I introduced my 15-page lesson submission for the National History Teacher of the Year like this:
Cultivating America is a curated, created, and organized collection of more than 100 evolving “lesson sets” for our yearlong United States history study, beginning with the early colonization on the east coast and ending with Westward Expansion. I have made these sets publicly available for teachers and students on our classroom website at hoggatteer.weebly.com/cultivating-america.
I acknowledge American history here – an acknowledgment of mistakes and unfulfilled promises, backroom politics, racist legislation, and the instigation of violence. There are chances to tell the real stories – more compelling than the latest juvenile fiction, more disgusting than recent horror movies. Here are characters – of different ages, genders and races – who are full of depth, flaw, vision, and heritage. Here are plots with sharp edges and hairpin twists. Here is the chance to teach figurative language, inference, theme, and finding main idea and details.
The collection is organized, with opportunities to teach cause and effect, chronology, problems and solutions, and more. I focus on looking for details – studying the forest and the trees, appreciating the grandeur and the beauty of a vista while investigating the components that make it work. This is an excellent start to teaching students to write organized paragraphs, as well as objectively interpret primary sources. I include several opportunities for simple observation and data collection, connected with high-order thinking skills and all kinds of analysis, evaluation, and development. Threaded
Throughout my Cultivating America lessons are activities designed to guide students into making accurate, scientific, and objective observations of materials and data, and then drawing conclusions based on evidence. Students also demonstrate the ability to synthesize information with what they have already learned to be true. The unit included here is interspersed through the school year in order to maintain focus on objective translation of material culture and primary sources. In an attempt to instill value and an appreciation for real items and documents, my fourth graders also need to touch and feel three-dimensional objects. As a result, they are more capable to discern information in our historical documents when they come up (also throughout the year).
I also wanted plenty of opportunities to ask rigorous questions, starting with What do you notice? and continuing with What do you wonder? Students learn quickly to start with what they already know (which might be very little) and put the rest together. Sometimes the lessons leave them with more curiosity than they entered the classroom with. Here is a place to find economy, politics, geography, and history, but there is also mathematics, reading, science, writing, listening, and speaking. Plus, for good measure, there is music, physical activity, and visual art wherever possible. There is variety, at times giving teams a chance to work together and wrestle with the material. Also here is entertaining content delivery, sometimes heavy with drama, but many times with an infusion of humor. Student engagement is certainly a top goal in my teaching.
I intentionally focus on character and citizenship. Actions have consequences. Actions have equal and opposite reactions. Reactions can take a relationship in multiple directions. We do not shy away from meeting the needs of children on a daily basis, stopping any academics that may be expected to deal with issues that may arise. We know that behavior and relationships must be in place before the “three Rs”. I attempt to infuse these U.S. history lessons with proactive and inspirational messages to quell the problems before they arise.
Finally, the integrated lesson sets at hoggatteer.weebly.com/cultivating-america are a demonstration that it takes hard work to achieve. If that is true in the Revolutionary era, it is certainly true in the 21st century. As we continually strive toward the American Dream, as we continue to pursue happiness, and as we build upon the founders’ attempts to make a more perfect union, let us never forget that opportunity does not knock upon pillows. We must stand, dust ourselves, and lean forward into the winds of resistance. These lessons teach students that dirty fingernails, winded breathing, and pungent perspiration are often the only means by which we achieve.
* Make objective observations of objects, situations, and primary sources
* Apply prior knowledge and skills to the interpretation of objects, situations, and primary sources
* Make accurate predictions based on factual inferences
* Communicate conclusions to peers or other audiences
* Respectfully discuss alternative conclusions
* Remain consistently and deeply engaged with American history
* Become increasingly curious about America’s story
We know certain truths to be self-evident – not just the ones concerning life, liberty, and the pursuit happiness, but also the ones that let us know that history is ugly and that history repeats itself. Regardless of the former, teachers must reveal facts to students. We do this by allowing our pupils to interact with primary artifacts and documents for themselves. It is my personal desire to grab my students’ attention, get them interested, make them think deeply, and inspire them to learn more. More so, however, we learn from the mistakes and triumphs of history, always with our own citizenship in mind.
please see my History Teacher of the Year page.