Lesson Study: Timeline Project

Image result for american civil war

Lesson Study – Major U.S. Events before 1900

Intro: This lesson will be taught in my junior level U.S. history classes. It will take place over two class periods and is part of our introductory unit of a general review of things they should have learned last year in “Global Perspectives” before we get to the real content we are going to teach this year; U.S. history after 1900.

Content: In this lesson the students will be grouped into 8 groups of 3 or 4 students each and each group will be given one of 8 events that shaped U.S. history before 1900. They will have most of the class period to research their event and create a brief poster with a summary and at least 3 repercussions or ways our world changed because of the events. The next class period they will present their findings and the other groups will take notes on each other’s presentations. This will be pre-cursed with my CT and I giving a model presentation of a 9th and 10th event. Both research and presentation skills are being developed with this activity. Something that is a focus throughout a lot of our whole first unit and is especially highlighted for them to work on in this lesson is the ability to recognize changes or repercussions due to an event. The events are: Columbus “discovers” America, The Revolutionary War, The Declaration of Independence, the ratification of The Constitution, the Louisiana Purchase, Lewis and Clark’s Expedition, The Civil War, The second industrial revolution, Alexander Graham Bell invents the telephone, and Thomas Edison invents the light bulb.

Process: The students are given a worksheet to take notes on all 9 of the events as well as a graphic organizer to organize their note taking while researching their own event. By modeling what the final product (poster as well as the presentation) should be at the start of the assignment, the students are able to see exactly what they should be able to produce by the end. The students are doing research on the chrome books that we have in class. They only have to do work at home if they do not feel they are ready for their presentation at the end of the work day.

Product: To demonstrate their learning the students must produce a poster with a title and date of the event as well as a picture, a summary, and a list of repercussions of the event. They also must present this information orally to the rest of the class. The entire class is also producing a note sheet on all of the events that they are allowed to use on the quiz the next class period.

Evaluation: The students are evaluated on their presentation and their notes on the graphic organizer. They are also evaluated during a quiz about all 10 of the events in the next class. This helps to check for retention of their own event as well as their listening and retention of everyone else’s presentations.

Students need to use both lower and higher order thinking for this assignment. I think it is more of a stepping stone to higher order thinking though because it doesn’t really ask too much of them. They are remembering, understanding and applying when they do their research, take notes, and give their presentation but they are also analyzing and evaluating when they decide what the biggest impacts on our world and culture were caused by their events. We also ask them to justify why they chose their repercussions in the question portion of the presentation.

The students are able to choose how they set up their poster as well as if they draw or print out a picture for it. They are also able to decide if one or multiple of them do the presentation (as long as they are not volunteering someone who doesn’t want to do it).


I think that the lesson study is a very good way to brainstorm and flesh out ideas for lessons and to make sure an idea for a lesson has all of the crucial parts that are actually necessary in a lesson that don’t get thought of while thinking of ideas. The peer review process is something I am going to use to great length once I am designing all of my own lessons. The more eyes the better.

The U.S. Constitution and Slavery: Developing and Reflecting Upon an Academic Conversation

The U.S. Constitution https://www.flickr.com/photos/visionshare/7449468090
The U.S. Constitution

Content: For the Social Studies/Language Arts 8th grade class, over a single block period (2 hours), students will be able to read persuasive pieces, annotate them, use an academic conversation template, have a small-group conversation, reflect and write about their conversation, and generate an individual position. These activities will be based on two short excerpts from authors with opposing views regarding the Constitution’s initial position on slavery. The content will surround the Constitution’s Enumeration Clause, Slave Importation Clause, Fugitive Slave Clause, and Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments. The skills will be critical reading, writing, collaborating, and reflecting, and generating a position. The above skills are tied to RH.6-8.2, RH.6-8.4, RH.6-8.5, RH.6-8.6, RH.6-8.8, SL.8.1, SL.8.2, and WHST.6-8.9 in the Common Core standards.

