Showing posts with label Experiential. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Experiential. Show all posts

Monday, February 6, 2017

Advertising for Learning - Creating Super Bowl Commercials in Social Studies

While watching the Super Bowl last night, I was struck by the incredible phenomenon this event has become. Although it is a football game, its appeal expands far beyond sports. The Super Bowl is nearly always the highest rated television program of the year and comprises 19 of the 20 most watched television broadcasts in the United States (the MASH finale is the other one). This event transcends sports, having become a cultural sensation that permeates nearly every segment of our society. Those who are not football fans are drawn in by the commercials, the halftime show, or the general hoopla that surrounds events of this magnitude. In some cases, people tune in simply to have knowledge of a sure topic of conversation at workplaces, schools, and social gatherings across the United States. Regardless of why people watch, this event has become an expression of American culture. 

Last night, while watching and considering the significance of the Super Bowl, I began thinking about the power educators wield when we connect events that are important to students with learning. I know there are many different lessons that leverage student interest in the Super Bowl to reinforce important concepts. I’ve seen lessons that seek to emphasize math, economics, advertising, media literacy, and many other concepts. I’m all for these types of lessons. I think we, as educators, must use every means at our disposal to pique student interest in our content and to make learning relevant to their lives. 

Thinking through this led me to consider how we can apply the spectacle of the Super Bowl to a social studies class. I’m sure there are great lessons that look at the cultural impact of the Super Bowl. Additionally, students could examine the economic impact of this event. There is also an opportunity, especially in this year’s politically charged climate, to analyze political statements, whether overt or implied by performers, commercials, etc. While thinking about the many educational tie-ins offered by an event of this significance, I came to the conclusion that it would be fun to have students create their own Super Bowl commercials. The commercials are a big part of the cultural draw of the Super Bowl and are often a talking point for days afterward. This activity also allows teachers to inject a discussion of media literacy and current events into a lesson that draws upon this shared national experience. 

I have not thought through all the specifics of a lesson related to Super Bowl commercials, but I wanted to share a few possibilities of how this idea could be applied to a history or social studies course. Students could be tasked with investigating products or items of cultural significance from an era in history and creating a commercial to advertise one of these items. Although this could be applied to nearly any topic, I see it fitting very well with time periods such as the late 19th century, the 1920s or the 1950s. These eras were more consumer-oriented and included a number of new products and inventions that have had a lasting impact on our society. 

Geography or world cultures students could determine what events would be comparable to the Super Bowl in different countries, cultures, or regions of the world and develop commercials that could be applicable for these events. These ads could promote a consumer item, a cause, or something else that would be significant for the region being studied. Alternatively, students could develop ads for their class. These commercials could recap learning, highlight class activities, and/or promote the class to other students. 

Ideally, students would have plenty of time to investigate their topic, film a commercial, and perform edits to create a polished final product. However, if time constraints don’t allow for full implementation of this idea, the teacher could provide information and students could act their commercials out as live skits rather than taking time to film and edit a video commercial. Either way, I feel it is important to incorporate lessons on advertising techniques and media literacy along with this project. This helps ensure that students are not only learning our content, but also becoming knowledgeable 21st century citizens. 

Regardless of whether the final product is a video or a skit, I like the idea of having a viewing party that resembles a Super Bowl party as a culminating activity for this project. Commercials could also be posted online, allowing for a broader audience and students could be encouraged to comment on each others’ ads much like the commentary that accompanies Super Bowl commercials. This creates a great opportunity for a valuable discussion of digital citizenship and how to comment or respond appropriately online. 

In my experience, students love the opportunity to create. The process of creating a commercial requires students to apply their learning and to utilize many different skills, including the 21st century skills of creativity, critical thinking, communication, and collaboration, all while engaging in an activity that many students would enjoy. Please share any experiences you have had with a project like this or any additional ideas you may have that could enhance student learning in this type of lesson.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Scare Them into Learning on a "Crazy" Day

This morning I came across Patti Grayson’s post on MiddleWeb about The5 Craziest Times of the School Year. I certainly agree with Patti that each of these times presents a challenge. Students are excited, making it difficult to keep the focus on learning. However, as difficult as these days can be for teachers, they are important for students. The level of excitement that makes educators want to run for cover is one of the things that makes school enjoyable for students.

As I read Patti’s post I began thinking about ways we as teachers can channel student enthusiasm on these days into something productive. With Halloween lurking in the not too distant shadows, my thoughts turned to ways of focusing student energy on a day when they are thinking about costumes and treats rather than the historical significance of a topic we may be studying. Why not embrace their want of a Halloween party rather than trying to fight it? It seems like students might enjoy (and learn something from) a history-themed Halloween party.

