Saturday, March 15, 2008

Hi all,

The last time I posted, I wrote about how I was looking forward to starting to study the relationship between the Pilgrims and Wampanoags in my class.  Now, we have moved forward in history to the founding of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, and are studying every day life in a Puritan colonial town.   This transition has brought up some interesting discussions in my class, as students begin to understand the continuity of history.  Despite having "finished" studying the Pilgrims (in their interpretation), I am trying to have them understand that people were still living in Plymouth, and the community continued, even though our focus is now on Salem and Boston.  One way I have tried to encourage this continuity is to have students create a timeline of colonial history in Massachusetts.  Using a program called Timeliner, which is available in our computer lab, students are creating timelines showing various events.

As we have transitioned into the establishment of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, my class has been able to make several interesting connections.  Suprisingly, one connection is to a field trip we took in October to Salem Pioneer Village, in Salem.  The village is a recreation of the original colony set up in 1630, and in many respects is very similar (though much smaller in scale) to Plimoth Plantation in Plymouth.  The extraordinary thing about this field trip was that the entire day was an interactive experience for the students, with live actors allowing them to participate in various aspects of a "typical" day, including a prayer meeting, daily chores, lessons, and games.  This program was set up especially for our school, with the help of some theater students and actors from Gordon College.  During the visit, students had conversations with village elders, saw artifacts from the time period and_____.  Six months later, my students can recall this information, and it has 

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Making History Relevant for Kids

Hi All-

I am in the midst of beginning my unit on the American Revolution. This is a topic that is often one of the most favorite for my students! They have some background information from their studies of third grade, but I find too that they also come in with many prejudices and misconceptions that I need to fix. Right away we begin with the meaning of the word, "revolution". Without fail, I am told by every class, every year, that the world "revolution" means "war". It makes for a great class conversation when we talk about the true meaning to be, "a sudden, and complete change". The students readily realize other revolutions that they are aware of that were not in fact wars (Artistic, Musical, and even the Industrial Revolution)

As adult historians, we recognize the significance of the role of taxation in the American Revolution. One of my favorite activities is to have students do a tax interview at home with an adult. The students need to ask someone to name three different taxes, where the money goes that is collected, and how they feel about the tax. This activity always has fascinating results. (It is frightening to see how many adults are unclear about the taxes that they pay.) Undoubtedly, at least one adult says that "taxation is a necessary evil", which also leads to an excellent conversation. It is also a great extension to encourage kids to read local papers and discover articles or letters to the editor about the topic of taxation. This is a beginning to helping kids understand that these issues that affected colonists long ago, still affect us even today.

It is extremely important to not teach a topic like the American Revolutin with bias. It could be very easy to play up the taxation by the British as completely unfair. I have learned over the years the importance of showing students all points of view on this important debate. I have read that approximately 1/3 of the colonists during the revolution were Patriots, 1/3 were Loyalists, and the other 1/3 tried to remain neutral in the middle. I am fortunate to use a fabulous resource that comes from the Old South Meeting House Education department. The Old South Meeting House was of course the site of the Tea Party Debate in Boston on the night of December 16, 1773. This resource is like a play or a readers' theater, with characters who range from real, famous Bostonians of the day to average Bostonians, both Patriot and Loyalist. No other resource has helped me express to my students the range of feelings during this time, and how both sides had valid points. This experience of being able to act out this debate and listen to each other's points, sticks in the students' minds. Kids will often refer to their classmates' points and how they relate to the different aspects of the revolution we are talking about. I have found that this debate isn't perfect historically (due to "Founding Myths") however it is fabulous resource that could be used well up through 8th grade! Visit