Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Opportunities to Jazz up Cold War Lessons

Having read Penny M. Von Eschen's, "Satchmo Blows up the World," for History Connected's book discussion group, a few lesson ideas for teaching Cold War history came to mind. The Cold War is a dynamic period to teach as tests and scrutinizes American democracy at home and abroad. The struggle of Civil Rights is an essential component in understanding American policy in these two arenas. Von Eschen's work integrates these arenas by focusing on the experiences of Jazz musicians organized by the State Department in an effort to sell itself and its values to the world as a free and great democracy while Jim Crow presided in the US. Though the book describes countless episodes of government officials and the press neglecting the value and talent of African American musicians, as well as instances of gender discrimination towards female artists, they needed Jazz as an original, American-made art form and evidence of racial equality. A perplexing dilemma, what a wonderful hook for a lesson on American domestic and foreign policy during the Cold War.

I didn't get 5 pages into Von Eschen's book before I needed to hear these great Jazz songs whose titles and artists kept coming up. Using Jazz as a connection between domestic and foreign policy during the Cold War is an incredible opportunity to integrate music into lessons. And just in case a simple audio clip of this Jazz music doesn't have the same infectious effect as it did to it's 1950's audiences, there are a few resources that incorporate visuals with wild crowds and joy-filled faces.

A great place to start is Ken Burns' documentary on Jazz. Another idea is to have students track domestic and foreign affairs on parallel timelines. To get students to internalize the conflict and hypocrisy on the timelines, have them role play the identities of the different Jazz artists who served as ambassadors. Direct them to biographical resources, or select passages from Von Eschen's book, and have them, in small groups, discuss whether or not they should serve as ambassadors representing "racial freedom and equality" in the US, and come up with a list of pros and cons in serving in this role. If time and interest allows, students can use Jing to combine pictures, narration, and music, like this NPR segment on Dr. Curtis Sandberg and the Meridian International Center's exhibit on Jazz ambassadors. Another extension activity would be for students to design a 21st century ambassador program considering the questions, what image does the world have of the US? What image would the US (government?) like them to have? who should be targeted? how should they be reached -who to send and what would the medium of their message be? Students could work in groups and then "pitch" the ideas to you/the class.

Global History and DBQ's

On January 10th, in our last year of the History Connected program we were provided with great lecture from Chris Beneke on Antebellum American Religion and Reform in an International Context. This lecture provided me with a great deal of historical content on this time period and more importantly it provided me with another example of how American History and World History can be combined into a Global History. After this lecture we were introduced to The DBQ Project. As a teacher I have incorporated DBQs into my classroom, but often times have struggled to reach the different levels that I teach. The Mini Q’s that we were introduced to and worked on provided me with an excellent solution to this issue. I presented this information to my department with hopes of purchasing the World History Mini Q’s. Having both sets of these Mini Q’s hopefully will provide our department with an excellent tool for teaching such an important skill.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Re-evaluating European Immigration or Rather, Migration...

On Friday, February 10th, History Connected presented the school day seminar Transnational Migration since the Late-Nineteenth Century. The day was spent investigating the migration patterns of different ethnic Europeans and their reasoning for traveling to the United States and other parts of the world.
Teachers were presented with a new thinking regarding immigration to America's shores; or as it should be said, American migration, both to and from the shores Ellis Island and Angel's Island. The lecture, presented by Professor Blower from Boston University, was at times eye opening. Through personal stories, Professor Blower was able make the immigrants story more tangible and relateable.
Professor Blower presented a different perspective on the reasoning for European migration. Most Americans, history teachers included, tend to think of the "new wave" of immigration as this...
But Professor Blower opened our eyes to another way of thinking about the "new wave"... this time as migration rather than immigration.

Preview image of file

America has constructed a story on immigration, focusing more on those who stayed rather than those who left. Although I knew many immigrants returned to their country of origin, I did not know the shear number of migrants who left the "Land of Opportunity" for greener pastures.
As a product of those who chose to stay in America rather than return home and face persecution and economic strife I found it surprising that so many Europeans moved on for different opportunities.
Next year when I teach my immigration unit I will be sure to introduce the topic not as one of stagnant immigration but of fluid migration patterns. Rather than focusing on those who stayed in America, I will now make sure to highlight those who left.
(Stieglitz photo: The Steerage, 1907)

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Taking a Closer Look at the Words of Thomas Jefferson

The book discussion that occurred on Friends of Liberty was held a couple days before I addressed Thomas Jefferson in my ninth grade US History I class. There was such a lively discussion in book group that it inspired me to see what my students' opinion of Thomas Jefferson would be if they were presented with some of the contradictory statements and actions he has regarding the plight of the African Americans.

