Category Archives: Disciplinary Literacy

Student Created Study Guides

As a teacher who emphasizes reading and historical literacy to my high school students, I have mixed feelings on using study guides. Do they help our students read the texts we assign them? Are they used only by students who haven’t done the reading, but want to project the illusion of work? History teachers can solve this problem by asking students to create their own study guides focused on what happens to the historical figures, which vocabulary words a reader might have trouble with, and illustrating timelines that help the reader get a better understanding of the story.

Hellfighters

These students had five days of class time to read a graphic novel called The Harlem Hellfighters by Max Brooks and illustrated by Caanan White. I have used this text several times in my World War One unit and have noticed that students have trouble tracking who is who and who does what throughout the story.

This post is to showcase some exemplars from this assignment. I have also included the reflections from each student describing how they managed their time in italics. There was a 70% completion rate on this assignment. Grades were distributed as: 42 As, 48 Bs, 22 C/Ds, and 40 students didn’t turn in anything. Students receiving an A generally had 10 or more character descriptions, suggested WWI vocabulary words, or events on their timelines.

The first day in class, I spent the day trying to figure out what the prompt was and I was planning out how I was going to organize my information. The following days I read the book and wrote my information as I was reading. I also found a pdf of the book online which allowed me to work on the project at home. One of the major issues I have is that I get distracted easily when people are talking while I’m reading, so that’s why I also had to work on it at home. I think if I didn’t get so distracted, I would’ve finished sooner. In total, I would say I spent about 1.5-2 hours doing the assignment.

I think I earned an A because I worked hard on my slides and looked for characters and searched for different WW1 timelines. I probably would have made my vocab and WW1 facts more detailed.

This next student created a seven page book. I was impressed how historical context and vocabulary were front-loaded. There was also a very consistent citation method employed, no doubt due to this students concurrent enrollment in AP Research.


I believe that if I spent more time on identifying the characters and explaining the timeline it could have performed better. I worked all days, however, I definitely forgot to work on the Commonlit after being too focused on the study guide.

Another project that got an A was this unique creation on Canva. This student had turned in some work on paper and I did not check her electronic work. When you see her comment below, you will understand why she came to me after school very quickly so I would change her grade. She was proud of her project and I love students who advocate for themselves.

Hellfighters Study Guide

I GOT AN A! I really think i got an A because I really put the effort on the presentation of the time line. The only thing I would say is the amount of information I used could’ve been more but other than that I cited, used pictures, used more information than ____. This is very honest btw.

Overall, I was very pleased with how creative my students were in response to this assignment. There were a few instances of shared images and text, which necessitated some classroom discussion on plagiarism. I can see repeating this assignment next month when we read …

Maus

My next post will delve into the reasons that 40 students did not turn in anything at all. This semester we will be doing a lot more work reflecting on our classwork and documenting how students manage their time.  #FailureIsNotanOption

Mix Iron Chef Into Reading and Writing

Students in my 11th grade US History class typically read four non-fiction books in addition to their History textbook. I have noticed that their note-taking skills, attention to detail, and recall of historical figures in the text need to improve. As students advance through upper-division work text complexity increases, yet the amount of reading instruction decreases. This can result in real problems in college where professors expect their students to do three hours of reading in the subject-area for every hour they spend in class. This post will describe an instructional sequence that helps students focus on the historical characters in a nonfiction reading using an Iron Chef protocol, a Who Am I? narrative writing technique, and a video response system that improves student speaking and listening skills.

Iron Chef

Eduprotocol authors Marlena Hebern and Jon Corippo developed this tool to help students flex quick research reps in 15 minutes or less. For this pre-reading activity, I listed the historical figures in The Professor and the Madman and assigned them via number on my class roster. Students research the individual, note key details and page number(s) they appeared on in the book, and for the secret ingredient add what we should know/remember about this person. The slide below is an example of what a student can create in less than one class period. Students build their own study guide that they can refer back to and add to as they read.