Why not have students dress up as people from the past? Or in a costume they think a historical figure might have worn? Or as zombies representing the reanimated corpses of historical figures? Any of these options could be preceded by a small amount of research to establish background information on the individual they will portray. This requires students to learn about their character and justify why they dressed the way they did. Each student could be required to come to the party with a few prepared talking points that exemplify their person.

Alternatively, the party could be set around a specific time period, event, or issue. This would require students to be familiar with course content. Student research could focus on differing opinions related to the topic and how people might have discussed it at a get-together. Students could also research games and snacks that partygoers might have enjoyed during this time in history.

Any of these options could incorporate a number of other fun activities. A teacher could decide to divide the class into committees to decorate the room, develop games, come up with treats, etc. Each committee could ensure that everything adheres to the theme of the party. If a teacher is feeling very adventurous, he or she could even allow students to carve pumpkins that reflect the historical content being studied.

Sometimes we as teachers get so into our content that we forget to embrace the opportunities to make learning enjoyable. School needs to be a place where students feel they are allowed to enjoy themselves, without being shut down on days that might be important or exciting to them. When “crazy” days arise, find a way to use the energy to your advantage.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Who Dunnit?? -- Recreating the Kennedy Assassination for a Critical Analysis of Evidence

As I debated whether to enter the world of educational blogging (To Blog or not to Blog . . .), one of my reservations was whether I would have time to regularly update a blog.  Over the last few weeks, this concern became a reality.  Although I have not updated Adventures in History Class for a few weeks, I am not abandoning this venture and I am going to make an effort to be more consistent in my posting.
This week I taught about John F. Kennedy’s assassination, which is one of my favorite U.S. history lessons.  I enjoy this lesson because I am personally interested in the topic, but also due to the fact that it is one of the lessons that students come back years later to talk about.  Year after year this lesson piques student interest while forcing them to think critically about every piece of information.
My goal in presenting this lesson is to expose students to the controversy surrounding JFK’s assassination while forcing them to interact with historical details.  I am not trying to promote any conspiracy theories, but I do want students to recognize the reasons why as many as 80% of Americans have expressed doubts about the findings of the Warren Commission.  In the process, I am able to incorporate a review of some of the key concepts we have studied throughout our unit on the Kennedy administration.
I begin the lesson by showing the Zapruder Film.  Before showing the film, I warn students that it is a graphic video of a sensitive nature and they must be considerate of this during the video.  As we watch the Zapruder Film, I ask students to describe what is shown and to detail any evidence investigators could draw from the video.
After discussing the evidence in the video, we re-create the scene of the crime.  I display a diagram of Dealey Plaza and explain how different parts of our classroom will represent key locations within Dealey Plaza.  
Next I assign students to take on the role of witnesses to the assassination.  Each student is given a slip of paper including a brief summary of statements given by the witness they represent (witness statements can be gathered and summarized from many websites including: History Matters: The JFK Assassination, JFK Online, and Spartacus Educational).  Any combination of witness statements may be used; I usually use Nellie Connally, Bob Jackson, Harold Norman, Jean Hill, Abraham Zapruder, S.M. Holland, the Umbrella Man, and the Dark Complected Man.  Additionally, I have students take on the role of JFK, Jackie Kennedy, and John Connally, although these students are not given slips to indicate their recollections.  I recognize that the credibility of some accounts of the assassination have been questioned, but this spurs just the type of conversations that I want students to have.
The students playing each role are placed in the appropriate locations in the room to represent their vantage point in Dealey Plaza and we go around the room with each student sharing a summary of the actions and/or statements given by the person they represent.  Following each statement, students are allowed to ask questions and to speculate as to how this testimony could provide clues to an investigator.  As we discuss the various observations, I throw in additional information following each account of the assassination.  Through this process I incorporate background information on Lee Harvey Oswald, Oswald’s purported actions following the assassination, the Magic Bullet theory, Jack Ruby’s role, conflicting claims about the wounds suffered by JFK, and further information about each witness and their account of the assassination.
Lastly, I ask students to analyze one of the theories posed on Spartacus Educational (scroll down about two-thirds of the way to the section titled Primary Sources: Theories).  After analyzing one of these theories, students complete a writing assignment where they either support or refute the theory they chose to read.
Inevitability, students are completely engrossed in the conflicting evidence and various theories involving the assassination of John F. Kennedy.  This high level of engagement along with seemingly contradictory evidence and accounts results in students analyzing available data and thinking critically about all information, which is exactly what I want students to do as they study the past.