I set up a Think and Wonder Activity. I placed a variety of quotes from Thomas Jefferson himself or books written about Thomas Jefferson around the room. The quotes were as follows:

"They [the African Americans] are at least brave, and more adventuresome. But this may perhaps proceed from a want of forethought, which prevents their seeing a danger til it be present (Notes on the State of Virginia)"

"Comparing them [African Americans] by their faculties of memory, reason and imagination, it appears to me, that in memory they are equal to whites; in reason they are much inferior; and in imagination they are dull and tasteless (Notes on the the State of Virginia)"

"All men are created equal (Declaration of Independence)"

"I advance it therefore as a suspicion only that blacks...are inferior to the whites in the endowments of body and mind (Notes on the State of Virginia)"

"...He found no discomfort in aligning himself with a circle of cosmopolitan intellectuals who were decidedly antislavery and prepared to do something about it (Friends of Liberty)"

"Part of his reluctance [to speak against slavery] was concern about his political future, and linked to this fear of offending friends and fellow planters ready to charge him with betraying his class (Friends of Liberty)"

"But hidden in the language of the letters was the decision he had already made: that he would not free any of his slaves with Kozciusko's assets (Friends of Liberty)"

Students had to walk around the room silently. They first had to read all the quotes and then had to write a comment on the paper placed under each quote. Before the students broke into small groups to discuss the quotes I addressed some of the questions I saw written on the papers and clarified the quotes that they seemed to have difficulty understanding.

The students were broken into groups of three and given the following questions to discuss:

Why does this man seem to be conflicted about his views on African Americans?

What do you think of this man's conflict? Is it reasonable?

If you could ask this man one question what would it be?

Who do you think this man is?

After the students discussed these questions in their groups we came back together as a class so people could share out their ideas. When the students first received the discussion questions many were surprised that these quotes were all about the same man, although many of them did guess it was Thomas Jefferson. This activity was useful in helping the students evaluate Thomas Jefferson and come to their own decisions about his actions. There ended up being quite a few who were willing to defend Jefferson.

Friday, February 3, 2012

DBQ for Everyone!

What are you looking forward to in terms of implementing the DBQ model
with your students? Do you have any challenges/ concerns/questions? This
was a follow up question from the School Day Seminar Session "Antebellum
American Religion and Reform in an International Context: A Church State
Establishment by Another Name?" I started to write my prompt reply to
this question, when I realized it would make a better blog entry.
Because the term was coming to rapid close, I very quickly put together
a DBQ using the mini-q binder as a model. I made my DBQ for a unit in
my Child Psychology classes. (This class is a heterogeneous, non leveled class that truly has an even mix of student achievers.) I was happy to find that upon asking my
students if they had used a DBQ before, several said yes. It took about
1 period to get through to the section 'Understanding the Question". It
was surprising to me that even after careful reading and discussion,
many students needed help with this section. This may be something that
some of us take for granted- that the kids really know what we are
trying to achieve. This idea of including an 'understanding' activity
in each unit I do has become a goal of mine. During day 2 we went on to'
prebucketing'. Naming the 'buckets' also took thoughtful classroom
discussion, but once the students had it down they really knew what we
were doing. Reading through the documents seemed enjoyable to the
students, and as we went through the questions I had prepared, I kept
reminding them that we were actually analyzing and forming opinions-
engaging to the kids! We got through 3 of the 4 documents in the second
day. Day 4 we concluded the documents. The students were interested in
what could actually be considered a document. I used a statistics
chart, a blog, a quiz with answers from WebMD and a photo of a
classroom. The final bucketing took a while for some of the students,
but it was worth the effort. They did not have much trouble matching up
the documents used to back up their opinions in the roadmap activity.
When it was time to fill out the outline guide, I had the students start
with the background and tell what we were studying and why we looked at
the documents. Stating the question and transferring the roadmap were
easy for them. It was at this point I had them write the grabber.
Paragraphs sections 2 - 4 were very do-able for them because the leg
work was done. They liked having something tangible from the documents
to use in backing up their opinions. The conclusion also seemed
accessible. Resulting essays were some of the best I had read from my
classes. Students personal opinions came through loud and clear and
were well documented. I must say that I highly recommend using this
method. It takes a lot of 'front loading on the teacher's part to get
it going, and also on the part of the students- but when it came time to
write, the work was well worth it!