Connecting Lessons to Common Core: Personal Journals during the French Revolution

As I said before, my Social Studies department is meeting this week to discuss activities and lessons that align with the Common Core Standards for History/Social Studies. I became very excited last Friday afternoon when I found that the Common Core also included standards for reading and writing across the curriculum.

One of my goals as a teacher (other than to thwart the Zombie Apocalypse) is to get students become immersed in history. When we began our unit on the French Revolution, I did not want my students to passively read about the plight of the Third Estate. I wanted them to feel it. I wanted them to react to events leading to the French Revolution, rather than simply memorize facts. I decided to have my students take on personas of someone in the Third Estate and write about the events that occurred as if they were there.

This is the writing standard that I am going to address with this activity:

CCR 3. Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, well-chosen details and well-structured event sequences.

Each night instead of the traditional “read and outline Chapter 23 Section 2”, my students had to submit journal entries to our Edmodo page for an audience of one…me. Some students delved deep into their characters filling their lives with vivid detail. Other students simply outlined the chapter using personal pronouns. After reading the first batch, I realized that I had to tweak the activity to fully engage my classes. So, instead of simply submitting it to me, students submitted their writing for the whole class to see. As the audience grew, the quality of the writing developed. Also, the next day some of my students called each other by their French names.

(For those using Edmodo, the above was accomplished by having students clicking on “Reply” under the assignment rather than “Turn in.” The downside of this was the it added a step for me to give students credit for completion. I could have simply had students submit assignments in both places.)

Here are some examples of the questions and responses:

On their unit test, I also included an essay option about how their character would reflect back upon the French Revolution during the reign of Napoleon. The responses for this essay were thoughtful, articulate, and personal. I was excited to see students develop such a connection to their characters and the French Revolution.

I will do definitely use this activity again but will have students complete this on a blog rather than Edmodo (it’s not you Edmodo, it’s me). As a “Do Now”, I will have students read and respond to each others blogs as their character.

In completing the assignment this way, I would also be addressing the standard below!

WHST.11-12.6. Use technology, including the Internet, to produce, publish, and update individual or shared writing products in response to ongoing feedback, including new arguments or information.

I am glad that I found the standards above as I really enjoy having my students put themselves in history. Not only does it, ideally, make history come alive, but doing it in this way helps to develop a classroom community.

For more on my Connecting Lessons to Common Core series click the links below:
Connecting Lessons to Common Core: Nationalistic Travel Brochures
Connecting Lessons to Common Core: Imperialism and Star Wars
Connecting Lessons to Common Core: Extra Extra! Primary Documents to News Articles!
Connecting Lessons to Common Core: Bill and Ted’s Excellent Assignment
Connecting Lessons to Common Core: Personal Journals during the French Revolution
Connecting Lessons to Common Core: Your Own Personal Latin American Revolution
Connecting Lessons to Common Core: Enlightenment – Declaration of Independence
Connecting Lessons to Common Core: A Missed Opportunity (Political Philosophies ~ Conservative, Liberal, Radical)

About Michael K. Milton

I teach students Social Studies at Burlington High School. When I became a teacher, I believed that students would frequently give me apples. This has not happened (not even a Red Delicious ~ a name which is a misnomer). However, my school has given me a MacBook Pro and an iPad in an effort to right this wrong (I assume). I'm very lucky to work in a 1:1 school.
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1 Response to Connecting Lessons to Common Core: Personal Journals during the French Revolution

  1. Pingback: Going Meta: Cataloguing My Past Two Years of Blogging | Michael K. Milton ~ @42ThinkDeep

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