Category Archives: Primary Sources

Primary Source Assignment

It seems that we’ve been hampered by bugs and COVID in the last week. I’m sorry that we missed so many of you during our visit to the library Wednesday. We stayed much longer than expected but learned about so many amazing resources.

I have decided to make some changes to your primary source assignment to make it more manageable for all.

  • First, I’m going to integrate your primary source assignment into your digital toolbox. Instead of limiting your options to the WWII letters, you may choose any primary source(s) in the university collection that will enhance the study of content in your chosen grade level. This means you will need to add a page to your digital toolbox for this piece.
  • Second, you will not need to write a lesson plan for this component unless you choose to make this one of your two lesson options. I will let you make that decision.
  • Third, you will need to include digital images and descriptions for 2-3 items (at a minimum). Similar to other pieces in the toolbox, your narrative description should explain the connection to a particular SOL or set of SOLs and explain how you envision using the pieces.

I will include all of this updated information on the digital toolbox assignment page. I will also include links to the available UR resources.

Here is a link to the PPT we viewed during the session.

Here are links to some of the resources we learned about.

The January 2021 Attack on the Capitol, Where We Are Now, and How We Can Prepare Our Students In a Divided Nation

On January 6th 2021, a mob attacked the U.S Capitol and left the nation puzzled, frightened, angry and shocked. Social studies educators put their lesson plans on pause and addressed the fear and confusion many students experienced.  Civics and social studies education is a topic that has been fresh since the election and everything that’s happened since. There is so much going on in just our nation alone; a pandemic, economic hardship, the fight for social justice, teacher walk-outs, BLM protests, police brutality, our role in the war in Ukraine and countless other things. Our job right now as educators in this divided nation is a hard one.

I found an article that really spoke to all of those hardships and emotions students are facing and how we can help them think critically and try to understand what’s going on in the world. The article, titled “A More Perfect Union: Social Studies Educators Tell How To Get There”,  encourages teachers to instruct students to verify facts, decipher between fact and opinion, and learn about media literacy in a world of false information. The article talks about the importance of not squandering debate, but encouraging healthy and constructive debates in the classroom that build community instead of further dividing us. One skill the article discusses that America desperately needs to teach our youth is learning to listen to one another. The article stresses how education is only part of the solution, not a solution itself:

“We can’t play the blame game of laying it at the feet of education,” Tyson said, “because this is a historical multi-pronged problem that is also rooted in anti-blackness and systemic racism. It’s rooted in the ways people feel disenfranchised and are finding themselves becoming more economically fragile. Two pandemics grip this nation and the world: COVID-19 and racism.”

The article uses this quote to encourage us to teach our students to work together, listen to each other, and have those conversations with our students about civics and social studies to prepare them for the future. We must be open about evaluating sources, thinking critically, discussing our viewpoints, and reaching a consensus of community.

There was a lot from this article I didn’t include so please take the time to read it. It felt very relevant to our predicament as social studies teachers in our world today. What was one big take away from the article that really resided with you? How can we foster community in our classrooms when discussing difficult political and civic topics? How has education failed students in the past and how can we do better?

(PS. I hope everyone had a great weekend! Please forgive me for my late blog post, I had my scheduled days confused. Thank you for understanding and I will see everyone in class!)

Teaching Sensitive History Through Primary Sources

One of the recurring topics this semester has been surrounding the question, “How do we teach sensitive material to young students?” Topics like World Wars, Egyptian afterlife, slavery, the Holocaust and controversial historical figures are just a few examples of topics that are touchy for both students and teachers.  I found a great article that discusses how primary sources and artifacts can help teach sensitive topics in a variety of ways. The article talks about how images, artifacts and objects can provide a soft transition into a hard, sensitive or possibly controversial conversation. These kinds of visual aids can also make the material easier for students to understand and digest if shown rather than simply explained. The article follows this up with some great suggestions to consider before teaching sensitive subjects:

  1. Consider your audience and take your students backgrounds and experiences into account
  2. Consider your role as a teacher in this conversation (to challenge preconceptions, remain neutral, etc.)
  3. Consider whether it is appropriate or necessary to share your own view or opinion. (This can help a conversation or hurt it)

As educators, I believe teaching sensitive subjects should go hand in hand with our efforts to teach about bias, diversity and social justice. History repeats itself, which means the hard conversations have to go hand in hand with the right response. Dr. Stohr has mentioned in class about bias free teaching and literature and how to recognize bias from a historical perspective. Another great article on Edutopia discusses this topic and explains the importance of teaching young students about bias and social justice. The article provides strategies elementary teachers can use, such as anti-bias lessons, news stories and children’s literature, to start the conversation. The article also points out how we can use a child’s viewpoint on fairness to our advantage when teaching history. These are all great suggestions on how to teach history and lead our kids with truth,  knowing that our students are worthy and capable of knowing and understanding it.

