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Not Teaching to the Test: Creative Approaches to Student Achievment

Documenting US History

Subject: U.S. History and Government

Grade Level: 11-12

How it Works: Students will collaborate to produce authentic products that will synthesize learning. Each hands-on learning activity challenges students to think critically using multiple disciplines such as language arts, technology, and creative arts. These activities are designed to make content more accessible and meaningful for our students.

Final Project/Product: In one activity, students are asked to create an in-class museum on American foreign policy. If you are a high school social studies teacher, you may already know that foreign policy is a frequently tested topic on the Regents.

Overall Value: By creating a meaningful learning experience, students will also be well-prepared for the exam. It’s like hitting two birds with one stone. Technology is frequently used for research purpose. Students are increasingly skilled in doing research on the internet. For example, I ask my students to take advantage of the video content from PBS or Our Documents which feature images of the top 100 documents in American history. The Internet offers content that no other media can possibly match. The best thing is that it’s more and more accessible nowadays.

Tips for the Teacher: Based on my experience, anxiety definitely does not help the cause. It’s probably a bad idea to drill students with facts and dates two weeks before the exam. They are probably going to forget them anyway. So create activities that will serve both the purpose of test preparation and meaningful learning at the same time. But remember, students still need to tackle multiple choice questions and essays on the exam. So don’t forget to “sneak” these in. One way to do it is to ask students to keep a learning journal, with prompts based on Regents questions. Instead of asking “Describe two causes of the Cold War,” tell your students to write a journal entry debating the most important cause of Cold War.

