All posts by scottmpetri

Scott Petri has taught social studies for five years at the middle school level and six years at the high school level. He has also served as a coordinator and small school principal in the Los Angeles Unified School District. He holds a Doctorate in Educational Leadership and a Masters in Educational Administration from California State University Northridge, and a B.A. in Political Science from the University of San Diego.

Five Resources for Teaching About Racism

There has been heated debate about how to teach racism and social justice in schools. Part of this rhetoric centers on whether or not white teachers can effectively teach racism and social justice since they have been the beneficiaries of privilege and members of the dominant American culture for hundreds of years. 

I feel that it is the job of a History teacher to inspire curiosity. To do this I pair film and literature in my high school History classes and then let my students create inquiry projects that demonstrate their learning. There are too many facts, figures, events, and readings and too little time to teach civil rights history comprehensively, but good teachers help students make connections between different historical periods and contemplate the type of society they wish to create and participate in.

Following are five resources that I have used to inspire my students to explore the Civil Rights Movement via independent inquiry.

The Best of Enemies directed by Robin Bissell starring Sam Rockwell and Taraji Penda Henson examines a racially-charged charette that takes place in the summer of 1971 in Durham, North Carolina. Without spoiling the ending, there are worthy themes in the treatment of US veterans returning from World War I, World War Two, and Vietnam that deserve student examination through a racial lens. While this movie has been criticized for having a white savior narrative, I found Ms. Henson’s portrayal of the activist Ann Atwater and Babou Ceesay’s performance as Bill Riddick worthy of sharing with my students.

Unexampled Courage by Richard Gergel is a powerful and moving piece of non-fiction that situates the Civil Rights Movement in the Truman administration’s 1948 Executive Order 9981. The blinding of Sgt. Isaac Woodard and the awakening of President Harry S. Truman and Judge J. Waties Waring is a story that deserves a wider audience. There are strong parallels to the treatment of the Harlem Hellfighters after WWI and the Red Summer of 1919 that students should examine via individual inquiry.

I Am Not Your Negro directed by Raoul Peck was nominated for an Academy award for Best Documentary Feature. It’s hard to believe this 2016 film lost the Oscar to OJ – Made In America. The words written by James Baldwin are masterfully woven with contemporary footage of racial unrest from Charlottesville with narration from Samuel L. Jackson that presents the Civil Rights movement through the assassinations of Medgar Evers, Malcom X, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. This film made me want to read more of the great work of James Baldwin

Hellhound on His Trail by Hampton Sides takes readers on the FBI manhunt for MLK’s assassin. It is a well-researched and detailed look into the life and inner circle of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference as it pivoted from the Civil Rights movement to the Poor People’s March. One of my students declared this was the best book he’d read in his life. I would have a hard time disagreeing with him. Another student continued researching members of Dr. King’s inner circle and was gratified to find that Ralph Abernathy and Hosea Williams remained advocates for the poor and protested against the Apollo 11 mission

Image result for ralph abernathy apollo 11

Lighting the Fires of Freedom by Janet Dewart Bell looks at the contributions of nine unheralded African American women in the Civil Rights Movement. Each chapter is a detailed oral history featuring the type of historical writing all that teachers should be using as models for their students. I found the chapter featuring Medgar Evers’ widow, Myrlie, particularly heart-breaking when she describes visiting the house where her husband was assassinated.

“Today when I visit my former home, which my children and I deeded to Tougaloo College as a museum, I can still see the blood. We needed to get away from that place. Our oldest son, Darrell Kenyatta, reached a point where he refused to eat, he would not study, he would not talk. He went into this very, very angry withdrawal mode. I knew we needed to be away from the house. My daughter would go to bed with her dad’s picture, holding it every night. The youngest one, Van, who was three, would go to bed with this little rifle. I knew that we could no longer live in that house” (p. 201).

Making historical events personal and relevant is the first job of a History teacher. I aspire to help my students see themselves in shaping the future of America. Redressing grievances is part of our Historical DNA. Presenting these resources to your students will help them develop their own understanding of racism, social justice, and the Civil Rights Movement. I hope you will share your work with a supportive community of teachers and together we can help our students move America closer toward the ideals of all men (and women) being created equal.

Humanizing the Classroom Book Review

Humanizing the Classroom by Kristin Stuart Valdes @kpsvaldes shows teachers in all subjects how to use role-plays to teach social emotional learning (SEL) skills in middle and high school classrooms. Written by a New York City Arts educator with 18 years of experience teaching and years of sharing her experiences on Edutopia, this book is a badly needed lifeline for educators struggling to integrate SEL into their daily content instruction.

Organized into six chapters, the author spends the first four chapters acquainting readers with the foundations of Social Emotional Learning. The next two chapters are spent on curriculum organization and laying out over 40 role-playing exercises that are organized by CASEL‘s five SEL competencies. Some of the ones I look forward to testing in my class are: Understanding Bias, Understanding Stereotypes, and Understanding Prejudice. Others on Paraphrasing, Emotional Empathy, and Identifying Underlying Causes look interesting to explore through my lens as a History teacher. Further, I foresee an almost unlimited selection of interesting historical events, people and places to develop role-plays using SEL competencies.

