Close Reading Historical Documents

Teachers are looking for resources for online instruction. So I am reposting lessons from my Social Studies Methods Course at the University of Portland’s School of Education. See original post here.


Teachers can use historical documents to build literacy skills in a content area while empowering students to be the historian in the classroom. But document-based  instruction in this context requires four key elements to be successful:

  1. The right documents. (shouldn’t be reliant on background knowledge)
  2. Knowing how to “read” the historical document.
  3. Letting students discover their own patterns, then asking students to describe, compare and defend what they found.
  4. Basing the task on enduring questions, the kind that students might actually want to answer.

In Class 7 we will practice some strategies for assisting students to more closely read a document (in all their multimedia formats) by answering three Common Core questions. Broad version:

  1. What does it say?
  2. How does it say it?
  3. What’s it mean to me?

More specifically, what do we mean by close reading? Teachers can guide students with scaffolding questions that explore “texts” (in all their forms).

Key Ideas and Details:

What does the text say? Identify the key ideas. What claims does the author make? What evidence does the author use to support those claims?

Craft and Structure:

Who created the document? What’s their point of view / purpose? How did the text say it? How does it reflect its historic time period?

Integration of Knowledge and ideas

Distinguish among fact, opinion, and reasoned judgment in a text. Recognize disparities between multiple accounts. Compare text to other media / genres. How does it connect to what we’re learning? 

And what’s it mean to me?

IN CLASS ACTIVITY 

Find a historical image and pair it with one of the Primary Source Icebreakers. The post to the padlet below. Include title of icebreaker, response to prompt and hyperlinked source of image. (See example below) These icebreakers are from TPS Connect at MSU Denver.

Source TPS Connect

Made with Padlet
  • target audience
  • content (what will be studied)
  • process (what will you do – what will students do)
  • resources for lessons

Close Reading Political Cartoons: Reconstruction

Northern coat of arms

My Social Studies Methods class at the University of Portland recently published a free multi-touch iBook – Exploring History: Vol III (Free iTunes). It features thirteen 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 and pdf versions click here. To better publicize student work, I’m featuring each chapter in it’s own blog post. (First of 13)

Reconstruction in Political Cartoons by EmmaLee Kuhlmann 
Download lesson as PDF 
(8.3MB)

In this lesson, students will examine various political cartoons and other images from around the United States printed during Reconstruction. They will be asked questions of each image which will help them perform close reading skills and help them come to a conclusion about how the different types of American citizens experienced Reconstruction. Essential Questions:

  • How did Americans across the country experience the period of Reconstruction differently?
  • How did their experience influence their perceptions of Reconstruction policies and the government and society of the United States following the Civil War?
  • In what ways are political cartoons useful in exploring how people understood Reconstruction?
  • Are political cartoons a good primary source?

 

Project Reflection by EmmaLee Kuhlmann 

In the initial stages of developing this lesson, I had the idea that I might want to focus primarily on political cartoons for this lesson. There are so many available from this time period, and so many with such vivid imagery that allow students to engage in analysis with very little background knowledge. As I began to collect documents for this lesson, I was a bit worried that I did not have enough content, and that I might need to include other types of documents. However, because Reconstruction is such a large topic, and because there are so many different lenses through which it can be understood, I found that it was easier to stick with the medium of political cartoons, and engage with them more deeply. In this way, students get the opportunity to engage with the controversy of how to rebuild after a terrible and destructive war that changed multiple aspects of society.

In secondary history classes, topics such as Reconstruction are rarely discussed; if they are, very little time is spent uncovering the controversy and complexity of the time period. However, Reconstruction is a period in America’s history that began the current stream of history. By understanding the period following the Civil War, students can begin to see how America’s history has shaped its present. For instance, certain racial policies enacted during Reconstruction played a major role in Americans’ later perceptions of race and racial constructs. It isn’t an easy time period to untangle, certainly another reason why it rarely is at the secondary level. However, giving students primary sources to discuss and explore give them an effective entry point into the time period and the topics surrounding some difficult issues of Reconstruction.

At the end of this particular lesson, numerous different activities could be assigned. In the creation of this lesson, I wanted to leave the final product/assignment open because there are so many creative ways to assess understanding of the cartoons and the ideas and values they present. When I discussed possible options for closing assignments for this lesson, various suggestions were given. My favorite assignment idea was to have students create their own political cartoon using similar themes and imagery from the cartoons that they explored in the lesson. This could be done either about Reconstruction issues or even current events. This would allow students to make connections across topics and time periods.

Image credit: Library of Congress  LC-USZ62-19673 

Title: Northern coat of arms
Related Names: Baker, Joseph E
Date Created/Published: 1864.

How to Embed Literacy Skills in Historical Thinking

The_Magdalen_Reading_-_Rogier_van_der_WeydenSoon I’ll be giving workshops demonstrating how to integrate literacy skills for close reading with historical thinking skills. Here’s a preview.

What do we mean by historical thinking?  It’s the historian’s version of critical thinking:

  • Examine and analyze primary sources – who created it, when, for what purpose?
  • Understand historical context. Compare multiple accounts and perspectives.
  • Take a position and defend it with evidence.

What do we mean by close reading? Teachers can guide students with scaffolding questions that explore “texts” (in all their forms).

  • Key Ideas and Details:
 What does the text say? Identify the key ideas. What claims does the author make? What evidence does the author use to support those claims?
  • Craft and Structure:
 Who created the document? What’s their point of view / purpose? How did the text say it? How does it reflect its historic time period?
  • Integration of Knowledge and ideas: 
Distinguish among fact, opinion, and reasoned judgment in a text. Recognize disparities between multiple accounts. Compare text to other media / genres. How does it connect to what we’re learning? 
And what’s it mean to me?