Link to Grant Project: http://szetohistory.tripod.com/regentsunits.htm

 Standards Addressed
Students will use a variety of intellectual skills to demonstrate their understanding of major ideas, eras, themes, developments, and turning points in the history of the United States and New York.
  Grade: 11-12 Subject: US History and Government
Students will use a variety of intellectual skills to demonstrate their understanding of the necessity for establishing governments; the governmental system of the United States and other nations; the United States Constitution; the basic civic values of American constitutional democracy; and the roles, rights, and responsibilities of citizenship, including avenues of participation.
  Grade: 11-12 Subject: US History and Government
  Grade: Subject:
  Grade: Subject:
  Grade: Subject:
  Grade: Subject:
Day 1: PRESIDENTIAL DECISIONS
Objectives
Students will conduct research about the important presidential decisions in American History.
Students will evaluate and compare the importance of each presidential decision.
Students will prepare a script for a show to present their research.
Materials
Internet Access
Procedure 1
United States Presidents have made important decisions during critical times in our history. Imagine you are a television producer working for the History Channel. You are asked to prepare a script for a show entitled "Five Presidential Decisions that Changed America." In groups of 3 – 4 members, determine an overall theme of the show. Some suggestions you might wish to consider include:
a. • 5 Presidential Decisions that Changed America: Early Nation • 5 Presidential Decisions that Changed America: 20th Century Presidents • 5 Presidential Decisions that Changed America: War Times • 5 Presidential Decisions that Changed America: Domestic Issues • 5 Presidential Decisions that Changed America: Cold War
b.
c.
d.
Digital History: U.S. History Online Textbook: http://digitalhistory.uh.edu/verity_search/search1.cfm
Procedure 2
Create a possible list of presidential decisions that you will include on your show. You may use any important Presidential decision from your study of United States history. Some suggestions you might wish to consider include: For more information about these presidents, you may visit the following websites: Official Biographies of the Presidents: http://whitehouse.gov/history/presidents/ Digital History: U.S. History Online Textbook: http://digitalhistory.uh.edu/verity_search/search1.cfm
a. • Thomas Jefferson purchases Louisiana Territory (1803) • Abraham Lincoln issues the Emancipation Proclamation (1862) • Woodrow Wilson seeks ratification of the Versailles Treaty (1918); • Franklin D. Roosevelt institutes the New Deal program (1933); • Harry Truman decides to drop atomic bombs on Japan (1945); • Dwight D. Eisenhower sends Federal troops to Little Rock, Arkansas (1957); • John F. Kennedy places a naval blockade around Cuba (1962); • Lyndon Johnson proposes the Great Society program (1965); • Richard Nixon visits China (1972); • Jimmy Carter meets with Anwar Sadat and Menachem Begin at Camp David (1978). You are not limited to these suggestions.
Official Biographies of the Presidents: http://whitehouse.gov/history/presidents/
Procedure 3
Each student will create a chart to organize his or her notes. (See Handout 1) For each decision identified:
a. State one goal the President hoped to accomplish by making the decision.
b. Discuss the historical circumstances surrounding the Presidential decision.
c. Describe the extent to which the decision achieved the President's original goal.
d. Discuss one immediate or one long-term effect of the decision on United States history.
Procedure 4
As a group, set up criteria for evaluation and rank the five presidential decisions.
Procedure 5
Make an oral presentation of your work to the rest of the class.
Project Handout Link: http://szetohistory.tripod.com/activity1presidential.pdf
Extension
Assessment
Students will be evaluated using the rubrics posted on the curriculum website at http://szetohistory.tripod.com/regentsunits.htm. Put all work in the portfolio.
Day 2: MUSEUM OF AMERICAN FOREIGN POLICY PROJECT
Objectives
Students will research various foreign policies that the U.S. government had adopted throughout its history.
Students will synthesize their research to design a floor plan of the Museum of American Foreign Policy.
Materials
Internet Access
Procedure 1
In groups of 3 – 4 members, complete the following tasks: Determine a list of 5 - 7 foreign policies to include on the bulletin board. Some suggestions you might wish to consider include:
a. • President George Washington’s Proclamation of Neutrality (1793) • Congressional Declaration of War against Mexico (1846) • Acquisition of the Rights to Build the Panama Canal (1901) • United States Entry into World War I (1917) • Implementation of the Marshall Plan (1947) • United States Entry into the Korean War (1950) • Escalation of the Vietnam War Beginning In 1964 • President Jimmy Carter’s Efforts to Negotiate the Camp David Accords (1978) You are not limited to these suggestions.
b. Here is a list of suggested links for research: Proclamation of Neutrality from Yale University: http://yale.edu/lawweb/avalon/neutra93.htm War against Mexico from PBS: http://pbs.org/kera/usmexicanwar/index_flash.html Panama Canal from Panama Canal History Museum: http://canalmuseum.com/ World War I from PBS’s The Great War: http://pbs.org/greatwar/ CNN’s Cold War on Marshall Plan: http://cnn.com/SPECIALS/cold.war/episodes/03/ CNN’s Cold War on Korean War: http://cnn.com/SPECIALS/cold.war/episodes/05/ Vietnam Online from PBS: http://pbs.org/wgbh/amex/vietnam/ Camp David Accords from Jimmy Carter Library and Museum: http://jimmycarterlibrary.org/documents/campdavid/
Procedure 2
For each foreign policy identified:
a. Discuss the historical circumstances that led the United States to take that action.
b. Evaluate the success or failure of that foreign policy action in promoting the national interest of the United States.
c. Each student will create a chart to organize his or her notes (See Handout 1, Charts 1 – 2)
Procedure 3
Create a detailed floor plan (a map) and a key for the museum. Determine items (e.g. artifacts, documents, etc.) to be included in the museum for each foreign policy. A key should identify, in detail, the items included in the museum. Consult floor plans from actual museums by conducting an Internet search.
Procedure 4
Make an oral presentation of your work to rest of the class.
Museum of American Foreign Policy Project http://szetohistory.tripod.com/activity2museum.pdf
Procedure 5
Extension
Assessment
Students will be evaluated using the rubrics posted on the curriculum website at http://szetohistory.tripod.com/regentsunits.htm. Put all work in the portfolio.
Day 3: CARTOONING AMERICAN HISTORY: REFORM MOVEMENTS
Objectives
Students will conduct research about various reform movements in American history.
Students will examine and analyze political cartoons related to various reform movements in American history.
Students will synthesize their learning by creating political cartoons or comic strips.
Materials
Internet Access
Procedure 1
In order to gain experience with political cartoons and comic strips, teachers should first select several cartoons for analysis.
a. Select 3 political cartoons about Woman Suffrage in Political Cartoons, located at: http://boondocksnet.com/gallery/suf_intro.html.
b. Then use the Cartoon Analysis Worksheet provided from the National Archives to analyze each cartoon.
Cartoon Analysis Worksheet
http://archives.gov/education/lessons/
worksheets/cartoon_analysis_worksheet.pdf
Procedure 2
For each decision identified:
a. Discuss one major goal of the movement.
b. Describe one action taken by an individual, an organization, or the government in an attempt to achieve this goal.
c. Evaluate the extent to which this goal was achieved.
d. Create a chart to organize your notes (See Handout 1).
Procedure 3
Create a political cartoon or comic strip for each of the 4 reform movements.
Procedure 4
Paste each comic strip on one half of an 8 ½ x 11 paper. On the opposite side, use your chart to write a historical context for each comic strip.
Cartooning American History: Reform Movements http://szetohistory.tripod.com/activity3cartoon.pdf
Extension
Assessment
Students will be evaluated using the rubrics posted on the curriculum website at http://szetohistory.tripod.com/regentsunits.htm. Put all work in the portfolio.
Day 4: DOCUMENTING AMERICAN HISTORY
Objectives
Students will examine and analyze historical documents in American history.
Students will synthesize their learning by creating a model of a bulletin board.
Materials
Internet Access
Procedure 1
In groups of 3 – 4 members, create a list of 10 – 15 documents to include on the bulletin board. Some suggestions you might wish to consider include: For more document ideas, visit: Our Documents: The People’s Votes http://ourdocuments.gov/content.php?flash=true&page=vote.
a. • Declaration of Independence • United States Constitution • Bill of Rights • Washington’s Farewell Address • Louisiana Purchase Treaty • Monroe Doctrine • Declaration of Sentiments and Resolutions • Emancipation Proclamation • Gettysburg Address • Sherman Antitrust Act • 19th Amendment • Social Security Act • Truman Doctrine • Civil Rights Act of 1964 You are not limited to these suggestions.
Our Documents: The People’s Votes http://ourdocuments.gov/content.php?flash=true&page=vote.
Procedure 2
For each document identified:
a. Discuss the historical circumstances of the creation of the document.
b. Discuss one immediate or one long-term effect of the document on United States history.
c. Each student will create a chart to organize your notes (See Handout 1, Charts 1 – 3)
Procedure 3
Create a detailed model for the bulletin board on an oak-tag.
Procedure 4
Make an oral presentation of your work to rest of the class.
Documenting American History http://szetohistory.tripod.com/activity4document.pdf
Procedure 5
Rubrics http://szetohistory.tripod.com/regentsunits.htm
Extension
Assessment
Students will be evaluated using the rubrics posted on the curriculum website at http://szetohistory.tripod.com/regentsunits.htm. Put all work in the portfolio.

Andy Szeto

szetohistory@aol.com

Bayside High School
32-24 Corporal Kennedy St.
Bayside , NY 11361

Andy Szeto has taught Social Studies at Bayside High School since 2002. He specializes in American History, but also teaches Global History and Economics. He graduated Summa Cum Laude from Stony Brook University in History, he holds a MS in Reading from SUNY Albany and has just completed his Educational Administration coursework in 2006. He serves as the Student Teacher Advisor for the Social Studies Department in his school. He has served as an item writer for both state and commercial testing programs.

 

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