Sunday, January 22, 2017

Make History Real For Students, Part 2: Upping the Rigor

Part One

Part Two
One by one the students stopped working, peering up in confusion. Our Library Media Specialist (Alison Smithwick) and a Technology Coach (Elizabeth Benno) had slipped quietly into the room. They appeared to be in a boat, and were pointing and pausing to confer and take notes. After sailing down the coast of our classroom, they quietly disappeared.

The blue tape line for de Pineda's path.
Then the fun began! 
Students had to figure out what the strange visitors were doing based on the observations kids made. They were able to infer that our visitors were on a ship drawing a map. It turned out that my tribes had just witnessed Alonso Alvarez de Pineda sail along the coastline of Texas! A fantastic discussion ensued using the following criteria:

Based on your research of your specific tribe's customs, beliefs, and culture, how do you think your tribe reacted to seeing Pineda's ship go by? 

The students' in-depth understanding of each tribe was phenomenal and contributed to the lively discussion. They were thoroughly engaged and ready to write their first journal entry recording the historic event...from their tribe's point of view

    The growing timeline.
  • Today a large canoe made out of wood, crossed the ocean. It was very chaotic. As soon as someone saw it they called a meeting. The women and men gathered around the campfire. As the men argued the women decided it was best left alone. ~Katie

Along with the journal entry, they began a Google Slides presentation within Google Classroom to record each explorer's name, home country, motivation, achievements, and impact (if any) on the settlement of Texas. We then added each event to a timeline with 1-3 corresponding journal entries attached. Each explorer's path through Texas was recorded on the floor with colorful tape.

Mr. Smith as a hungry, shipwrecked deVaca.
The excitement in the room remained high for weeks as kids wondered when the next "explorer" would visit. Cabeza de Vaca came through two times courtesy of our school counselor (and author), Bryan Smith (@kidauthorsmith). This time the major challenge was communication. Students had to figure out what deVaca needed without being able to speak his language or understand his culture. Discussion, timeline slides, and point-of-view journal entries followed each visit.
  • Today a person but not a person came. He was like us but the skin was totally different. He spoke the weirdest kind of language. It sounded like gibberish. This could be the start of something new. What if more come, what if they try to take us? I think I’m gonna just go hide in my hut and stay there in case they do come back. Even though my tribe is kind, how are they going to be kind with this happening? ~ Campbell
A particularly entertaining explorer was Marcos de Niza, played by our principal, Kevin Parker. He
Mr. Parker as de Niza
slammed the classroom door open startling the kids and began demanding in Spanish to know where to find the 7 Cities of Gold. Pictures of distant pueblos were on the wall for certain kids (who were in the know) to point to. When de Niza left in a panic, he flipped one of the boys out of his chair. It was unexpected, the kids loved it and still talk about it!

  • Today a man named de Niza came with Esteban. I was happy to see Esteban while traveling for some meat, but then an arrow struck him in his heart and there was nothing I could do. The other man ran away yelling a strange word: gold. ~Paari
  • Today a new ghost came. Luckily we had our new friends the Atakapa with us, but we couldn’t do anything to stop them from walking right into our camp. He said he was looking “oro” which I don’t know of. He said this to us, “Oro, oro, gold, De Niza.” Now we understood he was looking for the Seven Cities of Gold. We told him that the mountains bathed in sunlight were gold. I hope he goes away. ~Olivia

Mr. Knoerr as Coronado
Another fun explorer was Coronado, played by 2nd grade teacher, Doug Knoerr. He was the last Spanish explorer to visit. As you can see in the following reflection, some students were so enthralled with this activity, they researched and tried to utilize the actual language of their tribe.

  • Today a whole group of ghosts appeared!  Now it seems that they come every year! Before we could do anything, the Chief said to us, “They are hathe (men). You know that even if there are wocpe (ten) of them and only hannik (one) of us, we will win! By the power of the cāmc (wolf), cako (bear), and lāns, let us be safe.” After that, we just had to keep night shifts and carry on our business. The leader sent out two men, and when they got back, they said, “Coronado, we found a beautiful canyon. Sadly, we found no City Of Gold.” The leader got very angry and stormed off with his men. We are safe for now, but the people coming will only get worse. ~Haley

From Mrs. Smithwick to Mr. Knoerr, the school came together to help my students witness history in action. Students responded with high levels of engagement and reflections that went above and beyond expectations. The ownership they displayed for their tribes and territories continued to grow. This makes the next section of the lesson even more powerful.

Stay tuned as students react to their lands being taken away, and others transition into the role of settlers. The perfect recipe for lively debate!

If emotion makes meaning and drives learning, how are we doing so far?

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