Upon completing a unit I like to focus student’s attention towards the new material they will learning. Following the assessment for the American Revolution I asked student to respond to the following prompt:
Cornwallis has surrendered at Yorktown. The Treaty of Paris has been signed. Now that the colonies are independent what will happen next. Write three to four sentences regarding what you think will happen next.
Here are 13 of my student’s responses. I use these to see where their head is at and to gauge prior knowledge that they might have about the Constitution. This information helps me to know where to start with the government unit. However, please understand this is not the only way I collect data for prior knowledge.
G said: The Americans will celebrate their victory, and the American colonists will take more land. The Americans will bring new inventions, create a better army, and name the country the United States of America.
No name (There’s always one in the group): They will have a hard time with the government. They will have to fight for land. They will have a hard time with the loyalist because they are still loyal to the king.
J: There will be a war about the slaves. The colonies will start fighting with the Indians again. There might be a third Continental Congress. (Actually I referred to this response today in our lesson about the Articles of Confederation since students always want to know who was leading our government since George Washington didn’t immediately become president. The student who wrote this learned there wasn’t a “third” continental congress.)
D: The Americans needed their own government and president, so they choose George Washington. They are happy they are free from Britain. They can now dwell in a free country. ( I kid you not she really did use the word “dwell”)
T: The people of Yorktown are happy. They are no more wars between them. Cornwallis is sad. He’s mad that the treaty is signed.
A: They will think about slavery. They might have another battle to decide what happens. I think that the Americans win because there is no slavery today. (A good logical deduction….he knows something had to happen to stop it….he’s just not sure what)
M: The US formed a country and the colonies finally got the Ohio River Valley. The colonist started to have many, many slaves. There was not so many battles fought after the Treaty of Paris was signed. The Indians left the United States.
A: The colonists were very happy and tired because it had been a long war.
A: Now, I think the colonists are going to get confused. They won’t know how to elect people for president. They would not know to govern themselves. (She’s right but she’s discussing THIS century not the time period we are studying, wouldn’t you agree?)
B: I think he [Cornwallis] got hanged. He breaks free and kills people. (Of course, I never discussed Cornwallis except in relation to Yorktown. Apparently this young man watches too many crime dramas or perhaps even the news)
T: Cornwallis had to give his sword to George Washington, and surrender his troops. Then Americans got independence and land.
J: The US is finally a country. They picked George Washington as president. They still had problems with slavery. It would take a long time for slaves to have their freedom.
K: Cornwallis migh have to go to Court. C. might be banished. C. might be killed. (This is someone who didn’t like having to write the name “Cornwallis” over and over and she’s all about people getting punished)
Overall, I’m ok with their responses. I wish more students had told me about government….that the colonies turned states needed some form of government, but it didn’t happen.
So, this means I’ll begin the unit with a discussion on why we need government and its purpose. I was very happy, however, to see so many students mention slavery. Though we began a thread on this topic many months ago when we discussed African kings and the Portuguese and have mentioned slavery at the appropriate times since it is not something I have drummed into their heads. It’s nice to know that student’s “slavery thread” has not become frayed, and I can continue to use it as we discuss the horror of the Three-Fifths Compromise, the Missouri Compromise, and many other concepts as we get near the end of the year.
I am happy to have the "big bear" of the American Revolution conquered. I will post examples of students' essays on the causes of the American Revolution in the next few days.