Thoughts on Creating Document-Based Lessons

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Vietnam War Protestors at the March on the Pentagon in 1967

For the past three weeks, we have been working on designing our own Document Based Lessons (DBLs) to be published on iBooks Author. This experience was interesting . This was my first time working on a project like this. I found that the process was a bit long and required having good knowledge about the topic. This is why I chose to cover anti-Vietnam War images in my DBL. I know a lot about the anti-war movement and it was a topic I felt would be interesting for high school students to examine.

When working on designing this DBL, I had first thought that I wanted to cover ’60s pop culture in relation to the counterculture movement. I then had a difficult time finding sources that were not copyrighted or would have such problems arise. This moved me to find images related to the anti-war movement. I found many images, including the one featured above,  that related to looking at anti-war protests and what those who were against the war were arguing.

Once I had these images, I arranged them around an essential question: How can images/language usage help us understand the goals of a movement or group? I chose to base my DBL around this question because it helps students to build skills around historical thinking skill such as Sourcing and Close Reading. Each of the images in my DBL  features the essential question as a reminder of what to be thinking about, and each image includes 4 questions specific to the image. This helps the student to make deeper connections to the images and what they are conveying.

When creating this DBL in iBooks Author, I found the experience to be interesting, and a little scary. It was interesting because I was able to get creative when designing the layout for my image set. I used various colored shapes to help my essential question and each additional question stand out. I also used a couple of widgets that allow students to magnify the image, and another that allows you to click the image and receive additional info about it, almost like a caption box. I feel like these additions helped to make my DBL feel less dull.

If I were to get the chance to, I would definitely like to do another project like this. It makes you think about what questions are worth asking, and what you want students to look at as historians.

Image Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Vietnam_War_protestors_at_the_March_on_the_Pentagon.jpg

Differentiating Sources from Indian Boarding Schools

Carlisle Pupils
Carlisle Pupils

unknown author, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Carlisle_pupils.jpg, 9/28/15

For teaching eleventh (or eighth) grade US History students corroborating and sourcing: This will be taught at the end of the first semester, in a learning segment on Indian boarding schools in the 1880’s.

Skill:

Sourcing and Corroborating

The three sources:

  • Richard Henry Pratt’s discussion of the “Indian Problem” and the need and success of boarding school’s for Native children: Richard Henry Pratt
  • A letter from a young Indian girl in a boarding school (begin reading at the second “The Indians” to “The Chinese” on page 141) Letter
    • It is important to remember that these letters were forced, they were read and edited by boarding school officials and often times students were told what to write.
  • Reflection (Begin reading at “THE CUTTING OF MY LONG HAIR” on page 186 end on “THE DEVIL” on page 189)Reflection
    • This was written by Zitkala Sa. She was a victim of the Indian boarding schools. Her narration is vivid but avoids the graphic imagery of some of the physical abuse that occurred. For more information on her follow this link.

Scaffolding questions:

    1. What happened in the boarding schools?
    2. Why were students there?
    3. How did they describe the school?
    4. Complete a rhetorical triangle for it!

Instructional strategies:

  1. Students form groups of three. Together they read one of the three pieces and answer the scaffolding questions.
  2. Students form a second group composed of themselves and two people who read the other pieces. In this group students briefly explain their article and, as a group, fill in a Venn Diagram (three circles) using the questions they answered in their first group.
  3. As a class we discuss their Venn diagram. Posing the questions “Why aren’t all the answers in the center portion?”  “What can we learn from the information in the center?” “What can we infer about the information that overlaps between two circles but not all three?” “What does this tell us about the sources that overlap most?”
  4. Students write a question that is best answered by the reflection. Then answer it with a one page quick-write.

 

Reflection: I will need to type out some of the sources in order to shorten them because they are scans and not word documents that one could copy and paste. While presenting I realized that it may work well with younger students as an introduction but I still worry about the emotional and psychological effects of discussing such a serious and traumatic subject. I cannot use it unfortunately because I am with sixth grade English students. I also think I could instead provide them with eight questions and ask them to decide which source or sources would answer each best and then ask them to answer one of them.

