One of my favorite lessons in US History was the integration of blogging with my students. I used a blog to create digital discussions amongst my students throughout the chapter. Students were required to research and understand six topics from a chapter focused on the Age of Jackson (a time in our history including famous events such as the Trail of Tears and Nullification Crisis), then answer a blog question for at least three of the topics. Students responded to open-ended, critical thinking questions in which their opinion was based on textual evidence researched from multiple resources. Students also were required to respond to at least two other students on the same blog question. This led to some fascinating discussions between my students and I was able to stay on the sidelines and watch. I didn’t have to give feedback to every student or filter every answer as so often happens when holding whole-class discussions.
*Note: If you are interested in integrating a blog in your classroom, I highly recommend the simplicity of Blogger. Schoology’s Discussion feature is also a quick, efficient method to implement this activity.
Asking the right question raises the critical thinking level. My blog questions always sought the students’ opinion on an historical event, rather than simply explaining it back to me. For example, students had to question President Jackson’s decision to punish Southern states who threatened secession in the Nullification Crisis. Was Jackson the strong leader that the country needs or should states have the right to secede? Students used evidence to support their opinion and then discussed with each other, giving them the opportunity to critique and hypothesize. As I reflect, it’s clear that this lesson could be raised to the next level. There are so many opportunities for students to express their opinion on the Age of Jackson through digital creation. Instead of simply replying to my questions, students could research events, then create podcasts, videos, wikis, and images to express their opinions and post them to the discussion. This would lead to further discussion, but this activity would also provide the class with some unique creations that represent how they have processed the events studied. The opportunity for expression has now far surpassed what was seen with simple written discussions in the blog comments section.
By Joe Zappa
Updated post, originally published (5/16/2015) on Thoughts on Teaching Middle School Social Studies (J. Zappa).
Image Credit – Webnode.com