Monday, July 13, 2015

Favorite Lesson

At the conclusion of this past Sunday's #oklaed twitter chat our moderator for the evening, Michelle Waters, challenged those in Oklahoma who write blogs which address educational themes to compose a post on the topic of our favorite lesson plan. Michelle is an English & Language Arts teacher within the greater Oklahoma City, OK area and an active #oklaed twitter participant. She has some wonderful posts over at her blog: Mrs. Waters' English.

My favorite lesson, or at least one that I really enjoyed using, from this past school year used a "Speed Dating" conversational format through which my AP United States students taught each other about an individual from the Progressive Era reform movements of the 1880s to 1920s. I have previously mentioned this lesson as part of another #oklaed bloggers challenge in my post titled #1CoolThing. This lesson can be easily adapted to other academic levels; the teacher can edit timing and/or expectations as appropriate for his/her students' needs. Also, while I have modified some of the expectations to meet the needs of my students, the premise behind this lesson did not originate in my brain. I participate in a private Facebook based professional learning community and learned about this strategy in this forum.

Speed Dating with Progressive Reformers

Learning Objectives:
  • College Board, AP United States History 2014-2015 Curriculum Framework
    • Key Concept 6.3.II.C: Challenging their prescribed “place,” women and African American activists articulated alternative visions of political, social, and economic equality.
    • Key Concept 7.1.II.A: In the late 1890s and the early years of the 20th century, journalists and Progressive reformers — largely urban and middle class, and often female — worked to reform existing social and political institutions at the local, state, and federal levels by creating new organizations aimed at addressing social problems associated with an industrial society
    • Key Concept 7.1.II.B: Progressives promoted federal legislation to regulate abuses of the economy and the environment, and many sought to expand democracy.
  • Oklahoma Academic Standards, United States History 1878 to the Present
    • Content Standard 1.3.C: Evaluate the contributions of muckrakers including Ida Tarbell and Upton Sinclair that changed government policies regarding child labor, working conditions, and the Sherman Antitrust Act.
    • Content Standard 1.3.D: Analyze major social reform movements including the Women’s Suffrage and Temperance Movement and their significant leaders including Susan B. Anthony, Alice Paul, and Jane Addams.
    • Content Standard 1.3.H: Cite specific textual and visual evidence to compare and contrast early civil rights leadership including the viewpoints of Booker T. Washington, W.E.B. DuBois, and Marcus Garvey in response to rising racial tensions, and the use of poll taxes and literacy tests to disenfranchise blacks and poor whites.
  • Ideally, students will have independently read the appropriate textbook passages relevant to the various reformers of the Progressive Era.
  • The teacher should cut the List of Reformers so that there a bunch of small strips of paper with only one reformer's name per strip. Then fold, wad, or ball these strips of paper and place them into a hat or bowl. Have each student draw out one strip of paper and this will be her/his assigned reformer. If the class size has more students than the quantity of reformers on the master list the teacher is free to 1) select additional reformers to be included (especially a reformer important to the state or local region of the students) or 2) double up on one or more of the reformers as the teacher deems appropriate. These assignments of reformers can be made immediately at the beginning of class on "Day One".
  • Day One: Give each student one copy of the Reformers Research Guide. Each student will complete this guide during one 55 minute class period; if additional time is need students may complete the remainder of the guide as homework that night. If students have access to computers, tablets, or smart phones provided by the school or through a BYOD policy then students could have access to the internet for researching the assigned reformer. If this is not the case then the teacher will need to explore resource options available in the classroom or school library or possibly assign this component totally as homework for students to research at home.
  • Day Two: Prior to students arriving, arrange classroom desks so that they are in clearly defined pairs. There are numerous ways to do this; I found that this Suggested Rotation Guide worked best for my needs within my classroom...the pairs of desks arrange in an almost complete circle. If I had created a complete circle then during the rotations, non of the students on the "inside" would ever interact with nor learn from the others on the "inside" (same would be true for those on the outside). This almost complete circle allows students on the outside to rotate in and those on the inside to rotate out. Either allow students to select their own seats within the set up or assign them (I put numbers on each desk and then students drew a number out of a hat as they arrived in class).
    • Hand each student a copy of the Chat Log Sheet on which they will take notes about the people they meet during each "speed date". Students may use their personal copies of the Reformers Research Guide to reference during each "date".
    • Briefly explain the idea of "speed dating" in which each pair will have a set amount of time to visit with each other (somewhere between 3 to 4 minutes). In this amount of time they are to share about their reformer and learn about their partner's reformer; they should record what they are learning about the reformers they "meet" on the Chat Log Sheet. At the end of the set time they will rotate to the next seat and repeat the process with their next "date".
    • Set your timer and go. DING! Students switch partners according to your rotation plan. Set timer again and go. DING! Repeat as often as possible but still leaving students approximately 5 to 6 minutes at the end of class to complete the final three reflection items at the bottom of the Chat Log Sheet.
    • Collect both the Reformers Research Guide and the Chat Log Sheet from each student to be used for your assessment purposes.

Student Responses: Overwhelmingly my students indicated the activity was "fun" and yet actually allowed them to get to know a wide range of reformers from the Progressive Era. Some "complained" that the limited amount of time made them feel rushed but realized that the rapid nature of the moment forced them to both listen better to their partners and to focus on the most important elements of their own assigned reformer. The formal assessment at the conclusion of the larger unit revealed that collectively the students ultimately learned more information about each of the reformers of this era than if I had simply attempted to lecture over them alone.

What Went Wrong:
  • The name of the activity "Speed Dating" initially gave some of my students a bit of concern. "Ewe, I don't want to date him!" I had not planned for the fact that I would have to clearly explain the conversational format was simply known as "speed dating" but that I had no agenda of anything romantic being in the works.
  • Another problematic moment came in one of my class periods in which I had a smaller number of students. The rotation process I was following ended up having pairs of students revisit each other prior to each student having visited all of the others. I had to adapt my rotation plan mid-stream to help guarantee that this did not occur. So my word of warning attention! Following a couple of minor reassignment of seats the rotation process continued without a hitch and repeat visits did not happen.
In the future, I can see this activity also working within other eras of history in which students need to explore a large number of personalities and yet the teaching time is short: the various leaders involved in establishing colonies in North America (each of Britain's "thirteen" but also French, Spanish, and Dutch), the era of 1830s-1840s reform movements often associated with the impact of the Second Great Awakening, and the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s-1960s. I'm sure creative teachers within other disciplines can find a relevant use for this type of activity within their classes.