The Choices Blog

History and Current Issues for the Classroom

Category: Professional Development

Using Digital Tools to Teach Human Rights

by Choices Teaching Fellow Rita Jordan-Keller

As an enthusiastic supporter of Choices curriculum, it has been my passion to introduce the many units of Choices to my students with new and innovative approaches. As a Choices Teaching Fellow, it has been exciting to include and expand the uses of technology in various ways to optimize the experience that my students have with the many different units provided by Choices.

My School

I teach at Ridley High School which is a suburban school about fives miles outside of Philadelphia. We have approximately 2,100 students who come from various socio-economic backgrounds, mostly lower middle class families. Currently, I teach Human Geography to 9th grade students, Sociology and International Relations to juniors and seniors. As a Social Studies teacher for over 25 years, I have experienced and witnessed the many changes and challenges of engaging students with different courses involved in such a wide and diverse department. I have also seen that technology, in particular with *Canvas can be a vital tool in the classroom and enrich a student’s understanding about the world. Two years ago, our administration mandated that every student would have an iPad so I feel fortunate that our students have daily and quick access to global events.

International Relations

I would like to share some of the teaching strategies that I have used in our International Relations class. With global events and human crisis impacting our world every day, I have found Competing Vision of Human Rights  to be one of our fundamental units in the International Relations class. Whether it is the suffering of Syrian and Yemen refugees, the brutality of ISIS, or the despair of kidnapped young women and girls in Nigeria, the policies of the United States with regard to human rights are complicated and should be examined and evaluated.

*Note: At Ridley High School, we use Canvas Instructure with our students and teachers. For those of you unfamiliar with Canvas, it is a relatively new learning management system. It is known for its user-friendly online environment. It includes basic functions such as sharing documents, submitting assignments, and assigning grades, as well as personalized features for individual students.

Ideas for Integrating Technology

What I would like to share with you in this blog are some ideas and suggestions that might be helpful if you would like to integrate technology using Competing Vision of Human Rights. Let me be clear though, it is not necessary that teachers have the resources of Canvas or iPads in the classroom. However, if you have access to laptops or occasionally iPads, you may wish to add these ideas and suggestions.

Philosophical Chairs

These suggestions apply to my International Relations course where students are from 10th to 12th grade. First, a non-tech opener for the Human Rights unit is the worksheet that I call Philosophical Chairs. I use this assignment successfully for all the Choices units for different courses. On page 56 of the Teacher Resource Book, there is a student handout entitled, “Focusing Your Thoughts.” I use this assignment twice. Initially, I instruct the students to respond to the beliefs in this handout. Students then stand and take a position in the classroom on either side of the room either supporting or opposing the particular belief. Those students who are unsure stand in the middle of the classroom listening to both sides that are given turns to speak. Students who are unsure must move at some point when they are swayed to one side or another. Students seem to enjoy this fiery exchange of thoughts and ideas while discussing controversial approaches involving the United States. In this way, I can gauge and learn the pre-knowledge of my students. It is after the Choices role play that we revisit “Focusing Your Thoughts” and see if students have changed their attitudes about U.S. policies and human rights.

Pre-Reading Strategies

With the use of Canvas, I have the ability to set up discussion assignments using the questions in the text for students to consider such as, “How do national governments ensure human rights”? Having a student post his or her response and then responding to another student’s post expands the conversations and insures that everyone is involved. I then display students’ responses on a screen for all to see and discuss or inquire further what a particular response may mean. Throughout the entire unit, the use of discussion assignments from time to time adds substance and clarity to complex questions involving Human Rights.

Expressing Human Rights and Social Movements

A particular activity in the Competing Vision of Human Rights unit that I focus on is “Expressing Human Rights and Social Movements.” My instruction begins with an overview of basic Human Rights agreements including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. After further discussion regarding the role of national governments, the United Nations and other promoters of human rights, I use various YouTube videos such as Amnesty International’s Price of Silence and other musical videos to create a “hook” to engage students. Playing for Change is a wonderful web site that introduces worldwide musicians who advocate for peaceful change and human rights.