Process: As for the process, the teacher will use the projector and the class will collectively read out loud and annotate the two pieces. The teacher will scaffold the annotations as necessary. To help the students get started, the teacher will also go over a template on starting and continuing an academic conversation, using both the projector and individual copies of the template students can bring with them to their small groups. Following the large-group activity, students will be sorted into small groups of 4-5 to develop ideas in response to the excerpts. After small-group exchanges, each individual student will reflect in writing on the different ideas and generate her or his own position. Before this lesson, the students will have already learned or reviewed the contents of the Constitution, a timeline of the era and its events, and traditional viewpoints surrounding personhood and representation, as well as have completed a written reflection in the past. The first excerpt will be from Charles A. Beard’s Economic Interpretation of the Constitution of the United States and the second excerpt will be from American Thinker’s “The Constitution Did Not Condone Slavery.” The pieces are intentionally from more extreme viewpoints to avoid students simply agreeing with the author and instead to inspire a dialogue followed by individual reflection and decision-making. Connecting prior knowledge of the history and beliefs regarding slavery, students will be able to progress from large-group annotation, to small-group discussion, to individual reflection and analysis.

George Washington on his Mount Vernon plantation with slaves. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mount_Vernon
George Washington on his Mount Vernon plantation with slaves.

Product: From the reading, annotation, discussion, reflection, and analysis, the students will produce a written reflection on their academic conversation as well as a one-sentence individual position. The teacher will instruct and assess this lesson under the notion that an academic conversation has no right or wrong answers but is a process of learning, developing ideas, reflecting, analyzing, and creating. Students will be assessed according to their participation in the large-group note-taking and the small-group conversations, as well as their effort and completion of a written reflection and final 1-sentence claim. Students will also self-assess their overall level of participation and quality of reflection.

Evaluation: Ideally, this activity will allow each student to reach each level of Bloom’s Taxonomy to some extent. The large-group reading and annotating will be the bottom levels of remembering and some understanding, the template will lead the conversations upward toward more understanding, applying, and analyzing each other’s ideas, and the written reflection and 1-sentence final position will allow students to reach analyzing, evaluating, and even creating. The students do not have a choice regarding the lesson’s activities, but they do have a choice regarding their own pace throughout the process. If some students need to take longer to go over the class notes, they can and will be sorted into a small group when they are ready. If some students take longer with their conversation, they will be given time (within reason) to reach a satisfying conclusion. If some students prefer to move on more quickly to their reflection and position-forming, they are free to do so, as long as they believe they have had an adequate conversation. The lesson is about going through a process of communication and collaboration to ultimately create independent thought. However, if a student does not ultimately reach an independent thought, he or she will not be penalized as long as the teacher can see participation and effort throughout the process. Should this process take longer than a 2-hour block period, the lesson will be extended.

The lesson study was extremely helpful in organizing my thoughts and creating an original and substantial lesson I will likely use as part of my unit plan. I appreciated how the lesson was divided into the components content, process, product, and evaluation. The four components make sense of the lesson and connect each part coherently into a whole.

I also very much enjoyed the process of peer review. My peers can see ambiguities where I have not. A fresh pair of eyes is not in my own head and will need as much clarification as possible to follow the lesson. I ended up adding to my lesson study to include those necessary points of clarification.

At the same time, I do not get as much out of peer review. Much of the time my peers are where I am (or close to where I am) in cognitive development and with student teaching preparation. My peers may not have as much insight as an instructor who has practiced in the field for a number of years. While I was glad to see and revise parts of my lesson study which needed further clarification, I am still left without knowing how feasible it is to pull this off, particularly with 8th grade students. I am optimistic, though!

