Perspectives on the US Immigration Debate: 1920s DBQ

Slavic Mother and Child

My 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.

What was the reasoning and motivations behind these differing beliefs?

Americans’ Perceptions of Immigration in the 1920s
by Ceci Brunning and Jenna Bunnell Download as pdf (9.3MB)

The Roaring Twenties signaled an era in American history in which modernity and progress were at the forefront of every American mind. Business was booming in the post-World War era and the new consumer- based economy catered to an ever evolving society, which rejected traditional social norms and and embraced modern notions of cultural and social freedoms. The famous “Jazz Age” has been immortalized as an age of unabashed creativity and liberation all set to the tune of a sexy jazz rhythm in a neighborhood speakeasy.

Of course, the image of the 1920s entrenched in the splendor of fictional characters like F. Scott Fitzgerald’s, Jay Gatsby and in famous residents of West Egg are romanticized visions of a society that was in all actuality full of social and economic disparities between American urban areas and American farmlands. Fear and paranoia swept through the more conservative epicenters of America, and many people experienced a period of backlash against social change, foreign objects, and foreign peoples. 

This DBQ assignment is meant for students to view the issue of immigration through various primary sources based on the perceptions of different individuals and groups from the 1920s. As you look over them, consider the various perceptions of immigration throughout the 1920s.

  • What was the reasoning and motivations behind these differing beliefs?
  • How did different groups or individuals view immigrants and immigration?
  • What did these same individuals and groups believe should be done with immigrants?
  • How are their arguments similar and different?

Reflection by Ceci Brunning and Jenna Bunnell
We have learned a lot about teaching history as well as history itself through this DBQ project.  First off, we were reminded about how vast history is and how deep you can go with a topic.  Our topic developed and changed over the course of the semester, but it always stayed within the realm of America in the 1920’s.  The reason we switched around so much was because we realized there was so much going on in the 1920’s in America and had to decide on a corner to focus on. We eventually decided upon views of immigration in the 1920’s in America, not only because there are a lot of primary sources on the topic but also because it directly connects to the hot contemporary topic of views of immigration today in America.

Some difficulties we encountered were sifting through all the primary sources out there.  We also struggled with coming up with a narrow, specific question for our DBQ. Additionally, we struggled with time management in devoting more time to this project, due to the impending due date and demanding assignment of our work sample. If we were to do this over, we might select an even more narrow topic to make it easier to decide which primary sources to include.

We did learn over the course of this project, though, the value of having students examine historical documents.  It is vital for students to be placed in the role of historian, in order to immerse them history and see it as more than memorizing facts.  It is also important to come up with narrow, specific questions for historical document examination.  We look forward to using “historical labs” in our future classrooms, by having students examine evidence and conduct their own observations and inferences of what that historical evidence means and says.  It is equally important as well to help students make connections between past and present events, in order to see how the past affects today through similar contemporary events.

Image source: Preus Museum NMFF.003730
Hine, Lewis Wickes
Slovak gra..h- Ellis Is-1905
Slavic Mother & Child, Ellis Island (George Eastman House)
Portrait of three women and a baby. Just arrived to Ellis Island along with hundreds of other immigrants that day. In search of a better life. USA 1905.

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)