Connecting Lessons to Common Core: Extra Extra! Primary Documents turned into News Articles!

What started off as an exercise to prepare for a department meeting has now become a bit of a hobby. For the past few weeks, I have been reflecting upon my past lessons and adapting them to the Common Core Standards for History/Social Studies. I feel that I have learned a great deal along the way and have enjoyed the dialogue that has stemmed from this activity.

This week, I wanted my students to analyze a primary document, identify the central idea, and then communicate that to their peers. For this activity, students were given one of four primary documents and were directed to write a news article that would appear to have been written during the Great War (World War I) to bring awareness to the public. Upon completion, they joined a group of students who covered different primary documents and together they assembled a newspaper.

While this activity occurred in the context of World War I, the model can be used in any time period (while still addressing the below standards).

This activity addresses the below standards:

RH.11-12.2. Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary that makes clear the relationships among the key details and ideas.

WHST.11-12.4. Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.

What we did:

  1. Students were split into four groups to read and annotate one of the four documents relating to World War I.  By doing this together were able to help each other to better understand the document.
  2. Individually each student wrote a newspaper article to explain to the World War I era audience what was going on at the warfront. If they had a war poem or a literary excerpt, they took on the role of literary critic with the goal of writing what that piece of literature said about the war experience. To accomplish this, students had to properly integrate two quotations into their news article. They also had to find an image to go along with their work (picture, graph, drawing, etc…).
  3. In a “jigsaw” group, students put together a newspaper and discussed the four articles.

Admittedly, my students’ initial reaction to this assignment in one class was less than thrilled. One student said, “Mr. Milton, this isn’t an English class.” I stopped to explain the purpose behind the assignment – the ability to identify the main point of the primary document and then summarize the piece is an important skill for them to develop. Furthermore, writing is not just something that they should be doing in English class, but something they should be constantly be improving upon because they will be doing it for the rest of their lives. I am actually glad that I took the time to explain the reasoning behind this assignment because it helped them understand the purpose of the assignment (and there was no more complaining).

Like many of my static projects, the biggest issue is sharing the newspapers with the entire class so they can see the different interpretations of the same primary documents. Having them posted around my classroom is one thing, but having them in a space that they can share outside of school is my goal. I have heard about classes that have done amazing things with Glogster – but it doesn’t play with the iPad. I do enjoy student-created blogs, but for one-off assignments, it doesn’t make as much sense. If anyone has an idea, I’d love to hear it. I think it was Nathan Hale* who said, “My only regret is that I did not find a way to share my students’ work online.” Truly he was a man ahead of his time.

*That, like many others that I have use on this blog, is a made up quote. Please do not cite it in a serious way.

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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2 Responses to Connecting Lessons to Common Core: Extra Extra! Primary Documents turned into News Articles!

  1. Cool idea. You could always create a class posterous space and include all of the articles on a single page as posts. I know there are some online publishing programs, also, but I am not at the point of recommending. I am just starting to investigate for a magazine project later on in the quarter. If you find anything, let me know. If you decide on a posterous, tweet it out. I will have my students comment.

  2. Pingback: Common Sense for the Common Core: A Roundup of Resources (weekly) | Engaging Educators

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