Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum

Teacher professional development and classroom resources across the curriculum

Search
MENU

Make Primary Sources More Accessible with Read-Alouds

TML_7_readaloudHow well can you read this excerpt?

…a proclamation was issued by the President of the United States, containing, among other things, the following, to wit: “That on the first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, all persons held as slaves within any State or designated part of a State, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free; and the Executive Government of the United States, including the military and naval authority thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of such persons, and will do no act or acts to repress such persons, or any of them, in any efforts they may make for their actual freedom…

The Emancipation Proclamation, January 1, 1863

Personally, I stopped reading and started skimming after “to wit.” What makes this text complex? Everything. First, the text contains challenging vocabulary words including but not limited to proclamation, to wit, whereof, thenceforward, authority, thereof, and repress. Second, it uses a sentence structure and language that is not familiar to our 21st century ears. Third, it requires knowledge of the historical time and politics in order to comprehend it. As such, it is an inconsiderate text as written. (To learn more about this specific primary source, review the Primary Sources workshop entitled, “Concerning Emancipation: Who Freed the Slaves?”)

Primary sources, especially historical documents like “The Emancipation Proclamation,” are not easy reading for our students. These documents often employ “technical” jargon and/or are written in historically-specific language. Students need support in deconstructing these texts – this support can be provided via instructional read-alouds. In doing so, teachers give students models for how to read and think about complex texts.

According to Annenberg Learner’s Primary Sources: Workshops in American History, primary sources are “firsthand evidence and artifacts of the past [including] letters, photographs, maps, government documents, diaries, oral accounts, pamphlets, or leaflets.” It is important for students to read and grapple with these primary source texts because they are the basis of our historical knowledge. However, because of the text complexity, teachers may choose to provide students with summaries or abridged versions instead. I would like to challenge teachers to support students in their reading of the actual documents.

There are several read-aloud strategies that will help make these texts more accessible to students. Here are two of my favorites:

Questioning the Author or QtA

My favorite instructional read-aloud approach is Questioning the Author or QtA (Beck & McKeown, 2006). Teachers help students actively build reading comprehension by asking queries during the read-aloud; these queries require students to refer to the text and seek evidence from the text to support their responses. Queries include: What does the author tell us here? Why do you think the author tells us this now? In addition, teachers explain complex vocabulary and content as they read. This is especially important for reading primary sources. Teachers are available to address challenging ideas during the reading as students build their comprehension. Teachers help build the context so that students aren’t confused by missing information. At the same time, teachers using QtA hold their students accountable for comprehending the text as a group.

Think-Aloud

Another strategy that will help students learn to effectively grapple with reading primary sources is the Think-Aloud (Wilhelm, 2003). As teachers read aloud a primary source, they should stop at difficult words and sections and ask, “Does this make sense?” Teachers then say out loud to the students why these parts are complex and what they plan on doing to decrease the complexity. In doing so, teachers model for students that all readers grapple with text and that there are effective strategies for comprehension.

These strategies are supportive and educative. Teachers support students in their comprehension of the text by stopping frequently during the read-aloud and guiding students’ interactions with the text. The strategies are educative because they help model for students how to be proficient readers. As such, the reading of primary source documents can be demystified for students.

Learn more about read-alouds in general in Teaching Multicultural Literature, workshop 7, “Social Justice and Action.”

References

Beck, I, L. & McKeown, M.G. (2006). Improving comprehension with Questioning the Author: A fresh and expanded view of a powerful approach. NY: Scholastic.

Wilhelm, J. (2003). Navigating meaning: Using Think-Alouds to help readers monitor comprehension. Retrieved from: http://www.nwp.org/cs/public/print/resource/495

Annenberg-Newseum Summer Teacher Institute: Apply Now!

28 Aug 1963, Washington, DC, USA --- More than 200,000 people participated in the March on Washington demonstrations. The throng marched to the Mall and listened to Civil Rights leaders, clergyman and others addressed the crowd, including Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech. --- Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

Dates: Wednesday, July 16 – Friday, July 18

Time: 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. each day

Where: The Newseum, Washington, DC

Cost: FREE

Application Deadline
Applications must be received by 11:59 p.m. on May 26, 2014

  • Participants will be notified by June 6, 2014. Apply Now

In partnership with Annenberg Learner, the Newseum is excited to offer a FREE three-day institute for teachers using new media. This unique professional development opportunity will include hands-on activities, exploration of artifacts from our collection with an archivist, and time to explore the museum independently.

“Speaking of Change” Institute Description
How has freedom of speech been used to spark movements for social change? What techniques have been effective for catalyzing action and securing the historical record? How can you apply these lessons from history to help your students effectively advocate using today’s high- and low-tech tools? Use resources from Annenberg Learner and the Newseum to explore the power of freedom of speech and help your students communicate effectively in traditional and new media.

