Archive for May, 2012

During this week, my U.S. History students completed a review of the Cold War and began work on their Classroom Based Assessment. My Advanced Placement U.S. History students began their video review of history- their reward for completing the A.P. test.
The U.S. History students have been working on a review for about a week since they finished their Vietnam unit. We watched two films on the Cold War in class and completed a set of notes that detailed the central Cold War events that took place since the Vietnam War. The plan had been originally to have the students complete a project assignment that had them describe each event that was a possible topic for the CBA during the video review. However, when I started this process with the students I found that they had checked out during the film and were not completing the assignment. For this reason, I abandoned my original plan for the unit and wrote notes for the review film and constructed a set of lecture notes. This experience was invaluable because it has helped me realize the balance that needs to be established between student initiative and guided learning. The students need to be given the opportunity to explore topics and issues on their own. However, if they are given too little guidance they will not willingly pursue understanding unless scaffolds and expectations are properly in place. The ideal classroom is an environment where students feel compelled to pursue understanding on their own. This is a goal that I have set for my future classroom.
These students also began the process of completing their Classroom Based Assessment, which assesses each student’s ability to analyze causes of a significant Cold War event. Each student has been assigned a topic that has been previously covered in class and will be completing a 2 to 4 page paper analyzing causes from specific social science perspectives. For each day the student has been assigned a specific objective, which assists each student in preparing their materials for the essay. During Thursday and Friday of this week, the students worked individually in the library to complete each daily assignment. There has been some confusion regarding daily assignments and some conflict over topic assignment. I was not able to give every student their first topic but was mostly able to give them one of their second or third choices. There has still been some shuffling of topics as students have realized that their original topic has been more difficult to research than they originally thought. Besides this, the last two days of the week were greatly productive.
With the A.P. students I have begun a series of historical films which address different aspects of the 20th century. To maintain educational progress and learning, I created a series of reflection questions that accompany each film. These reflection questions will be completed in addition to a generic worksheet created by my mentor teacher which asks generic questions about Hollywood’s interpretation of history. With this process it has been difficult to keep students focused on the content of the film because the A.P. students have mostly checked out after the A.P. test. On Wednesday, I began to consider abandoning the film unit because students were not paying attention to the film. Besides my frustration with their apparent rudeness, I was in the position where the lack of attention in class was creating a complete lack of productivity. If the students were getting nothing out of the films I was showing in class, why show them? I informed students of this perspective and their attitude and conduct in class changed dramatically the next day.

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