Saturday, September 24, 2016

Classifying: A Core Skill in Learning About Cultures

I've written a handful of blog posts about culture. I've looked to define culture and how to help students think about culture. Still, I notice that all of this work is grounded in gathering information about culture from a variety of primary and secondary sources. This post is going to focus on the core thinking skill that teachers must elevate when students engage with sources about culture. That skill is CLASSIFYING,... or associating something with a particular group.

First, let's think of some situations where students apply the skill of CLASSIFYING.

  1. In math, students might be given a set of geometric shapes. Using traits of the shapes, students will organize the geometric shapes into different groups.
  2. In science, students might be given a set of rocks. Using traits of the rocks, students organize the rocks into different groups (such as as sedimentary, metamorphic,  and igneous).
  3. In reading, students might describe characters within a story. Using the traits, students might organize the characters into those with positive social traits and those who have negative social traits.
What sources will students use to learn about culture?
The sources that students engage with will be traditional (secondary sources written as sentences) or nontraditional (artifacts, primary sources, images, media, infographics, ...). With traditional sources, students are transferring and reapplying reading skills to make sense of the content. With nontraditional sources, students are applying analytical processes the "look and think." (For more information on this idea, view my blog post on traditional literacy and visual literacy.) When students engage with sources about a culture, the first thing we must understand is that there is no source that will tell you everything about a culture. Every source only reveals a limited amount of information. Sometimes a source reveals a significant amount of information about culture, and sometimes a source reveals much less...but no source will tell you everything about a culture

How do I support students in classifying the information within sources?
As students engage with sources, we have to give students a purpose. There are teachers who might call this looking at the details within a source through a lens, and it may sound like this: "When you read this source, look for details that help you to understand _____________." This is where precision with instruction is critical. Social scientists identify elements of culture. Culture is the BIG IDEA, and the elements of culture are the DETAILS. Elements of culture, the categories that students will pay attention to when classifying the information they learn, might include:
  1. Belief Systems - Details that help a student understand the belief systems of a culture include information about religion, government, social/gender roles, class systems, and holidays/celebrations.
  2. Daily Life - Details that help a student understand the daily life of a culture include information about food, clothing, houses/shelter, language, and activities for recreation or sport.
  3. Economic Activities - Details that help a student understand the economic activities of a culture include products/goods, services, trading partners, occupations, and forms of transportation.
  4. Forms of Artistic Expression - Details that help a student understand unique forms of artistic expression include information about theater, dance, music, literature, stories, or legends.
  5. Technology - Details that help a student understand aspects of technology within this culture's particular time or place include information about anything that has been created to make their life easier. 

What are concrete examples of students using sources to classify the information?
First, consider how you want students to organize their information.
Option: They might have a tree map where each branch is related to an element of culture.
Option: Students might have five pieces of paper where they capture information about each element of culture.
Option: Students might be working on a collaborative Google presentation where the presentation has five unique sections based on elements of culture.
The method students use to capture this classified information is entirely up to you, but the goal will still be the same...engage with sources and classify information found within the sources within their appropriate element of culture.

  1. If students are exploring the Aztec culture, they might use this lesson called Aztecs Find a Home. This lesson allows students to understand why Aztecs (and modern day Mexico) have the symbols of an eagle, a cactus, and a snake. These symbols are connected to stories and legends. Learning about these symbols helps students to understand how the Aztecs express themselves artistically and how these legends share something about them as people. These symbols also express ideas about Aztec belief systems. In looking at this lesson, students are able to classify their learning to explain different elements of Aztec culture. Students might also analyze Aztec codices and this will allow students to make inferences about their belief systems and daily life. Students might analyze this primary source, How the Aztecs Raised Sons as Warriors, and they'll find out more about belief systems and daily life. Remember, one source may reveal insights about different elements of culture, but it will not tell students about every element of culture. 
  2. If students are exploring the Inca culture, they might access this video on the Inca Creation Story. This will provide details that inform students about the Inca belief systems. Students might experience this lesson on Inca Communication and they can extract details about daily life. Teachers might also gather a set of primary source images, analyze one image at a time, and ask, "After analyzing this image, what details might we infer related to the elements of culture?" 
In the end, we are helping students to look extract details from different sources and classify those details based on the unique element of culture. We are helping students to to make connections between the content they read (or infer) from sources and we are helping them to classify their ideas in ways that help them to further understand the nuances of culture.

The next step...comparing one culture to another culture, or comparing one culture to an individual's culture. Here's my blog post on comparing cultures (look to the bottom and start at Step 2). 