As a homework or class assignment, I have students research a particular social movement throughout history such as the civil rights movement, women’s movement, the GLBT movement, the Arab Spring, the Iranian Green Revolution or other global social movements. Students create a brief overview using Google Slides or another free presentation apps.  I use Flowvella for brief presentations and have found this format to be easy and quick. It also utilizes multimedia such as images and videos. Students can present their mini-presentations from their laptops or by using Canvas. Another possibility is having students take a “museum tour” of social movements. Students can walk through the room examining each other’s presentations on laptops or iPads and answer some brief questions about each one.

There is much more that a teacher can do with digital tools with this particular part unit. See additional ideas and suggestions.

Extension and Enrichment

Finally, since I teach the Human Rights as my last unit for the semester in International Relations, I extend the unit and add an enrichment that serves as our Final Exam for the course. Personally, I take exceptional joy at what my students have created in the past few years with the Human Rights Project. Briefly, students research different human rights organizations throughout the world and create a presentation to the class. As part of their final exam, students are also required to contact the organization, request more information, and create a flier informing others about the good work going on and how they can help. Their Human Rights fliers are then set up in our school cafeteria to inform others on how they can help. Much of their research and ideas have been inspired from what they have learned from Competing Vision of Human Rights.

It is my hope that you find these ideas and suggestions helpful in your classroom. Over the years working with the different Choices curriculum units, I have found my students to be more engaged in learning, developing and deepening their critical thinking skills and become more informed about the many challenges facing us all in this world. For me, the best part of my teaching is working with such promising young people and a curriculum that is current, thought provoking and enriches the lives of my students! The Choices curriculum fulfills all that and more!

If you have questions or comments about this blog post, I invite you to email me at rjordan-k@ridleysd.org.

Scholars at the 2015 Leadership Institute

One of the highlights of our Leadership Institute is hearing from Brown University scholars.  This year’s scholar presentations will investigate both the recent history of the Middle East and multiple perspectives on current U.S. policy towards the region. Read on to see who will be joining us this summer.

Institute applications are due Monday, March 16th. 


Faiz Ahmed is an Assistant Professor of History at Brown University. He is currently working on a book about the drafting of the 1923 Afghan constitution and the role of Turkish and Indian jurists in establishing a modern legal regime in Afghanistan.  He holds a J.D. from the University of California’s Hastings College of Law and a Ph.D. in the history of the Middle East with a focus on the “socio-legal” history of the Ottoman Empire, Iran, and Afghanistan, from the University of California, Berkeley.  Ahmed is proficient in Arabic, Persian, Ottoman Turkish, and Urdu.


Stephen Kinzer is an award-winning foreign correspondent and a Visiting Fellow in International Studies at the Watson Institute for International Studies at Brown University. Kinzer spent more than twenty years working for The New York Times, primarily as a foreign correspondent. He was the Times bureau chief in Nicaragua during the 1980s and reported from Germany during the early 1990s. In 1996, he was named chief of the Times bureau in Istanbul.


Peter Krause is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at Boston College. His research and writing focus on international security, Middle East politics, non-state violence, and national movements. He has published articles on the causes and effectiveness of political violence, U.S. intervention in the Syrian civil war, the politics of division within the Palestinian national movement, the war of ideas in the Middle East, and a reassessment of U.S. operations at Tora Bora in 2001.


linda-miller-lgLinda Miller is an Adjunct Professor of International Studies at the Watson Institute for International Studies at Brown University and Professor of Political Science Emerita at Wellesley College. Miller has published widely on U.S. foreign policy, the Middle East, world politics, and European affairs in British, American, and Israeli scholarly journals.


petzenBarbara Petzen is the founder of Middle East Connections, which offers innovative, multimedia workshops to help teachers, students and community organizations undermine stereotypes, introduce multiple perspectives, and focus on complex understandings of the Middle East and Muslims.  Middle East Connections has a limited amount of grant funding to subsidize professional development workshops for educators.  Middle East Connections also creates and facilitates custom study tours to the Middle East, having led groups to Morocco, Turkey, Israel, Palestine and Jordan, and are happy to work with educators to create a meaningful tour that meets specific goals.


