find them, how to adapt them, and how to teach them. I’m particularly interested in figuring out how to pull together a collection of documents that will sustain a class through an entire unit.

The topic I chose for my bibliography is racial segregation and the rise of Jim Crow laws (USII.4c), typically taught around 6th grade (I think), and I came across a resource that speaks to many of the above questions. The Jim Crow Museum at Ferris State University is home to a large collection of lesson plans and teaching materials, as well as artifacts and primary source documents, that not only cover the Jim Crow era, but slavery and the Civil Rights movement as well.

What I particularly love about this resource is that the museum’s collection goes in-depth into both the history of Jim Crow racism (the section on origins is fantastic in terms of the range of documents — though you, of course, want to choose your documents with awareness and sensitivity and adapt them for the classroom accordingly), and the history of resistance to Jim Crow. The Battling Jim Crow section contains work by artists who respond to, critique, and re-contextualize the images of the Jim Crow era, and I can imagine any number of creative lesson plans that could be developed using the art highlighted there. There’s also a very thoughtful post on how the museum’s staff feel about working with objects that are hateful; the post brings into view the work of curators and museum educators, and I think it could be really cool to talk about that kind of thing in the classroom.

Anyhow, this is just what I’ve been reading this week. I’d love to hear about any primary source resources you’ve found while working on your bibliographies. What topics have you chosen and where have you found the best teaching materials?

Why Is It So Hard to Pick Those Five Words??

There is so much content to teach but so little time. As we did the “George Washington, Spymaster” activity in class, I had difficulty picking only five words that I THOUGHT should be taught to a fourth-grade class. As Professor Hunt said, some teachers are lucky enough to be placed in a school where they are given the vocabulary that they need to teach. But others, not so much. We were given three paragraphs to pick those five words from. Just think about when we get a whole unit to sort through! Did you also struggle with the activity? How did you decide what words you thought were the most crucial for learning? 

The whole activity got me thinking about the different ways that we as teachers can get those essential vocabulary words remembered by our students. Growing up, I remember learning vocabulary every week by taking a worksheet home full of that week’s vocabulary and a dictionary. I would have to write down each word in my notebook and then find the definition in the dictionary. I would do that every week, which was not beneficial to me! How did you learn vocabulary in elementary school? Is it something you would bring to your classroom, or have you learned a new helpful way to teach vocabulary? 

I found this website done by two social studies teachers, and it has some great ways to teach social studies vocab to your students! Very interesting to read and poke around in. Mr and Mrs Social Studies – Social Studies Vocabulary Activities

Are we all biased?

Talking About Race: Bias

“If you are human, you are biased.” Howard J. Ross

Who writes the textbooks?  Who edits the trade books? Who are the “fact checkers” for educational materials that teachers use to teach history?  How do we know who we can trust for accurate information? What role do teachers play in educating students on understanding the importance of considering the source of their information? Ultimately, what role does bias play in history education?

As discussed in class and in the assigned homework, teachers are charged with the task of  not only teaching history, but more importantly creating critical thinkers. History is not merely a stagnant time-line or document for students to memorize. Instead,  history is a dynamic, living reflection of research, interpretation, and human experience, all of which are influenced by bias. In the classroom, students should be tasked with fact checking and considering the source of their information.  What bias might exist? From what perspective is the information derived? How does bias affect perspective?

Take a look below at the article, “BIAS” from The National Museum of African American History and Culture in connection with the Smithsonian Institute and think about how bias affects each and every one of us.  More importantly, think about how we, as educators, need to recognize our own biases and overcome them to become the positive influence we all strive to be in our students’ lives.

https://nmaahc.si.edu/learn/talking-about-race/topics/bias

In the TEDx Talk below, Jerry Kang explains what the Harvard University Project Implicit Study reveals about human nature and society.