Saturday, January 28, 2006

Content Delivery: The Thirteen Colonies

Questioning students of any age is a great way to assess and gauge your success, but I like to use questions to guide students to discover information on their own---information that I want and plan for them to discover.

Discovery is an important tool in the classroom. I can provide text pages, notes, and lecture to them all day. They might be able to regurgitate information back at me, but has transfer of knowledge really occurred? Discovery, on the other hand, gives a student ownership of the material and builds motivation because I don’t place the content in the student’s mind. The student logically analyzes information and arrives at a new idea with a group of peers. They own this new idea and discuss it in their own terms. This is true transference. Students take some background knowledge and build on it using logic.

Usually when I question students my goal is to review important bits of information, get them to think differently about a topic, and to lay groundwork for a future unit. Here’s an example of how questioning worked in my classroom this week. EHT refers to me while student refers to various students who joined in on the conversation.

EHT: Where were the Puritans from?
Student: England.
EHT: OK. Somebody else tell me one thing about England’s government.
Student: They have a king.
Student: They have something else too. A P…. A Par…..
EHT: Do you mean Parliament?
Student: Yes.
EHT: Let’s discuss the king for moment. How does the king become the king?

I survey a sea of thoughtful faces. Finally a hand goes up.

Student: The people vote?
EHT: Not quite, but thank you for participating. Do you remember me talking about Queen Elizabeth?

Heads begin to nod. Students begin to speak out without permission. They had enjoyed our discussion a few weeks ago about Elizabeth and how she became queen. I had told them about how she was “married” to England and would not marry Phillip of Spain. This was a good sidebar to the information in their text about the defeat of the Spanish Armada. They enjoyed the fact that Queen Elizabeth had toyed with Phillip and finally told him she would never marry him.

EHT: OK. How did Elizabeth become queen?
Student: She took over after her father died.
EHT: Right. Kings and queens inherit the throne. Does a citizen of England have a say regarding who is king or queen?
Student: No.
EHT: Good. Let’s see where we are so far. We’ve got Pilgrims and Puritans in North America. We have some people in Jamestown. They are English citizens, right?

I get a chorus of “RIGHT”

EHT: Who is our leader today in the United States?
Student: the President.
EHT: How does the President get his power?
Student: From we the people.
Student: People vote.
EHT: Did the Pilgrims, Puritans, or the people at Jamestown elect the king?
Students: NO.
EHT: Do you mean to tell me the English citizens didn’t get to vote for their leader?
Students: No.
EHT: OK. We have English citizens living in North America who have never voted for their leader. They have never experienced the freedom of voting.

I point to the board where I have written Fundamental Orders along with a definition. Fundamental Orders was the first written plan for government in North America by the English. It detailed the plan of government for the colony of Connecticut. Reverend Thomas Hooker is generally given credit as the founder of Connecticut. He was a disgruntled pastor who found fault with the Puritan theocracy in Massachusetts. Hooker was also a proponent of allowing all white men to vote----not just the wealthy or well-connected. The Fundamental Orders allowed voting.

As I point to the board I say, “Englishmen haven’t experienced the vote. So what? What’s the big deal?

I perch on my stool and wait. We have a few false starts and then

Student: Hooker wanted more freedom----he didn’t think it was fair that only certain people made decisions.

This student simply restated what I had on the board.

Student: People in Connecticut could vote like we do today.

EHT: Hmmmmm……..I wonder how the United States got the idea about voting?

Student: George Washington.
Student: Abraham Lincoln?
Student: There was a whole group of people.
EHT: I believe you are thinking about the “Founding Fathers.” We are going to be learning about them soon.
Student: Did George Washington and those people know about the Fundamental Orders?
EHT: Yes.
Student: They got the idea from Hooker. That’s why we vote.
EHT: Yes. The Founding Fathers did read the Fundamental Orders along with a great many other important documents in history. They studied the past to see what came before, they decided what had worked before and what didn’t, and then they used those bits and pieces to form our government.

I walk about over the board and tap where Fundamental Orders is written and say, “That boys and girls is the so what behind this vocabulary term. That is why it is important enough for you to spend your time learning about it.

Students have now taken the dry and stale vocabulary term, Fundamental Orders, connected it to information they already knew, and have arrived at a new and improved idea that I can draw on as we continue our studies. In a few weeks when I begin to speak of the Constitutional Convention I will draw students attention back to this moment in order to question them even more.


Lolita said...

Interesting post - I learned stuff!!! Our history classes covered Canadian history and European history, but very little about American history...

I didn't realize 9-10 yr old kids were learning all this. For those who aren't daydreaming, it's great!!!

I read some of your earlier posts - I can't imagine the challenge inherent to teaching such young kids and trying to keep them focused. Although I have to say that your bunch seems to have very little parental inspiration as far as homework goes... I'm very strict with my 9-yr old - and I don't mind erasing what he's written if his handwriting is not as nice as it should be...

kontan said...

I'm enjoying stopping by to read...would comment more, but doesn't seem to be a know I'm lurking!

rebecca said...

I like the way you shared the process of the lesson.

Jonathan said...

I think you are right that the FF did know of the FOC. However, there is a myth circulating that GW passed this document out at the federal CC to use as a model. I'm currently searching the primary sources and see nothing in the record to support this.

If I'm wrong, please let me know.