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Omni-post: Classical World and U.S. History II

September 12, 2010

Out East today it’s rainy, in the 60s and otherwise unpleasant.  Perfect day to be inside watching the NFL and thinking about school and next week.  (And depending on what’s going on on the TV screen I’m more focused on one than the other!).  I have taken my Classical World Blog idea and fleshed it out some more.  Here is the  that I have now, and I think that it’s going to be closer to what the kids will be getting on Friday.

Classical World Blog Project Second Version

I am also in the process of creating/revising my new U.S. II curriculum.  I had the students reflect on their experiences last year and identify their strengths as well as their areas for growth.  I was not sure what to expect from them — rolling their eyes, “playing school” because they know I am asking them to do this or actually reflecting and planning.  I think I got the latter because what they wrote seems so honest and sincere.  Let’s hope it’s not just me being naive!

So I spent probably a good 4 hours revamping my materials for the 1920s this past Saturday.  The revisions are asking them to definitely do some data collection and basic reading/comprehension — which I feel is necessary to establish a knowledge base for this content.  But what I am trying to scaffold or frame is for them to look at the U.S. in 2010 and compare and contrast the 1920s.  I also think that this kind of activity would allow for a meaningful, authentic final assessment for this unit.

I am also hoping that this will set them up to do critical thinking and problem solving, access and analyze information and improve their written communication skills.  (We are using Tony Wagner’s Seven Survival Skills to guide our revision process.)  What I am still trying to do is find out what kind of summative project or assessment to have them do.  I am also trying to figure out how to have a good mix of formative and summative assessments in my course.  This is tough stuff; it’s so much easier when you have masters and mentors who have been there and done that and you can become inspired by their work.  But, that’s not an option so I am reaching out to you.  Any ideas?  I’ve already heard from an educator at Ewing High School whom I hope to collaborate with over the year.  My ears are open to more things!

5 Comments leave one →
  1. September 12, 2010 2:48 pm

    Last time I taught the 1920s (a couple of years ago), I think I used clickers for some in-class formative assessment, and had students put together Powerpoint presentations, based on some guiding questions, to have them synthesize the material while also giving them some experience in multimedia presentation. Not sure if that’s helpful for you, but there it is.

  2. Keith Dennison permalink*
    September 12, 2010 5:18 pm

    Hi, David.

    Yes, that is. I have quick 5 question reading quizzes that I use, but I am finding that I need to assign a minor grade for them or the kids won’t do the reading. We don’t have clickers but maybe I can find some system where they can use their cell phones. I have a colleague I can pester about that!

    Do you have any further detail about the powerpoint you’d be willing to share? I’m interested.

  3. September 15, 2010 8:03 pm

    I had students work in groups on the assignment. They had three full periods (75 minutes each) to prepare the presentation; all class time was given over to it (except for the clicker question time at the start of class, for review of the basics). They had to address two questions: 1) What was “new” about the New Era of the 1920s? And just how new was it?; 2) Were the 1920s really a decade of “happy-go-lucky” prosperity, as their reputation suggestions? And they had to do it in a presentation that was visually pleasing (they didn’t actually present it, but I made them include notes for the presentation, since I told them I expected them, if it were a presentation, to say more than was on the slide). I’ve also had students put together a presentation and then teach the parents the material. That works well; students really have to know their stuff. But it can be pretty time consuming.

    By the way I looked over your blog assignment, and don’t really have much to add. The idea of requiring them to reach out and make contact and publicize is interesting; I’m having students blog for the first time this year, but it’s more like open-ended journaling, and I’m letting them decide whether to make it public or not. But I like the reaching out idea. How will the thesis work? Will the thesis be an idea they’ll develop over the course of the blog posts?

    Good luck with it. Sounds exciting, and sounds like you’ve got some enthusiastic students. It’s great that you’re taking them to the Met; I love the classical collection.

  4. Keith Dennison permalink*
    September 15, 2010 8:23 pm


    Thanks for the 1920s ideas, I like them. May I use some of those principles and activities?

    As for the reaching out, they don’t have to make their blogs public. We do want them to reach out to professionals, scholars or bloggers from these fields if they have questions about their own research, things that they’ve read or if an individual writes and studies something that holds their interest. My friend Marci Zane ( is a librarian @ HC and working with me on it.

    This coming Friday we’re going to introduce social media and ask the kids about how they get news and have a conversation develop about how news gathering and reporting has changed with Web 2.0. That should get them thinking about what they’re doing and what they hope to accomplish.

    Each student will develop a thesis as time goes on. I have a feeling that it’ll be an organic process that will develop over the blog posts, but at the root I want them to be making connections between classical civilization and modern society — its one of the themes of our course. I don’t want to constrain them but I also want to give some guidance and shape to what they’re researching and writing about.

    Thanks for the support and interest. I too love the Met and I am so glad that we’re fortunate enough to be able to bring them to NY to see all of these collections. If you’ve never been, UPenn Museum of Anthropology and Archaeology is also quite a treasure!

  5. September 19, 2010 8:58 pm


    You may of course use any principles and activities you wish. Good luck with the project. Sounds like a good one. By the way, have you considered having them use Diigo to bookmark stuff? I’ve never done it (at least not with students–I do it with debaters), but I know some teachers do, and it sounds like it might fit in with what you’re doing.


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