Pre-Class Writing Prompts

jBorrowed from Todaysadmin.comWhen students come into a classroom it’s often hard to get them to settle down and get ready for a lesson.  Between intense discussions with each other, being distracted with other responsibilities, or just non-interest in the subject, their attention is often focused elsewhere as they shuffle into the classroom.  Setting up a beginning-of-class routine for them is one way to curb this distraction.

I like having students keep a journal that they write in with a daily writing prompt.  It’s often a good idea to have the students’ keep their journals in your classroom so you don’t run the risk of someone forgetting it or losing it completely, though this will take up valuable real estate especially with large class sizes.  Keep them by the door in boxes labeled by class so that they may pick them up when they walk in.  Talking can be kept to a minimum and once the routine is established it becomes second nature for the students (ideally, though they may still gripe about it).  Keep the writing prompts interesting enough for the students to be able to form an opinion that they can write on for at least one to five minutes.  These may also serve as an excellent way to help determine if the students are doing their homework reading assignments!  The idea is to keep the students writing and thinking.

Of course, these do not have to be limited to historical concepts.  If there has been an issue in your classroom, you could creatively ask the students to come up with a solution or ways that they could make the situation different by reacting differently or standing up for a friend.  Bullying is always a hot topic, but be careful and try not to single out students.  Make these types of prompts as broad as possible.  Writing prompts could also be a segue into teaching students empathy about a subject you will be teaching about, like the Great San Francisco Earthquake of 1906 or Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

I like to check the writing assignments once a quarter, spot checking them (not reading every single entry).  Students have the option of folding back a page once a week, letting me know that this is personal to them (though I check to make sure there is writing on the page without reading it).

Some writing prompt ideas can be:

American History:

  • If you were a farmer living in one of the original 13 colonies, what livestock would you raise and why?  What crops would you be farming and why?  Which colony would you prefer to live in?
  • What Constitutional amendment would you like to see added in the next 20 years to the United States Constitution?  Who would it benefit and why?  Who would it hurt and why?
  • Consider the technological advances in the last 100 years that have become so important in our every day lives (electricity, telephones, cell phones, computers, internet).  What do you think will come out of technology in the next 100 years?  How will it shape our daily lives?
  • If you were the President of the United States, what could you do to change the country for the better?  What laws would you create or change?
  • During an (earthquake, hurricane, tornado), most of us do not have the time or presence of mind to do more than duck beneath a table or into a doorway.  Afterwards, we may wish we had been able to save an object of sentimental value like a photograph or childhood toy.  Pick one thing you would want to save from destruction and write about it.  Describe this thing and why it is special to you.  (Adapted from http://staff.esuhsd.org/danielle/english%20department%20lvillage/CAHSEE%20English/Sample%20Writing%20Prompts.pdf)

World History:

  • If you had to live as a Spartan, a Viking, an English Knight, or a Roman warrior, which would you choose and why?  What would a day in your life look like?  What would be the fun parts and the not so fun parts?
  • Imagine that the Roman Emperor has just sentenced you to fight in the Colliseum for a crime you have committed.  What is the crime and what would your argument be to him to help save your life?

General:

  • If you could have grown up in a different place and cultural from your own, where and which would you choose?  How would it be different?
  • We have studied numerous historical figures so far in this class.  Who has been your favorite so far?  Why?  Are there any characteristics of this person that you see in yourself or any that you would like to see?
  • Imagine that you are on an archaeological dig (essentially, a bunch of people looking for old stuff in the ground) and you come upon an amazing discover. What is it and what do you do when you become famous for the discovery? (Taken from: http://www.build-creative-writing-ideas.com/5th-grade-writing-prompts-social-studies.html)
  • Think about the historical figures we have learned about so far this semester.  If you could have dinner with any of them, whom would you choose and why?  What would you talk about or ask him or her? (Adapted from http://staff.esuhsd.org/danielle/english%20department%20lvillage/CAHSEE%20English/Sample%20Writing%20Prompts.pdf)

Resources:

http://www.theteacherscorner.net/daily-writing-prompts/

http://www.build-creative-writing-ideas.com/5th-grade-writing-prompts-social-studies.html

http://staff.esuhsd.org/danielle/english%20department%20lvillage/CAHSEE%20English/Sample%20Writing%20Prompts.pdf

Tip of the Week: MapStory. It’s Wikipedia for Maps

This is brilliant and ridiculously helpful for social studies teachers looking for a way to incorporate a different level of map understanding and use in a classroom. I look forward to incorporating this tool into my curriculum! Thanks History Tech for keeping us up on these wonderful tools!

