Living History in the Classroom

Cover of Living History in the Classroom

Performance and Pedagogy

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Synopsis

Table of contents

(16 chapters)

Prelims

Pages i-xxiii
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Abstract

The introduction presents the challenges of teaching history and social studies within a society that questions why we should learn about the past. It summarizes federal legislation and funding that have both expanded and limited history education at various times. It suggests that historical interpretation and performance are ways to engage students in their ability to make meaning of the past and engage in inquiry, at a time when student access to historical information and media is often overwhelming. The introduction concludes with a summary of all chapters as they advance a process for historical inquiry through storytelling and interpretation.

Making History

Pages 11-25
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Abstract

Professional storytelling and interpretive techniques can be successfully adapted for the classroom. For educators, character interpretation is an especially effective teaching tool. The author uses her extensive experience as an actress, storyteller, and educator to explain why character interpretation works so effectively to engage students and capture their attention. More than traditional methods of instruction, these established techniques put a “face” on history: They place people and events in a relatable, humanizing context that supports the teaching of controversial topics such as human rights and revolution. Using real-world examples, Tucker explains how character interpretation attracts people at all levels of ability and interest. Such presentations enable students to not only connect with historical figures' perspectives and motivations but also compare their own contemporary worldviews. Further, teachers can connect STEM education with history through their choice of people to portray, drawing from contemporary as well as historical figures to illustrate key learning concepts. This chapter outlines the educational value of framing a presentation within a socio/political/scientific context; doing so helps students to relate the presentation content to their own perceptions and to frame appropriate questions for the character if a Q&A takes place. The chapter further deconstructs the complexities of character interpretation into a series of manageable steps, explaining the sequence of storytelling from character conception to performance. Guiding questions at the end provide useful suggestions for dramatic presentations by teachers and students.

Abstract

Storytelling began quite possibly as early as 15,000 bc, with cave drawings of animals and a man. Enduring because of its appeal to the human spirit and imagination, stories illuminate and inspire as well as bridge a gap between fact and fiction. From the time we are little children, stories have taken us on a journey. Whether simple or complex, we use them to remember; we use them to create; we use them to disrupt. But there is a Part Two to the power of a story that can be found in telling it – in the act of becoming the storyteller. In either presenting a narrative or sharing the narrative as the character, one transforms from a learner to a teacher. And in that transformation is found deep understanding and learning. There is a story at every turn in education – in history, in languages, in maths, in science – everywhere. This chapter will discuss the tremendous value of the story, not just in the telling but as the teller.

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Abstract

This chapter sets forth a plan designed to encourage and enable teachers to engage in first-person characterization in their classrooms. The author draws on his extensive background in social studies teaching, administration, and consulting to argue for the value of historical interpretation within the context of today's curricular emphasis on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). This chapter then explores and explains historical interpretation from a classroom perspective, focusing on pedagogical best practices. In a first-person presentation, the presenter assumes the identity of a historical figure. The first question to be asked then is, Who is the individual I wish to represent, and why? This person should be selected from subject matter being studied in your class. Be aware that it is necessary to anticipate some element of controversy when you undertake this activity. With rare exceptions, any historical figure selected for portrayal will have something questionable in their background, and you will have to contend with this. So, the next question to ask is, Why engage in first-person interpretation in the first place? In this chapter, experienced teachers provide reasons for doing so, and consider necessary preparations for effectively implementing such a characterization. That discussion leads to examining ways to ensure successful presentations that achieve established lesson goals, followed by suggestions for debriefing and effectively bringing closure to the exercise. As the accompanying lesson extension demonstrates, a characterization can ground further study of an issue associated with the individual being depicted.

Abstract

This chapter discusses an innovative teaching method using an avatar to engage young learners in United States geographic studies. While this technique does not call for a teacher to perform in character, it is directly related to storytelling. The educator successfully personifies an inanimate object for engagement and education, linking it to learning objectives. In the author's case, “Moffat the Traveling Rabbit” accompanies first-grade Colorado students in their study of all 50 states. By endowing such an object with human qualities, the teacher draws students in to standards-based instruction presented in a new way. The use of an icon or figure is familiar to video gamers in representing themselves and other players. In education, presenting nonvisual concepts in character form is a familiar strategy and has multiple benefits for young students. As chapter examples demonstrate, teaching history, geography, and writing skills through an avatar encourages creativity and a sense of accessibility to those subjects for the young child. As the author also points out, students who experience discomfort in some situations may feel supported by a nonthreatening “companion” accepted within the class, enabling them to participate. By teaching with an avatar, students are drawn into experiential learning while practicing grade-level skills across multiple curricula. Such experiential learning promotes meaningful curiosity and creates a foundational base from which to make further connections. The author outlines how she has used a stuffed rabbit in her classroom to make these connections, inspiring her students to write their own geography- and history-based stories.

