Practice Makes Perfect?

Teacher Lorraine Lapthorne

As I approached the DBQ assignment, I decided to use images and texts from a literacy class assignment I had just completed. At first, I thought I had a head start, since I had a collection already curated, but as I continued with the assignment I realized I had started in the wrong place. While it was nice to have images and text, I should have started with the essential question AND what I wanted students to experience as they worked through the DBQ.

Working backwards, one of the challenges is finding the essential question that ties everything together. My previous assignment was over a broad topic – the Civil Rights Movement – which I’ve realized is much too broad for a DBQ exercise. Finding the right essential question was key to finding a way to connect the materials together.

The next step was to really think about what I wanted my students to learn as they worked through the DBQ. My first set of materials were loosely related, but would require students to take some large leaps to find the connections. Even with scaffolding questions, it seemed like a stretch. Once I had an essential question identified, then I could focus on the historical thinking skills I wanted students to experience as they worked through the DBQ.

This experience reminds me that the only way to get better at something new is to continue to practice. I have a much better sense of how to organize my thoughts around creating a DBQ and look forward to adding this learning experience to my curriculum development skills.

Image Credit: Teacher, Lorraine Lapthorne conducts her class in the Grade Two room at the Drouin State School, Drouin, Victoria.

I get by with a little help from my friends: the gift of peer review

One of the "Little Rock Nine" braves a jeering crowd.
One of the “Little Rock Nine” braves a jeering crowd.

Designing my first DBQ is both exciting and intimidating. Exciting, because I love the idea of having students take ownership of their learning process, but intimidating because I know that a successful lesson requires careful planning and scaffolding. I was grateful that this assignment included a peer review process.

When I came to class last Monday, I had collected primary source documents related to the Civil Rights Movement, but I hadn’t finalized the essential questions or focus of my DBQ. As I talked to my classmates, they challenged me to think about the primary sources I had collected and to focus my question. I realized that my favorite sources were focused on sources that were written by adolescents who were the same ages of my students. I also realized that I needed to find new sources to compliment, “A Poem for My Librarian, Mrs. Long” by Nikki Giovanni and the excerpt of Bone Black by bell hooks.

Peter Pappas suggested finding the iconic photo of the Elizabeth Eckford being taunted and tormented on her way to Little Rock Central High School. While searching for the image, I was able to find an excerpt that tells the story of two teenagers who would become famous that day, Elizabeth and Hazel Bryan.

My classmates were very helpful with this process. As I have discovered in this program, my ideas are even better when I have the chance to talk about my lesson plans and receive feedback on the curriculum ideas. It helps to talk about what I want students to take away from the learning experience and then evaluate the lesson to see if my targets match my activities. Stay tuned for my final product!


Photo Source:

Who Are We? A Mini-Lesson on Assimilation through Education

Chiricahua_Apaches_as_they_arrived_at_Carlisle_from_Fort_Marion_Florida(1) Chiricahua_Apaches_four_months_after_arriving_at_Carlisle(1)

 A lesson in corroboration for 8th grade students

by Christy Thomas

In this lesson, students compare two John Choate photographs from 1886, Chiricahua Apaches as they arrive at Carlisle from Fort Marion, Florida & Chiricahua Apaches four months after arriving at Carlisle. Using the quotations from Sitting Bull and Henry Ward Beecher, students are asked to examine two contrasting pieces of information to learn how Native Americans and the Euro-Americans disagreed on assimilation through education.

“If the Great Spirit had desired me to be a white man he would have made me so in the first place. He put in your heart certain wishes and plans; in my heart he put other and different desires. Each man is good in the sight of the Great Spirit. It is not necessary, that eagles should be crows.”

–Sitting Bull (Teton Sioux)

“The common schools are the stomachs of the country in which all people that come to us are assimilated within a generation. When a lion eats an ox, the lion does not become an ox but the ox becomes a lion.”

–Henry Ward Beecher

Background Information: From the 1879 to 1918, the Carlisle School trained Native American children in academics and trade skills. The school operated on a deserted military base in Central Pennsylvania.

Question 1: As you compare the children in these photographs, what are some of the major changes that took place?

Question 2:  Do you believe Sitting Bull and Henry Ward Beecher felt similarly about assimilation? What factors would have caused Sitting Bull and Henry Ward Beecher to view assimilation differently? How do the two messages differ?

Creating a mini-lesson based on historical thinking skills was a great exercise in thinking outside the box. I found it challenging to adjust my thinking from simple recall to more analytical questions. In this lesson, I hope to step outside of a lecture mode and let students take ownership of their learning process. I see emphasizing historical thinking skills as a great way to help students connect the past to the present lives.

I enjoyed working with my classmates to fine tune the mini-lessons. It was nice to work together to improve our final products and discuss the best way to engage students.


Images from the Library of Congress Primary Source sets:

Quotations taken from the Carlisle Indian Industrial School history:

Taking a Stand

March photo

Content  This lesson is the introduction to the Cause unit, which asks students to think about a cause they would be willing to stand up for, even if it required great personal sacrifices. By the end of the unit, students will have written a short essay that includes an introduction, the problem, what should be done, what they can do individually and a conclusion. They will also create a collage that represents their cause.

This lesson will introduce different historical and current day civil rights leaders, asking students to identify the individuals and their causes. Then, students will begin brainstorming the cause that’s important to them.

Process  Students will have read about Cesar Chavez in a previous lesson. I will use a Prezi to start today’s lesson, using student participation to identify the different leaders and their causes. There are some leaders that students may not recognize, but the causes are varied and relevant to their daily lives. We will also discuss what elevates a cause to international recognition. The students will then brainstorm causes that are important to them personally.

Product  At the end of the lesson, students will have identified their cause for the project. They will then begin working on the first draft of their topic sentence and engage in a peer review process that will extend into the next lesson.

Evaluation  Students will not be expected to identify all the leaders, but I hope that the presentation will lead to a conversation about the different causes and the overall idea that there are issues that are worth taking a stand for, even if it leads to personal sacrifices. Students will demonstrate understanding as they continue with the unit and create a short essay.

What kinds of thinking will students need to do to participate in the lesson? This lesson will ask students to remember what they have already learned about historical figures and world history, as well as analyzing what causes are important to them personally.

To what extent do students have options or choices regarding these lesson components? As this is an introduction, student ownership is limited to demonstrating the information they learned last year. Student ownership will increase as they identify their personal cause and begin their essays. They will also have full control of the art portion of the unit, creating their collage. They will work together to peer edit their essays throughout the process.

Personal Reflection This is my first experience co-teaching with my cooperative teacher to introduce a unit and my first time using Prezi as a tool for student discussion. I’m not sure how the class will react to the discussion component, as this is only our fourth class together, but I hope I’ll be able to engage students into a deeper level of conversation, beyond yes and no answers. Thanks to my EdMethods classmates for their help in designing this lesson!

Image Credit: Mississippi Department of Archives and History

April 8, 1968