As a prospective social studies teacher, most activities that don’t involve writing papers or reading textbooks in the classroom don’t travel far from looking for sources that explain history. In hindsight my activity copied the BBC production Dr. Who fairly well, but that was not my intention. My activity is called “Diary of a Time Traveler”. In a nutshell, my activity asks students to write four diary entries from various perspective as they travel to four different time periods. The diary entries are posted on a student-created website.
Hook – My hook was to have students reflect on what it would be like for people living at different places in time to experience events that have shaped world history. I appealed to students’ interests by giving them a choice for a person they would like to be for each major time period in the World History II SOL.
Focus – I wanted the students who complete my activity to ask questions like what it might be like to live in the court of Elizabeth I or be a soldier under the command of Douglas Macarthur. Then, I wanted them to ask questions like “How would I find that out?” and “Where would I look”? These questions would lead the students into researching.
Methodology – The procedures to answer these questions are addressed by myself as the teacher. Students will assume a “perspective” and research primary and secondary sources to understand what life would have been like as each perspective. Then, they will write as if they were the perspective they were searching about and document their research. They will post these written works as an online diary entry on a self-created Google site to share with the world. Before they are finished, students will have a chance to discuss their findings with their peers and have the teacher check to see that they are following the procedures.
Resources – Gathering data is scaffolded for the students in this activity. A custom Google search engine is provided to model what credible websites look like and where to find primary sources. Some topics are intentionally left out of the search so students pursue those topics on their own using the examples from the custom search engine. This encourages them to explore and investigate the Internet.
Tools – Students will analyze their findings and synthesize secondary and primary sources to create an original diary entry that reflects the perspective they chose to represent. They will use various resources provided on the activity’s homepage to find and cite their reserach. Also, they will use Google sites to format their diary entries and make them available to the public.
Defend – This aspect of the inquiry activity is the final product of the activity. Each diary entry is a representation of the students being able to report their findings and manipulate into original prose and understand what is might have been like to live under different circumstances. Well written entries will demonstrate these aspects.
How is this all supportive of student learning??
Technology – The use of Google sites allows students to have a different platform other than writing on paper to present their work. Students have the opportunity to change font, make text bold and change its colors, and add pictures to their sites. Students who have difficulty presenting their work in front of their peers may feel less being able to complete their assignments in this format. Understanding how to use the Internet to create sites is a tool that will come in use in the future and makes the student accountable for the information they put on their site based off of what they learned through their research.
Internet Research – Understanding what is credible and what is not credible on the Internet is not only a valuable skill to have, but it is a SOL standard. This activity promotes this skill by asking students to research from examples given to them and then use those models to look for resources of their own.
Research – As students research, they need to understand what they are looking at. By focusing the assignment on primary sources, students will understand that history is written based on primary sources
Writing – Students will have to analyze and evaluate their research to understand bias (cultural and political), emotion, and historical context. When reading a primary source a student may question why the person believes certain things. That question can be answered by understanding historical context. Students will then have to replicate this style of writing in their own which encourages the development of writing skills
Overall – Students will gain a well-rounded understanding of different historical time periods beyond facts and figures presented in textbooks. The activity humanizes history.
I really enjoyed this activity and liked that I was able to be creative. Hopefully, I will be able to use this project in my own classroom soon.