 

Read more about the 2015 Leadership Institute.

Choices Leadership Institute leads to a 15-hour course for my District

snyder-125By guest blogger Lori Snyder, Choices Teaching Fellow and high school teacher from Longmeadow, MA.

I teach Asian Studies and Honors World History at Longmeadow High School in Longmeadow, MA, and I attended the Choices Program’s 2014 summer leadership institute, China on the World Stage: Weighing the U.S Response. As a follow up to the institute, this winter I developed and led a 15-hour course for teachers in my district. In this blog I’m sharing the course outline I developed. I cannot say enough about the positive experience I had both as an institute participant and leading the course when I returned. To anyone who is thinking about applying to this year’s 2015 leadership institute on the Middle East I say “Go for it!”

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The scholarship at the institute was top-notch and very relevant to what I teach. In addition, Choices curriculum, and especially the options role play, offered a fresh approach to the topic in my classroom. The opportunity to methodically go through a specific unit, prepare and perform the option role play, and collaborate with fellow teachers from across the country had a significant impact on my understanding of the benefits that the Choices curriculum has to offer, and its value to me as a classroom teacher. Finally, I found the session “Behind the Scenes at Choices” absolutely fascinating. We had a chance to have a panel discussion with the Choices writers and videographer who develop the curriculum. They are truly a bridge between the scholars and the classroom.

The course I developed for my Longmeadow colleagues was called Critical Thinking in the Social Studies: The Choices Program.

The class met for 6 sessions, for 2.5 hours each. The entire history department and several other teachers signed up for a total of 11 teachers. For completing the course, teachers received 15 hours of Professional Development Points and one in-district salary advancement credit (SAC). As the instructor, I had the option of doubling the PDPs and SACs or being paid a stipend of $750.

Session 1

photo 1

I introduced the Choices Program and approach to my colleagues. They participated in a values lesson, which introduces them to the concept of values and the role they play in formulating public policy. I also introduced them to the free Teaching With the News lessons and Scholars Online videos, both of which are free on the Choices website. I ended the session with a quick overview of how a Choices unit is organized. Teachers were given the opportunity to download the free Human Rights unit that is available as an iBook through iTunes. Finally, I assigned each teacher one of four specific Choices units including the French Revolution, Middle East, Afghanistan and Immigration, based on courses they teach, in order to do a close case study. All teachers agreed to do the background readings and study guides as preparation for session 3.

Session 2

This was primarily a working session in preparation for session 3. Each group gave a 30-minute overview and critique of their assigned unit, conducted part of a lesson from the unit, explained the unit’s options role play, and discussed how they envisioned using it in their classroom with their own students.

Session 3

Small groups of teachers presented their assigned units. Teachers enjoyed taking on identities and being interviewed for the French Revolution Newscast, analyzing the different causes for the Iranian Revolution, and reading different first hand accounts of various recent immigrants in America. During this session, we discussed at length how we would use the curriculum and how we might make changes based on the ability of our students. This session gave the teachers a good taste of the variety that Choices has to offer. Finally, the teachers voted and decided to do the Options Role Plays from The French Revolution and U.S. Immigration Policy in an Unsettled World.

Session 4

Participants prepped for the Immigration Options Role Play and the French Revolution Options Role Play. Teachers were expected to make Google presentations and to include relevant historical images and direct quotes from the provided materials.

Session 5

This session was dedicated to running the French Revolution role play and debriefing it. To start, I showed them the brief video on the role play that can be found in the Teachers Tools page on the Choices The teachers had a lot of fun being creative and critically selecting from the materials provided in their options briefings. We had presentations, props, music, drama and much enthusiasm. As a result, all of the ninth grade world history teachers have committed to using the French Revolution unit in June.

Session 6

In this final class we conducted the Immigration Options Role Play and we discussed the importance of an “Option 5” or a personal option.  This being our second role-play, we were all more comfortable with the process and felt that we did a better job allowing for cross-examination and impromptu questioning by the Senate Committee. We ended by discussing how we would evaluate our students and how we would deal with larger class sizes. Teachers then filled out an evaluation form for the class as required.

