The new unit on revolutions is content heavy. We are exploring the American road to revolution and the Revolutionary War. In the past students have created timelines that are a reference that will be used in the next unit when learning the U.S. Constitution. This year changed the project to involve a larger world view.
Through many years of teaching American government it became clear that students believe that all revolutions are romantic affairs, where people with strong beliefs and ideals rise against a tyrannical government, face them in a series of bloody battles and exit in a triumphant manner. The current social studies curriculum in America leaves a lot to be desired, time being the most essential one. Students simply do not have the time to fully explore the grit, gore and blood of a revolution. Furthermore, they never have a single mandated class that teaches the history of our most important allies and enemies. A frequent question that arises is:
How can we expect students to understand the world around them without having any context to put current world events into?
How can students understand current events if they know nothing of Russian or Chinese history?
How can students understand politics and foreign affairs if they never learn about the diverse cultures of the world?
In a small attempt to bridge a bit of this gap students are tasked with comparing and contrasting the American Revolution which I will be teaching and a revolution from a foreign country. They will explore the “other” revolution independently with their assigned groups, through a research scaffold they will be guided.
In a final project students will synthesize all of the information they have gathered from both revolutions and present them in infographics. The infographics are NOT online poster boards. Students are challenged to stretch their imaginations to create visuals that engage their audience and present information in a visual way. There are no slides, no poster and no blocks of text. The learning will be the easy part, the understanding will be the struggle.
The Task Statement lays bare the relationship between the English and the American colonists that eventually develops into war. It summarizes necessary content information and is an engaging and easy read.
The driving questions however apply to any revolution.
WHAT IDEALS MAKE A REVOLUTION SUCCESSFUL?
HOW DOES A COUNTRY’S PAST AFFECT ITS FUTURE?
The following paragraph clarifies:
“You will study the American Revolution and a revolution of another country. Through your research you will identify what successful means in terms of a revolution, the elements of revolutions and the ideals that drive them. You will examine how this revolution affected the people that led it as well as the world around them. Finally, you will create a visual that compares and contrasts the revolutions and chose one ideal to write an in depth analysis of.
By understanding shifts in politics and culture you will have a deeper understanding of the world and WHY some countries and cultures behave in certain ways in our present global society. “
After reading the Task Statement together students then brainstorm questions to calrify any issues up front.
The next step is taking a deep dive into the Celebration Criteria.
The students take the celebration criteria was a road map to build their flap, or visual project board. They have learned from the first project that they must deconstruct the celebration criteria to have a clear view of their project and ensure they meet all standards within the criteria.
Students immediately launch into action. They pull apart the criteria and immediately break it down into stories and tasks. Their flaps are up and built within one class period. This is not magic. There are still questions and clarifying, but the swiftness and confidence that can be seen is unparalleled.
Revolution builds excitement. The students are eager to learn about their past and the revolutions that they hear referenced, but never get to explore. The expansion of their visual creativity is scary but the nerves are already driving them to verbalize giddy “What if…” questions.
We have launched into our second project and the prospects are endless.