The institute begins with an examination of speech and social change in history. Teachers analyze various primary sources for expression of freedom of speech and effective techniques. The institute will feature daily curatorial sessions, showcasing primary sources from the Newseum’s extensive collection. Then, participants will look at the opportunities for and challenges of self-expression in today’s media landscape, and use contemporary tools to update historic messages of change. Throughout the workshops, teachers apply what they’ve learned by working with a partner to create a resource or experience to implement during the 2014-2015 school year.

Attendees Will Receive

  • Classroom-ready and adaptable resources to implement into existing curriculum.
  • Strategies to implement Common Core, C3 and national standards aligned curriculum in the classroom including primary source analysis, media literacy and analyzing historical arguments and research.
  • An overview of digital classroom resources from the Newseum and Annenberg Learner in addition to other new media resources that can be used in the classroom.
  • Copies of select primary sources used in the curatorial sessions to take back to the classroom.
  • A private, behind-the-scenes “Tech Tour” of the Newseum’s production and technology centers.
  • A letter of recognition sent to your principal and superintendent.
  • Opportunity to submit a session proposal to present and attend a regional or national conference as the guest of Newseum Education and Annenberg Learner.
  • Access to Newseum Education staff to personalize a field trip for your class.
  • Monthly insider updates from Ed staff on resource, event and program development.

Complimentary breakfast and lunch will be served each day. Teachers outside of the D.C. metro area are encouraged to apply, but transportation and housing are not included.

Eligibility Requirements

  • Middle and high school teachers, librarians or media resource specialists.
  • Active creators of online content, whether through blogs, websites or social communication tools (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+, etc.).
  • Note:
    • Applicants are encouraged, but not required, to apply in pairs to foster cross-curricular collaboration within the school or school district
    • The institute is open to all subject areas, but may be of particular interest to language arts and social studies teachers.

Participant Obligation Agreement

In return for attending the Summer Teacher Institute, educators agree to:

Pre-institute

  • Complete a pre-institute survey.
  • Send an introduction via social media — tweets with institute hashtag and a post on a social media platform of their choice (Facebook, Tumblr, etc.).

During the institute

  • Actively tweet or post throughout the day about activities, resources, etc.

Post-institute

  • Write a guest entry on the Newseum and Annenberg Learner education blogs.
  • Co-host a Google Hangout with the Newseum and Annenberg Learner to expand the professional learning community (PLC) and encourage collaboration with teachers around the country.
  • Complete a post-institute survey.
  • Implement the resource or experience created during the institute.
  • Participate in the Newseum’s Teacher Open House on Oct. 4, 2014. Note: Participation can be an additional blog post prior to Teacher Open House highlighting a specific resource, or participating in a panel that day to share effective, classroom-tested strategies using Newseum and Annenberg Learner resources and new media.

Application

  • Participants will be selected via a competitive application process.
  • Applications must be received by 11:59 p.m. on May 26, 2014
  • Participants will be notified by June 6, 2014.

Click here to apply.
Annenberg Learner is the exclusive sponsor of the 2014 Summer Teacher Institute.

(Reposted from the Newseum site.)

A Teachable Moment: Returning Sacred Artifacts to Their Owners

Pomo basket_AFAnnenberg Foundation trustee Gregory Annenberg Weingarten has purchased sacred artifacts to return them to their Native American owners. Twenty-one of these items will be returned to the Hopi Nation in Arizona, and three artifacts belonging to the San Carlos Apache will be returned to the Apache tribe. Laurel Morales of Fronteras reports that “The Hopi call the ceremonial items friends and believe them to be living spirits.”

For a perspective of the importance of ceremonial items to the tribes they belong to, look to two resources from Annenberg Learner—the educational media arm of the Annenberg Foundation—that describe the ceremonial and cultural significance of native artifacts.

In session 8, “Ceremonial Artifacts,” of the workshop series Artifacts & Fiction, teachers pair religious items with literary texts when teaching students about different cultures and how those cultures change over time. See how two intellectual products produced by members of different Native American tribes—two Pomo Indian gift baskets and Leslie Marmon Silko’s novel Ceremony—are used to help students better understand the beliefs and values of two distinct Native American cultures.

The worldwide art history series, Art through Time, unit 4, “Ceremony and Society,” features an installation of religious items created by members of the Skokomish Indian Nation to conduct a soul recovery ceremony. An explanation of the ceremony and items used begins at 20:00 in the video. Use this video as a point of discussion with students about the importance of preserving these artifacts and how nations use the items for healing, teaching, and reconnecting with their communities.

Constitution Day: Opening the Door to Civic Understanding and Engagement

Democracy in America_2The law establishing September 17th as Constitution Day was created in 2004 with the passage of an amendment proposed by Senator Robert Byrd to that year’s Omnibus Spending Bill. The law renamed the observation formerly known as “Citizenship Day” and before that as “I Am an American Day.” Whatever its moniker, the day is devoted to celebrating the signing of the United States Constitution on September 17, 1787. The 2004 law not only renamed the day, it also mandates that all publicly funded educational institutions provide instruction on the history of the Constitution on that day.

