Thursday, March 10, 2011

Chain...Chain....Chain..Chain of Fools

I walk over to my laptop and make a quick “click”. The sounds of Aretha Franklin fill the classroom….

Chain, chain, chain, chain, chain, chian
Chain, chain, chain, chain of fools
Five long years I thought you were my man
But I found out I'm just a link in your chain....
 found out I’m just a link in your chain….

Go ahead – click on the video and listen. I’ll wait.

I’m certain you are thinking I’ve lost it. Why is ElementaryHistoryTeacher playing this particular song for nine and ten year olds as the opening salvo to a lesson regarding an aspect of the American Revolution?

Don’t click off just yet. I have a connection.

Teaching history isn’t all about reading a lesson in a book or having a teacher tell a fascinating story for kids to take notes from.

Teaching history is all about making connections and visualizing the links – links in a chain of events that ebb and flow through history to the present day. In this particular exercise where I play the Queen of Soul’s famous song for my students I’m trying to allow them to own and claim the content and build some links of their own to the content.

I want them to listen to the song. I might even play it two or three times.

Okay, I might even play it a fourth time just for me.

I pop the lyrics up on my classroom screen and we read through them together. Some of my more talented students actually sing through them having already picked up the melody.

I pick up with the lyrics where I left off above….. (Read through them very carefully)

You got mw where you want me
I ain't nothing but your fool
You treated me mean oh you treated me cruel
Chain, chain, chain, chain of fools
Every chain has a wink link
I might be a weak child, but I'll give you strength
You told me to leave you alone
My father said come on home
My doctor said take it easy
Whole bunch of lovin is much too strong
I'm added to your chain, chain, chain
Chain, chain, chain, chain
Chain, chain of fools
One of these mornings the chain is gonna break
But up until then, yeah I'm gonna take all I can take
Chain, chain, chain, chain of fools

Students are sitting in small groups, so I proceed to tell them to take another look at the lyrics and discuss how the situation between the British and the American colonies is similar to the lyrics of the song.

Seriously…….think about it. I’ll wait. They don’t tell you in teacher education school, but most of good teaching is knowing when to hush and let the student’s think.


What did YOU come up with?

My students don’t disappoint me. They make some great connections between the contemporary lyrics and the plight of the American colonists.

Students volunteer the following:

*The British government had the colonies where they wanted them. Taxing them, but not allowing them any representation in Parliament.
*The colonist felt they were being treated mean and cruel. Students cited situations like the Intolerable Acts as proof.
*The colonists were a chain of fools. They were being taken advantage of and needed to stand up for themselves.
*The weak links in the chain were Tories.
*Everyone has an opinion regarding what should be done…….the Sons of Liberty, Committees of Correspondence, newpapers, the members of the Continental Congress.
*The chain is finally broken with Lexington and Concord.

Yes, this lesson is a great way to review. It’s also a great way to bring up new content tying into the chain theme.

Let me throw a few names out to you…..Peter Townsend, Sterling Iron Works, Captain Thomas Machin, Colonel Timothy Pickering.

Do they ring a bell?

What about New York, West Point, the Hudson River? Those are more familiar, aren’t they?

They all have something to do with one another. Early on during the American Revolution the Patriots were concerned about the security of the Hudson River and the military outpost at West Point. To keep the British from advancing up the Hudson they installed a chain across the river from Constitution Island over to the west bank of the river. It wasn’t the only chain, but it is remembered as The Great Chain. It was an ideal place in the river since a heavy S-curve existed there. Ships had to slow down because of the curves and it was the perfect location for artillery to shoot at enemy ships.

Peter Townsend was the owner of Stirling Iron Works, the company hired to build the chain. The Stirling name hails from William Alexander, Lord Stirling – the one-time owner of the land where the ironworks was located and a Major General in the Continental Army. Captain Thomas Machin and Colonel Timothy Pickering oversaw the project.

The whole thing weighed around 65 tons and stretched out to 600 yards. Each link in the chain was two feet in length and weighed 114 pounds.

To compensate for the changing current and tide pulleys, rollers, ropes, and mid-stream anchors were used in tandem with the chain. The chain was supported by huge logs. To avoid damage by ice the chain was removed each winter during the war and replaced each spring.

One point of interest about the chain regards Benedict Arnold who informed the British it was possible to break the chain because he had actually weakened it. Arnold escaped to the British when he realized the Patriots knew he had been an informer.

The picture below shows 13 links of the chain that are on display at Trophy Point, West Point. Yes, 13 links for the 13 colonies.

History tells us the British fleet never attempted to break the chain.

You can find out more about the chain and Peter Townsend at this link.

This post from The New York Times dated February, 1895 provides more detail regarding how the chain was installed.


discount teaching resources said...

Thanks for sharing the video.
Will definitely visit the website more often!

Unknown said...

Thanks for sharing. The song is a unique idea.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing the song. It is a unique perspective.