Engaging with Multiple Narratives and Exploring Historical Bias

  1. Intro

My student teaching placement classroom, an 8th Grade Social Studies course, will serve as the example for how and why I would conduct my lesson.  This year, we are covering United States history from colonization through reconstruction, including particular focuses on Native American experiences, problems of colonization, how the United States government was designed and created, and how racism has served as a pervasive force throughout American history up into the present day.  The lesson I have designed would take place over the course of one to two days, depending on class performance and would be given to two classes at different periods.   Each class period is 53 minutes long.

  1. Content

Students in this lesson will work towards acquiring research and writing skills.  Students will become familiarized with the ways in which violence between Colonial Settlers and Native Americans developed and the impact of colonization on Native American communities.  Students will develop skills to recognize historical bias.

  1. Process

Students will be conducting individual notes and research and writing short responses, before engaging with a guided classroom discussion on the idea of historical bias.  Students will be assigned a warm-up upon arriving, asking them to briefly answer 3 questions related to a map comparison.  The first in this comparison map will show the territorial spaces of Native American, English, Spanish, and French cultural groups, while the second map will show how these territories shifted following the Seven Years War.  Students will be tasked with giving a basic analysis of which groups are labeled in the map, what the maps show about how Native American territory changed, and why they think the territory may have changed as it did.

After the completion of their warm-up, students will be given a choice between three articles: one on Metacom’s War, one on disease epidemics among Native American populations, and one describing gender dynamics in Native American society compared to colonial settlements.  Students will then use Cornell note sheets to identify the key concepts, vocabulary, and one section they feel particularly interesting or difficult.  The instructor will filter through the class during this period to answer questions, manage the classroom, and keep track of student progress.  After a twenty-five to thirty-five-minute work period, students will be paired into groups of three.  They will conduct a three-person think-pair-share activity and take one minute per student to explain the key vocabulary and concepts to their partners using their Cornell sheets.

Students will then be rearranged into one large group, either circled in their desks if space permits, or sitting in chairs but not desks if space is too constrained in order to facilitate face-to-face discussion between the students and their peers.  The instructor will place and read a short excerpt from a primary source document detailing the feelings of an American Colonist towards Native American violence.  The instructor will lead a guided discussion, focusing the class on the different perspectives between their assigned readings and the excerpt, potential problems or biases present in the excerpt, and ways in which the narrative provided differs based on the source.

Students will then be given five minutes for a closure activity, where they will be asked to write one paragraph detailing what they learned from the article and how their thoughts changed or did not change as a result of group discussion.

  1. Product

To demonstrate their learning, students will produce a one paragraph response detailing what they learned from their article, and how their thoughts did or did not change due to group discussion.  Students will also produce a Cornell note sheet identifying the key concepts and vocabulary of their article, which they will use for both their pair-share activity and the discussion.  Importantly, students will also demonstrate their learning by engaging in the classroom discussion with thoughtful and relevant commentary.  This small variety in student products will hopefully provide avenues both for students more comfortable writing, and students more comfortable explaining their ideas verbally.

  1. Evaluation

Students will be assessed in a number of ways during this lesson.  The initial warmup, when and if completed on time, will be given a stamp, which students will then be graded on during a Journal Check to assess how they are doing, overall, at participating in the class activities and the warm ups.  Students will also be given a stamp on their Cornell note sheet, after demonstrating it contains both the key vocabulary and main ideas, which will also be checked during the Journal Check.  Students will be assessed on their level of participation, as well as on the content and relevance of their contributions, during the discussion, but this will be done as part of a running, multi-day discussion rubric to give quieter or students with an off day a more equitable evaluation.  Finally, students will be assessed via a stamp on their short-response, which will also be placed in their journal and evaluated during their journal check.

  1. Kinds of Thinking

During the warm up, students will be engaging in understanding and analyzing thinking, as they use maps skills, compare and contrast, and make inferences.  During the article section, students will engage in remembering and recalling as they define the main vocabulary terms and key concepts.  During discussion, students will engage in analysis, comparing the differing perspectives of the articles they read as well as the instructor provided excerpt.  Finally, when writing their short response, students will engage in analysis, comparing and contrasting their own thoughts pre/post discussion, and understanding, summarizing what they learned from their article in their own terms.

