US History Bellworks

Please see my previous post here on the importance of bellworks at the beginning of class.  It helps establish a routine and expectations as well as spark interesting discussions.  Some get the students forming their own opinions before we begin a unit or topic, and others review information letting us as teachers know where they are in their thinking.  Below are a few examples from my first grading period broken down by topic.

First Question at the Beginning of the Year or For a New Student

Write a paragraph about yourself, including anything you believe I should know about you.

Civil War

How can disagreements be settled so that they do not lead to arguments/war?

What do you believe to be the most significant technology invention that impacted the Civil War and why?  How did it impact the War?

If you were a freed black slave, would you run towards the North, stay in the south and try to get a house and a paying job, or join the Union army?  Why?

If you were a rich, white southern plantation owner, what would be your reaction to the Emancipation Proclamation?  How do you know?

How do you think the attacks on September 11, 2001 and December 7, 1941 (to bring the US into World War II) compare to each other?

Imagine you are President Lincoln and have just accepted the surrender of the Confederate army.  What would be your punishment for the southern states that seceded?

How does the Civil War still affect us today?  Please write 3 or more sentences.

Industrial Revolution

What does it mean for a country to industrialize?  What does it mean for a country to go through a revolution?

If you had the money and power to own your own factory, how would you treat your workers?  How would you determine their pay?  Would you rather be a railroad, oil, or steel owner? Why?

Which of the Robber Barons that we studied yesterday would you rather work for?  Why?

Progressivism and Social Change

How would you handle a work situation where you felt that you were being paid unfairly and working too many hours?  What if the conditions you were working in were dangerous?  Who could you contact?

Imagine you are moving to a new country.  What feelings would you have?  What would you expect the process to be like?  Do you think it would be easy or difficult to find a place to live and work?

What might be the benefits and drawbacks of having a political machine?  Who do these types of systems hurt?  Who do they help?  Do you think a political machine and/or “pay to play” systems always lead to corruption?  Why or why not?

Describe the working conditions of the average worker during the early 1900s.  Was this treatment fair?  How do you think they could correct this treatment?

Do you know of any organizations today that help people find housing and jobs?  What are some of those organizations?  How do you go about finding a place to live and work today?

Come up with a list of how you can determine the importance of a person or industry (such as railroads or steel).  How would you determine the impact that person or industry had on Florida?

Imperialism

What would be the benefit for the United States in owning property all around the world?  What would be a disadvantage?

What makes you read a story or a news article?  Which type of article or story grabs your attention? (studying yellow journalism)

Why would countries welcome the United States’ influence into their lands?  What would be their motivation? What could be their motivation to not want the US involved?

The ever important bellwork

Dream of having students walk in the door, sit down, and get right to work?  Think it’s completely impossible?  It’s not.  Establishing routines in your class is the number one thing to create at the beginning of the school year.  Believe it or not, human beings are prone to routines and, in fact, crave them.  Students feel more at ease when they know exactly what the expectations are each and every day.

In my classroom, students are expected to get their notebooks from their bin, sit down at their desk, and begin work on their bellworks which are posted on the board.  Bellworks are general questions that can preview or review information from the class.  I grade the bellwork sheets every Friday.  Each day is worth 5 points and if a student is absent, I just ask them to write in “Absent” on that day and I still give them credit as long as they write the word.  It shows that they are cognizant of their responsibilities.  I do not necessarily grade their responses on right or wrong answers because 99% of the questions are opinion.  This gives the student more freedom and encouragement to actually answer the question.  We always, and I mean always, review their responses at the beginning of class.  This does two things- the first is to let them know that I actually care about their answers and their thoughts.  The second is a form of formative assessment.  I want to know where they are at that moment based upon their responses.  At the beginning of the year it was like pulling teeth to get them to verbally respond.  Now, we can get into lengthy discussions based upon responses without any prompting from me.  They respond and counter each other and it is a beautiful thing to see in a classroom when we encourage free thought without fear of a grade behind it.

Over the next few days I will be posting some of my bellwork questions from the first grading period in US History, Government, and Economics.  Enjoy!