A Different Perspective of The Harlem Renaissance


For this assignment I chose to focus on the Harlem Renaissance and have my students explore the work of various African American musicians, artists, and writers, in order to identify the purpose of their work, and what it represented. This past semester I did a similar lesson to this DBL with my 11th grade history class for a 1920s unit. For that lesson I introduced similar sources to the ones in this assignment in order to guide my students to a deeper understanding of the Harlem Renaissance, and open a small discussion of race within America. The DBL I have created here will accomplish a similar goal.

For this lesson I wanted to introduce a more serious side of the Harlem Renaissance, and expose my students to these sources in order to guide them to understand a different perspective of America during this time period. Despite the Harlem Renaissance being a time and place full of spirit, opportunity, and pop-culture, it was also a time of opportunity to captivate audiences, black and white, and explore issues of race in America. For myself, the issues and concerns that are expressed in the documents provided by these artists, are still issues seen today. Following this DBL students can be asked to make connections to more modern day issues, compare and contrast, and reflect on American society today. As an educator I want to create a place where such discussions can be held with respect, because I do believe discussing situations and concerns such as this should be held in a classroom in order to help our students be more open minded, respectful, and well rounded to the world around them.

Artwork by:

Aaron DouglasAspects of Negro Life: Song of the Towers. Oil on canvas, 1934.
The New York Public Library, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Art and Artifacts Division.

Link: http://exhibitions.nypl.org/treasures/items/show/170#

The Changing Character of American Government: A Document-Based Lesson

Source – President Lyndon Johnson signs Medicare into law

Inquiry skills are at the heart of social studies and lessons that provide students with the chance to engage with rich primary sources are unparalleled opportunities for growth. In the document-based lesson (DBL) I prepared for this course, I sought to familiarize high school-aged social studies students with the ways in which the US federal government has changed over time by asking them to engage with samples of popular discourse surrounding Social Security, Medicare, and the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) at various points in the programs’ respective histories.

Students are presented with arguments made by high-profile figures and various forms of public opinion data. They are then asked to use this information as well as their knowledge of the historical contexts in which these debates take place to recognize connections between these debates and themes underlying the ways that US government and politics have shifted in the last century. Students demonstrate their ability to use the documents to arrive at such conclusions in both a class discussion and a written response to the lesson.

The experience of creating this DBL will inform my approach to the development of future lessons. In particular, I feel that incorporating sources that create opportunities for less proficient readers to engage in grade-level inquiry is important. In this case, I included videos, photographs, and a graph. The diverse character of the documents ensures that barriers to participation in the lesson are minimized.

DBL – Straight to the Source

Lynchings 1900-1931

Throughout the entire process of creating my document based lesson I was incredibly engaged. The idea of setting up students to serve as historical detectives was fascinating and doing the research to “uncover” primary sources/information proved incredibly fruitful and fulfilling. I even felt like a historical detective at certain points, especially when the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture emailed me the court transcripts from Jesse Washington’s “trial” in Waco, Texas!

Focusing on the lynching of Jesse Washington was certainly a emotionally/spiritually challenging task for me, however, and I initially struggled with the idea of what I wanted students to actually do with this information and what my intention for the lesson was. “Do I want students to get angry over Jesse Washington’s lynching and just sit in that anger? Do I want students to see how groups like the NAACP rose to prominence because of the work they did to quell lynchings? What am I trying to get at?” Ultimately, I ended up deciding that my intention was multifaceted… I am totally fine with students getting upset over historic injustices (after all, who learns about events like the Holocaust or Jim Crow and DOESN’T get upset?)  because I believe that will ignite an inner fire/passion to fight against present day injustices and, of course, I want students to feel empowered in their ability to contribute to society for the better so I felt the need to highlight the NAACP’s article in “The Crisis” and Billie Holiday’s “Strange Fruit” as examples of resistance.

I truly appreciated this process and wish I had more opportunities to engage in document based learning during my secondary education career. I fully intend on utilizing this type of lesson in my future classroom in sha Allah.

If anybody who reads my chapter on Jesse Washington and the dark legacy of American lynchings has any feedback or recommendations, I would love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me on LinkedIn. Much obliged.

Photo Credit:


Literacy DBL Design Project

An A B C, for baby patriotsWorking as individuals or in 2 person teams, students will design a document-based lesson (DBL) question suitable for inclusion in our iBook (available at iTunes).

See Class  6 for recommendations for DBLs and Teaching with Documents. Your DBL will include:

  1. Introduction of the DBL with brief historic context as needed.
  2. Generative / essential question
  3. About 5 – 8 related documents (image, text, video, audio) that will assist the students in answering the generative question
  4. Clear statement of what students will be asked to do
  5. Close reading scaffolding question for each document to assist the student in examining the document

A good example of a DBL is Progress and Poverty in Industrial America  This is a pdf version of one of my iBooks. (note: you will not have full function of all the gallery and video widgets). It uses 11 documents, which is a bit more than I expect for your DBL.

The DBL Design Assignment will be accomplished in steps:

Step 1: Develop a proposal which will be submitted for peer review. You should be prepared to deliver a 2 min pitch to class. (not a written assignment to be turned in)
Due date:  10/12.

We’ll do a bit of “speed dating” of our ideas for the DBL Assignment. Students will form two lines and have 2 minutes to pitch their DBL design idea to each other and share some feedback. Then one line will shift and we repeated the pitch exchange. In all students will pitch their idea three times.

The goal of this phase is to gather feedback from peers regarding the following:

  1. You have an interesting generative / essential question worth answering.
  2. Your initial appraisal indicates there are suitable documents available.
  3. You have an idea for how students will be asked interpret your documents.

Step 2: Submit a preliminary idea for your DBL design project for Peter’s feedback by 10/19. It should be posted to a shared Google folder.

Here’s a short video on using shared Google folder

It can be in the form of a Google doc that addresses:

  1. Where will you use it?  Grade, course, etc
  2. An interesting generative / essential question worth answering.
  3. 3 -5 suitable documents (include links).
  4. A brief explanation of “what are the kids going to do?”

Note: This is not intended to be a fully developed lesson. Just an idea of where you intend to go.

Step 3: Prepare content for iBooks Author lab session on 11/23

Workflow? See this guide Getting Ready for iBooks Author 57KB pdf

Step 4: iBooks Author design session 11/23

Step 5: Peer review of draft iBook 11/30

Step 6: Write a reflection on your DBL design process and post to our blog (your final post). It will also be added to your iBook chapter – due 12/6.

Step 7: Final design session in Digital lab 12/7

Title: “An A B C, for baby patriots”
Creator: Ames, Mary Frances
Publisher: Dean & Son
Place of Publication: London (160a Fleet Street E.C.)
Publication Date: [1899]
Archive: University of Florida UF00086056:00001