The Work of a Historian

A few years ago, our school site decided to combine English and History into a block period. This might be a blessing during Distance Learning because I have the same set of students twice.

Yesterday, I taught 2nd Period this history assignment. We only had three periods. Today I will teach this same lesson to 4th and 6th Period. (5th Period will have the social contract and avatar lesson).

The Lesson Content

The lesson was designed by fellow teachers in my district. The purpose of the lesson is to emphasize that students are already historians. It includes examples of primary sources - a newspaper article, a meme, a mural, a poem, a diary, and a political cartoon. The lesson itself can be found on our district website.

The Tech Portion

I posted the lesson Anyone can edit in Google Classroom. Crazy, huh? I wanted students to interact with the lesson.

Do you see the circles on the previous image? Those are examples of student writing.

We started with writing our name in an inserted text box. We then had discussions about why a student would want to "Conduct Research" or "Convince People of their Point of View." Direct instruction and then guided practice were necessary before students selected another historian's job. Students added their names and why they would like that part of the job.

What I liked

Students loved the travel and solve mysteries sections. Students wanted to travel to visit their families in Yemen, El Salvador, and Mexico. Students wanted to use artifacts to solve ancient mysteries.

What I did not like

What I did not like and later removed were links to the examples. Most students did not know what to do on those pages - "Just look at the example and come back to the lesson." The meme link took students to a website that had a few bad words. I removed those links from that class slide and the other two history periods.

Controversy

The slide with the newspaper, mural, diary, poem, meme, and the political cartoon was controversial to at least one parent.

While I did not agree with the parent's political point of view, I did reassure him that all students were required to support their claims with evidence. Evidence is crucial in our class. He liked that. He also liked that I called him to address his concerns.

I reassured the parent that students are allowed to have an opinion different from mine. I do not want students to simply regurgitate my thoughts. That would be too easy for them. I want students to work hard to use evidence to formulate their opinions.

At the same time, I am not removing references to Black Lives Matter. Our students need to have conversations. Students need to realize that Black Lives Matter does not mean anti-police.  Our students are scared because people who look like them receive different treatment based on systematic racism. Our students need to read articles, watch videos, identify bias, and use facts to support their claims. Our students need to be familiar with laws and policies that make our society better and those that need to be revised or straight up abolished.

My Plan

My plan as a teacher is to make students work hard for their claims - regardless if I agree or disagree with them. If a student wants to know my opinion, I will ask them their opinion first.  Hate will never have a place in my class. I promise you that. At the same time, students will be asked to identify the claim, give their reason, list possible sources to research evidence, and a list of that evidence. If we really want change, students will need these research skills.