The Pig War: Constructing Historic Narrative

the pig warMy Social Studies Methods class at the University of Portland recently published a free multi-touch iBook – Exploring History: Vol II. It features ten engaging questions and historic documents that empower students to be the historian in the classroom. For more info on our project and free download of multi-touch iBook version click here.

To better publicize student work, I’m featuring each chapter in it’s own blog post. More in series here.

Task: Using the documents provided, reconstruct a narrative of the Pig War. What were the causes, was there a turning point, and what was the final resolution?

The Pig War by Andy Saxton - Download as pdf (22.2MB) The Border Dispute of 1859 is known colloquially as the Pig War, so called because the only casualty of the conflict was a pig (owned by a British citizen) who was shot by a citizen of the United States when the pig wandered into his garden and began eating his vegetables. This incident would trigger a military response from the United Kingdom and then the United States in which British and American armed forces jointly occupied San Juan Island for over a decade, and nearly led to a shooting war between the two nations. Although belligerent forces almost drove the two countries into armed conflict, cooler heads prevailed.

Project reflection by Andy Saxon

I was impressed with the products students created when I ran the Pig War DBQ with my sophomore U.S. history and government class. I incorporated it into the last lesson of my work sample as a performance assessment because it touched on three of my learning targets: increased knowledge of the U.S.’s occupation of Pacific Northwest, improved historical reading skills, and a more-developed ability to work collaboratively. In teams of five, students tackled the documents and re-created narratives of the event, all within 90 minutes. Products that they created included straight narratives, a poem told from the pig’s perspective, and the political cartoon shown on this page.

Some narratives were more complete than others, but for the most part, each team was able to extract the important historical markers of the Pig War. The teams that were most successful were those in which one or two of the students took up an executive or administrative function. My goal was to have the students work as a group; 22 documents would be difficult for a single person to analyze in 90 minutes. Instead, the executor would outsource the documents to the rest of the team and have individual team members summarize those documents. Those summaries were eventually incorporated into a common template, which was fleshed-out into a unified narrative.

As an experiment, I tried to create an atmosphere in which the success or failure of a team to create a product would not affect their grades. Rather, the goal was to create the possible narrative purely for the sake of creating it, for the glory of being the best. This saw mixed success on a student-per-student basis, but overall the teams were able to work effectively to create quality products

As it was, students assessed as team “most knowledgeable others” (MKOs) were the most contributive to the assignment. Students with lower skill abilities were at first disruptive to team progress. As the exercise progressed, competitive pressure required each team to “step up their game,” and non-contributive members were essentially ostracized or forced to actually contribute to their teams. I observed less-proficient students alternatively find a role in their groups, or simply tune out of the exercise. In the future, I think I would be more explicit in my expectations for team members to actively contribute to the process of creating a product, in terms of quantifying individual contribution for the use of grading.

I was not sure how adept my students would be at accomplishing my goal, of their creating discrete narratives of the historical event that created the documents. Frankly, I was dubious of the lesson’s success. On the first day of class, I administered a team-building exercise, a tower-building activity, and not every group was able to create a free-standing tower. I was worried that this assignment would show a similar success rate, and that not every team would be able to create a product.

To my surprise and delight, however, every team was able to create a narrative that included that major markers of the historical event in question. This shows that every team was able to utilize their historical reading skills to pull relevant information from the documents, and synthesize an historically accurate interpretation of the event in question.

My approach to presenting the lesson, emphasizing that it was supposed to be fun and “for the glory” of creating the most quality norm-referenced product, met with mixed success on a per-student basis. I would be curious to see if with a consistently implemented “for fun” approach, coupled with the peer-pressure effect, would create a classroom climate in which every team member would give his or her best effort.
 

Image credit:  from page 455 of “The diseases of live stock and their most efficient remedies : including horses, cattle, cows, sheep, swine, fowls, dogs, etc. …” (1886)
Identifier: diseasesoflivest00mill
Title: The diseases of live stock and their most efficient remedies : including horses, cattle, cows, sheep, swine, fowls, dogs, etc. …
Year: 1886 (1880s)
Authors: Miller, William B. E Tellor, Lloyd V
Subjects: Horses Veterinary medicine
Publisher: Boston, Mass. : L.C. Hascall & Co.

Exploring History in 10 Interactive Lessons

Exploring-History-VolIII’m very pleased to share a new iBook just published by my Social Studies Methods class at the University of Portland. Free at iTunes. Static pdf version of the iBook.

It features ten engaging questions and historic documents that empower students to be the historian in the classroom. The units draw from a fascinating collection of text and multimedia content – documents, posters, photographs, audio, video, letter and other ephemera. “Stop-and-think” prompts based on CCSS skills guide students through analysis of the primary and secondary sources. Essential questions foster critical thinking. All documents include links back to the original source material so readers can remix the content into their own curated collections.