History Tech

Okay. Not sure if I should be impressed or freaked out by the fact that the founder of MapStory was also one of the original officers of In-Q-Tel. In-Q-Tel, as we all know, is the venture capital group working to keep the CIA equipped with the latest in information technology.

I’m gonna go with freakishly impressed.

Because MapStory looks like a very handy tool for teachers looking for ways to incorporate high-level discipline specific thinking skills into their geography and history instruction. And I’m sure there’s not any chance of teachers getting caught up in some sort of illegal international information gathering syndicate through MapStory.

Pretty sure.

Yesterday I shared some thoughts about using maps to to help generate great questions related to the Kansas state social studies standards and the Common Core. Part of what I didn’t talk about was the last part:

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Immigration

Political_Cartoon_-_Every_Dog_Has_His_Day

Immigration is not a new issue in the United States. Every half century, there is a new perceived foreign threat to our status quo. From the natives (that’s a whole other discussion regarding the definition of ‘foreign’), to the African slaves, Chinese, Italians, Irish… the list goes on. The United States has an ugly history of xenophobia. Sadly, it never seems to truly go away in some portions of the country, with ethnic slurs still muttered either intentionally or unintentionally insulting. I eagerly await more news on the “immigration reform” that the President and Congress is supposedly coming up with, especially regarding these new threats.  Hopefully this chapter in our history will close soon, but I know better than to expect that this will be the last immigration issue we hear about.  Look for a future post regarding a brief overview of our history of ugly immigration policy and some teaching tips very soon.  I thought I’d post this political cartoon from 1879 in advance just as a bit of a teaser 😉 (click on the picture to make it bigger so you can read the text)

 

The Ultimate Search: Finding Your Birth Family

imagesCAOT6STOAccording to The AFCARS Report from the US Department of Health and Human Services as of September 30, 2011 there were 104,236 children age 18 and under who were waiting to be adopted.  Each year, more and more of these children grow farther apart from their personal history, some never knowing who their parents are and others with unpleasant memories of their birth families.  The tragedy for the former group is the ever-present questions “who am I?” and “why did they give me up?”  Every day they receive constant reminders of these questions when they are asked at the doctor’s office for their medical history or even in the faces of their children when they in turn ask the questions about their ancestry, often times for a classroom assignment.  Thus, the search begins.

Who am I?

The daunting task of beginning the search looms over these people.  How do I begin?  What if I’m not prepared for the answers I might receive?  No doubt, it will be an emotional journey full of stops and starts, emotional highs and pitfalls.

Beginning Your Search

First, create a folder where you will keep all of the information you collect.  Whether it be electronically or a hardcopy file, it is best to keep everything in one place with a backup copy somewhere else just in case.  Second, write down everything you know about your birth- the date, location, your original name if your adoptive parents changed it, the hospital, etc.  Anything you know can help.  Your adoptive parents may hold some information in some documents from your official adoption.  They may or may not contain your birth parents’ names.  If possible, contact the Clerk of Courts in the county of your birth for your official birth certificate if you do not have one.  Usually there is a small fee associated with mailing or emailing it.  A petition for adoption and final decree of adoption may also be available.  The Child Welfare Information Gateway has an excellent document regarding how to obtain the adoption paperwork and information from each state that can be found here or search for Access to Adoption Records, Child Welfare Information Gateway.

Many people suggest adding your name to an Adoption Reunion Registry to let people know that you are interested in alogo-theme1 reunion with your birth family.  The most popular that I’ve found is the Adoption.com Reunion Registry found here.  Adoption.com also appears to be a good resource on information for preparing for the impending reunion once you locate your birth family.

Make It Public and Start a Support Network

Support is also an important part of your journey into finding information.  Not only from your family and friends, but also from other people who are going through the same search.  There are numerous communities of people with the same experiences and the same emotional rollercoaster.  One of the best ways to find information is to get it out there that you are looking.  Start a blog, post on Facebook and Twitter, create a YouTube video, do something that can be shared and encourage your friends and family to do so.  However, be careful of the information you post as it will be public domain.  Beware of people who may try to take advantage of you or imposters.  Never post your address, social security number, or other such private information.

Now You Have Some Information

Ok, now you have a nice collection of information and you feel like you can start actually trying to find the people to match the information.  How do you go about that?  You can join a geneaology website like Ancestry.com and find out more information about your relatives and who else you might be related to based on the information you have if it is not complete.  You may also consider joining a location service such as E-Verify.  The website will be able to give you the current locations of people and sometimes even the exact address and phone number of the people you are searching for.  Be careful though because multiple people may show up in the search so you must be vigilant in determining your birth location and look for that location in the listing next to the names.

