Have you ever watched TV? Particularly a television program set in a high school (or with high school-aged people)? At the beginning of scenes that take place inside a classroom, there is brief shot to establish the type of classroom setting – if there are bunsen burners and the teacher is wearing safety goggles, it’s absolutely in a science class! If every student has the same book on their desk and appear to be reading it aloud, it must be an English class! When the teacher is at the front of the class lecturing near a map, it’s in history.
Yes my social studies friends, we get the boring one!
But why? History is not simply about passively taking in information and then regurgitating it back on chapter tests! It is about learning why the world is the way that is is today. It is about thinking critically about the past. In short, history is awesome. But why, according to television, is history simply a teacher lecturing near a map!?!
Follow up question, can we change it?
This year, I have decided to take a cue from the sciences and will transform my Freshmen US History class into a History Lab* – once a month during our extended classes (about 83 minutes).
The Setup: Students will be assigned a Lab Partner (which may change mid year). The class will be given a question to research like “What led to rise of political parties in the 1790s?” There will be a brief write up of the question to set the stage (and perhaps students can use their textbooks) which students will use to create their hypothesis. After this step, they will be given a packet of about 6 primary documents. The partners will choose 4** out of the 6 documents to support or refute their original hypothesis. Upon completion, students will answer the initial question using evidence from the documents to support their answer.
I am currently putting the first few “labs” together but wanted to share with you the lab report template.
During March, I plan on having students revisit one of the labs to find another question to complete a research paper/project on.
For those interested in aligning activities with the Common Core State Standards, this template addresses
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.9-10.1 Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources, attending to such features as the date and origin of the information.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.9-10.2 Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of how key events or ideas develop over the course of the text.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.9-10.4 Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including vocabulary describing political, social, or economic aspects of history/social science.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.9-10.6 Compare the point of view of two or more authors for how they treat the same or similar topics, including which details they include and emphasize in their respective accounts.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.9-10.9 Compare and contrast treatments of the same topic in several primary and secondary sources.
My goal is to create a classroom environment that forces students to think and back up their thinking with evidence. I do hope, one day, that “provide evidence to support your answer” becomes to history as “show your work” is to math. The idea of the History Labs is to help bring us to that point.
Please, if you have any feedback or resources, share them! If you have other ways that you “flip the script” on the teacher lecturing near a map, share that too.