This comes from an epiphany I had a little while ago: we all share lesson plans, but they’re not mostly what I really want. While every once in a while I find someone else’s lesson plan that does exactly what I want to do, it’s rare. My essential question for the unit is different from yours, my kids have already covered part of the material in your lesson and what I’m excited about is your approach to the other half, or your lesson is designed to last a week and I have forty-eight minutes. Usually, I end up either cannibalizing lesson plans for primary sources or browsing through them for new approaches. What I really want are not lesson plans but lesson templates: “here is a way you may not have thought of to teach this kind of thing.” Once I’ve got the idea, it’s no trouble to modify it for particular topics or circumstances. That, I find, is the way I do my planning for the coming year, too: I think ‘This would be a good place to do one of those round-table exercises,’ or ‘I want something with primary sources–what kind of primary source work have we not done in a while?’ Teaching is easier if you think in categories.
My first cookbook ever was Joy of Cooking. One of the things I loved about it was that, after the original recipe, she listed variations which, in many cases, completely transformed the effect (‘To make a white wine sauce instead of a red one…’). That is what I am trying to do here. My goal is to create a sort of cookbook for high school history classes which could be useful for new teachers but also will serve as a reminder for myself when I get into that mid-February rut.
I would love for this project to become a collaborative one, so if you have a lesson template you’d be willing to share–with prominent attribution, of course–please consider sending it to me, or simply sending me an appropriate link. We all learn from each other, and much of what I do in a classroom began with someone else, so I am including links here to approaches that I use and know to work but are not my own as well as writing up my own exercises on these pages. I hope that will be useful to someone.
I’m going to start with discussions, because that’s where I’ve been focusing lately, and go from there.
Primary source lessons