Reunion

Finding your birth family can be a large personal victory.  I do not recommend just showing up at their front door!  Contact them first and let them know who you are and why you were searching for them.  It is not a good idea to start out with accusatory language for leaving you to the adoption agency.  I hate to say it, but be prepared for disappointment if they are not interested in meeting.  It could be too emotional for them after the separation and they may need time to warm up to the idea.  Remember, at this point you have been on this journey for quite some time now.   If all goes well and they are overjoyed to hear from you, congratulations!

Good luck on your search!  I hope some of this information can be useful, even if you are just searching for a long lost friend or other relative.  Remember to get your information out there!  The person that spawned this post is one of my friends from elementary school who posted her search for her birth parents on her Facebook account with a YouTube link.  If you can, please watch Anne’s video and let me or her know if you have any information!

Smart Solutions to and Possible Reasons for Behavior Issues in School

So much can be changed by our reaction as adults to the students’ actions. Please review and follow this very important entry and blog by ACES too High. If you have never heard of the ACE Study, I invite you to read more about it at http://www.cdc.gov/ace or send me an email or leave a comment and I can fill you in on this important work.

ACEs Too High

__________________________________

Two kindergarteners at Cherokee Point Elementary School in San Diego’s City Heights neighborhood get into a fight on the playground. Their teacher sends them to the principal’s office. 

Instead of suspending or expelling the six-year-olds, as happens in many schools, Principal Godwin Higa ushers them to his side of the desk. He sits down so that he can talk with them eye-to-eye and quietly asks: “What happened?” He points to one of the boys. “You go first.” 

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Online Teaching and Reinforcement Tools

Fantastic teaching and reinforcement tool.

History Tech

We’ve always asked our kids to read. Informational text. Primary sources. Non-fiction. Fiction. Poetry. We’ve always asked our kids to write. Summaries. Research. Reviews. Reaction papers.

At least, that’s been the theory. Good social studies and history instruction has always included these things but I think that sometimes we can forget how critical reading and writing skills are to what we do. The Common Core, for better or worse, has been a good reminder for us. We need to have our kids read, write, and communicate much more.

The problem for many of us?

Uh . . . what does that look like again?

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Book Review: Foul Means: The Formation of a Slave Society in Virginia, 1660-1740

foul-means-formation-slave-society-in-virginia-1660-anthony-s-parent-paperback-cover-artAnthony S. Parent, Foul Means: The Formation of a Slave Society in Virginia, 1660-1740 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2003). Pp. 291.

            In Foul Means: The Formation of a Slave Society in Virginia, 1660-1740, Anthony Parent weaves a masterful account of the reasons behind the rise of slavery in Virginia between 1660 and 1740.  He counters popular claims of the institution of slavery developing in early Virginia due to the tobacco production and lack of cheap labor.  Instead, Parent argues that “during a brief period in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth century, a small but powerful planter class, acting in their short-term interest, gave American its racial dilemma.”[1]  He claims that this emerging elite planter class conspired together to maintain and grow their power through “their decision to enslave blacks” and “establish a coercive state.”[2]  As a historian of African America and Colonial America, Parent artfully responds to a collection of historians, most notably Winthrop Jordan in his work White Over Black, across time that have contended that slavery in Virginia was an “unthinking decision” creating a well defended and supported alternate viewpoint.[3]

Foul Means is outlined in three chronological and slightly overlapping sections: Origins, Conflicts, and Reactions.  In the Origins section, Parent creates a character profile of what he deems the elite planter class through a social science and economic perspectives.  This profile is developed through an examination of how these immigrants came to own such a large amount of land stealing and ‘buying’ it from the Native Americans, and an almost scheister group of newcomers that married into land or wealth with an eye for mercantilism.  His research and graphs provide a quantitative view of his argument, allowing for a deeper understanding and a pictorial demonstration of the abuses of the colonial administration and the headright system that allowed the officials to claim slaves to gain more land.

Though Parent’s economic argument surrounding the labor shortage of indentured servants in conjunction with the rise and fall of the price of tobacco is fascinating, claiming that African enslavement quickly replaced them as a cheaper source it is merely a different perspective on an old story.  The economic points Parent makes seem to wander around his main argument before coming back to center, detracting from his thesis.  Shrouded in his character profile of the elite planter class, Parent discusses the initial stages of racism in America. The white indentured servants were protesting against being made ‘slaves’ which suggests that they considered slavery to be morally wrong but only when applied to themselves.[4]  Thus, King Charles II “promoted the [African] slave trade” … “by protecting one labor group from exploitation”, the white English.[5]  William Fitzhugh, a member of this elite planter class, discussed his notions of breeding his slaves, creating a Virginia stock, “not unlike cattle,” that could sustain their supply to meet their demand to prevent the previous labor shortage because of issues with the trading companies.[6]  However, in the 1680s, the primary labor source became African slaves through various means of transport, including the black market.

