Tuesday, October 13, 2015

A Pinch of This, A Dash of That: Combining Lessons

By Jeff Burns

When it comes to lesson plans and activities that I pick up along the way, I rarely use them as is. Like most teachers, I almost always make adjustments and alterations for some reason or another.  Sometimes I combine multiple ideas into one lesson. 

Recently, I was running out of time in my American History unit on the American Revolution and Constitution.  I had several goals that I needed to meet very quickly.  I wanted to get in some primary document analysis, review important information that we had covered, and at least introduce a few documents that we hadn’t exactly gotten to in class.

I got an idea.  I combined an activity that I had adapted from the AP US History Teachers Group on Facebook last year: Speed Dating.  In the typical Speed Dating assignment, each student is assigned an important person to research.  Then, the room is set up so that students share their person with each other in pairs.  Every two minutes, one side of the pair rotates so that all students get to interact with at least most of their classmates.  After discovering it, I did it 2-3 times last year with great success.  For this activity, however, I assigned each student a document instead of a person, everything from the Declaration of Independence to Washington’s Farewell Address to Alexander Hamilton’s Report on Manufactures.

This year, I got another great activity idea from the APUSH Teachers Group, by way of Literature teachers, I think: the I Am poem.  The student is given a template of a few stanzas.  Each line starts with a prompt, and students.  There are a few different templates online.  I used this:

  "I Am"  ______________________________________  

I am __________________________________________________________________

I wonder ______________________________________________________________

I hear ________________________________________________________________

I see _________________________________________________________________

I want ________________________________________________________________

I am __________________________________________________________________


I pretend ______________________________________________________________

I feel _________________________________________________________________

I touch _______________________________________________________________

I worry _______________________________________________________________

I cry _________________________________________________________________

I am _________________________________________________________________


I understand __________________________________________________________

I say _________________________________________________________________

I dream_______________________________________________________________

I try__________________________________________________________________

I am __________________________________________________________________

Not only would my students prepare for speed dating, but they would also complete an I Am poem for their assigned document (or the creator of the document).
These were their directions For this activity, each of you is assigned an important document in the period 1754 -1800.  Your tasks are to
  1. Research your document; read the document itself and read secondary sources about the document.
  2. Write an AM poem for your document using the template provided, either as the document itself (literally making the document speak) or as the author(s) of the document.  This is going to take some thought and creativity. 
  3. On the teaching day, you will review your document with your classmates, one by one, so that they can complete the table.
  4. Bonus Points for either wearing something that relates to your document or having a relatable prop of some sort.  Costumes and prop must of course be school appropriate.
We pulled it all together on speed dating day, just before the unit test, by creating a notetaking matrix for them to record notes.  When it was all over, they would have a good review guide. Two of the four pages are below.


When all was said and done, the students enjoyed the speed dating experience and turned in some really thoughtful and creative I Am poems.