Abstract

In this chapter, the author shares almost 2 decades of experience as Director of Colonial Day at the Oklahoma State Capitol in guiding students' storytelling and historical interpretation. Storytelling provides specific benefits in the classroom, including increased student interest, creativity, citizenship, and awareness of heritage and history. The author explains the pedagogical and curricular value of storytelling and historical interpretation activities; she provides a strong rationale for involving students in both processes for engagement and also as a multimodal learning method. Potter shows how to develop an effective instructional sequence that addresses not only assessment but also student motivation and creativity. Modeling storytelling and historical interpretation for students prepares them to take the next steps in research and development for their own presentations that incorporate language arts, social studies, civics, and critical thinking skills. The author provides detailed suggestions on directing student performances at the community and state levels, which in turn foster a sense of personal achievement and external recognition for their work. This chapter includes resources and strategies to support students in choosing historical figures and stories for their projects, in conducting research, in story mapping, and in identifying performance criteria. At the performance level, the author offers tips on coaching students effectively and using media. She concludes with recommendations on how to showcase student work at the school and state levels, to build parent involvement, and to manage funding and publicity.

Abstract

This chapter focuses on the objectives of historical interpretation (particularly teaching objectives outside of the traditional name- and date-driven curriculum), ideas that lead to creating a safe environment for students to be willing to try character portrayal themselves, content typically taught using this strategy, and successfully implemented sample lessons and activities by the authors that effectively utilize and harness the power of historical interpretation. These activities involve intense and intentional skill–based instruction that scaffolds students throughout their coursework, filling the school year with meaningful student-researched and student-produced historical interpretation. The authors discuss their teaching philosophy in relation to history and social studies, explaining why historical interpretation benefits teaching and learning. Through teacher- and student-driven character portrayals, the authors have created vibrant, secure classroom environments where students become responsible for their own learning and enthusiastic about research, writing, and performing. The chapter contains recommendations for coaching students in artifact analysis, performance, historical thinking strategies, storytelling, and creative writing. While they acknowledge that living history is not a “one-size-fits-all” solution to teaching history and social studies, they demonstrate that the unique learning culture that can result, providing student reflections to illustrate that point. The authors include and explain several effective resources that they have developed for student analysis of artifacts/objects, for guiding historical thinking, and for researching and writing. The chapter concludes with suggestions for individual and large group performance activities and advice on how to grade living history projects, keeping learning in mind as a component of holistic grading of creative student products.

Abstract

This chapter presents performance pedagogy as an interdisciplinary construct and potential bridge between history-based performance and classroom teaching. This chapter proposes Living History in the Classroom: Performance and Pedagogy's central theme: that storytelling and historical interpretation are effective teaching tools. These techniques are integral at many public history settings for on-site and outreach education; Freeman Tilden's foundational 1957 interpretive guidelines for America's national parks paired engagement with education and still influence the public history field. Yet, a review of related literature suggests that limited attention has been paid to translating these techniques for educators' use, whether as performers, as mentors for their students, or in collaborating with historic sites. The pedagogy inherent in storytelling and interpretive performance aligns with their potential instructional value, as has been documented for educator's performance pedagogy in the arts. Similarly, the continuing need to engage current and new audiences impacts how these organizations conduct educational programs and visitor attractions. In the same respect, PK-16 educators and administrators consistently seek best practices for engaging today's Generation Z students (born between 1997 and 2012) and the generation that follows, termed Generation Alpha (McCrindle, 2020). This chapter features a performance pedagogy model that combines historical and instructional objectives that draw from research and observation of first-person interpreters performing in teacher professional development workshops and the author's personal instructional and interpretive experience. This chapter contains a related interview with a noted historian-performer and for educators' use, a worksheet with guiding questions to create or analyze a historical character, educational content, related pedagogy, and key aspects of a performance.

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Abstract

This chapter offers professional advice for educators, particularly those unfamiliar with history-based performance, on how to move their historic character research to the place of actual portrayal. Using a questioning method, the author takes the reader step-by-step through essential elements of historical character portrayal such as character perspective, props, and costuming, placing them within the context of educational objectives and performance logistics. The author discusses in detail differences between portraying a well-known historical figure versus someone connected to that person. She explains the importance of choosing a date for a first-person portrayal, as it defines what the character “knows,” and provides techniques for handling questions beyond the character's date range. For newcomers to researching and portraying historical figures, it is important to consider the following points: What is each character teaching? Where will the presentation be held? Is the presentation solely for students, or does it include peers, parents, or administrators? This chapter addresses these critical questions along with research techniques, performance methods, and practical suggestions for obtaining costumes and props. In addition, the author discusses presentation skills required for an effective presentation, such as voice, mood, and movement. She provides examples from her own professional repertoire showing how techniques such as pace level and articulation work effectively in front of an audience and breaks down the structure of a 20- to 45-minute presentation. The author gives examples of how to be prepared for audience questions and unexpected interruptions during a performance. Finally, she explains the importance of the “story” in historic character presentations to enhance its teaching and presentation effectiveness.

