Posts Tagged ‘outline’
Grinding students through the barest, vital information is Herculean, but there are ways to make cleaning out the stables a hell of a lot more enjoyable. Besides air freshener, natch.
1. Break long lists into chunks.
Having trouble getting them through the presidents? If they first remember that Lincoln is the 16th president, they’ll have cut the amount of memorization they have to do in half. Introduce that method as a “march to the sea” and you’ll teach two historical concepts at once.
Thing is, once you have Lincoln down, Pierce and Buchanan before him come pretty naturally as “the guys who come before Lincoln,” and Johnson, Grant and Hayes as “the guys who come after.”
2. In general, convince them that there are easy items.
The secret, of course, is that Arthur is no easier to remember than Lincoln if you have never before heard of either. This way, they’ll be shamed into remembering at least one of the two.
3. If it’s chronological, work your way backward.
I first learned my presidents by starting with the most recent. Washington, Adams and Jefferson are just as easy to remember as recent presidents like H.W. Bush, Clinton, W. Bush and Obama.
4. Make items memorable.
Sure, this is easier for crazy-man and unthinkably democratic Jackson than it is for, say, Benjamin Harrison, but most presidents have some anecdote everyone “knows” about them. Upon hearing them, who could forget the apocryphal legend about Millard Fillmore buying a bathtub, or the true legend about fat ol’ Taft getting stuck in one?
5. It’s easier if the students have some background.
Before I even tackle the little stuff like who was president during the War of 1812 — Madison — I first get them grounded in the arc of American history. When were all those wars and all those famous dates in American history? Wars are fun to learn about, and are generally memorable. In my book, associating a name to something memorable is easier to do than associating something memorable to a name.
6. For maximum effectiveness, keep coming back to it.
After the first three weeks of the year, my students should have memorized every president and generally when he was in power. But that’s not all. They’ll take the quiz five or six times, and I’ll mix it up a little by having each successive quiz add a new column of information they should fill out on each president.
By the end of the year, they’ll also have learned how many terms each president was elected to, which war he presided over, whether or not he was assassinated, and the exact years he served as president.
As soon as I figure out how to upload them, I’ll go ahead and share the worksheets I’ve made up.
The way I hear it, the first three weeks are the most important. Behaviorwise, the first three weeks set the tone of the class. Instructionwise, the first three weeks set the tone of the course.
For American history and American government, I have a plan.
The first three weeks set the foundation: students will, in order, memorize the map of the United States, a simple timeline and the presidents of the United States. Said timeline includes a few key dates in American history — JFK’s assassination, Pearl Harbor, Armistice Day, et. al. — plus when all those wars go.
This sort of rote memorization grinding fits in best at the beginning of the year, when discipline is still a nebulous issue. It’s easy to establish a routine with this short unit.
Once that’s over with, we’ll actually start hitting the whole thing thematically.
Don’t worry about the first three weeks sounding boring. I have my plans for that, too.
I’m more worried about the workload than anything. Is this too much to expect from my students in the first three weeks? Should I tone it down? Or should I chalk this up to healthy overplanning?
I’ve been dreaming of thematically outlining U.S. history for some time. I have it down just about perfectly.
The theory is that by having each unit build on the previous units, students will have reinforced the basic timeline and major events, while better students can concentrate on the rest of the minutiae.
Politics will be taught as a mirror to economics — generally, the cause of wars and wars’ greatest lasting effect. Media history — including yellow journalism and that 1960 presidential debate — could fit before the unit on wars or afterward, depending on how much a teacher wants to stress the Spanish-American War.
Approaching history like this has a number of advantages, including from the “reinforce basic stuff” angle.
Moreover, it really impresses on students the longevity of some national issues.
The way I remember my high school history classes, we first really learned about Jim Crow laws once a class hit the Civil Rights era, even though those laws had been on the books almost as long as the 13th Amendment.
By teaching this as a whole unit, students will understand rather than just hear that however likable Eisenhower was, he did very little on the civil rights question. Students should understand that racial issues didn’t just skip from Lincoln to Kennedy or, in Supreme Court decisions, from Plessy to Brown.
My students will forget Henry Clay and John Calhoun, but they will bloody sure remember when the Vietnam War was without feeble guessing.
For the moment, I teach government. However, as my goal is to teach AP U.S. History, this preparation will certainly come in handy.
I told my master teacher what I planned to do during Spring Break, and she was enthusiastically supportive.
Don’t forget to outline the next unit in government.
She’s more of a realist. I may be a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.
Moral of the story? First things first, unless inspiration strikes.