Showing posts with label History. Show all posts
Showing posts with label History. Show all posts

Thursday, 14 June 2018

Understanding History Through Artifacts

Providing an authentic learning context for students is one way to deepen student engagement. A recent Grade 7 History class was a good example of this approach to learning. 
By examining artifacts like rebillion boxes, students can gain a deeper understanding of the reasons behind the rebellion.
In Grade 7 History, students learn about the Rebellion of 1837. One of our teachers shared the story about a relative of his wife who marched with the rebels and was imprisoned for taking part in the rebellion. While in prison, the prisoners made small boxes from firewood. As a means of telling their story and maintaining their spirits, the prisoners carved messages into the boxes. Many of these boxes were smuggled out of prison and given to family members, and some still exist, like the one referenced by our teacher.
Students created their own rebellion boxes out of construction paper

With this story as a context for the lesson, the students worked in small groups to identify patterns within a sampling of messages inscribed in the boxes. Doing so helped the students understand the reasons behind the rebellion, as well as the depth of contempt for the Family Compact.
Students looked at examples of rebellion boxes
Using construction paper, students worked individually to create their own rebellion box, which served as a creative and hands-on way to express their understanding of the causes of the Rebellion of 1837.

Wednesday, 4 April 2018

"Flipping" Student Learning

Educational research indicates that deep learning takes place when there is “interplay between the cognitive, interpersonal and intrapersonal skills” (National Research Council, July 2012, p.2). This approach was evident in a recent Grade 10 Canadian History class, as students used “flip debates” to develop a position on the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
The class began with students using appropriate documents and working in small teams to become familiar with the fact patterns related to this historical event. This team work enabled students to develop such important interpersonal skills as communication and perspective.
Students were then instructed to work with their team to develop a position as to whether the bombing should have taken place. Doing so enables students to think and reason about an important moral issue. Teachers then placed teams with opposing viewpoints on the issue into one group and instructed the group to examine the “flip” side of their position. Ultimately, the team had to reach a consensus on the topic. Adding this step to the process forces students to think carefully and debate both sides of the issues in order to reach a carefully considered point of view.
Having students write about what they learned through the “flip debate” is an excellent intrapersonal activity, as it allows them to assess how their initial position on the issue evolved.

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Thinking Critically About Confederation

As part of the Grade 8 History curriculum, students study the evolution of Canada's Confederation. Our students engaged in this topic by adopting the perspective of one of the colonies involved in the Confederation debate and used this perspective to think critically about the pros and cons of this important decision. 

Working with their teammates, students used a variety of historical sources and class activities to examine the key issues relevant to their colony. The Confederation conferences were simulated using a fishbowl discussion, as it created an authentic environment for students to communicate and understand the competing points of view. Each fishbowl discussion contained one participant from each colony, which resulted in lively debate. Students outside the fishbowl offered feedback to the discussion participants.

In a debrief, students indicated they like the format of the presentation as they were able to really demonstrate their understanding of the topic and many even said they wished they had more time to discuss and debate! 

Thursday, 12 May 2016

Canadian History Through Interest!

Streamed field trips were key in
supporting this interest-based approach
to studying World War Two.
Interest-based learning is a potent factor in enhancing students’ individual experience during their secondary and postsecondary school careers. The Grade 10 Canadian history course has been an excellent avenue for students to experience the way that they learn and engage with their history and Canadian identity this year.

Through the use of historical thinking skills, including historical significance, historical perspective, continuity and change, ethical dimensions and primary sources, there are limitless ways that students can approach history’s events, people and places. Most recently, while studying Canada’s role in World War Two, students were able to choose specific topics to help gear content towards students’ interests. To further individualize experiences, students in each of the streamed topics (Living History, Holocaust or Technology) were able to identify specific events to which they could connect in order to develop a broader understanding of the Second World War.

This method led to several important observations for teachers. Students showed higher levels of:
  1. Engagement, motivation and accountability;
  2. Understanding of the content; and
  3. Perseverance towards learning skills.
I would like to write briefly about the last point above. It was my experience that through students’ increased level of interest, teachers were able to challenge students to persevere and develop a number of academic skills.
  • Students persevered through a critical analysis of primary and secondary documents. They challenged themselves to research, find and analyze primary historical sources which gave very specific accounts of perspective within each of the events being studied, and to think critically about how these particular stories fit into the global picture of World War Two. 
  • Students in the technology stream were able to choose various pieces of technology and determine how each individual piece of technology impacted the war overall. They chose items like the enigma machine, Alan Turing’s computer, the Spitfire, the Lancaster bomber and the Sherman tank, among others. 

