On Becoming a Document-Based Lesson Designer – A Reflection on “Collectivization and Propaganda in Stalin’s Soviet Union”

In doing this project I have be impacted as both an educator and a content creator.

As an educator, this project has helped me think about ways to better engage students and make them the historians. By providing students the tools, in this case the documents that inform a subject, and scaffolded questions that encourage historical thinking behaviors, students can take on that role of expert. I also began to think more about the verbs of student learning, about what students would actually do with the information they are gathering. Too often students are asked to take on heaps of content knowledge without being provided a purpose for it. This process, in the end, was a true testament to the power of project based learning–there is so much value in providing students the opportunity to create. In the process they build, as I myself did through this iBooks project, both deep content knowledge and skills.

As a content creator, I found the design process really enjoyable. From the proposal in Google Slides, to a Google Site, to the iBooks final format I really developed a lesson that was both educational and interactive. I began to think about how things would look to the person, the student, using them and how the format would either encourage or discourage users. I see myself creating more educational content, on iBooks (this is a maybe, as I am an avowed PC user), on Google Sites, or on other platforms that lend themselves to high quality design and functionality.

Image Source: link

Image from page 344 of “The boy travellers in the Russian empire: adventures of two youths in a journey in European and Asiatic Russia, with accounts of a tour across Siberia..” (1886)

Thomas Wallace Knox


On Classroom Discussions

I very much appreciated the opportunity to talk about classroom discussion techniques. Classroom discussion is one of those areas in education that people talk about methods in terms of theory, but hearing how they work out in practice was very helpful.

I think the most important piece that I took away from our discussion, and am still considering, is how to make students accountable for listening to others. I have discussed this with teachers and staff at my school during professional development workshops too, and am still looking for ways to implement accountable listening in a meaningful way, It seems that most students come to class with the assumption that they are not responsible for acknowledging and knowing the ideas of their classmates, and that is the thing that accountable listening strategies need to be able to undercut.

I like using the smaller scale discussion strategies to encourage students to think about the material and get comfortable communicating their thoughts to others. I have found the Prediction Pairs and Think Pair Share to be really easy ways of engaging students in conversation with each other. Another method I am going to try is Give One, Get One, where students have to find a partner, give their answer, and then write down the other person’s answer. With this method I will be implementing both a classroom discussion strategy as well as an accountable listening strategy.

“Successes Spoken by Everyone”: Collectivization and Propaganda is Stalin’s Soviet Union


This lesson is intended for ninth grade  Modern World History students, though it could be adapted for any high school level. Students will be required, following the SHEG model of historical thinking, to corroborate, contextualize, and use close reading strategies. The essential question to be used to guide students’ learning is the following: How does power create reality? Can power create reality?

The documents students will be asked to examine include propaganda posters, socialist realist art, charts of data on collectivization, testimonies from Soviet refugees, and documents from the Soviet government/officials.

The central focus that students are working toward and will be asked to create at the end of the document based lesson will be a work of “people’s propaganda.” This will require students to analyze the documents, decide what is true about the time period of collectivization, and visually represent this in the style of propaganda (big letters, slogans, colorful imagery, etc).

The website that further lays out this lesson can be found here: https://sites.google.com/view/collectivizationintheussr

Image Source:

“Strengthen working discipline in collective farms” – Tashkent, Uzbekistan (1933) from the Mardjani Foundation

Taken from this site., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=31547128



A Letter from Christopher Columbus to Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand, 1493

The SHEG model of interpreting sources is a method I found to be very valuable. It helps us as educators get to the heart of how we want our students to think about history, providing levels of complexity to a subject that is often over simplified for students. I used a hard copy version of this form to give to my class this week, as we are learning about Latin America and the conquistadors, and it worked splendidly. We were able to have a really interesting conversation about the reliability of different sources. I had success in differentiating this historical thinking lesson for my students who struggle with reading. I did this by giving them a visual that communicated some of the same ideas as this document, and then they answered the same type of higher order thinking questions about sourcing.

As far as the process of creating the lesson, I found myself really enjoying the utility of Google Forms. I can see using this a lot in my own classroom, should I end up in a school where there is more universal access to technology. As I mentioned above, the SHEG model guided me toward asking the kinds of questions that would lead my students toward the type of knowledge I wanted them to gain. I appreciated the opportunity to run through the lesson with colleagues and get their feedback on the improvements that could be made to the lesson, as well as its successes. The aspect of that collaboration that I found most formative was having my colleagues actually complete my Google form, so I could see what potential responses would be and if they matched my expectations for appropriate student responses. Those responses helped me calibrate my questions and gave me a more informed expectation of student performance.