All of my students assignments had a public audience on our class blog and were designed to meet our three class goals: 

  • Learn to think like a historian.
  • Become a skillful Instructional designer
  • Develop technical skills for production, reflection, growth and professional networking.

The lesson design process began early in the semester when students designed lessons in historical thinking skills based on the work of Sam Wineburg and the Stanford History Education Group (SHEG). They focussed on three key skills – Sourcing, Contextualizing and Corroborating. Then students identified essential questions worth answering and gathered documents to explore the question in an extended DBQ design process.

Exploring History: Vol II was our PBL capstone and is available on iTunes in 51 countries around the world. Here’s a post (from last fall’s class) that describes our project workflow (including how we utilized iBooks Author). Here’s Exploring History: Vol I created by my fall 2013 class.

I’ll be doing a future blog post that features each student’s DBQ, but for now here’s the US and World History lessons in chronological order:

  1. The American Revolution by Scott Deal
  2. The Pig War by Andy Saxton
  3. Cesspool of Savagery by Michelle Murphy
  4. Chemical War by Erik Nelson
  5. Americans’ Perceptions of Immigration in the 1920s by Ceci Brunning and Jenna Bunnell
  6. The New Deal and the Art of Public Persuasion by Kari VanKommer
  7. Combat Soldiers in Context by Kristi Anne McKenzie
  8. The Marshall Plan: Altruism or Pragmatism? by Samuel Kimerling
  9. Little Rock Nine: Evaluating Historical Sources by Christy Thomas
  10. First Ladies as a Political Tool by Emily Strocher  

Thinking Like A Historian: Student-Designed Lessons

History of SpringfieldOver the last few weeks my University of Portland EdMethods students have been designing lessons in historical thinking skills based on the work of Sam Wineburg and the Stanford History Education Group (SHEG). They focussed on three key skills – Sourcing, Contextualizing and Corroborating.

The lessons were designed in a shared Google presentation. Below you will find the project workflow and links to each lesson as an individual blog post.

Flip the introduction:

I used TEDEd’s video curation tool to turn an existing YouTube and into a flipped lesson introducing historical thinking skills. Students also read Thinking Like a Historian by Sam Wineburg.

Deconstruct the model:

With that background, students spent a portion of our next class deconstructing a few of the assessments found in SHEG’s Beyond the Bubble. They were asked to find three questions that focus on any of these skills: Sourcing, Contextualizing and Corroborating. With their team they explored how the assessments are designed:

  • How many historic sources, what types?
  • What additional information are students given?
  • How many prompts?
  • What are students asked to do?
  • How is the assessment designed to support the skills?
  • Be prepared to share your finding with the whole class.

Design your own lesson:

Students were then assigned to design their own historical thinking lesson based on the Beyond the Bubble assessment model. They used a shared Google presentation to host their lesson. Since not all students were familiar with Google tools, I used SnagIt to create a YouTube playlist: Working with Google Presentation

Guidelines for the lesson included:

  • Title slide for your mini-lesson. Make it catchy!
  • Your name as author of the mini-lesson on your lesson title
  • Target students – by grade level
  • Indication of one (or more) of the historic skills to be studied – Sourcing, Contextualization, Corroborating
  • One or more historic documents. Text, image and videos can be inserted into the slide. Longer documents can be linked to via URL or saved in Google drive with link to it.
  • Source URLs for all documents used
  • Guiding questions for students to use with document(s)
  • Brief description of how the document(s) and question(s) should reinforce the targeted historic skill(s)

Peer Review /  Reflection / Blog post

At our next class, students did some peer editing of each other’s lesson using Google doc’s comment feature. They used the peer feedback to do a final version of their lesson. Students were then asked to write a brief reflection on the process – it could include their take on historic thinking, the specific lesson model borrowed from SHEG, working with a shared Google presentation, peer review process, etc. They then used the content from their lesson (plus their reflection) to write an authored post for our class blog.

Ceci Brunning - March 5, 1770: “Massacre” or “Incident?”
Jenna Bunnell - Arriving in the Land of Plenty
Scott Deal - My Big Symbolic Colonial Wedding
Samuel Kimerling - American Adobo: The Fight for the Philippines
Kristi Anne McKenzie - Dr. Seuss on Domestic Security
Michelle Murphy – We Found a Lot of Naked People
Erik Nelson - Damming the Nation
Andy Saxton - Implications of the First Amendment: “To Bigotry No Sanction, To Persecution No Assistance”
Emily Strocher - The Only Thing We Have to Fear is Not Being Able to Correctly Identify These Speeches (and Fear Itself)
Christy Thomas - Who are we? A Mini-Lesson on Assimilation through Education
Kari VanKommer - Words From War: Two Soldier’s Accounts of War in Europe
 

Image source: Image from page 126 of “The history of Springfield in Massachusetts, for the young; being also in some part the history of other towns and cities in the county of Hampden” (1921)