The most powerful section, Conflicts, spawns from the racism laid out in Origins. The Slave Codes and laws began emerging as early as 1640, when very few Africans and free blacks lived in Virginia.[7]  These Codes intended to emphasize the racism, purposely digging a valley between the whites and blacks of society, putting into law that the blacks needed to be controlled and the potential consequences if they broke these laws.  Here, Parent could have demonstrated the elite planters’ knowledge of their treatment of these enslaved Africans as morally wrong, but instead he imprints the idea that the planters saw them as separate and intentionally wrote these laws to continue this separation.  It is possible that these planters used this view of separateness as an excuse for their inhumane acts.  The elite planters feared that the poorer whites would band together with the Africans, forming an alliance for freedom and insurgency.  Interracial uprisings confirmed their fears, leading to more desperate attempts to emphasize the class difference between the two groups, such as making the slaves wear the color blue.[8]  Parent details numerous revolts and attempted revolts and the quelling of their insurgency by the white elite class as a means for degradation and to prove to the rest of those planning such attempts that they would be, in effect, brought to justice.  Yet these class differences were not only made apparent between lower class whites and Africans but also between the elite planters, middling and lesser planters, who some eventually were able to procure slaves for themselves.  Arguments arose between the upper and lower planters and merchants over taxes imposed on the enslaved that the owners must pay.  This tax would regulate the slave trade and only make elite planters financially eligible to maintain enough slaves to work the fields, thus keeping the class structure in tact with no upward movement available.  However, the crown rejected the slave duty acts, much to the chagrin of the elites.

With the growing insurgency among the slaves, the poor, and other who they saw as their dependents, their loss of power with the crown in England, and their growing dependence on merchants for trade, the elite planter class devised an ideology of patriarchy to make themselves distinctive from the other classes while quelling the uprisings, as Parent explores in his final section, Reactions.  Thus, as the patriarchs, these elite planters saw themselves as the top of society who provided “order, the pastoral, provincialism, and providence.”[9]  As devote Anglicans, these planters founded their ideology on their faith and saw it as “divine providence” that they were the masters of the land and all the others were dutiful servants.[10]  Christianity itself became an issue among the enslaved, as they saw it as a ticket for freedom; however the English saw their conversion as a means “to reduce them to greater docility.”[11]  Parent discusses the corruption of the clergy and their unwillingness to usurp these patriarchal planters.  An entire book could be written on the use of Christianity in slave culture by both the slaves and the white owners so the information presented is minimal but impactful.

Overall, Parent’s work is an interesting perspective on slavery and class development in early Virginia.  He supports and proves his arguments both that an elite planter class emerged through coercion and illegal landing dealings via political standings and connections and also that this elite planter class conspired to switch labor sources from indentured servants to African slaves.  Parent’s research into statistics of the landholdings and headright patents as well as his use of journals and letters only strengthen this argument. His differing perspectives surrounding this ethnohistory are a welcome change from the standard cultural and social perspectives surrounding the investigation into slavery.  In spite of sporadic moments where Parent digresses slightly the organization of the book allows for an easy reading flow, from reviewing and understanding base information, such as the slave code, and then analyzing interaction and reaction to this information, such as the uprisings and conflicts.

However, the information that Parent presents is hardly new to the field.  The contribution Foul Means makes to the historiographic conversation is the viewpoint of the argument.  Even if other historians do not agree with his conclusions, Parent expands the conversation to include this elite planter class that cannot be denied based upon his research and presentation.


[1] Anthony S. Parent, Foul Means: The Formation of a Slave Society in Virginia, 1660-1740 (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2003), pp. 2.

[2] Parent, pp. 105.

[3] Winthrop D. Jordan, White Over Black: American Attitudes Toward the Negro, 1550-1812 (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1968), pp. 44-98; Parent, pp. 2.

[4] Parent, pp. 56.

[5] Parent, pp. 60.

[6] Parent, pp. 72.

[7] Parent, pp. 109.

[8] Parent, 147.

[9] Parent, 200.

[10] Parent, 236, 201.

[11] Parent, 237-8.