Thursday, January 24, 2013

What Happens in the Trench Stays in the Trench -- Experiencing Trench Warfare

One of the things that I always try to include when developing lesson plans is an interactive element.  This can be achieved many different ways: students can interact with the teacher, with each other, with the content, or even be physically active as an experiential aspect of the lesson.  Whenever possible, I try to incorporate multiple forms of interactivity.  Including these elements in a lesson helps to better engage students in the material, addresses multiple learning styles, and promotes improved retention of content.  This week I did this as I developed a lesson idea to study World War I.  

My U.S. History class has studied the causes and the beginning of World War I and was ready to begin looking at the actual fighting that took place.  Before developing this lesson idea, I determined the outcomes that I want my students to know about the fighting in World War I; primarily that trench warfare was the chief battle tactic, that new technologies affected the course and conduct of battles, and that conditions greatly contributed to the number of deaths in World War I.  As I pondered various lesson ideas to achieve these objectives, I kept coming back to the fact that students needed to recognize what it was like for soldiers involved in trench warfare.  To help students recognize various aspects of trench warfare while incorporating interactive elements, I determined that students needed to get into the trenches. 

Creating trenches within my classroom allowed for an experiential aspect of my lesson, but students also needed to interact with information related to life in the trenches.  This conclusion led me to develop a lesson idea where students would analyze various documents related to trench warfare while they were in the trenches.

I began the lesson by having students read The Trenches-What They Were Really Like by Paul Fussell on PBS’s The Great War site.  After this initial exposure to trench warfare, I clarified key aspects of this battle tactic for students.  My explanation included a description of the layout of the battlefield and some of the military technologies that played an important role in World War I (most notably poisonous gas and the machine gun).  This inevitably leads students to question the wisdom of such a style of warfare, which we follow up with a discussion of the benefits of a defensive battle strategy.  This creates an opportunity to briefly discuss what it takes to win a war where both sides are playing defense.  It is within this discussion that I introduce the concept of a war of attrition and the significance of the U.S. entry in these terms.

After ensuring that students have a basic understanding of trench warfare, I ask them what they think it would be like to be a soldier in the trenches.  I then explain to students that they will get a chance to experience life in the trenches.  At this point I divide the class into two teams and create trenches out of desks on opposite sides of the room.  Soldiers who entered “no man’s land” or raised up above the top of the trenches risked being shot, so students are advised that they may not engage in this risky behavior.  For our purposes, I explain that the top of the desks represents the top of the trenches and that students must remain below trench level throughout this activity. This can be incentivized by offering candy or some other reward to the side that best meets this expectation.

Getting students onto the floor to simulate the trenches met my requirement for physical activity, but I still wanted students to interact with the content.  To this end, I created three activities that students would complete in each trench.  The first activity requires students to analyze various photographs of trench warfare (there are many pictures available by conducting a simple image search).  Students were to choose the three pictures that they found the most interesting and then write a brief explanation of what they see and what that particular photo can tell us about trench warfare.  The second activity involves analysis of a firsthand account of a gas attack.  Students are instructed to read Gas Attack, 1916 from Eyewitness to  After skimming through this account, students are to write a 2 paragraph diary entry as if they have just survived a gas attack.  For the third station, I give each student an index card with which they are to create a postcard.  One side of the postcard must include an illustration depicting the trench system (I found several diagrams of the trench system for students to reference by conducting an image search).  The other side of the postcard is to be a message from a soldier explaining life in the trenches to their family back home.

There are also a number of videos on YouTube and other online sources that can be played as students are experiencing trench life.  Many of these videos offer historical footage of trench warfare that can help students to understand the experience of life in the trenches.

Students are allowed 10-15 minutes to complete their assigned activity before they are instructed to rotate to the next station.  I stress to students that they must remain below trench level at all times, even during the rotation. We continue this process until students have been to each of the three stations.

After students have complete the third activity, I instruct them to take out a new piece of paper and write a 1-2 sentence description of trench warfare.  After allowing a couple of minutes for students to complete this explanation, I tell them to ball their paper up and throw it at the opposing trench.  Each student must now collect a ball of paper thrown by one of their classmates and read the description on it to their group.  Groups must determine which description best explains trench warfare and share this description with the class.  As groups share their explanations of trench warfare we can debrief the activity and compare student experiences to a soldier’s life in the trenches during World War I.

This lesson idea allows students to experience life in the trenches by crawling through a space created in class while interacting with primary source documents that demonstrate the realities of trench warfare.  This allows for student interactivity with their classmates and with primary source materials while being physically active in the simulation of life in the trenches.  Students have now gained a better understanding of what soldiers experienced during World War I while practicing the skill of interpreting primary sources.