Sunday, September 30, 2007

Takaki Chapter 5

This past Friday I sat in on a workshop given by Mary McFarland, who focused on "slowing down teaching" to help students reach deep understanding. She focused heavily on the work of Wineburg during the workshop and modeled several exercises she felt would work well with students.

As I read both Wineburg and Takaki I thought a lot about her presentation and some of my questions about it, questions I also had as I did the readings. Though I can understand the importance for deep understanding, for doing more than just a surface reading of the textbook to help students gain knowledge, I wondered if doing this does help students prepare for standardized tests, test that don't care if you can do analysis but do care if you can spout off facts and dates.

I was very interested in the analysis of the Lincoln writings especially in the analysis by Ellen where she focused on Lincoln's words in light of the fact that he was campaigning for election, even bringing that idea to the letter to Mary Speed. For one lesson idea I would like to have the students read some additional Lincoln materials from the Lincoln Papers website and react to them as soon as they finished reading them. I'd like for the students to read some of his writing and speeches after he was elected president and see if they are consistent with what he said on the campaign trail.

As an extra credit assignment I would also like for them to look at the current presidential race and perhaps read some of the comments from the debate for a specific candidate and then go find readings from prior to the campaign to see if they are different or similar.

As I read chapter five in Wineburg I thought of a lesson I teach regularly called Emblematic Illustrations where we look at how African Americans were perceived during and after the Civil War. I would love to do this kind of exercise with students to see how they would react to some of the images from the Paris Exposition as well as some images from the Civil War Photograph Collection. I think it would be interesting to see and hear some of comments of the students as they looked at the images and what information they provide about the lives and experiences of African-Americans during and after the Civil War.

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