Economic Change Over Time: Beginning in the Colonial Era

When students explore units of study based on the colonial era, we want them to understand significant concepts rather than simply gather random facts. Concepts help to hold facts and knowledge together. A significant concept for young historians to explore involves examining how economic institutions, such as our customs and practices, have changed over time. Economic interaction among people is based on understanding how people of any time or place try to answer one central question:  How will individuals/communities interact to acquire and exchange goods and services? How do we get what we want and need? Notice how the following section shows how economic systems developed over time. For the sake of showing the development, I'll indicate that each step in economic development is a PHASE.

What are the phases of economic development?
Phase 1: Subsistence Living/Barter & Trade
In our nation's past, individuals were independent in making goods and growing crops that they wanted or needed. Eventually, it made sense for individuals within a community to interact by bartering and trading with each other. The trade typically involved goods so that participants in the interaction could acquire what they wanted or needed.  In the early colonial era, sometimes Europeans traded with Native Americans and sometimes they traded with each other. If an individual or family was living in an isolated location, they may have embraced subsistence living, which means an indevidual or family supported themselves.

Phase 2: Specialization and Community Interdependence: The Development of Trades
As communities developed, individuals recognized that it’s inefficient to be individually responsible for all goods and services.  This led to interdependence, specialization of trades, specialization in the development of goods, and specialization in the growth of agriculture.  Citizens created interdependent economic communities as they brought goods and services to the economic marketplace.  NOTE: Within European colonies, specialization related to agriculture created demand for a labor force, which is one main reason that indentured servants and slaves can be viewed as "economic variables" within economic development. For further information

Phase 3: Regional Development and Intercolonial Trade
Regionally, different goods and services were developed due to physical geography, local resources, and regional skill sets.  Teachers often study the different regions with students.  One way of examining colonial regions involves analyzing how they developed uniquely to participate in a larger North American marketplace. The nature of interdependence across the colonies developed as individuals/communities traded within the larger North American marketplace. NOTE: Slavery appeared early-on in the colonial era. While students see slavery as a the mistreatment of people, students should understand the economic reasons for slavery. Slavery, while viewed today as a shameful practice, developed in conjunction with the growth of regional economies (especially in the Southern colonies).  Slavery resources can be used in a way to highlight its economic perspective and its human (or inhumane) perspective.

Phase 4: Mercantilism and the Triangle Trade
Mercantilism stipulates that in order to build economic strength, a nation must export more than it imports.  To achieve this favorable balance of trade, the English passed regulatory laws exclusively benefitting the British economy. These laws created a trade system whereby colonists provided raw goods to Britain. Britain then used the raw goods to produce manufactured goods that were sold in European markets and back to the colonies.  As suppliers of raw goods only, the colonies could not compete with Britain in manufacturing.  English ships and merchants were always favored, excluding other countries from sharing in the British Empire’s wealth. To transport finished goods back to the colonies, ships made various stops which was known as the Triangle Trade. For further information

Today: Free Trade
As a final evolution of economic interaction, the North American colonies began to desire greater economic freedom and the opportunity to trade freely throughout the world. They wanted out of the mercantilist system. (In the future, free trade for the newly established nation, the United States of America, is one result of the American Revolution.)  Students will explore free trade and the market economy during their study of the American Revolution.

What does this look like with 5th graders?
As teachers, we are going to pull as many primary sources as possible. Primary sources are at the heart of history instruction. Here are some ways to use primary and secondary sources (including simulations) to help students understand economic change over time.

Questions to guide inquiry:

  • How has economic interaction changed over time?
  • How did people interact with each other to get what they wanted or needed? How and why did that develop and change over time?
  1. Phase 1: Subsistence Living/Barter & Trade - Students use this lesson from National Geographic on Trade in the 1600's to understand early barter and trade. This might be paired with a video on economics in Jamestown. Students might also play a version of this bartering game. Teachers facilitate a conversation that helps students see how people in this era of economic development depended on each other to get what they wanted and needed.
  2. Phase 2: Specialization and Community Interdependence, the Development of Trades - Students initially investigate these primary source newspapers and these ads for goods and services to find out what goods were traded in the colonial marketplace. Students divide into teams of two and investigate trades that developed within colonial communities and then participate in an economic meet-and-greet using this sheet. After finding out about the different trades, students might engage in learning about interdependency through a method similar to this one on the colonial workers web. Teachers facilitate a conversation that helps students see how this era is a change from the previous era. This era embraced a more complex form of economic interdependence. In addition, invite students to consider why this change in economic interdependence took place.
  3. Phase 2 Extension: Indentured Servitude and Slavery as Part of Economic Development - Students can investigate how indentured servants and slaves were connected to economics. Begin with exploring this indenture contract (a primary source) and then shift into this lesson on indentured servitude that comes from the Council on Economic Education. Extend the learning to look at this lesson on slavery's connection to the colonial economy. Teachers should facilitate a conversation that connects indentured servants and slavery to the changing colonial economy.
  4. Phase 3: Regional Development and Intercolonial Trade - Teachers frequently have information in their classrooms or on video that explains the unique trades for each region (South - tobacco, Middle - bread basket colonies, Northern - cod and timber). Learning about these unique aspects of economy allows students to consider how people in the colonies needed specific goods that came from different regions. This phase of economic development means that all of the colonial regions were interdependent. Teachers might facilitate a conversation that helps students see how today's economy involves the exchange of goods that come from different locations in the United States. When students make this connection to modern economic interdependence, they're transferring the concept to a modern example.
  5. Phase 4: Mercantilism and Triangle Trade - Students might engage in this mercantilism simulation. Students can then analyze this interactive map of the Triangle Trade and pair it with this primary source letter and this primary source legislative act. Last, students might engage in this consumer revolution imports lesson to see where we are today. Teachers facilitate a conversation that connects this phase with the expanded range for trade, which is the start of global trade.
What skills or discipline-specific thinking practices might I elevate?
Our goal in education is to create experiences so students practice the skills and thinking practices of real-life practitioners. In this case, we often land on the skills and thinking practices of historians. With the above resources, some skills and thinking practices might include:
  • Analyze and gather evidence from primary and secondary sources. Secondary sources can include simulations. (When analyzing sources, students are either transferring and reapplying reading skills or incorporating analytical processes. See my blog post on Traditional Literacy and Visual Literacy for guidance on how to do this.)
  • Analyze charts maps and graphs.
  • Create timelines.
  • Explain why economic institutions change over time.
  • Describe how physical features influence the development of economic institutions.
How can I extend this learning and ask students to transfer this concept in authentic ways?
We want students to transfer their learning. You might invite an elderly member of the community into the classroom and ask them to explain what it was like to access goods and services long ago. Today, students are aware of Amazon and malls, but hasn't hasn't always been the case. Even today, we are a changing economy and the future of how we exchange goods and services is unknown. Students might make predictions about how the future of economic exchange will continue to change and develop.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Social Institutions of the United States: Change Over Time Starting with the Colonial Era

     As young historians, students examine change over time beginning with the earliest days of European colonization in North America. State standards highlight that students should be able to describe the development of social and political institutions.

What are social and political institutions?
People are different in every era.  Our modern social beliefs and norms evolved over time and they're connected to our nation's past. Who we are today is related to who we were in the past. Investigating the social beliefs and norms of the colonial era allows students to understand “what life was like long ago”, thereby providing historical context so students can explain how we have changed over time. Socially, we want students to explore a variety of social beliefs and norms. This might involve investigating gender roles, norms for adults or children, and the creation of class systems in our past and present.    We also want students to recognize that different beliefs have always been a part of our society and they have also changed over time. Scientific beliefs and practices have changed over have religious beliefs and practices. Events such as the Enlightenment and the Great Awakening provide unique insight into our nation's scientific and religious history. Through a social lens, students are able to understand that we have modern social beliefs and norms that have changed over time...and the present is connected to the past. Some things change, some things stay the same. (Think about ordering A Day in the Life to help students develop social context of the colonial era.)
Second, we have developed beliefs and norms related to governing ourselves. Historians describe this as political change over time. Today, we have certain political beliefs such as 1) a limited government elected by the people and informed by the people, 2) embracing conflict and compromise as we collaborate to create political change, 3) government guided by a constitution, and 4) a balance of power and authority grounded in checks and balances.  Our beliefs of today have evolved over time and they’re connected to our nation’s past. In the past, the Mayflower Compact was one of the first forms of collective agreement established so citizens would be connected around common beliefs, rules and laws.  In colonial New England, there was little distinction between faith and community. Therefore, meetinghouses were built by the communities and used by everyone for both religious worship and town business related to governing citizens. This reflects the beginning of a democracy. For many colonies, the election of officials began to take place...a practice that was new and elevated the value of citizen input in government.  The way we operate today evolved over time.  To facilitate students in learning about this form of change over time, we look at the colonial era through a political lens.

