Let’s Go To America!

ellisCover45Lesson Study 1: Ellis Island and Angel Island Stations

 Although I was not able to do this lesson in my classroom, I do plan to use this project in the future. Rather than ask students to fill out a worksheet or write a summary, I felt that this sort of activity would be more fun for students to apply what they have learned about the topic, and show it off in a more creative way. I wanted to give students the opportunity to design their knowledge, and apply the content of this topic in way that best exemplified their understanding of it.  When I shared this lesson with my peers, they liked the idea of students making a brochure to explain the journey, the process, and the environment at Ellis Island and Angel Island, compared to a common essay formal assessment. For myself, I want to provide projects such as these as an alternative form of assessing my students, because it gives them more autonomy and responsibility to their learning.

Content: Students will study the significance of Ellis Island and Angel Island during early U.S immigration, by identifying the symbolism that these stations held for immigrants, the environment at these immigration stations, and the protocol/process in which to enter the United States.

Process: Students will be required to read either individually or with a partner, two primary source letters: one written from an incoming immigrant at Ellis Island, and the other written by an incoming immigrant at Angel island. In class, students will read these letters once through, and then a second time, in which they will annotate or highlight anything they found confusing, interesting, or had questions about. Following the reading, I will lead a class discussion, where we will identify the tone of each writer, the focus of each writer, who is the writer’s audience, and his or her personal feelings and experience.

Product: Students will each create a travel brochure, describing the environment, people, and process of being admitted into the United at either Ellis Island or Angel Island. The audience of these brochures will be to individuals who are considering making the journey to the United States.

Evaluation: Students will be evaluated based on a rubric score for their brochure. The rubric will be based on a 1-4 scoring system (1: incomplete, 2: Needs Improvement, 3: Good, 4: Exceeds). On the rubric, students will be evaluated on the application of the content, creativity, and spelling and grammar.

What kinds of thinking will students need to do to participate in the lesson?

This activity will require students to perform a combination of higher-level thinking (Creating) and lower level thinking (applying and understanding). As students conduct this activity, they will be forced to reflect how they will want to present their knowledge, through the design of their brochure.

To what extent do students have options or choices regarding these lesson components?

In regards to the reading, students have the opportunity to identify sections in the text that grab their attention as either interesting, confusing, or have further questions on. Students then have the chance to share their thoughts and ideas of the text with the class. The product of this lesson gives students the freedom to design and organize what was taught, and apply the content in a way that exemplifies their understanding of it.


Photo Credit to http://www.postcardy.com/articleEllis.html

To Market To Market

The Set-Up The following lesson is meant for a 3rd grade classroom and will come at the very end of a ten day unit focusing on three West African countries: Ghana, Togo, and Benin. Throughout the unit students will discover where these countries are located in the world and in relation to Portland, Oregon, as well as their various geographic features. They will also spend a considerable amount of time learning about the people that live in these countries and what their lives are like. The following market simulation lesson will act as a capstone activity for students who will be able to pretend to live in the countries they have been studying. This lesson borrows heavily from a suggested unit of study for Talented and Gifted 3rd graders in New York City  to whom all credit is due!

Open-Air Market in Kara, Togo
Open-Air Market in Kara, Togo

Content Students will be learning about basic economic terms through the example of a typical West African marketplace. They will learn about needs/demand, supply, and bartering through this simulation in which they will discover what can be sold, how it is sold (e.g. bartering, use of West African francs, typical vendor stalls), and who does the selling.

Process The lesson will begin with the instructor explaining that today the classroom will become a West African market and students will get to pretend to go shopping as if they were in Ghana, Togo or Benin! The instructor will explain expectations and will model each step beforehand (building on the modeling already done in a previous lesson).

Students will be organized into teams based on their table groups. Each group will be responsible for selling/bartering specific items. Students will need to decide who will do the selling and who will do the buying in their groups (will break down to about two and two for most teams). Those students who will be buying for their team will need to record their transactions on a “Barter Ledger.”

At the end of the simulation students will return to their seats and will see if their team acquired enough ingredients for their recipe. They will then participate in an instructor-directed discussion on economic terms through the following questions:

  • Were you successfully able to obtain all of the necessary ingredients for your recipe? (needs)
  • Was there enough of all the different ingredients available to barter? (supply)
  • What was it like to actually trade items or to come up with different values for each item? (barter)
  • Was there any particular item that was in limited supply but that everyone wanted? (demand)

Product Student actions and discussions during the simulation and their reflection on the lesson as a whole will constitute the “product” of the lesson.

Evaluation Student mastery of content will be evaluated through instructor observation and informal checks for understanding (especially during the post-simulation discussion).

Levels of Thinking Required of Students During the simulation students will be asked to engage in higher order thinking (evaluating & creating) as they decide what to buy and sell, for how much, and/or what would constitute an equitable trade. During the discussion students will need to analyze and evaluate their own actions and experiences at market.

Student Choices Students will choose how much to buy and/or what to trade for needed ingredients as well as how much to sell and/or what to trade for the items they have to sell. Both the recipe and a random selection of bartering cards will be given to each team by the instructor.

The Plan Right Now Having discussed this lesson idea with several insightful peers I realize I have a lot of backwards planning to do in order to get my students to be active participants in this simulation. I will need to build in a lot of group work throughout my unit in order to get them familiar with this type of collaboration. I will also need to do a lot of modeling for students leading up to this lesson—including some non-examples—as well as provide numerous videos and firsthand accounts of West African market experiences. Given my short time-frame (~45 minutes), I am also thinking about devoting one lesson to getting ready for the simulation (e.g. creating the materials, going over expectations, providing examples & non-examples of market behaviors), one lesson to the simulation itself, and a third lesson to debrief about the simulation and to go over the target economic terms.

