One of my favorite exercises in this new career has been providing opportunities for my students to write about themselves, and whether they realize it or not, I can often set the stage for ways which allows them to connect historical events. Two weeks ago I used an Analogy Chart to compare the concept of colony with that of being a child seeking independence. As we wrapped up the period of the Revolutionary War this week, I interjected a prompt whereby each student was asked to free-write one page about a day in their life when they tried something for the very first time. How did they feel? Were they successful? Did their success or failure affect their determination to attempt it again? And what did they learn about themselves?
Once the prompt is fed to my students, I like to walk around the room while expanding on the concept as response time differs from person to person. I often need to offer up additional information such as: "Tell me about the first time you went swimming into deep water all by yourself. Were you scared or brave in your approach? Maybe you rode the roller coaster for the first time or went on another carnival ride which turned you upside down. Once you found out how much fun it was, were you ready to do it again? What about the first deer that you shot? Or the first fish you caught all by yourself? How about the first time you danced with a girl or a guy?....." Sometimes I have to feed them ques for 5-7 minutes until every hand is scripting a response, then I take a step back and watch them make music (the kind which comes from transcription).
As has been the case in the past, once they get their minds
headed in the right direction, a student’s work is masterful and intriguing. As
to why I had them write about this, it involves the concept of how the
United States came about after receiving its independence from England. For the
first 10 years it was a very difficult time for everyone associated with this
country. They had to make some adjustments as to how our government was
structured and run. There was much quarreling among our founding fathers, but
they worked together to get the kinks worked out. Determination and fortitude
laid the foundation for great success in our country.
While adults keen on American history may see the historical significance of this period in time, young people often think that people inhabiting this country were all on the same page. As much as Jefferson, Madison, Franklin, Adams, Hancock and all the others loved the concept of independence, their "first time" with democracy was anything but a picnic. They were scared, yet optimistic...calm, yet anxious...supportive, yet critical...confident, yet precarious in their approach to government and the role it would play in this new country.
After they've completed the task, it is here when I feed them a pitch which serves as a magnet to the concept of American democracy undergoing struggles in their first go-around after independence. For many in the class, the light bulb goes off and the connection is made. For others, the seed has been planted for another time when they see the signifigance of the events. In the meantime, their individual responses shed light on their unique personalities and ways in which they've been impacted by the world around them.