Monday, March 19, 2018

Slavery and Student Engagement

Glenn Wiebe is a rock star. If you haven't had a chance to attend one of his sessions...definitely get signed up to receive his weekly emails and follow his blog, History Tech. His recent post got me thinking...and was the perfect segway into this blog post. Read his post titled "I'd Rather Have Them Hate Class." It's a good one.

I talk a lot about having an engaged classroom. I present on the various ways that I SPICE-Up my classroom (blog post in the works on that one). I do a lot of different things and unique activities in class in order to make learning fun and engaging for students (Check out Preamble PeteCutthroat HistoryGummy Governments, and History Chef).

But I want to make something very clear.

My classroom is not like that everyday.

The word "engaged" doesn't always mean that I plan elaborate activities to teach all subjects. Sometimes it means we dig deep. We focus and dive into a topic or subject with a variety of resources in order to come out with a strong understanding. In fact...this is what my classroom looks like a majority of the time. I add in other SPICED UP activities, but I work to try and challenge my kids on a daily basis.

The topic, many times, dictates this.

We are currently finishing up our unit on slavery. There were no Cutthroat History activities, no dressing up in costume, or fancy activities designed to "SPICE" it up.

The topic didn't need much to get the kids interested. They are fascinated by the topic, horrified by the history of it, and curious about how slavery could even have been seen as a necessity.

Thursday, the day before spring break, my 8th graders were totally engaged. And they were writing an essay. They wanted to get their words on paper to the question we've been researching and analyzing for the last two weeks.

Why didn't more slaves try to escape to the north and how were some successful despite the odds?

The question grabs them from the beginning, the sources get them thinking, and I supplement with the book "NightJohn." It's a perfect condition for engaged 8th graders.

No theatrics needed. And just wait until you see what they do with it!

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