  1. Student Choice

During this lesson, students will have limited but meaningful opportunities for choice.  Students will be provided three options to focus on for their work time, based on whatever topic they find most personally relevant.  These topics have been selected to engage on questions of war, violence, roles of disease, gender roles, and how social systems differ, to hopefully provide some relevant historical topic the student will find interesting and engaging.


United States Library of Congress

Image Source

Legendary Trade in the Ancient World

By Alma E. Guinness [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons
By Alma E. Guinness [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons
This 45-60 minute lesson on trade in the ancient world is designed as part of a larger unit plan focused on introducing civilization as a historical concept. While this civilization unit plan take Sumer as the exemplar, this lesson could easily be adapted for other historical periods or early civilizations. The intended audience is sixth grade students at an American public school. This lesson assumes that students are already familiar with how agriculture allowed individuals to produce a food surplus and how this allowed some individuals to specialize in something else. If you have not addresses this, I suggest that your start by teaching a mini-lesson around this and how that makes trade a necessity.

Goals: Students will demonstrate deeper understanding of trade and be able to contrast how individuals might trade goods at a market to meet certain needs verses how trade networks operated between civilizations in the ancient world. This is a comparing activity from the comprehension level of Bloom’s Taxonomy. Students will have little choice in this activity beyond the illusion of deciding which items to trade and with whom.

Process: For my 24-32 student classrooms I would recommend 8 types of goods, 5 bundles of each good , and 10 goods per bundle (all one type of good). With 50 of each good to go around it ought to be is sufficiently challenging for all students to trade to obtain at least 1 of each of the 8 goods. As far as trade goods, colored construction paper with the labels gold (Orange), food/grain (yellow), spices (black), wood (brown), cotton (white), wool (gray), pottery (red), and precious stones (blue) make viable stand-ins. Additional, trade goods might include olive oil, copper, tin, and glass.

Students will each receive one bundle of goods and instructions that they should trade with as many people as necessary to obtain at least one of every good. They may trade goods with someone even if the good that they are trading is not the type that they started with. Playing music during trading and turning it off for discussion and instruction can be helpful.

You can repeat this simulation a couple of times with the instructions above, asking them at the end of each simulation what they observed. During the discussion, collect and sort the items back into batches. If necessary, you can tell them some of your own observations. In particular, you might point out the emergence of centers of trade in specific locations in the room (usually around patches of open floor space), patterns where some students just trade one of what they have for one of what they need, while others might trade all of their excess items for two or more of something in hopes that they could make a better trade later, and perceptions about the relative value of different items.

One key line of inquiry that should be pursued that they are unlikely to develop on their own is, “do you know who had all the goods in your collection during this round of exchange? Do you know where all the goods you had ended up?” “Where did all the wool come from? Who did it start with? What about the pottery?” They will likely have a good idea about who they traded for what.

For this next round you can throw in the wrinkle that they can only trade from their desks and cluster the goods together. Explain that because most people didn’t travel a great distance to trade their goods. Most people trade with their neighbors who would trade with their neighbors. These long chains of trading linked civilizations into “trade networks.”

Some people will be able to connect with 8 others from their desks, but many others will not be able to connect to that many and even those with eight partners may find it difficult to reach most of the goods.

At the end of this round of trading, I will ask them observations. They should notice that they had to chain their goods from group to group and that they have much more trouble telling you where any one good came from.

I like to ask students to follow-up this sort of activity with a “process” as homework. I request a paragraph (at least 5 sentences) about what we did and what they learned about trade at a market and as part of a trade network.

If your class if more comfortable with specific prompts you can use:

What did you learn about trade today that was different than what you had previously thought about the topic? Was there anything that you thought was particularly challenging in this activity? What was different about trading when you could walk around and when you had to stay seated?