Let’s look at how a close reading of historical sources for craft and structure can integrate with the historical skill of sourcing  – who created it, when, for what purpose?

Here’s a great illustration of historical sourcing from Stanford History Education Group’s Beyond the Bubble.

And here’s an exercise I used with teachers at a workshop this past summer. Here’s the instructions they were given:

  1. Create and post a source comparison. Be sure to include: Historical question and two sample sources.
  2. Once other workshop members have posted their source comparison questions, use their content to answer the question: “Which do you trust more? Why?”
  3. Feel free to add multiple answers to the same question and / or comment on each others question / or answer. It’s a dialogue.

Here’s a Google doc with my prompts and teacher responses.

Image Source: Rogier van der Weyden, Detail from The Magdalen Reading, c. 1435–1438. National Gallery, London

Student as Historian: Library of Congress Summer Workshop

LOC grant promoI’m excited to be teaming up with LOC American Memory Fellow, Marta Turner of NWRESD to offer a workshop this summer for 20 Oregon teachers and librarians (grades 4-12). It’s jointly sponsored by the Library of Congress, the TPS Regional Program & NWRESD. Participating teachers will receive $500 stipend at conclusion of the program. We’ll even turn our work into an iBook to be published at iTunes.

Register here The deadline is 5 pm May 20, 2015 
Notifications will be sent out to participating teachers on May 21st.

The Library of Congress’s “Teaching with Primary Sources Program” offers instructional strategies to support the effective use of primary sources from the Library’s vast digital collections. This workshop will guide 4th -12th grade teachers through the LOC digital collections to blend historical thinking and literacy skills into an engaging student-centered classroom. Participants will receive a $500 stipend at conclusion of the program.

We’ll begin the process with some “flipped” learning – participants will explore the LOC collections in an on-line course via Versal. That way we can devote our on site workshop time to designing lessons. More info and our “flipped” pre-course here. Sessions will be held June 25 & 26 from 8:30 to 4:00 at NWRESD 5825 NE Ray Circle Hillsboro OR 97124 Map

This workshop is limited to 20 Oregon teachers (or librarians). Grade range 4th -12th. Open to public and private school educators.

On-line course and two day workshop will feature how to:

  1. Utilize the web resources of the LOC / TPS.
  2. Teach historical thinking skills.
  3. Integrate CCSS close reading strategies into history instruction.
  4. Foster critical thinking skills that support the “student as historian.”
  5. Guided practice in designing lessons utilizing the LOC collection.
  6. How to use Google tools and other tech resources to teach history in the digital era.
  7. Collaborative publication of participant-designed lessons in an online collection and an interactive iBook to be published on iTunes.

Participant commitment:

  1. To maximize workshop interaction, participants will be required to complete a brief preparatory online introduction to the LOC website prior to attending. They will also be asked to develop a preliminary lesson proposals aligned to CCSS ELA literacy standards prior to attending the on site workshop. This preparatory work will commence on June 10th and take an estimated 10 hours to complete. PSU Continuing Education graduate credit is available for this course work.
  2. Create a CCSS-aligned lesson using primary resources from the Library of Congress to be shared in workshop publications.
  3. Participate in on-line revision and peer review of lessons (as needed) to insure publication of iBook by September 2015
  4. Complete a pre/post survey from the Library of Congress
  5. Share your lesson with your staff or in another media form.

Image credit: Washington. West façade Library of Congress
Library of Congress LC-DIG-ppmsca-18034

A Satiric Lesson in Media Literacy

This Is a Generic Brand Video

First the backstory. Start with a clever essay satirizing the clichéd corporate message ad - This is a Generic Brand Video by Kendra Eash published in McSweeneys. It begins:

We think first
Of vague words that are synonyms for progress
And pair them with footage of a high-speed train.

Science
Is doing lots of stuff
That may or may not have anything to do with us.

See how this guy in a lab coat holds up a beaker?
That means we do research.
Here’s a picture of DNA. More

Next, a stock video footage company – Dissolve uses some of its clips to turn Eash’s piece into a meaningless montage of grandiloquent pablum.

Here’s the lesson:

  1. Ask students to read the full text version of Eash’s original, focusing on word choice, imagery and intent. What is Eash’s “video” selling? You might ask them sketch a rough storyboard to illustrate the text.
  2. Show the video with the sound off and let students list its visual details. Have someone read Eash’s piece while watching the video without sound. (Does the timing matter?)
  3. Discuss the artistic choices made by the video’s creators to illustrate the piece? How does the music and narrator’s voice impact the message?
  4. Compare the impact and effectiveness of text, audio and visual.

Care to extend the lesson?


Use YouTube to find political ads from current or past elections. How to they exemplify the themes raised by Eash?

Dissolve has a gallery of all the video clips used in the video. (Hover over them to activate.) Ask student to select the clips that they feel have the greatest visual impact. Ask them to explain how they might use these clips to tell a story. 

Show students this actual corporate video and ask them decide if it uses themes noted by Eash. How does the Suncor video compare to the Dissolve satire? Hat tip to Jeff Beer. More of his recommend corporate videos here. Students could re-edit corporate videos to “sell” their own message.

BTW – you’ve been exploring Common Core:

Reading Standards for Literature, Integration of Knowledge and Ideas, Standard 7, Grade 7. Compare and contrast a written story, drama, or poem to its audio, filmed, staged, or multimedia version, analyzing the effects of techniques unique to each medium (for example, lighting, sound, color, or camera focus and angles in a film).

Reading Standards for Informational Text, Integration of Knowledge and Ideas, Standard 7, Grades 11–12. Evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of using different mediums (for example, print or digital text, video, multimedia) to present a particular topic or idea.

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