As a teacher, I appreciated the consistent layout of the role-paying lessons. I also agreed with Valdes’ claim that most of the learning from role-playing takes place after the role-play is complete. Meaning don’t shortchange the debriefing and wrap up questions at the end. Personally, I will probably add student reflection pieces too. Teachers who are not familiar with experiential learning may feel uneasy about jumping into role-plays right away, however, Valdes offers tips for preparing actors, staging a classroom, and recommends a refine, revise, and re-do approach that can help anyone gain confidence in running a role-play.

In short, Humanizing the Classroom helps classroom teachers meet all five of the instructional teaching practices that promote SEL. The California Council for Social Studies has made SEL a strand in their 2020 conference this year. They are accepting conference proposals until September 15, 2019.

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I will be sharing this book with my PLN and recommend that my school uses it for teacher Professional Development in the Fall. What books do you use to help teachers integrate Social Emotional Learning into their instructional practices? Please leave your recommendations in the comment section.

Wildflowers Review

Wildflowers

For the past few years, I have been purposefully including Social Emotional Learning (SEL) strategies into my Social Studies content instruction. With that focus in mind, I picked up Wildflowers by Jonathan P. Raymond and found it to be a quick and useful read. It is hard to tell whether the book was written for teachers, administrators, school boards, superintendents, or the author’s personal catharsis, but all educators would benefit from the positive lessons in the book. I found myself nodding my head and vigorously underlining passages that I have returned to again and again in order to clarify my vision for including SEL in my pedagogy.

First and foremost is Raymond’s view that SEL is Whole Child in action and that both of these movements are fundamentally tied to equity. Toward that end, Raymond is unsparing in his belief that America is creeping “toward decline because of the abject neglect of our children.” The consistent message from this edu-leader is that our nation has “one future to build, together, and nothing will shield us from the consequences if we fail those on the lower rungs of our economic ladder.”

SEL-Junior-High

Raymond calls for all school stakeholders to put children first in their decision-making and to focus education policy on continuous improvement and collaboration. He notes that Americans have a tough time thinking through problems involving inequality and that we reach for our pet ideologies before agreeing on facts. Throughout the book, Raymond cautions that ideological battles are the biggest threat to public education.

Another statement that I agreed with was Raymond’s personal rejection of the term “achievement gap” because it blames children who live in poverty for the failures of policy-makers. Who is failing to achieve? The students who are underperforming, or the adults who lack the focus, discipline, moral courage, and belief in these kids to ensure they are supported effectively.

Although Raymond does not recommend specific SEL strategies that teachers can use in their daily instructional practices, his action plan and five keys for reimagining schools will inspire teachers. I repeatedly thought — I would love to work for this guy – as I continued through the book. Wildflowers is bigger than an SEL instruction manual, it is a call to embark on a national effort in reshaping public education after failed national policies aimed at disenfranchising families, communities, and teachers.

I’m interested in learning how other Social Studies teachers are integrating SEL into their routines and procedures, please post your ideas in the comments or share them on Twitter.

#CCSS19 and #CUE19

Four different presentations in four days. CUE19 and CCSS19 have been a blur of learning and sharing. My brain is full. More commentary later, but I wanted to get the decks up for conference participants.

Use Genealogy to Engage Students in Historical Inquiry

https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1ecbyJBkJAGePF1_mQmHWJd4p6pFMt9_X7h9uartdkm0/edit?usp=sharing

50 Minute Inquiry

https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1DyGJI9YItnSdbSMf0ZaF8MOwOa8MYbT70BQnvIIeQOI/edit?usp=sharing

LeRoy’s Big Idea

https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1p1_3IEW7SXET2610u0PDEONsBj8YGE2UyRWdcUveuCQ/edit?usp=sharing

CyberSandwich

https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1ZjeGTqd1Q7ANksppLlNmyOh9WPVmeu5c3JLtvz57N-o/edit?usp=sharing

Peer Review Reinforces Writing Instruction

For the past few years, I have been experimenting with peer review in my high school History classes. The California Council for the Social Studies recently published my article about this just as I was conducting a peer review activity with my 10th grade World History students. In the article, I detail using a computer program called PeerGrade, which is great, but can add several days to a lesson because students have to type their work, submit it, and then conduct several peer reviews.

This post will showcase some student work in doing a peer review activity on paper in one class period. The essay was an argumentative task where students had to state a position about eugenics and support it with evidence from 15 Minute History and the Eugenics Archive. Before writing the essay, students shared the evidence they had categorized on a Vee Diagram. The peer review worksheet I created can be accessed in this Google Doc.

In two (50 minute) class periods of writing my 10th grade students produced an average of 361 words with 6 explanations of their evidence.