While studying individual topics, students challenged themselves to:
  • Practice research skills more rigorously;
  • Write reports more thoroughly;
  • Organize their ideas more effectively; and
  • Present their findings verbally with increased confidence. 

Teachers agreed that there were some exceptional pieces of work and the consensus is that interest-based learning created a richer environment for students to grow.

What did students think about the unit? See some of the feedback below.

“I found it easy to find primary documents.  I like using the historical concepts of thinking because I think it takes your ideas out of your head and makes you put them on paper.”

“I enjoyed being able to explore a path I was interested in and not just what the teacher was teaching. I enjoyed going on a personalized field trip to a place suited to our unit path. I liked how all the classes learned the same thing, although all in different paths."

“I think that I was definitely able to pursue some of my own interests. Through the project, I was able to research a relative. This gave me the chance to know more about my family history."

“I think that the historical concepts helped me focus on my research and thoughts because they gave me a sort of guideline that helped me find more research."

“I think that being able to choose which subject I was going to study made me much more interested. I chose that subject because it was something I wanted to learn more about.”

There were some very good observations made by teachers and some excellent experiences had by students. Moving forward, teachers will be collaborating on how to enrich this unit of study further.

Anthony Costa
History Teacher, Health & Physical Education Subject Team Leader

Thursday, 25 February 2016

Dispatches from the Field

Grade 10 Canadian History students get out of the classroom to experience history first hand.

Greenwood's history department maintains
a close relationship with the Sunnybrook
Veterans' Centre.
Greetings from the world of Grade 10 Canadian History! Previously, Eugene Henry blogged about new approaches the Canadian History team has taken to teaching the Second World War by making use of the blocked schedule and blended learning strategies. As well, we are focusing on authentic and experiential learning to further promote historical thinking. With the students having just returned from their “streamed” field trips, this blog installment appropriately focuses on the authentic and experiential learning element of this new direction.

Early in the second term, the students were asked to choose which lens interested them the most about WWII. Their choices were:
  1. WWII technology and the tactics that made use of that technology 
  2. The Legacy of the Holocaust 
  3. Living History: the legacy of Canadian veterans and our public memory of their contributions 
Allowing the students to follow their interests, they were reorganized into new groupings based on the above three ‘streams’. Deep into their studies of the Second World War, it is safe to say this approach has been met with great success, and student interest and engagement is higher than ever. Recently, the students headed out of the school to engage in authentic experiences tailored to these three streams. Here again, the results were better than we could have imagined.

Learning about WWII is an overwhelming experience and the statistics from this conflict are unprecedented. Giving our young historians the opportunity to engage in authentic and tangible historical inquiry by meeting the people and being able to reach out and touch the machines that fought this fight undoubtedly helps to breathe life into the history textbooks.

Technology & Tactics

Students of the “technology and tactics" stream headed to the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum, where they met with veteran air men and women and mechanics, to witness first-hand the magnitude of some of the most impressive Canadian warplanes that helped the Allies to victory - and still remain in operation today. The students’ experience was focused on stream-specific themes and provided them with opportunities to follow their unique interests in, and purposefully research real world examples of, technology and tactics used in war. They immensely enjoyed the rich experience!

Legacy of the Holocaust

For students of the “Legacy of the Holocaust” stream, the trip to the Neuberger Holocaust Education Centre was an experience that will not soon be forgotten. Following a morning of interactive programming focused on the legacy of the Canadian Holocaust experience, the students met with Holocaust survivor Vera Schiff. During the afternoon, students worked in the Centre’s research library further researching survivors of the Holocaust and, in some cases, students’ own family experiences in this awful event. This proved a powerful and emotional experience, and here again the students’ interest was high and their time at the Centre was most rewarding.

Living History

Finally, students in the “Living History” stream spent their morning with seasoned tour guide Richard Fiennes-Clinton of Muddy York walking tours. The first stop on the tour was the Queen’s Park War Memorial, commemorating all of the wars that Torontonians have participated in.
The highlight of the walking tour
was the famous Soldiers' Tower,
which is rarely open to the public.
From there, the group explored war memorials in and around the University of Toronto. The highlight of the walking tour was the trip up the famous Soldiers’ Tower, which is rarely open to the public!

During the afternoon, the group visited and interviewed WWII veterans at the Sunnybrook Veterans’ Centre. The Greenwood history department maintains a close relationship with the Centre through annual visits and a special visit in October to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the Liberation of the Netherlands. Students greatly enjoyed meeting the veterans and hearing their unbelievable stories of survival and heroism, and walked away with a new appreciation of the sacrifice made by these men and women. 


All in all, these trips helped the students to further grasp history by allowing them to follow their interests and to experience history in a real and authentic way. We may not be able to live during past events, but meeting the people and touching the artifact from these bygone eras has proved immensely helpful in bringing our history to life!