Image Credit: By Grete Howard (Originally uploaded to Flickr as Kara-2) [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Learning about Primary Sources


Hello! I am working with a group 8th grade students in a 90 minute Language Arts/Social Studies  block. Which is what I had in for this lesson study.

Content: Students will read a letter from the book Dear America: Letters Home from Vietnam.                                                                                                                                                                         This lesson has the following elements:

  1. Examining and analyzing primary sources.
  2. Understanding the role of written letters in peoples’ lives
  3. Applying knowledge of the Vietnam war to primary sources
  4. Understanding the changing perspective of the war in Vietnam
  5. Learning how to work in groups and discuss

Process: In this lesson, students will choose a letter from a small selection of letters (3-4) from Dear America. After they have picked their letter they will read it and highlight what they believe to be important. Students will then share with each other and discuss what they learned from their letter (what was something new that they learned, or what surprised them about the letter). Then as a class we will discuss what the letters are about and how it reflects what we will have learned/read in class. The students will then do a short 1/2 page write up summarizing what they learned about soldiers’ lives during the Vietnam War.

Product: The end product will be a short write up that would include the letter they examined. The letter should show signs that they highlighted and some notes on what they felt to be important.

Evaluation: Learning will be assessed via a rubric, which will be used to grade their short paper and letter examination. This evaluation will show them how well they did at writing and understanding the process that we were going through. Some informal assessment will also come from student participation in both group and class discussion.

What kinds of thinking will students need to do to participate in the lesson?          The students will need to do higher order thinking through analysis and evaluation of primary sources. Students will have to do some kind of reflection on what they think is important when learning about a complicated historical event like the Vietnam War

To what extent do students have options or choices regarding these lesson components?                                                                                                                                                         This activity allows for students to have a choice in the primary source that they analyze. It also allows them to draw their own connections to history.

Reflection: After having gone through the peer review process with this assignment, I made some changes that are reflected in this post. Before these changes, I don’t think my lesson would have worked very well with eighth graders. In my initial lesson study the activities would have been better done with high schoolers. I think with the changes that I have in this post, I would make this an engaging activity for middle schoolers.

Image Credit: Bruce Crandall’s UH-1D

Psychology Research Methods: The Lesson



This lesson is intended to introduce students to research methods in psychology that they will be using throughout the semester. It will also give them a context to evaluate psychological studies that they will encounter throughout the course. At the end of this lesson, students should be able to identify each of the three major research methods and their components, evaluate for efficacy in certain situations, and demonstrate understanding of the week’s vocabulary (which includes aspects of the research methods).


This lesson will begin with a PowerPoint lecture on the research methods—descriptive research, correlational research and experimental research—and the important aspects of each that will be assessed later in the semester (including vocabulary, such as independent variables, control variables, and hindsight bias). Because the majority of the students will have already been exposed to the vocabulary words and may have a working understanding of some of the concepts to be covered, the lecture is intended to be brief and interactional—the teacher will engage with students to share what they already know rather than be handed the information all over again. See attached PowerPoint presentation.)

Following the lecture, students will be broken into their pods (small groups of 3). Each pod will be assigned a particular descriptive method that was just discussed in the lecture, and given a worksheet (attached). Students will have about 15 minutes to design a study within their group that describes High School cafeteria behavior. Their study should be a representation of the kind of research method they have been assigned. Once they have completed the questions regarding the design of their study, they should have their design signed off by the teacher. Once it is approved, students will share their study with another group in the class who was given a different kind of study. Students will be encouraged to ask questions and evaluate the other group’s study for problems, e.g.  are there any confounding variable they did not think about; is their study clear enough; is there any bias? Students will then turn in their worksheet as an example of their proficiency in descriptive methods of research.


Students will complete a worksheet. The first portion asks them to determine variables in a psychology experiment. The second section relates to the study each group designs during class.


Student learning will be assessed informally by the teacher when they receive approval for the study they design. They will be assessed as proficient if they can use the correct vocabulary in their description and their newly designed study meets the standards of a good psychological study (they have accounted for confounding variables, they have limited all sources of bias, etc.).

What kinds of thinking will students need to do to participate in the lesson?

Students will start by showing understanding of the concepts they took notes on earlier in the lesson. They will also engaging in some application when they design their study for a particular topic. They will be encouraged to discuss their study with other groups and evaluate that study for problems or bias.

To what extent do students have options or choices regarding these lesson

Students will have the greatest amount of choice in the designing of their study. There are numerous ways to describe behavior in a high school cafeteria, and numerous ways to run a study with the particular method they were randomly assigned.


The activity at the end of this lesson was the second or third iteration of the activity. As I discussed my ideas with my fellow Ed Methods classmates, we were able  to refine it and narrow it in scope. I was able to do that more so after discussing my ideas with my cooperating teacher. The activity went well; students were engaged and interested. They appreciated having the responsibility to be creative in  designing their own study.

The lecture was a bit difficult for the class. Based on the worksheet and conversations with individual students, they had a good grasp of the content. However, since it was an extended period of time where they were only supposed to take notes, it was a bit difficult for them to focus at times. This was a good lesson for me in breaking the lecture into pieces and using more examples.

 Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Description: Illustration of the setup of a Milgram experiment. The experimenter (E) convinces the subject (“Teacher” T) to give what he believes are painful electric shocks to another subject, who is actually an actor (“Learner” L). Many subjects continued to give shocks despite pleas of mercy from the actors.

Date: 6 September, 2014