Eugenics - positive or negative

Eugenics - positive or negative (1)

Eugenics - positive or negative (2)

Eugenics - positive or negative (4)

I stole this list from one of my awesome ELA teachers, Mandy Arentoft and will project it when giving students time to practice using transitions in their historical writing. Another great teacher, Keith Hart from Brunswick High School in Maine has a helpful blog post teaching students how to use transitional phrases to present their evidence.

A benefit in using peer review is that I get immediate feedback from my students that tells me who is applying the skills from my mini writing lessons. In this case, I clearly need to go back and re-teach the importance of including a creative title, a complex thesis, and in using transitions. Fortunately, not everyone will need this instruction and I can create more advanced writing lessons for them in my next station rotation activity.  For more information about peer review, please look at this #TeachWriting Twitter archive on the topic. It has a wealth of resources for teachers looking to implement peer review into their classroom writing instruction.

WWI Podcasts

This post will showcase 11th grade US History students’ podcasts on a person, place, or event from the Great War.

WWI Banner

This WWI Podcast assignment was adapted from an NWP article detailing how to conduct a First Person Research Paper  by Cindy Heckenlaible (2008). First students listened to a 15 Minute History lecture to understand why the US joined WWI and then they used the resources provided to brainstorm topics. To see the directions for a previous assignment, look at Vietnam War Narrative. You may listen to three earlier student examples: The Orange Mist Protest Becomes Tragedy, and The Last Moments of Elizabeth Hall.

Decide to work with partners or work solo. Then use this spreadsheet to declare your narrator and story (topic). Each narrative must be at least three minutes for an individual assignment, add 1.5 minutes to your story for each additional person involved in the project. The five components of this project were worth 50 points each.

1) Produce an Annotated Bibliography in MLA format with at least six sources. If a historical detail is not included in your annotation, then you cannot use it in your narrative. 92% of students turned this in on time.

Use the details from your annotated bibliography to write your script. Document the historical details in your story by underlining them and including a (parenthetical citation) immediately after. The theme of your story should be — What is a moment in history that all students should learn about? You may use sound effects and soundscapes, but NO MUSIC!

Tools
BBC Audio http://bbcsfx.acropolis.org.uk/ 
Soundscapes https://city.ambient-mixer.com/

Make sure you study the tips in this presentation as you plan your narrative and 2) use this format to submit your story in writing.  81% of students turned this in on time. 3) Create an Annotated Timeline that includes maps of where your story takes place. 37% of students used their time well enough to complete this on time. 4) Write a 5 question Quizizz to share after your story has been heard by the class. Emphasize the most important historical details in your questions and include facts that you would expect to see in a history book. 74% of students turned this in on time. 5) Submit your narrative recording to get all the points. 44% of students made this deadline. 65% of students were able to complete all components on time.

Debrief/Reflection

Describe how you managed your time and completed each component of this project? Which of the resources provided did you find most helpful? What does this piece reveal about you as a learner? What would you change if you had a chance to do this project over again?

CA USH Standard: 11.4.5: Analyze the political, economic, and social ramifications of World War I on the home front. CCSS: Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, well-chosen details and well-structured event sequences.

 

Seven History Reads

Due to my participation in an exciting teacher strike, I failed a friend who challenged me to post seven books in seven days. To make amends I have turned the challenge into a blog post. Thanks to my mother, I love to read. Thanks to being a teacher, I love to talk about what I am reading and share the best titles with my students. Many of my favorites (First They Killed My Father, The Harlem Hellfighters, Hellhound on His Trail, and The Things They Carried) have become mandatory reading in my World and US History classes.  Here are seven of my favorite reads from the past year.

The Audacity of Inez Burns by Sephen G. Bloom

The Audacity of Inez Burns: Dreams, Desire, Treachery & Ruin in the City of Gold by [Bloom, Stephen G.]

Black Hearts by Jim Frederick

Black Hearts
Recommended by a student. This book is not for the faint of heart and probably not appropriate for high school students.

Origin Story by David Christian

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I have fallen under the influence of the Big History Project and would like to see their course taught in my school. I read this to better understand Christian’s work and find intersections between History and the other subjects taught in high school. Some inspiration for interdisciplinary education.

The Congress of Vienna and Its Legacy by Mark Jarrett

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Warning: This book contains 379 pages of bonafide historical research and scholarship. As someone with learning gaps in this subject, this was a difficult read and it made me feel like a big boy History teacher.

The Professor and The Madman by Simon Winchester

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My work spouse, promance partner, and English teacher extraordinaire Holly Avdul recommended that we team teach this book. I read it the first time and was lukewarm on it, but then I read it a second time and fell in love. This is a great read for students struggling with the academic vocabulary.

Devil In The White City by Erik Larson
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This was highly recommended by my English teacher colleague @scrymscrym. My 11th grade US History students read it and did Ignite Talks on figures from The Gilded Age and Imperialism.

On Desperate Ground by Hampton Sides

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Patriots From The Barrio by Dave Gutierrez

Honorable Mention – Some YA historical fiction that I read with my 14 year old daughter. A great story about a real female espionage network spanning two wars.

The Alice Network by Kate Quinn