Iron Chef Pics

Who Am I? A First Person Protocol

The next step is to have students turn their slide research into a first person narrative. Even if students mostly copied information from Wikipedia into their Iron Chef slide, now they have to do the literary heavy lifting of converting it from the third person into the first person. This student has done an excellent job with a minor historical figure from The Professor and the Madman and has even slipped her own confident personality into her script. I can’t wait to see what she does with her video.

Iron Chef Pics (1)

Flipgrid – Engage Your Students in Speaking and Listening

The last step involves using Flipgrid, a free video-response platform that helps students learn via their own videos. For this assignment, the students have to speak for one minute giving the viewer clues as to the historical figure’s identify. As the grid populates with videos, students can view them, take notes, and learn who is who before they take a quiz made up of ten randomly selected videos.Screenshot 2019-09-21 at 5.17.58 PM

This video shows how students can be creative and have fun when engaged in this instructional sequence. Flipgrid tracks the analytics for each grid, which allowed me to see that my students viewed each others videos a total of 2,764 times prior to the quiz. That adds up to 43 hours of study time on the characters in a book they haven’t read yet. What do you think will happen when they encounter each character in the text?

Big Takeaways

What I like about this instructional sequence is that each day builds on what students created the day before. If they didn’t try very hard with the research they put into their Iron Chef slide, then they will struggle to write a Who Am I? speech. If they didn’t put some effort and creativity into their script, then they will have trouble making an interesting video. If they didn’t review their classmates’ videos, then they probably won’t do very well on the quiz.

Teaching students to show up and work hard every day is the most important work we can do as teachers. I have used this instructional sequence to help my students learn about Historical Eras, Enlightenment Philosophes, and people in the Civil Rights Movement. These activities have increased effort and engagement in my classes. Feel free to remix them for your class and subject matter. All I ask is that you leave a comment or tag me in a tweet @scottmpetri and let me know how they work for you. 

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.

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

Image result for origin story david christian
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

Image result for the congress of vienna by mark jarrett
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

Image result for the professor and the madman
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
Image result for devil in the white city

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

Image result for on desperate ground

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

Best Practice: Corroboration

Common Core standards require Social Studies teachers to demonstrate how students corroborate historical details with multiple sources of information to develop a coherent understanding of an idea or event, noting discrepancies among sources. I use this presentation when teaching this skill in my high school Social Studies classes. This is a rigorous task that requires close reading and organization skills. My students frequently realize that they need to improve at including page numbers into their notes, otherwise this assignment requires a second or third read in order to find that information. In the examples below, I have italicized student writing and kept my comments in plain text. 

The definition I use for corroboration is the ability to compare information provided by two separate sources and find similarities between them.

corroboration

In the film, The Exception, Captain Brandt is tasked with protecting Kaiser Wilhelm II because of the fear that spies might be watching them. These are reported to the Gestapo.  In Paullina Simons’ novel, The Bronze Horseman, there is also a fear of spies in the Soviet Union, which is why citizens are told to report to the NKVD (1149).

The student below does not use parenthetical citations but instead spells out the page numbers at the beginning of each sentence. This is not consistent in academic writing as it pulls the reader out of the text

Page 19 of With the Old Breed mentions what was considered the first modern head-on amphibious assault of the Battle of Tarawa. Page 603 of The American Vision makes mention of island-hopping in the Pacific and how Tarawa was the Navy’s first target in the Pacific.

This student does not include page numbers, which is a red flag that perhaps they did not read the novel, but instead are relying on internet searches to find connections with other historical events. When I can’t find the French film available on Netflix or Amazon Prime, I really wonder if the student viewed it.

The French film, La Ralfe, was about the Vel’ d’Hiv Roundup of July 1942, in which roughly 13,000 Jews living in Paris (4,501 of them children) were removed from their homes by French police and sent to detention camps in the countryside, before being deported to Auschwitz. In the novel, Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay, Sarah and her family were part of the Vel’ d’Hiv just like the people in the movie La Ralfe.