In addition to teaching this course, I also submitted a local grant proposal to see if we can secure additional funding to purchase more Choices units. I invited our new principal to observe the French Revolution role play session so he could see first hand the quality of the Choices Program and the professional, collaborative and collegial learning that was going on as an entire department. We will know by June if we received the grant.

I am so thrilled that I was able to participate in the 2014 Choices leadership institute and conduct this course for my colleagues. Everyone in my department is enthusiastic about this new source of outstanding quality curricula. Having the entire history department go through the process of learning the Choices approach together was a unique and professionally satisfying experience. Teacher feedback regarding the course was overwhelmingly positive. I anticipate that the department will be consistently using Choices curriculum for years to come.

Editor’s note: Applications for the 2015 summer leadership institute, which will focus on the Middle East, are due by Monday, March 16.

Modifying Choices Materials for all Students

By Richard McNeil, Special Education Teacher, Massapequa High School, NY

Why Choices?

In my eternal search for the perfect combination of informational and awesome, I found the Choices Program: a resource that covers U.S. History, Global History, and current events, utilizing many different perspectives, mediums, and opportunities to help students become active citizens. I could not pass this up. This could easily turn into a blog post about my love of The Choices Program. But I digress. In my special educator mind I realized that I could not hand this material over to my students without some modification. As a special educator it is my job to give students in my classroom the same opportunities as general education students. Through the years they have ranged in age from 12 to 21 years old and have had at least one of the disabilities listed under IDEA; many have had multiple disabilities. By opportunities I mean access to quality, rigorous content that will help to prepare my students for not just college but life as a local, national, and global citizen.

Modifications

How do I modify? The first thing I do is make a template that includes the Choices logo. I try to match the look as best I can. Choices deserve the recognition, and let’s not forget this is copyrighted material. Once my template is complete I begin to add the rich content to a graphic organizer. There are usually three columns: 1st column is the readings, 2nd is definitions, and 3rd are questions.

I try to keep the readings as intact as possible. However, if necessary one can simplify words, paraphrase paragraphs, or simply cherry pick specific sections of the text.

I then bold difficult or more advanced vocabulary. The number of terms I bold depends on the student, grade level, or the population of the class. You may also include the definition or have the students write it.

The Choices questions are placed in the third column. If there are no questions I will create them according to the text. In addition, the students are always assigned the task of creating their own questions.

If you want to expose your students in a special education classroom settings to the Choices materials you must modify. The exact modifications that you can make will change with student population, course type, and of course your own personal teaching style.

Modification Breakdown

  • Create a template.
  • Insert and modify readings.
  • Bold, Underline, Highlight key or difficult terms.
  • List vocabulary with or without definitions.
  • List the Choices/Teacher/Student questions.

See Richards Modification to Iran Through the Looking Glass: History, Reform, and Revolution. Read more about this unit at choices.edu/iran.

 

New Tools for the Options Role Play and Deliberative Dialogue

Choices recently reorganized its Teacher Corner web pages.  All of the tools listed below and more can be downloaded from the Teacher Corner and adapted to your classroom.

A big thank you to Choices Teaching Fellows Amy Howland and Deb Springhorn for their Common Core-aligned assessments and other valuable Role Play tools.

TOOLS FOR ROLE PLAY PREPARATION

How can you be sure each Option group is ready to present?  It can be useful to have students complete a check-in or “ticket” as entry into the Role Play.

  • Areas of Concern: This chart is designed as a check-in tool prior to the role play. We have provided a blank template and a completed sample – both based on our unit, China on the World Stage.  For less advanced students, you could provide them with the “description of the issues” and they would complete just the third column, which asks them to identify the priorities of their assigned option on each set of issues.  This could be done in groups or individually. More advanced students could be tasked with completing the entire chart.
  • Options Analysis Chart: In preparation for the role play, students in each option group could complete the section of this graphic organizer that pertains to their assigned option. The rest of this chart is designed for use during the role play.
  • DSC_7382Option Group Preparation Sheet & Undecided Citizens Preparation Sheet: Choices Teaching Fellow Amy Howland, a world history teacher at the Pacific Rim Charter School in Hyde Park, MA,  has created two excellent worksheets to assist each group in its preparation.  At the end of each sheet, she includes the Options Role Play Rubric to give them a clear understanding of what is expected during the role play.

