Beyond the shoebox diorama
November 22, 2011 3:06 PM   Subscribe

Can you give my kid some ideas for sample lesson plans?

My 21 year old daughter has to come up with a 5-minute American history-related sample lesson plan for a high school audience. She'll be evaluated on creativity, engagement and "measuring" participation. Not the usual thing, simple, effective, powerful, short and sweet are her aspirations! Fun would be a bonus.
posted by thinkpiece to Education (5 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Thankgiving: Busted!
5 minutes on the key myths associated with Thanksgiving and the perspectives that debunk them.

The Nifty Fifties
5 minutes talking about key slang of the 40s, 50s, and 60s

A Ride With Bonnie & Clyde
5 minutes about the core criminals that were popularized by movies in the 30s. Bonus points for showing a clip of any James Cagney movie.

Monsters and Movies and Madness, Oh My
5 minute look into the history of monster movies and how that's brought us to the popularity of stories like Twilight, True Blood, the Vampire Diaries, and Teen Wolf.

5 minute look into the evolution of self-centric media and media devices like the iPod, YouTube and Facebook.

Tap prior knowledge by asking students to call out what they associated with the primary topic. Discuss common misconceptions, keep everything short and snappy, and have students complete some kind of an exit slip that gets turned in to evaluate participation.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 3:24 PM on November 22, 2011

I have two conflicting pieces of advice.

1. Object lessons are the way to go for maximum impact. However, to do them well you really need more time.

2. Little known fact type lesson. Something like "general ignorance" questions on QI - like
Q: Why did many early settlers die in the US?
A: Because they grew so much tobacco (i.e. PROFIT) that they had no arable land left to grow food and so starved to death over the winter.
Q: Who introduced tobacco to the US?
A: Jean Nicot not Sir Walter Raleigh. Nicotine was named after Nicot! Raleigh never visited America.

I'd give a little quiz with 5-6 related facts like that and then teach through the answers. You could even do a powerpoint or notetaking handout with it.

You can find facts to focus on in the QI books or Lies My Teacher Told.
posted by guster4lovers at 3:29 PM on November 22, 2011

Anything about American history? I'd have them do something like look at pictures from the Civil Rights Movement and maybe fill out a worksheet that tracks their emotional and intellectual responses.

And I suppose this is only tangential to American history, but I've seen a great lesson that taught historical contingency by equating the various causes (big and small) of a historical event to baking -- every component does something a little different, and each amount needs to be just right in order to get the results. I watched it for cookies and the assassination of Franz Ferdinand (the chocolate is Franz and Sophie's love, the baking soda is the unstable teenagers in the Black Hand, the flour is nationalism, etc.), but you could probably make similar parallels for the Boston Massacre. Each student gets an ingredient, and then they all put them in the bowl and mix together. Bonus points if students then get cookies at the end.
posted by lilac girl at 4:01 PM on November 22, 2011

lilac girl reminded me of a demo lesson I did for a job interview.

I put up several pictures of the gulf oil spill with no explanation. I had them explain to me what they saw (the evidence in the picture), but I didn't allow them to put in any idea that didn't come directly from the picture. That is the starting point for historical inquiry.

We used that to discuss context and commentary.

Historical documents mean nothing without historical context.

Historical research is nothing without commentary about the event and extending it to "what does this mean?" and "How does this event affect American culture?"

Dorthea Lange's pictures are a good place to start for something like this.
posted by guster4lovers at 4:43 PM on November 22, 2011

These Birds of a Feather lists some interesting topics, but for a demo lesson like this, engagement is important. Any mythbusting talk should start by gathering the myths from the audience (and if the class can't provide the "facts" you want to debunk, they're probably not common enough to need debunking, and you should reconsider the lesson). A discussion of famous criminals of whatever era would start with gathering from the group a list of such people they consider famous.

Quizes are good, interactive, and helps the students pay attention by pointing out that this is an area they don't have complete information in. But 5 minutes isn't enough time to introduce, hand out, write on, collect, and read quiz papers. An orally administered true/false test would be much faster, or a class vote on a multiple choice question. (Early settlers had high winter starvation rates because: a. poor farming techniques led to low crop yields, b. not enough food was planted, as farmers preferred to grow cash crops like tobacco, c. lack of adequate storage techniques led to excessive food spoilage) and you discuss the rightness/wrongness of each answer.
Of course, that's still just information. What's the context? History, as a real course of study, isn't about facts, it's about a web of connected facts, tying old ideas into current ideas. So, what's going on today in which each of those answers is true? (big agriculture growing soy/corn for industry not for eating, success/failure of modern agriculture techniques introduced to 3rd world cultures.)
posted by aimedwander at 7:07 AM on November 23, 2011

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