Friday, February 28, 2014

Learning from the Past: Creating Relevance When Studying Influences of our U.S. Constitutional Government

Students investigate how previous ideas and experiences influenced the foundational ideas within our U.S. Constitution.  If we simply jump into this learning, it's easy for students to lose interest.  They lose interest because it feels like a bunch of information.  It's information that's not relevant to young citizens.

As educators, we seek ways to make learning transferrable and relevant.  With this in mind, maybe we should approach the learning through creating relevance.  What if we began an this investigation about our Constitution with these questions (surely students can create something to demonstrate their understanding around these questions): 

How are you or others influenced by the past?
What other things are influenced by the past?

Today, I am who I am because of my parents, friends, family, and past experiences.  People and experiences left shaped who I am today.

Today, musicians write and create music because of the musicians who have left a mark on their soul.  Some were influenced by The Beatles and Eric Clapton, others were influenced by Madonna, and others were influenced by the Beastie Boys.  The words and songs of today were influenced by previous musicians.

Today, architects design and construct homes and buildings based on the designs of previous architects.  While their designs are new, their designs contain "fingerprints" from previous architects.

Everyone and everything is influenced by the past.  When we recognize this transferrable idea, then maybe students will finder greater relevance when learning about the influences of our U.S. Constitutional government.  
To engage students with this learning, we might create relevance first.  After all, hopefully we have learned that a key facet for learning involves...RELEVANCE.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Letters from Poland :A Primary Source Lesson on Push/Pull Factors During the Ellis Island Era

As students learn about regions of the United States, they learn about migration.  In every region of the United States, population developed due to migration.  The question we might ask is, "What influenced migration to regions of the United States over time?"

In the Northeastern United States, a significant population boom took place through Ellis Island because of push/pull patterns associated with migration.  But, why did it happen?  How does a historian discover the reasons behind migration?

Essential Question:
What influenced migration to regions of the United States over time?

Learning Experience:
1. Students know that historians study primary sources to reveal clues about the past.  In this lesson, students will be given a set of letters between family members in Poland and those who migrated to the United States.
2.  Students will analyze the letters and look for clues that reveal why people from Poland may have migrated to the United States in the late 1800s. (Teachers may choose a few or several letters for students to analyze.)

Letters from Poland (Primary Sources)
Book - Escaping to America: A True Story by Rosalyn Schanzer (can be used to extend learning)

Guiding Questions: 

  • Critical analysis - When reading these primary source letters...
    • What hints do these letters give about why people may have been pushed away from Poland? 
    • What hints do these letters give about why people may have been pulled to the United States from Poland?
    • How well has America lived up to their expectations? What has been a disappointment? What has turned out better than they expected?
    • Is there such a thing as a "typical" immigrant experience? Why or why not?
  • Comparing the past to the present
    • How has the process of leaving home, traveling to the USA, and settling-in changed for today's immigrants? What parts of the process have stayed the same?
    • What goals, values, and emotions do most immigrants from any time seem to share?
  • Comparing migration patterns in different regions of the United States
    • Why did people migrate to the region where you live? How was this migration pattern in the Northeast influenced by similar or different reasons? 
This lesson and its sourced were adapted from the Heritage Discovery Center