TOOLS FOR THE ROLE PLAY

  • Options Role Play Note-taking Sheet: Students can use this handout, developed by Amy Howland, to record the main idea of each option and the questions they have about each.
  • Options Analysis Chart: This matrix can be adapted to the specific content of the unit.  Students complete the matrix as they listen to the presentations of their peers.  Members of each option group may be asked to complete the section for their own option as part of their preparation.


TOOLS FOR DELIBERATION & PERSONAL OPTION OR OPTION 5

Once all options have been presented and all questions asked, it is time for a deliberative dialogue focused on the issues raised by the Options. Because students may be unclear about what deliberation is, and how it differs from debate, the following tools may be useful.

  • Guidelines for Deliberation: This handout offers a concise explanation.
  • Preparing for Deliberation: This worksheet helps students prepare for the discussion they will have.
  • Screen Shot 2014-09-24 at 3.32.40 PMSpeaker Deliberation Cards: These cards can be an excellent guiding tool for students before or during the deliberation to keep them on task or to set goals.  For instance, do you want to encourage a quieter student to speak more?  Hand her the “Speak at least twice” card.
  • Rubric – Option 5 Essay: After students complete the deliberation, they will write their own personal Option, sometimes called Option 5. This rubric, aligned with Common Core Standards, can help them understand the expectations. This rubric was createdby Choices Teaching Fellow Deb Springhorn from Lebanon High School in Lebanon, New Hampshire.

TOOLS FOR ASSESSING THE ROLE PLAY, DELIBERATION, AND YOUR OWN OPTION

  • Assessment Rubrics: The following rubrics, each aligned with specific standards from the Common Core, provide excellent assessment tools for you and your students.
  • Options Role Play Rubric (developed by Amy Howland)
  • Rubric – Option 5 Essay (developed by Deb Springhorn)
  • All other handouts also lend themselves to use for assessment.

Visit our revised Teachers Corner page to download all of our tools, adapt them, and make them work in your unique classroom!

 

Choices Teaching Fellow Steve Seltz Wins National Teaching Award

9/11 Tribute Center

2014 9/11 Tribute Center Honorees

Choices Teaching Fellow Steve Seltz, from Urban Assembly School for Law and Justice high school in Brooklyn, NY was awarded a 2014 Teacher Award from the 9/11 Tribute Center in New York. The awards are given to educators who create projects that thoughtfully engaged their students in understanding 9/11 through a variety of disciplines. According to the 9-11 Tribute Center, few teachers throughout the country are supported in their efforts to teach about 9/11. The 9/11 Tribute Center has made it a priority to collect, reward and share the creativity and commitment of teachers that have taken the challenge and made tremendous accomplishments in their school.

Students in Seltz’s 12th grade Global Issues class research and debate how best to confront the issues of modern terrorism in a democratic society. The class engages in readings and debates materials adapted from the Choices curriculum unit Responding to Terrorism: Challenges for Democracy. Students are guided to recognize relationships between history and current issues with the goal of becoming responsible citizens. They identify and discuss the conflicting values and points of view that help shape history.

Seltz’s project has gown out of many years of teaching students about the broad causes and effects of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. By having students conduct research into Middle Eastern, European and American history, they can build a better understanding of the context of the 9/11 attacks, and are thus better able to engage in informed debate and discussion about the ongoing political and social challenges presented by the attacks. The goal is for students to talk about the challenges of terrorism particularly as it relates to the students’ lives as New Yorkers and for them to better confront the fears they might have in considering the problem.

You can read more about Steve’s use of Choices curriculum units in Teacher Conversations. (http://www.choices.edu/pd/teacher-conversations/seltz.php)

Congratulations to Steve Seltz and his students!

