So, I’m getting ready to go to this reunion a week from Saturday. (Well, I’m thinking and talking a lot about it.) Today a colleague showed me this video. featuring Lin-Manuel Miranda doing a rap. It’s cool. But what’s cooler is that the rap is done, says Miranda, “about someone who embodies Hip Hop”. And by this he means Treasury Secretary, Alexander Hamilton. I’m thinking about showing this at the reunion. I want to show it because it’s cool. It’s a fresh and very different take on a historic figure. But mostly I want to show it because I know it engages students. I’m guessing an introduction to Hamilton’s life through this guy might interest middle school students slightly more than being asked to read another chapter of this.
Maybe I’ll use this video depicting how late it is to apologize. It’s about the Declaration of Independence. History needs to be fun to capture young learners.
If we’re going to use primary source documents, and I agree we need to, we must also be teaching kids the mad reading skills specific to the content area. The reason for reading matters. The context of a document matters. In fact, we cannot truly understand or “read” a political or historic document without an understanding of the context in which it was written. We can read for language and through the lens of our time, certainly. We do this all the time. But with history, we must consider both the source and the context.
I’m considering sharing a primary source document at the reunion which was first brought to my awareness by the amazingly on target folks at Stanford History Education Group (SHEG). It’s a proclamation given by Benjamin Harrison when he was running for reelection to his presidency. I am not a historian. I am an elementary school teacher. And, to quote Kelly Gallagher, I am not a literature teacher, I am a literacy teacher. I’m hoping to bring home the importance of content area literacy – of reading historical or political documents like historians read them by giving participants opportunity to experience reading in this way.
Thank you, Two Writing Teachers for a place to share my writing adventure, Slice of Life 2015