Thursday, December 5, 2013

Colorado and U.S. History - How are people, events, and eras connected?

In all states, students typically learn about their state's history in 4th grade.  A significant component of these historical state studies students learning deeply about the people, events, eras, and ideas connected to the state over time.  As someone who loves history, it's fantastic to see teachers abandoning old ways of history instruction (read the book, complete the worksheet) to embrace the historical process (using multiple primary and secondary sources to ask questions, gather historical evidence, and draw historical conclusions). Embracing the historical process is at the heart of a thinking classroom where the teacher places the cognitive load on students and facilitates rich learning experiences.

As students learn about state history, we will always use one of the most important tools of a historian...the timeline.  In the study of state history, standards throughout the nation ask students to recognize the connection between state history and U.S. history.  This connection is crucial because it creates historical context for young students.  U.S. history is presented to students in a way where they begin to be exposed to events and eras, but not necessarily expected to remember them with great complexity.  When we expose students to the events and eras of U.S. history, the timeline becomes a crucial tool to begin seeing these relationships between state and U.S. history.  Below, I hope teachers see how they might construct a timeline with students throughout the course of a state's historical study.  Colorado is the state example that's used.  Teachers are encouraged to consider how this timeline is constructed with students (and by students) over the course of multiple weeks.

NOTE: This timeline is based on these potential connections between Colorado's history and U.S. history.

Step 1: I might create a timeline that represents the range of years for the state's history.  My Colorado example goes from the Pre-Columbian era (before Christopher Columbus) to the present.
Step 1: Create a timeline (or pair of timelines) to show events in your state's history and events in U.S. history.

Step 2: I might establish historical context based on some of the first people or events we are going to study. We are going to begin our study of Colorado with the early people, Ancestral Puebloans, Utes, and Great Plains Indians.  Because of the people and events we're going to study, to the timeline I'd add the following eras for North America and the United States: 1) the pre-Columbian era, 2) the era of European exploration, 3) the era of new European colonies and settlements in the Western hemisphere, and 4) the era when native cultures of the Western Hemisphere interact with the Europeans who have migrated. On the timeline, we'll add these early eras.  I might use shading so students begin to sense the difference between an era and an event.  It's important to note that eras might overlap, as shown on the timeline, and dates don't have to be exact.  We are providing events and eras of the United States to provide historical context.  In class, we might read a few picture books together, look at a few primary source images, and maybe watch brief videos to build this historical context for students.
Step 2: Adding early eras to the timeline.

Step 3: Be creative in adding the time for "long, long ago." In this case, I might add a notecard because it's easily folded when students store their timelines.  I added enough to the timeline to account for the earliest state history that students study.  In Colorado, students examine Ancestral Puebloans (Anasazi) who lived in the Four Corners region.  
Step 3: Consider the earliest group/events/era you'll study for your state's history, and lengthen your timeline.

Step 4: Start studying some of the early people, events, or eras of the state.  Embrace the historical process (using multiple primary and secondary sources to ask questions, gather historical evidence, and draw historical conclusions). Here, I've added the people, events, and eras that we've examined. On the timeline, you see I've added an era (Ancestral Puebloans) and events (when Utes moved to the region, when Cheyenne and Arapaho moved into the Great Plains).  To the timeline ONLY, I've also added when Colorado becomes a state to provide additional historical context.  I want students to begin building their sense of time.
Step 4: Use the historical process to study the state's early people, events, and eras.
Add these to the timeline on the upper half.

Step 5: As we shift into the next portion of our study, I know we're going to examine the explorers in Colorado. Some early explorers came with the Europeans, and later explorers came after the Louisiana Purchase when people came to specifically explore the state.  Knowing this, I've added a few key events to provide context. (Jamestown and Plymouth as the first English colonies, the Declaration of Independence, and the Louisiana Purchas).  Again, we might read about these events as a class, look at a few picture books, examine a few primary sources, or watch a brief video.  The focus is not on the details of the event, but helping students to build historical context by getting the big ideas for any era or event.
Step 5: Add the next key events or eras in U.S. history.

Step 6: Study some of  the different explorers and exploration eras using the historical process (using multiple primary and secondary sources to ask questions, gather historical evidence, and draw historical conclusions). Add them to your timeline.
Step 6: The addition of explorers and exploration eras to the timeline. 

Step 7: New U.S. events and eras were added.  Look at the image to notice the events and eras that I've added.  You'll notice the addition of Westward Expansion.  While historians would argue with my approach, I've added it because I want students to understand that the Louisiana Purchase (1803), the Homestead Act (1862), and the building of the Transcontinental Railroad (1863-1869) caused two big waves of people to move west AND into Colorado.  We'll be studying the first wave to hit Colorado (trappers, traders, and mountain men) and the second wave to hit Colorado (miners, ranchers, and farmers).  Notice how I've also added the era of Native American removal.  I've added this because I want students to have a better sense of the interactions that take place between new people in Colorado and those who were inhabitants of the land for centuries. This picture shows the new events and eras for the United States and for Colorado.  
Step 7: Adding new events and eras from U.S. history. 

Step 8: Last, I've added key eras and events for U.S. and Colorado history in the 20th century.  To me, the most significant events or eras in the United States are Women's Suffrage (era), passage of the 19th Amendment (event), the Great Depression (era), and World War II (era/event). In Colorado, we are connected because we gave women the right to vote in 1893, prior to passage of the 19th Amendment. We experienced the Dust Bowl, which is connected to the Great Depression.  We also built and moved Japanese to an internment camp at Amache, which is connected to World War II.  
Step 8: Colorado and the United States in the 20th century.

Below, the finished product.  It's an incredible tool to help students keep track of people, events and eras.  The timeline can be used as a tool for inquiry into the question, "How is the history of Colorado related to the history of North America and the United States?" It can be used to have discussions with students so they see how we are connected to the past...the opportunity to see continuity and change over time.  Plus, IT'S PRETTY COOL!  The experience of making this timeline and using it with your students will change the way you look at history forever.  Good luck!
The Final Product!

If you're creating digital timelines, it's tough to get this creative. I encourage you to consider LINE.DO and the one from Red, Write, Think

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