Genocide and The Responsibility to Protect (R2P)

By Kenneth Hung, Choices Teaching Fellow and high school classroom teacher, Philadelphia, PA

Peacekeeping

I am putting together a unit on Genocide and R2P to be used in my Contemporary World Conflicts class this January.  The goal of the unit is to have students understand and assess whether R2P could have/should be used as a justification for intervention in the recent Libyan conflict and current Syrian conflict.  This is what the unit is looking like so far:

Intro

Have students define genocide using the “wall” activity in the Choices Confronting Genocide: Never Again curriculum
. Have students read the Genocide Convention and Defining Genocide handouts and answer questions.  I’ll also ask them to evaluate if certain historical events might be considered genocide (see Day 1 of curriculum again), The Genocide map in the curriculum is a great visual for the students.

Lecture

Lecture on history of genocide from Confronting Genocide Teacher Resource book and lecture notes on R2P from the 2012 Choices Leadership Institute.

Film

Show the movie The Devil Came on Horseback, which looks at the tragedy in Darfur as seen through the eyes of an American military observer.  I’ll use movie to critique the argument that R2P should be used in Darfur.  I’ll also use some notes I have on the Arab Spring’s impact on Libya and Syria, including Choices Teaching with the News (TWTN) on “The Conflict in Syria” and other TWTNs on the Arab Spring.

Debate Project

I’ll then divide students into 4 groups – students will conduct research and then debate the following positions, probably in a Structured Academic Controversy format.

  • R2P should have been used against Qaddafi in Libya (YES/NO)
  • R2P should be used against Assad in Syria (YES/NO)

Assessment

Students will post a reflection on my website with their opinion on each debate topic. Students must address at least two arguments used by each side in the two debates.

If anyone knows of some great resources and readings that might be useful to me in this unit, please post them in the comments section below.

Teaching Critical Reading and Persuasive Writing Skills with Choices’ French Revolution and Haitian Revolution units

By guest blogger Amy Howland, Academy of the Pacific Rim teacher and Choices Teaching Fellow

I work at the Academy of the Pacific Rim Charter School in Hyde Park, MA.  Our school is small, with just around 200 students in grades 9-12.  Most of our students will become the first to attend college in their families.  Over 70% of our students receive free or reduced lunch and for many, English is not their first language.  One of the many challenges that our students face is learning how to read and write at the college level.  As a result, our History department focuses much of its instructional time on teaching students how to read and write.  However, spending time teaching writing does not mean that I have to sacrifice important content or engaging activities; I still do all of that.  I find that Choices lends itself perfectly as the foundation for many reading and writing activities.  I love the Choices units because they help me to engage my students in civic dialogue and debate.   I also love the Choices units because they facilitate my ability to teach students how to read critically and write persuasively.

The 9th grade World History class recently finished a unit that combined the Choices units The French Revolution and The Haitian Revolution.  I used the text, many of the lessons, and the role plays as preparation for two major essays.  I will briefly highlight several ways in which I use these particular Choices units to teach reading and writing.

The unit plan. This is a 5-½ -week unit on Revolutions.  It asks students to construct a definition for revolution, and evaluate how each revolution impacted the lives of different people in each society.  The first essay had the students evaluate the impact of the French Revolution on the lives of the people in the different estates, while the second essay asked them to compare the two revolutions to evaluate which revolution had the greatest impact.  I treat the essay on the French Revolution as a “draft.”  In the second comparative essay, students must revise parts of their first essay on France and synthesize it with evidence from the Haitian Revolution.  For both essays I require that students only use the Choices texts to find their evidence.  The unit calendar below illustrates how I combine both units and their respective essay assessments.

