Sunday, February 10, 2008

Games, dream electives, and why I want a 20th century history course to be taught in 11th grade.

It's been a busy week. I've been starting a new semester, new units, generally trying to do a better job of staying caught up and taking a Spanish class. I wanted to make sure that I posted a couple of thoughts before they escaped my brain though.

1) I love it when I can make a game out of something to introduce it. This week was the "Scramble for Africa" game. (The day after I finished playing it with my classes, I found a nicer "Scramble for Africa" game someone had made. I now have a whole plan on how to make a totally cool, SMARTboarded up, version. Next year, though. Now I need to concentrate on teaching World War 1.)

2) World/European History and American history classes should all stop around 1890. Then you should do a 20th century/modern history class that combines the two. Seriously, February-May is annoying. I teach about World War 1 in US and then the next week I'm teaching it in World. I feel like I'm getting planning whiplash. It's not exactly the same curriculum, since the emphasis is different. (Example: with the Great War, in US I emphasize why we got involved and the 14 points, whereas World emphasizes the actual course of the war, Russian Revolution and overall Treaty of Versailles effects.)

Considering how much I had to reteach my US class that was supposed to be in the World curriculum, and how truncated those emphases are without each other, it makes much more sense to devote an entire course to the 20th century and include both perspectives in it. (This might also give us a chance to do a better job at including Latin American, African and Asian perspectives on a lot of these events.)

3) I'm working on a dream electives list.
  • There's already the "Media and American History" one that Tom and I wanted to teach together.
  • I also want to teach "History vs Hollywood" as a semester course. The students would vote on 5 "historical" movies for us to examine, and it'd be very project-centered, encouraging them to use the research on the accuracy of the movie to jump off into research/projects about the time period.
  • "Italian City-States: A Historical Soap Opera" would be fun, although I'd need to dust up on my Florentine intrigue.
  • I also have always wanted to teach a social history-oriented elective that went at about the same pace as the regular World History courses. This would be my chance to incorporate all the pieces I think are missing from a standard history curriculum: art, music, clothing, food, daily lives of real people, social structures, literature, gender, advertising, propaganda outside of wartime, race outside of slavery, etc.
What history-related electives would you want to see taught? What changes would you make to the structure of the social studies curriculum?

Finally, how many of you agree that all high school history and english should be taught as humanities courses? (History provides the context in which we practice those language skills. English provides the great literature that we read about in historical context. It's a match made in heaven.)


Tom said...

You know I agree with you on that last point, especially since 11.3 of my standards is all about exploring the link between American history, literature, and culture.

Thanks for finding the course proposal, btw.

DK said...

What was "Scramble for Africa" specifically introducing? It sounds like a pretty fun approximation of the very nasty beginnings of imperialism in that continent. Plus, I keep picturing it as royalty from across Western Europe playing dodgeball with each other to allocate territory and resources, and it makes me laugh out loud. Poor Belgium, always falling in the mud.

Penelope said...

Scramble for Africa was indeed an introduction to imperialism in Africa. Everybody gets to be a European country, trying to take territory in Africa to meet their goals. Where there's conflict, we have rock-paper-scissors wars.

Damian said...

I team-teach an 11th-12th grade humanities course called Multicultural Studies. I'm the English half, and a buddy of mine is the Social Studies half, and I think it's fantastic.

Also, re: point 3, many English teachers at my school tackle the "history v. Hollywood" issue in a research project that requires students to do pretty much what you outlined there, only for one event/film. What a cool idea to expand it to an entire elective course!

Penelope said...

Damian - I'm envious. I want to teach humanities sooooo badly. I already team-teach a few classes that are inclusion, and I just love having 2 adults in the room, ya know?

Bonnie Jean said...

Re: 20th Century/Modern world History class- I've always felt that way. Of course, I was also always annoyed with the fact that my world history/American history classes always ran out of time in the school year shortly after WWII- History teachers loved to say that we could only really understand current events if we knew the history behind it, which is fine, but if you aren't even going to get me as far as Vietnam, I don't think WWII alone will help me understand current events.

Also love the idea of the social history humanities class. There's not really room in the traditional history class for art, music, clothing, literature, etc... but they are still fairly important to a real understanding of the time period.

Interesting thoughts.

Miss Profe said...

I have long believed, and my brother and I have discussed this from time to time - he is an armchair historian - that there is no articulation between elementary, middle and upper school history/social studies curriculum. So, that situation needs to change.

What would I like to see w/r/t history-related electives? Courses that allow students to study in-depth re: historical events. I believe that the most essential aspect of history is that it presents what has happened, and teaches important lessons re: events. Re: humanities-such courses are the most appropriate in the upper high school grades, such as 11th and 12th. Prior to that, the courses should be kept separate in order to establish a sound skill set in both subject areas.

Penelope said...

Miss Profe-- I would love to see in-depth history electives. Get everyone in your building to teach an elective on the thing that made them want to teach history in the first place. It'd be great!

I actually think that in terms of social studies, we should aim to have "the basics" done by high school and they should generally be in depth studies or thematic examinations. Rather than teach generic 11th grade US History (esp. since most get it in elementary and middle school) teach "American history and race" or "the role of the supreme court in american hisory" or whatever. I'm not surprised how many kids think history is boring when we teach such a broad, flavorless version of it.