What does this look like with 5th graders?
As teachers, we are going to pull as many primary sources as possible. Primary sources are at the heart of history instruction. Here are some ways to use primary and secondary sources to help students understand social and political change over time:

Questions to Guide Inquiry:

  • What social and political institutions (customs, beliefs, and norms) existed for people of North American in the 15th-17th centuries? How and why did they develop and change over time?
  • Why do historians use primary and secondary sources to construct understanding of the past?

  1. Students use a secondary source to investigate the big picture of life in the past with the book If You Live in Colonial Times by Ann Mcgovern. Students use different portions of the book to explain how life has changed over time and why.
  2. Students investigate the roles of men, women, and children in the past with the secondary sources in this lesson (Lesson: What was everyday life like in colonial Virginia?) Discuss how roles have changed over time and why.
  3. Students investigate social class in the colonial era with the primary and secondary sources (Social Class in Colonial America). Teachers might also use this site
  4. Students investigate a year in the life of a colonial farmer with a primary source (A Year in the Life of Thomas Minor). The language is tough but students can get the gist of this citizen's patterns of life. Students compare this person's patterns with the yearly patterns of a modern citizen or farmer and discuss how things have changed over time and why. 
  5. Students investigate rules of the past with this primary source (Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation). Discuss how rules have changed over time and predict why. 
  6. Students investigate one community's rules through primary sources (Rules, Rules, Rules). Today, we create rules for different communities. Students might describe how rules have changed over time and why. 
  7.  Students investigate communication in the past with this lesson using primary sources (Colonial Newspapers and Communication). Analyze the sources and discuss the topics that were "newsworthy" in the past versus today. Discuss how we share information today versus in the past. Discuss why these changes have taken place.
  8. Students investigate the items that people have in their homes through this lesson using probate inventories (How do we know about Colonial life?) Discuss what we might infer about the daily life from analyzing the inventories. Students create a list of what they have in their home and discuss what it tells them about life today. Discuss why things have changed over time.
  9. Students investigate how students new to a culture are educated through this primary source based lesson (Indian Boarding School). Discuss what school looks like today for students new to the United States. Discuss why things have changed over time.
  10. Students investigate medicine and science of the past by examining primary source artifacts. (Explanation of Apothecary and make sure you access the slideshow at the bottom of the page).  Students explain how the tools and approaches to medicine have changed over time and why. This is AWESOME!
  11. Students investigate how our knowledge of science and our response to illness has changed over time. Use this primary source lesson on Smallpox Inoculation
  12. Students investigate the Salem Witch Trials with this dot game from TCI. In the past, people were questioned if they had beliefs that differed from common religious beliefs. Today, we try to have a society that separates church and state. The way we address differences in belief looks different today as compared to the past.

What skills or discipline-specific thinking practices might I elevate?
Our goal in education is to create experiences so students practice the skills and thinking practices of real-life practitioners. In this case, we often land on the skills and thinking practices of historians. With the above resources, some skills and thinking practices include:

  • Analyze and gather evidence from primary and secondary sources. (When analyzing these sources, students are either transfer and reapplying reading skills or incorporating analytical processes. See my blog post on Traditional Literacy and Visual Literacy for guidance on how to do this.)
  • Create timelines. (Students can create a simple timeline that shows the social and political aspects of past and the present. Students might also add predictions about the future if they want.)
  • Explain why social and political institutions change over time. ("Institutions" are norms, beliefs, and structures we've created as people in a society. Therefore, students are explaining how our social and political norms and beliefs have changed over time. There are so many options for kids showing this in creative ways including creating short videos and skits.)

How can I extend this learning and ask students to transfer this concept in authentic ways?
Social education is based in developing students who are going to be educated, involved citizens in our communities. We might consider some of the ways that we might make this learning relevant. Here are just a few ideas.

  • Invite members of a homeless shelter to come speak with the class.  Find out about challenges they face in supporting homeless people and how people can become involved in change. Use this as an opportunity to help kids consider the actions they might take to be part of social change.
  • Invite a social worker to come in and speak with the class about challenges faced by people of diverse ethnicities. Use this as an opportunity to help kids consider the ways they might share ideas and influence change.
  • Invite a local leader to come in and speak about the value of parks and community centers in people's lives. Encourage these leaders to talk about their future projects and how they hope those future projects support social development for the people in a community.
  • Invite some grandparents into the classroom to speak about their life experiences and how they've noticed social change over time. Use this as a launching off point to ask students, "When you look at the world today, what social changes do you think need to take place? What steps can you take to influence change that matters to you?"