Calendar


Week of 9/10

Monday – What is a Revolution – How to read text – HW: rd. 1-6

Tuesday – Movie – HW: rd. pgs 7-11

Wednesday – Classes of French Society – HW: rd. pgs. 12-22

Thursday – Frances Financial Crisis – HW: rd. pgs. 23-25

Friday – Movie: French Revolution – The Fall of the Bastille- HW: Rd. Declaration of the Rights of Man


Week of 9/17

Monday – Declaration of the Rights of Man seminar – HW: Considering the options

Tuesday – Prep for Debate – HW: Finish debate prep

Wednesday – French Revolution Choices Debate – HW: Rd. pgs. 36-43

Thursday – Movie – HW: Rd. 44-50

Friday – French government graph – HW: study vocab quiz


Week of 9/24

Monday – Vocab quiz – systems map – HW: finish map

Tuesday – Essay Planning

Wednesday – Essay Writing – HW: Finish Essay

Thursday – Haiti in the News – HW: rd. 1-5 (Haitian Rev)

Friday – Map of European colonization – HW: rd. pgs. 6-10


Week of 10/1

Monday – Life in St. Domingue graph – HW: rd 11-18

Tuesday – Parties in Conflict – HW: pgs. 19-21 – Considering the options

Wednesday – Debate Prep – HW: Debate prep

Thursday – Haitian Revolution Choices Debate – HW: rd. 34-38

Friday – Mapping Independence – HW: rd. 39-43


Week of 10/8

Monday – Columbus Day – No School

Tuesday – Haiti independence – HW: Create a systems map

Wednesday – Discuss Systems Map – HW: Study Vocab

Thursday – Vocab Quiz – Organizing – HW: organizing

Friday – Organizing


Week of 10/15

Monday – Writing

Tuesday – Writing – HW: Essay Due Thursday


Reading Choices: I love that Choices provides clear, rigorous and dynamic texts full of quotes, images, and maps.  But in the beginning of the year many of the freshmen struggle with the reading level.  As a result, we spend the first several weeks learning how to decode the text.  First, I break each part of the reading in half and I give clear directions on how I expect them to actively read.   The active reading will not only allow them to follow along and access the text but it will facilitate their ability to find evidence for their essay.  As they actively read they must identify words they do not know, summarize the main points and ask questions, or comment on the text.  Additionally, I teach them how to use the headings to determine the main point of the text.

Activities:  I love the lessons and optional lessons that Choices provides, especially the particular graphic organizers that accompany some lessons.  Struggling readers and writers need to learn how to categorize information that allows them to break down the text to understand key concepts.  I connect these graphic organizers to the essay prompt.  For example, the prompt asks students to explain how the French Revolution changed the lives of the different social classes in France.  There is an excellent graphic organizer that breaks down each social class in pre-revolutionary France and has students consider what their role in France was at the time.  Students are then able to go back and use this information on their essay.

The Role Play:  The role play is the corner stone of a Choices unit.  It never fails to engage every single student in a lively dialogue about the future of France or the Colony of St. Domigue.  In fact, after each role play there is always one other 9th grade teacher who tells me that the students were so excited about the role play that they continued debating as they walked into their next class.  They are the perfect launching pad for teaching civic dialogue, but the role play can also become a tool to teach students about persuasive writing.  To prepare for the role play, I create worksheets that have students identify the claim or main argument of their option. They must also identify and record supporting evidence from both the options as well as the background readings.  I am explicit that this is exactly what they will do for their essay.  As the students debate they must record the other option groups’ arguments and supporting evidence.  This activity can stand alone as a lesson about building a persuasive argument but it could also be used with the Choices’ “Option 5” lesson to expand it into an essay.

Additional Activities:  In addition to the materials provided by Choices, I also use the French Revolution DVD by the History Channel, which follows the events of the revolution and the rise and fall of Robespierre.  I show clips of the movie every other day, which helps students to visualize the material they have just read about.  I also conduct Socratic seminars using the primary sources provided in the Choices curriculum.  This allows students, especially those who struggle with the challenging text in a primary source, to understand it.  Part of the seminar discussion is devoted to talking about how students might use the source in their essay.

Conclusion: As pressure to teach writing in the History classroom increases, it is easy to feel overwhelmed or worry that important content will have to be sacrificed.   The solution is not hard to find.  Choices units fit neatly into units focused on delivering rigorous content, engaging students in active debate, and teaching important literacy skills.

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