213. I teach US History in a rural high school in North Carolina. Many new Spanish-speaking students have moved into the area and attend my classes. The immense textbook we use in my classes makes it impossible for my students --all my students, English-only speakers and English Learners-- to read with understanding everything the text covers. How can I provide instruction to obtain maximum learning from my students with so much to "cover" in the text?
Recently I had the opportunity to provide four days of lesson demonstrations on US History at a secondary school in NC. The classroom teacher provided for me the key US History objectives to be mastered by the students, plus a list of vocabulary items relating to each of the objectives.
I agree with you that the textbook used, with 1,100+pages, is an unmanageable tool particularly for the students. My job, then, was to SELECT very specific sections, paragraphs, sentences, text lines, captions and heading that helped the students understand the key ideas, based on the objectives and the key vocabulary or key terms. I needed to use lots of pictures as I developed critical thinking skills --comparing, contrasting, summarizing, synthesizing, predicting, and evaluating.
My first step, then, in preparing my lesson demonstrations was to SELECT --given the
objectives and the key vocabulary-- very specific parts or segments from the textbook
chapter that would be read by the students during my demonstration.
The second step was to do an analysis of the vocabulary in those selected segments. ALL vocabulary words in the selected readings were separated into meaningful categories as shown next:
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As I began to teach the lesson, I wrote the vocabulary words on the board (In my own classroom in Los Angeles I use an LCD --Liquid Crystal Display, which is a very effective and convenient piece of equipment for introducing the vocabulary: the clarity of the font and the crispness of the projected image provide a sharp and, hopefully, unforgettable image of the vocabulary words as they are introduced one by one in meaningful categories). As I introduced the vocabulary I would explain each word in terms of the ideas presented in the text so that, when students would read by themselves the selected pieces in the text, they would be able to read with 95-100% understanding. THAT IS THE GOAL IN ALL CONTENT AREA CLASSES: Students reading with 95-100% understanding the FIRST TIME they read the text because they had, BEFORE reading, seen every word, heard the teacher use every word, answered questions using the words being introduced and given evidence of understanding what the words meant through their responses to the teacher's questions.
I introduced the vocabulary by sections --General ideas, ITALY, GERMANY, USSR, (and SPAIN), and after each section the corresponding selected section was read from the textbook. To read the selected parts, I would read and stop before a key vocabulary word. The students, together outloud, then read the key vocabulary word AFTER my stop. I would continue reading after the students had read the one key vocabulary word until the next stop.
Now that the students had seen the vocabulary words, heard me using the words as I introduced them, read the words after I stopped, and used the vocabulary words as they interacted with me through my questions, I began building high level thinking skills. Using pictures of Mussolini, Hitler, Stalin and Franco, students had to compare and contrasts these leaders according to some key ideas mentioned in the text like, nationalism, government controls of private property, militaristic expansionism, ideology, etc. A slide of "Guernica" by Pablo Picasso, and pictures provided in the textbook, served to illustrate some of the similarities and differences. Students re-read the selected portions of the text in pairs before comparing and contrasting the "leaders." Finally, students predicted which of these "leaders" would become our allies and why.
The next day I introduced lots of pictures (on transparencies) and asked the students if they could recognize the people and the event(s) in each of the pictures. If not, we began to compile a list of questions about what they wanted to know about the pictures. A long list of student-generated questions provided the basis for introducing the additional vocabulary and key concepts in this lesson (NOT shown here). Their predictions were discussed: They thought Mussolini should have been our allied!! The expression "War makes strange bedfellows" was explained.
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