Wednesday, November 22, 2006


So, the slavery unit is over.

I got my first taste today of what kids are like right before a break ... it was truly bizarre. At some point I looked around and one kid was rocking back and forth in his chair, another was doing something weird with his lips, a third was putting stickers on her tablemate's face, and a fourth was tugging on the braid of the nearest female. (Of course, the latter is a kid whom I've often caught fondling girls' hair ... Ah eighth graders.)

Looking back on the slavery unit, I have mixed feelings. There are some things I'm proud of and some things I know I'll do differently next time. Most of the kids seemed to get a lot out of it. Most, but not all, of them liked having one question that we kept coming back to each lesson (why did slavery exist). In their end-of-unit evaluations, one student wrote this:
I liked the fact that we weren't just explaining that there was slavery and it was so horrible it should have never happened. We actually spoke and thought about how and why did it happen who started it ect.
And I think most of them really came to a deeper understanding of that question over the course of the unit. When we first asked them to respond to the question "why did slavery exist" at the beginning of the unit, a majority of students responded "because white people were lazy" or "because white people were racist." While there is a level of truth to these answers, they reflect the kind of thinking that novice students of history use. Over time their responses became more complex (although I still had one student at the end of the unit say "because white people hated them").

It was a challenge for them and it was definitely a challenge for me! Glad it's over. Now on to the next challenge ...

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