Monday, September 14, 2015

Favorite Middle School Lessons

Last week I shared elementary teachers' answers to the following prompt: “Describe (in brief) the best Montana history or IEFA lesson or project or resource your taught this year--the one you will make time for next year no matter what.” As promised, here are the answers we received from middle school teachers to the same question. [I've added a few comments and links in brackets--couldn't resist putting my oar in.] 

MaryLou Systma at Manhattan Christian likes the Learning from Historical Document Units and worksheets we’ve put together to supplement the textbook, Montana: Stories of the Land. “I really like the primary sources. Specifically I like the earthquake letter and the Custer painting.  These show kids first hand what things were like back when the earthquake happened and how history gets twisted in the Custer painting.”

Traci Manseau, who teaches in a rural school near Lewistown, said that "Playing for the World: The 1904 Fort Shaw Indian Boarding School Girls Basketball Team made a huge impact on all of my students how they were treated in the boarding schools.” 

Sally Behr Shendel, a librarian in Sheridan, wrote: “I was inspired by OPI's contest to have students portray their understanding of one of the IEFA Essential Understanding, so I wove together several strands to teach the concept and let students explore its implications. I used the History Channel's (History Detective style) video on unlocking the mystery of a Navajo weaver to introduce the class' tapestry work on 12x18" looms. I used Anna Baldwin's great lesson ("Inside Anna's Classroom") on the concept of sovereignty and the constitution's supremacy clause to teach the essential understanding. I brought in contemporary tribal issues of sovereignty for small groups to read/discuss/share including legalizing marijuana, endangered species, and prosecuting nontribal violent offenders in women's abuse cases. The students designed and produced linoleum print relief images that reflect their experience in being a proud member of a community as the final reflection of this unit.

Wendy Dos Santos, of Trout Creek, wrote: “I combined Language Arts and Social Studies to teach a combination Research Writing (going through all the research writing process) and Montana History lesson in which the students chose a topic of their choice to research and write a MT History Research Paper.  We had a variety of topics chosen.  The students learned research skills, and dug deeper into a MT History topic of their choice.” [I can’t resist plugging National History Day here—a program that would work really well with this research project.] 

Cathleen Kuchera of Superior wrote: “I had students make a skit outlining the War of the Copper Kings and film it. They had to write a skit that went through the events the led up to any one of the fights, and explain the outcome of the fight. They could choose one of the senate fights or the fight for the state capital. Students then filmed their skits and we played everyone's videos during class. It really helped students to think about the events that led to the ‘battles’ and explain both Daly and Clark's position.”

Another teacher, who wanted to remain anonymous, also had students create videos: “The students did one-minute history videos based on non-fiction books we had read. One group of students voluntarily did a brief history based on Montana historical figures. There was a connection with the history books we had read. Time constraints made it difficult to do the video but the students enjoyed writing the script and planning.  Next year, the videos will be done a little better.”

Other teachers wrote anonymously about their favorite lessons:

“The lesson that I will make time for next year no matter what is making pemmican with my 7th grade Montana History class. This is a hands-on way for students to learn about Montana Indian cuisine and culture.”

“I use Charles M. Russell art to teach MT History. My favorite lesson takes place during Chapter 3 in which I use Russell art plus a story from Trails Plowed Under to teach Plains Indian culture.” [I bet this teacher is going to LOVE our new Charlie Russell Packets. As soon as we get everything back from the printer, we’ll be sending these packets all public school libraries. The material is already available online for you to preview and use.]  

“Each year my students in 8th grade Montana history do a research project on each of the tribes of Montana.  They research history, origins, stories, treaties involved in, and current information, etc.  They use this information to put together a poster and PowerPoint and then present their information to the class.  I have had students go as far as calling and  interviewing tribal leaders to get the information and I plan on including an interview component in the future.”

“I did a three-day lesson about reservation life and how it felt to be forced into an uncomfortable and new situation. Students were placed into groups and had to complete assignments within the confines of a box made out of tape on the classroom floor.  They had only the materials I provided in their box (reservation) and could not move from the box until I gave them instructions to do so.  Boxes varied in size and materials provided.  At the beginning of the simulation I had students sign a contract written in Greek.  They were told they would lose points for the assignment if they did not sign the document, but would not be told what it actually stated until later.  Students seemed to enjoy the activity and had an excellent discussion in closing about being forced into a 'box'.” [The lesson plan “Exploring Influences and Perspectives through Ledger Art” includes a similar activity. MHS published this lesson plan as part of “The Art of Story-Telling: Plains Indian Perspectives.”]  

A music teacher wrote: “Listening to pow-wow music. Watching processions, jingle dances, round dances, watching the drummers, etc.  Also, we play a Paiute stick game while singing a song using vocables.”

One 8th grade teacher has her students write a book. "They are told to pick a modern Native American to write their book on. I usually tell them from 1950 to the present. This way they get an idea of what Native Americans are doing in a more modern era.  They are usually surprised to see athletes, singers, actors and various other artists, as well as politicians and activists. They are given what each part of the book is (frontispiece, end papers, title page, chapters, glossary, etc) and they write a book about their person." She added: “The students whine while doing it but they learn so much about a modern Native American, researching, and parts of a book.”

One teacher recommended the book Tiny Warrior by D. J. Eagle Bear Vanas. She read it out loud to 6th graders and had them draw pictures to go with each chapter. “There are a lot of good life lessons in that book,” she writes.

“My favorite lessons all incorporate using Primary Sources (of course). Some that I know I will revisit include Civil Rights, Lewis & Clark, Joseph Medicine Crow (I can bring in all sorts of IEFA primary sources such as boarding schools, etc.)” [See this OPI lesson plan for teaching Counting Coups: Becoming a Crow Chief on the Reservation and Beyond, by Joseph Medicine Crow.] 

Do you have a favorite lesson you'd like to share? It is not too late. Email information to mkohl@mt.gov and I'll share it in a future post.

P.S. Don't forget to join us tomorrow (Tuesday, 9/15) at 4:30 for our second Montana History Digital Blast: "Art Integration and Charlie Russell."  

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