For the past two years I have been inspired to bring as much as possible of my professional development endeavors into the classroom. This task has been daunting at times since I feel that just about everything I learn about, I could find a use for in my class. The challenge comes with fitting it all in and deciding what to actually use and what to cut out. To help with this dilemma, I decided to add a “theme” each year to my U.S. History II course. These themes come from the professional development programs I have been apart of. So far, it has worked out well. I share my “theme” for the year with my students on the first day of school, in conjunction with going over the requirements for our department-wide focus for U.S. History II, the Sophomore Research Paper. At Wilmington High School, all students have to write a historical research paper using primary sources. We provide students with the same guidelines and rubrics and get them started during term one and finish up term three. Therefore, it made the most sense for me to have students connect the paper topics to this theme I would be integrating into our class throughout the year.
For the 2010/2011 school year, my theme came from a NEH Landmarks of American workshop I attended in Cleveland, MS at Delta State University entitled “The Most Southern Place on Earth.” This was the most valuable professional development experience of my career! I gained an unbelievable amount of resources that I was excited to share with my students. At the top are some pictures from a display case I created from all of the materials.
My students used many of these sources in their research papers. This workshop is being offered this year, so I encourage you to apply. You can find more information here: http://www.blueshighway.org/mostsouthernplace.htm. I highly recommend it! I started that school year introducing the theme of “Southern Culture” into my course. We aead and had a jigsaw discussion from a chapter of James. C. Cobb’s The Most Southern Place on Earth and all students’ research papers had to connect to southern culture in some way. I honestly believe that in addition to learning the state frameworks, my students walked away with a strong understanding of southern culture and its impact on historical events in the U.S.
This year my theme is War and Society, which was inspired from the History Connected Primary Source Summer 2011 course. So far, all students have picked a research paper topic that connects to the theme. Next we are going to have a jigsaw discussion on an excerpt from Richard E. Rubenstein’s Reasons to Kill: Why Americans Choose War. This will provide us with a framework to discuss American Wars as we analyze Rubenstein’s key rationales for war presented in his first chapter. I am also going to implement the projects I created from History Connected as well as materials from book groups, day and summer seminars. I hope this year will be as successful as last year and that I my students will learn more about the thematic concept of the impact on war on society!