Thursday, November 16, 2006

Fun with documents

Thanks, Peter Pappas, for responding to my last post! I'm exhausted but you have inspired me to post about the lesson I did today with documents. (I found Pappas' blog while trying to figure out how to do this lesson.)

So, the main skill we've been trying to teach in this slavery unit is how to approach primary source documents. I was sort of making it up as I went along, but I started out having them practice asking simple questions of the documents (who created it? when? why?).

So the aim of today's lesson, which was the last lesson in the unit, was "why did slavery end?" First I modeled how to approach the document with this document:

Then they looked at several documents (each kid got a different document according to reading level) including a speech by Frederick Douglass and this one:

Then came the hard part. They got into their social studies groups -- four kids in each mixed-level group, and each kid had a different document -- and had to come up with a topic sentence for a paragraph answering the question "why did slavery end?" I had no idea how they would do with this task. Some groups did really well, and other groups were totally lost. I'm not sure how I would have done it differently to scaffold better for the groups that were having a harder time.

This whole lesson was to prepare them for the final project for the unit. The unit question was "why did slavery exist?" So for the final project, they each have to pick a document (but I ended up giving documents to most kids) and writing an analytic paragraph about what that document teaches them about why slavery existed. On Monday, when the final project is due, they'll all bring in their documents and their paragraphs, and we'll hang them around the room like a gallery that is our class's answer to the unit question. I found some really great documents and I'm excited to see what they do with them, but I'm not sure I have really prepared them to succeed. Some of them will do fine because they are smart, and others might just be lost.


Tom Hoffman said...

Nice work. I like to see straightforward blogging about classroom practice. Keep it up.

Peter Pappas said...

Nice work Julie.

The challenge is that often kids lack the background knowledge to interpret the documents.
That means we have to work harder to select docs that have enough information in the them.

We also need to be sure that the docs are scaffolded to support students in answering with questions.That enables them to be the historian. Here's a sample I put together on the slavery issue.

Keep up the great work.