What are some sensitive topics that you are interested in finding resources to help you teach? What strategies from the articles stuck out to you that you think you may use in your classroom? What are some other ways you think we can approach sensitive subjects?

 

 

 

Current Events in the Elementary Classroom

https://www.edweek.org/teaching-learning/opinion-seven-ways-to-bring-current-events-into-the-classroom/2020/01

During class discussion this past Tuesday, we talked about the negative and inaccurate portrayal of American Indians in children’s literature, both in writing and in illustration. It should be noted that Dr. Stohr provided us with an authentic connection between American Indian history and a current event occurring in Ukraine. Moreover, Dr. Stohr said (not in these exact words), regarding American Indians and colonists, “How would you feel or what would you do if someone tried taking something away that belonged to you? Then Dr. Stohr connected this question to the statement, “We’ve been seeing this happening to the people of Ukraine.”

Our class discussion regarding current events continued as Aiden mentioned the topic of immigration status in the media. Further, how do we address this with students who may be exposed to the images and videos of “migrant children in cages” at the United States southern border in an appropriate manner?

With the goal of creating a positive and welcoming classroom climate, teachers must provide a safe space for their students to ask questions about current events. How can we best support students who are might be affected or knows of a friend/family member that is directly affected by a current event? How can we effectively and appropriately connect current events to what we are teaching in the classroom? Which grade level, within the elementary school, do you believe teachers should start including current event topics into their teachings?

As I thought about these questions, I came across an article titled “Seven Ways to Bring Current Events into the Classroom” (link posted at the top of the post). This article provides examples of different ways to get students engaged in their learning, so they make connections between academics and what is happening in the world around them. Although most of the examples of learning opportunities involve secondary level students, there are links within the article that could be useful for primary school teachers. One resource mentioned is “Project Look Sharp,” which provides K-12 resources for building media literacy. Another resource, that focuses on positive human interactions, is the “Good News” page in the Huffington Post.

Did you find this article to be informative and helpful? Were there any Project-Based Learning experiences within this article that you might consider using in your classroom – and in which grade level would you provide these learning experiences? Are there other learning structures that you might use to introduce current events? Have you found any resources related to integrating current events into student learning within the elementary classroom? Have you come across resources that provided you with insightful information on what to avoid when introducing current events into the classroom?

I look forward to reading your comments!

Teaching Inspo: Fieldwork and In-Person Testimonies

Hi all,

I recently came across this segment from PBS News Hour about Polaris Charter Academy, a largely low-income charter school committed to social justice. If you’re looking for examples of innovative social studies lesson plans, this video is definitely worth a watch. The way the school’s teachers tie together fieldwork, primary source document analysis, and first-person testimonies in a unit about the Civil Rights Movement is really inspiring. I loved that the project culminated with an actual trip to Birmingham for fieldwork, and I was also struck by how, before that trip, the teachers arranged for people who lived through Jim Crow segregation to come into the classroom and give their first-hand accounts. Inviting people who experienced the era first-hand to speak about their lives is not something I had ever really thought about doing, but listening to the students’ reactions, I can’t help but think this kind of an interaction would be an incredibly powerful teaching tool.

After watching the video, I also began to reflect on my own experience with field trips and guest speakers. To be honest, I couldn’t think of a single experience that left a lasting impression on me. We did make the requisite trip to Jamestown in 4th grade, but I don’t really remember much about it — it was certainly not an educational experience like the one described in the PBS News Hour segment. How about you? Did you take social studies field trips or do field work as a K-12 student? Did you hear a speaker that made a lasting impact? How do you feel about making use of fieldwork and/or classroom speakers in your social studies teaching today?

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?

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?

What is a Green Book?

So you stayed up late on Sunday to see the big winners at the Oscars. If you haven’t seen Green Book, you may not know what a Green Book is. Here’s a description.

First published in 1937 by Victor H. Green & Company, The Negro Motorist Green Book provided African American travelers with a national guidebook for navigating segregated facilities on US highways, including hotels, restaurants, and gas stations. The Green Book (later renamed The Negro Travelers’ Green Book) became an essential reference for African Americans to travel more safely and comfortably during the Jim Crow era, when black travelers were regularly denied services, treated with hostility, and threatened with physical harm simply for seeking accommodations, food, or gas from white providers. The guidebook included recommendations and warnings for every state, highlighting the fact that racism made travel dangerous across the country, not just in the segregated south. The last guidebook was published in 1966.

You can view a Green Book at the Digital Public Library of America.

Here’s a good piece from the NYTimes.
The Open Road Wasn’t Quite Open to All

Here’s a great post you may find useful.
Pairing Picture Books and Primary Sources: Ruth and the Green Book by Calvin Alexander Ramsey