 

Rhetorical trianglemethods

Three circle Venn Diagrammethods2

Triumph of the Will

Nuremberg Rally
Nuremberg Rally

Author: Sarah Wieking

Target Students: 10th/11th Grade History Students

Historical Skills: Sourcing and Contextualizing

The Road to Nazi Power: 

This lesson will be imbedded into a unit on World War II. Therefore, students should already know about the devastation that Germany faced in the post-WWI era. They will know that they endured a dramatic economic recession resulting from the Versailles Treaty and the Great Depression. They will understand the helpless aura of the nation at that time. As a review, we will highlight elements that led to Hitler’s rise to power.

Students will be asked to consider why Hitler was able to gain so much power and support so quickly.

Examples for students to consider: Hitler promised the downtrodden citizens a new and better life, as well as a new Germany. The Nazis attracted the unemployed, the young, and the lower middle classes.

Students will be asked to write down their own definition of Nationalism and then share it with their neighbors. Then a few will share them with the class. Specific elements of nationalism will be emphasized as a class: a feeling of superiority over other countries and the feeling that nations should act independently of each other.

Students will be asked to consider nationalism in Germany and the background knowledge that they know of that time when watching the propaganda video.

The Power of Propaganda:

Then the class will briefly go over the definition of propaganda and how students think it could have been employed in WWII Germany.

Students will then watch the propaganda film: Triumph des Willens (1935). By Leni Riefenstahl

Before they begin watching, each student will be divided into “element groups” and  asked to consider one of the following key aspects of the film: the soundtrack, the tone and noise of crowds and speakers, and the visual elements.

The class will watch the opening scene of Hitler flying into Nuremberg and then Hitler’s speech at minute 55:00.

Starter thought provoking question: What do you think Hitler’s entrance from the sky symbolizes? ——- Students will write down their own answers and then share with each other, hopefully noticing that his descent from the sky alludes to his representation as a “savior”.

Activity:

As a class, students will look at a timeline of events in pre-war Germany. The teacher will guide them into noticing the events in the year 1924, the year before the propaganda was filmed. Students will therefore notice that on August 2nd, Hitler became president in addition to chancellor. Furthermore, on August 19th, a plebiscite was held to determine Hitler’s support. 90% said that they approved of his powers. For a timeline: http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/nazi-germany/nazi-germany-timeline/

Students will then meet with the other members of their “element groups” and share their findings about the significance of the elements they noticed. Then they will split into groups of three with those of different “element groups” and share their new ideas. They will be asked to consider their answers in answering the future questions.

Students will be asked to answer these following questions in small groups:

  1. Sourcing Question: Who was the intended audience of this propaganda film?

Contextualizing Questions:

  1. What is significant about the date that the film was released? (March 28, 1935)
  2. How does the video reflect the overall mood of the country during that time?
  3. How does our background information support what is seen in the video?
  4. How can we see nationalism at play in this video?

Their answers will be shared to the whole class and we will write down answers on the board to show connections. Then students in the different element groups will contribute significant features they noticed that help support these answers.

Then students will be asked the essential question in a quick write:

Why did so many ordinary German citizens rally behind Hitler and join the Nazi Party?

We will go over this as a class after they have completed writing their individual answers.

Reflection: 

I think that this mini lesson may need some work in its structuring. When I teach this, I want to ask these same questions and ask students to perform these tasks, but I hope to find better methods in doing so. It definitely needs to fit within an overall unit of WWII, hopefully in a world history class so that students also understand the significant after-effects that WWI caused for Germany. The main purpose of this lesson is to approach learning about Germany in WWII from a unique angle. I want students to see what led up to not simply a war, but how a desperate country rallied behind a man who promised change and a brighter future. Therefore, ordinary citizens joined a political party that we could hardly fathom ever joining. I want students to put themselves in the shoes of German citizens of the time and realize just why Hitler was able to gain so many supporters. This lesson will build upon previous lessons towards lessons on the beginning of WWII. Students will also learn about the power of nationalism and propaganda through this lesson.