In the book Eva Braun: Life with Hitler, the book states how Hitler signed the Nonaggression Pact with the Soviet Union. “During the preparations for war against Poland, and the signing of the Nonaggression Pact with the Soviet Union which Hitler pursued to that end, Hitler…” (“Heinrich Hoffmann’s Studio.” Eva Braun: Life with Hitler, by Heike B. Görtemaker, Verlag C. H. Beck OHG, 2010, p 20.)In the textbook, it says “In August 1939, Hitler stunned the world by announcing a nonaggression pact with his great enemy-Joseph Stalin, the Soviet dictator.” (“World History The Modern World.” World History The Modern World, by Ellis Esler, Pearson Education, 2007, p. 465.)

This student has gone overboard and used a full works cited reference instead of an in-text parenthetical citation featuring author last name, page number. See below for a student who has done this succinctly.

Ellis states that, “Within a few days, they were herded into ‘shower rooms’ and gassed”(472) which is supported when Keneally says that, “At last the victims were driven down a barbed-wire passage to bunkers which had copper Stars of David on their roofs and were labeled ‘BATHS AND INHALATION ROOMS’ ’’(136).

Explicitly teaching corroboration and citing page numbers in sources helps students reduce the amount of plagiarism in their work. It also teaches them the importance of reading carefully and organizing their notes. This type of work can be down with short readings and the textbook, or with longer book level or article readings that students will encounter in college.

Please note that assignments like this help prevent, but do not totally remove the risk of student cheating. I have found that spot-checking a sample of 5-6 assignments per period often reveals a student’s googling and copying someone else’s work.

For instance, this corroboration “The Japanese invaders treated the Chinese, Filipinos, Malaysians, and other conquered people with great brutality, killing and torturing civilians throughout East and Southeast Asia.” (Ellis,  2005, 473). Iris proved this by writing about the killing contest, live burials, mutilation, death by fire,death by ice, death by dogs and rapes (83-89). There is way more terrible things to explain what happened to these Chinese people, but that was enough to explain how badly they were tortured.” was done by two different students in different class periods, coincidentally reading the same book and using the same source from the internet. What are the odds?

In order to prevent copying like this, simply give students shorter readings and make the corroborations due in one class period. This way all of the readings can be done in class and students don’t have time to share their work on classroom backchannels.

CCSS Standards

Integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information presented in diverse formats and media (e.g., visually, quantitatively, as well as in words) in order to address a question or solve a problem.

Evaluate an author’s premises, claims, and evidence by corroborating or challenging them with other information.

Integrate information from diverse sources, both primary and secondary, into a coherent understanding of an idea or event, noting discrepancies among sources.

Writing in Social Studies

Integrating Listening, Speaking & Writing in the Social Studies Classroom
Los Angeles County of Education
Day Two: Friday, February 23, 2018

Workshop Slides

8:30 – Reading in Social Studies

  • Loop Writing
  • Bob Bain video
  • Increasing Student Reading in class
  • text sets
  • historical fiction & non-fiction

9:00 – Daily Writing Tasks

  • Calendar Conversations
  • SEL Quickwrites & Student Reflections
  • Summarizing & Paraphrasing
  • Corroborating
  • Annotated Bibliographies (mini-research projs)
  • Self-Regulated Strategy Development (SRSD)

9:45 – 10:00 Break

10:00 – Narrative Writing

  • The Power of Narrative
  • First Person Research Papers
  • Vietnam Veteran Interviews

11:00 – Informative/Explanatory Writing

  • Timeline Transitions
  • Twitter as a pre-writing summarization tool
  • RAFT writing

11:30 – 12:30 Lunch

12:30 – Argumentative Writing

  • LOOP Writing
  • Believing & Doubting Game
  • MEAL paragraphs

1:45 – 2:00 Break

2:00 – Giving Feedback on Student Writing

  • Self-Review
  • Peer Review
  • Rubric Calibration
  • Road test the Robo-readers

Other Resources

Workshop materials posted on www.HistoryRewriter.com Collaborative Notes:  

So Cal Social Science Association events http://www.socalsocialscience.org/events.html

CCSS Spring Conference https://ccss.org/page-1861180