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Abstract

Acting is a tool that can bring satisfaction to performers and audiences alike, particularly when understanding inspires connections to another person and to a historical character. This chapter outlines the lessons and challenges one may face when building a historical character, particularly when that portrayal is based on the complex history of the United States. For performers of color, race is part of the process. For educators who plan to perform themselves, to prepare students to create history-based performances, or to have students observe professional portrayals, cultural and racial awareness is key. A people's heritage ― with its beliefs, traditions, and even trauma ― cannot be separated from their individual or collective stories. Culture and race represent a crucial part of their narrative and their identity. Drawing from childhood stories of life in the segregation era, the author explains what it meant then and now to “walk another way” in developing racial awareness, sharing how these memories have affected her professional and creative work. This chapter illustrates the multiple considerations involved in presenting characters from different time periods and culture. In particular, portraying characters or telling stories concerning America's history of oppression can impact the audience as well as the performer. The author shares her perspective as an African-American woman, explaining in detail the logistics of performance experience as a whole. She uses examples from her own character development of people of color from the seventeenth through the twentieth centuries to illustrate how the use of research and primary documents contribute to script development.

Abstract

This chapter explores ways to think about historical “stuff” and how to use objects to create a rich presentation and understanding of both time periods and historical figures. Items can help “set the stage” while also offering insight into subtle details about specific people, like their tastes and movements and whether they were right- or left-handed. These details help make the past come alive and provide avenues for people to make deep personal connections with historical events and figures. For teachers, objects can enrich their lessons by literally setting the stage with the items that witnessed historical activities and periods. Their students, on the other hand, might find that objects can help turn abstract historical events and figures into tangible happenings and people. This chapter discusses material culture studies and ways to interrogate objects before examining how objects can help inform interpretation.

Abstract

In the online media world, students are usually the consumers of media content. The advent of social media provides a wide variety of content that is streamed into their devices 24/7/365 much of which is unvetted and/or focused only upon the type of content that they have “liked.” While this content can be entertaining or disturbing, it remains within the realm of user absorption often without critical thinking or even a rudimentary screening as to the quality, accuracy, and authority of the content or its providers. The goal with the classroom uses of technology as it relates especially to the history classroom is to move the student from content consumer to content creator. Students who learn how to appropriately search for and vet relevant content in the process of creating a product that demonstrates learned knowledge on a given topic also learn what makes for high-quality production values in a setting that affords students the skills needed to more fully function within an online world. The concept of “Digital Natives” versus “Digital Immigrants” often separates students from teachers, but that, and in most circumstances, is not a truly dividing phenomenon that is seen in most classrooms today since the idea of lifelong learners has equaled the playing field. Success arrives when creative teachers and students are working together in a project-oriented study of American history that uses classroom-tested techniques that can assist educators and students in the management of technology applications to enhance learning.

Making Connections

Pages 211-234
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Abstract

This chapter focuses on growing professionally and encouraging peers' skills. The author opens by relating her experience in initiating and implementing museum-integrated instruction as a curricular program at all grade levels. She discusses the steps involved in creating one of the nation's first Museum Magnet Schools, from introducing the idea to her school and district to managing all the logistics needed to support it: funding, partnerships, professional development, curriculum writing, and partnerships. Strategically working with teachers, administrators, and organizations builds upon foundations in pedagogy and curriculum and reduces barriers to implementation. The chapter outlines effective strategies for building a dedicated team of faculty and administrators within your school, using professional development and encouragement to gain “buy-in” for projects such as school and student exhibitions. Such activities change the school culture in positive ways, with teachers becoming “ambassadors” to parents, professional learning communities, and other education stakeholders. Harnessing the power of connections to grow as a professional and growing communities of expertise cultivates performance pedagogy and brings history alive for students. By networking with experts from museums and historic sites, educators can tap into museum techniques such as exhibition design and object-based inquiry, which can be powerful tools for experiential learning. The chapter also contains outreach strategies for effectively presenting such initiatives at professional conferences and employing the power of social media through blogging and Twitter. As the author notes based on a decade of experience, the potential for student engagement from museum-related strategies is a persuasive argument for educators and administrators to collaborate in adapting them.

Postscript

Pages 235-235
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Index

Pages 237-242
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