Creator: Georg Pahl

Date of Publication: September 1934

Archive: Bundesarchiv.de Bild 102-04062A

 

The Dog That Started The Space Race

Laikapicture

The Dog That Started The Space Race

By John Buckley
5th Grade

Develop Historical Skills:
Sourcing and  Contextualization

Essential Question:
What were the reasons Laika was sent into space and what impact did it have on U.S. and Soviet relations?

 

Laika’s Journey to Space and the Cold War
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xz-vMeAa1OI]
American News Reel from 1957

 

Laika’s Journey to Space and the Cold War
Historical Documents: Discus the images as a class and their author’s perspective, place in history, and motive.
John Buckley

LaikaPicture2 LaikaNewspaperRussian LaikaUSSRStamp LaikaNewspaperArticle

Laika on a Soviet Postage Stamp

Laika as a Cartoon Character Hero

New York Times Newspaper Headline

Key Vocabulary Words
(To accompany article in worksheet form.) Discuss key vocabulary words as a class before having students break up into small groups to discuss the article and discussion questions.

Cold War: intense rivalry after World War II between the Soviet Union and its satellites and the democratic countries of the Western world, under the leadership of the United States.

Space Race: The competitive nature of the nations involved in space exploration.

Arms Race: Competition between countries to achieve superiority in quantity and quality of military arms.

Euthanised: To put an animal to death to end suffering or for convenience.

Depletion: The reduction in the number or quantity of something.

R–7 Sustainer: A key part of the Soviet Rocket.

ICBM: Intercontinental-Ballistic Missile, a rocket or missile type of missile that can fly from one continent to another
Source
Laika’s Journey to Space
*Give Students worksheet below to read and discuss in small groups.

“Laika 1954 – November 3, 1957) was a Soviet space dog who became one of the first animals in space, and the first animal to orbit the Earth. Laika, a stray dog from the streets of Moscow, was selected to be the occupant of the Soviet spacecraft Sputnik 2 that was launched into outer space on November 3, 1957.
Little was known about the impact of spaceflight on living creatures at the time of Laika’s mission, and the technology to de-orbit had not yet been developed, therefore Laika’s survival was not expected. Some scientists believed humans would be unable to survive the launch or the conditions of outer space, so engineers viewed flights by animals as a necessary precursor to human missions. The experiment aimed to prove that a living passenger could survive being launched into orbit and endure weightlessness, paving the way for human spaceflight and providing scientists with some of the first data on how living organisms react to spaceflight environments.
Laika died within hours from overheating, possibly caused by a failure of the central R-7 sustainer to separate from the payload. The true cause and time of her death were not made public until 2002; instead, it was widely reported that she died when her oxygen ran out on day six or, as the Soviet government initially claimed, she was euthanized prior to oxygen depletion.”
First Animals in Space

Discussion Questions
Scaffolding questions for students to use with documents:
1. Who made the video? When? And why?
2. Why did the Soviet Union want to send animals into space?
3. Was the United States alarmed about this event? And if so, why?
4. Did the event cause any fear or anxiety in United States? If yes, why?
5. If you were the Country’s leader, would you have sent Laika into space?
6. Did this event increase or decrease tensions in the Cold War between the U.S. and the Soviet Union?
Brief description of how the documents and scaffolding questions should reinforce the targeted historic skill(s)

This will allow students to discuss and grasp the background, context, and motivation of all parties involved. It will help students further understand the scope of historical events in proper framework.

Reflection:  As it relates to the SHEG lesson model, with this lesson I tried to focus on sourcing and  contextualization in the lesson design process. The challenges  I faced in preparing this lesson plan were making sure that the education piece is placed properly in the educational process. Meaning: The children would need some preparation work before hand concerning Space Exploration, Cold War, etc. etc. I do think it provides the opportunity to help intorduce 5th graders to not just a dog, but an opportunity to look “behind the curtain” of politics and world events and realize they are never exactly what they seem to be. Teaching historical thinking skills and critical analysis is essential in proper educational formation as they move towards adulthood.