I doubt that anyone would argue that one day is sufficient time for achieving full understanding of the four-page Constitution crafted in secret by 55 men during a hot Philadelphia summer. However, it could be just enough time to instigate further explorations that lead your students to understanding the document’s historical context, and its connection to current issues and events. That’s an excellent step toward civic engagement.

Annenberg Classroom, presented by The Leonore Annenberg Institute for Civics, offers several points of entry to hook your students on the Constitution. For example, the first segment of the video Key Constitutional Concepts is a lively look at the state of the nation in 1787 that led the Framers to that stuffy hall in Philadelphia. It explodes the heroic mythologies that have grown up around the Constitution’s authors and portrays them as ordinary people who were trying to resolve ongoing conflicts within our new nation that the Articles of Confederation failed to resolve. The states were at odds over issues such as state sovereignty, taxation, land claims, and slavery. States threatened each other with war and behaved as sovereign nations. The Federal Convention participants went into Independence Hall thinking they were going to do a bit of tinkering with the Articles to make them more durable. Instead, they essentially threw out the existing, failing government and, through statesmanship and compromise, developed the document that defines our current system of government.

Another approach is to look at the Constitution within the context of current issues. A Call to Act: Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co. tells the story of Lilly Ledbetter, who sued her employer when she discovered that she had for years been receiving lower wages than her male counterparts. Her fight for equal pay is a compelling case study of the three branches of government. If your students tuned in to the 2012 election campaign and the Democratic convention, they might remember that Ms. Ledbetter spoke at the convention and the law that has her name on it–the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009—was frequently cited as a victory for Obama’s first term in office.

Constitution Day is a good time to involve students in current conversations on Constitutional issues. Annenberg Classroom’s Speak Outs feature provides blog posts on topics from wiretapping to government regulation of sugary drinks to whether or not the president needs Congress’ approval to use force in Syria. The blog posts provide background on controversial topics that are making news or being considered in the courts. Students are then invited to share their views. Many of the student posts could serve as models of expository writing for your students.

Search learner.org for even more resources for Constitution Day. Your students might enjoy diving into an aspect of the Constitution that keeps judges, pundits and the rest of us up all night—the vague language that is open to interpretation and fuels ongoing arguments about immigration reform, gun control, and health care reform. Many of today’s court rulings, Senate debates and Facebook rants are based on how individuals interpret the language in the Bill of Rights and other Constitutional amendments. View the first segment of Democracy in America, program 2, “The Constitution: Fixed or Flexible?” with your students about what American society might look like if our Constitution was not open to interpretation.

Constitution Day can be the day your students begin lifelong study of and participation in civic life. What will you do to get them started?

‘Common Sense’ for the Common Core

Primary Sources_wkshp2If you are a high school English/language arts or American history teacher, chances are that you are actively involved in developing curriculum guides and teaching strategies for addressing the Common Core State Standards for reading and understanding primary source documents. While the standards don’t specify instructional approaches, the end goal is clear:

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.11-12.9 Analyze seventeenth-, eighteenth-, and nineteenth-century foundational U.S. documents of historical and literary significance (including The Declaration of Independence, the Preamble to the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address) for their themes, purposes, and rhetorical features.

Thomas Paine’s pamphlet Common Sense is considered a key exhibit in our nation’s collection of founding documents and the CCSS authors list it as an exemplar text for 11th and 12th grades. Historians credit the document with launching the movement to seek independence from the British monarchy sooner rather than later. It is a tightly structured and forceful argument that provides educators with a platform for guiding students through the process of critical analysis.

Workshop 2, “Common Sense and the American Revolution: The Power of the Printed Word” of the series Primary Sources: Workshops in American History places the 48-page document in a powerful context that amplifies its significance in events leading to independence.

Did you know that Thomas Paine had been in the colonies only a few weeks before he took pen to parchment? Prior to the publication of Common Sense, the colonists were seeking reconciliation with England, not independence. The first published argument for independence, Common Sense became the 18th century equivalent of an international best seller. Consider how the events leading to independence might have been different if Benjamin Franklin had not persuaded a 39-year-old former tax collector to seek work in the colonies.

Take a look at how teacher Andrew Sullivan adapted what he learned from the workshop to create an activity that engages students with key concepts within Common Sense.  You will also find links to additional primary source documents such as the James County, Virginia, Statement of Independence. These documents encourage thoughtful comparison of Paine’s argument to, and open a window onto colonist’s involvement in, decisions made by the Second Continental Congress.

What instructional strategies are you employing to help your students use and understand primary source documents such as Common Sense?

Primary Elections Begin

The news is buzzing with information and opinions about GOP candidates as they compete in primary elections across the United States. How do presidential candidates focus their campaigns during primary elections? How can citizens influence a primary election to follow their positions and interests?

The video for Democracy in America, unit 13, “Elections: The Maintenance of Democracy,” answers these questions by examining two cases: Senator John F. Kennedy’s 1960 presidential campaign and the Neighbors for a Better Montgomery County (MD) grassroots movement.

This video, used as professional development or as a classroom tool, illustrates the importance of primary elections and the role of public involvement.