Charles Jennings
History Subject Team Leader and Adviser Coordinator

Friday, 30 October 2015

Creating Historical Lenses

In June the Canadian history (CHC2D) team met to further adapt personalized and blended learning strategies to a WWII unit. While the Second World War is always a popular area of study for students of CHC2D, there were opportunities to leverage considerable student interest and engagement with new strategies that seek to further enhance their critical thinking skills. To succeed in these goals the team designed the following blueprint.

A Blocked and Blended Approach

Over the past two years the CHC2D team has been able to develop a streamed approach to the 1920s unit of the course. A streamed approach is one where students are offered a number of perspectives, or lenses, from which to study and understand the period. In the 1920s, they could choose between studying the period through the lens of prohibition, the women’s movement, or the economy. This was successful as we were able to use blocked scheduling (2-3 Canadian History classes happening at the same time) to allow students to move to a dedicated classroom covering their perspective. It is this blocked and streamed approach that we will implement for the newly developed WWII unit.

Authentic and Experiential Learning

The next step was to develop three streams that we could offer students for the unit that would provide them with authentic and experiential learning opportunities. We decided on designing streams that would offer students the chance to view WWII from the lens of living history and public memory, the holocaust, or technology/tactics/battles. These options represent varying historical perspectives and multiple entry points for analysis.

Promoting Historical Literacy

Last, we developed new assessment tools that would account for a wide range of student learning. This included integrating methods of assessing the historical thinking concepts, which are critical thinking tools that aim to foster historical literacy.

Working as a team on developing this unit allowed for an immediate and effective exchange of ideas. We are still in the process of making changes to the WWII unit as we prepare for its launch in early 2016 and are excited to communicate the results in future blog posts.

Eugene Henry
History Teacher

Monday, 15 June 2015

Personalizing Historical Thinking Skills

History teacher Alex Hurley explains how history students enhance their historical literacy and gain an increased facility in making connections to contemporary issues through informal conversational assessments.

This year in Grade 11 American History, students have been developing their knowledge and understanding of significant historical events by adopting a critical thinking framework that applies six historical thinking concepts:
  • Historical significance
  • Cause and consequence
  • Historical perspective
  • Continuity and change
  • The use of primary source evidence
  • The ethical dimensions of history

In order to practice and develop these historical literacy skills, we created a personalized sequences of learning that used a variety of teaching strategies and gave our students the opportunity to choose from a range of historical documents, events, figured, themes and final products based on their personal interest and individual learning style.

During a recent study of the African American Experience (1865-1965), students analyzed key events, figures and themes, ranging from the failed promises of Reconstruction to the struggle and hope characterized by the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s and its use of non-violent strategies, such as boycotts, marches and legal challenges to bring an end to systemic racism in the United States.

Students deepened their understanding of these events by focusing on the historical thinking concepts of applying the use of primary source evidence and analyzing multiple historical perspectives. They were given the opportunity to focus on these concepts in their Civil Rights Protest Song Assignment. This was a conversational assessment of learning that asked the students to prepare for and participate in a conversation about a civil rights protest song from the 1950s and 1960s. The students were given the opportunity to choose a protest song from a variety of musical genres (jazz, blues, folk, rock 'n roll) that was of personal interest to them. Some of the songs included Billie Holiday's "Strange Fruit," Bob Dylan's "A Pawn in their Game," Sam Cooke's "A Change is Gonna Happen," Nina Simone's "Mississippi Goddamn," Charles Mingus' "Fables of Faubus" or Neil Young's "Southern Man."

There was also an extension opportunity for this assignment that allowed students to choose a protect song to analyze about the Vietnam War. Some of the songs included CCR's "Fortunate Son," Crosy, Stills, Nash and Young's "Ohio," Country Joe & The Fish's "I Feel Like I'm Fixin' to Die Rag" and John Lee Hooker's "I Don't Wanna Go to Vietnam."

In order to prepare for this conversational assessment, the students were asked to annotate the lyrics of their chosen song by highlighting key events, figures, ideas and themes that they studied during our unit. They were also given a list of guiding questions to answer that allowed them to think critically about the larger themes of the course and communicate how the lyrics of the song could relate to any current struggle for rights that exists today - something that the majority of students successfully accomplished through their astute observations on parallels between Civil Rights issues and current events in Baltimore and the Black Lives Matter movement. Each conversation (which was about 5-7 minutes) was led by the teacher during which time we listened to the song in the classroom and the student answered the chosen guiding questions.

This assignment was a great example of how letting our students choose a topic based on personal interest and allowing them to demonstrate their critical thinking skills through an informal conversation with their teacher leads to an increased facility in making connections between issues that existed in the past and continue to persist today.