Teaching American History

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Alabama 2009 Grant Abstracts
Archived Information

Grantee Name:Elmore County School District
Project Name:Becoming Historians
Project Director:Andre Harrison
Funding:$841,609 over 5 years
Number of Teachers Served Overall:30
Number of School Districts Served:1
Grade Levels:K-12
Partners: Auburn University Montgomery, Birmingham Southern College, Organization of American Historians, Alabama Department of History and Archives
Topics:Year 1: Three Worlds Meet (Beginnings-1620); Colonization and Settlement (1585-1763)
Year 2: Revolution and the New Nation (1754-1820s); Expansion and Reform (1801-1861)
Year 3: Civil War and Reconstruction (1850-1877); Development of the Industrial United States (1870-1877)
Year 4: The Emergence of Modern America (1890-1930); The Great Depression and World War II (1929-1945)
Year 5: Postwar United States (1945-1970s); Contemporary United States (1968-present)
Methods: Kick-off event, workshops, summer academies, independent study, online collaboration, lesson study

The Elmore County Public School District serves 15 schools in central Alabama, including two designated as needing improvement; Becoming Historians will give priority to these schools as it selects program participants. Project activities (to be based on five categories of benchmarks—collaboration, content, pedagogy, historical thinking, and assessment) will include a day-long kick-off event each August; a day-long workshop every other month to help teachers practice using resources beyond textbooks; an annual 5-day summer academy (to include 2 days at historical sites or museums); independent study and facilitated group discussion of two scholarly books a year; online collaboration to share ideas and build a community of practice; and mentoring based on the Lesson Study approach. All activities will be aligned with the Becoming Historians blueprint, which describes an ideal American history classroom and is based on the Concerns-Based Adoption Model. The 30 teachers selected for the program will include some who have degrees in history and others who have minimal academic credentials in history; the program will foster mentoring relationships among the group. Becoming Historians will combine a broad survey course of American history and in-depth inquiry into selected historical periods to develop the theme that no person, place, event or idea is truly insignificant. Instruction and lesson planning will emphasize “best practices” and instructional strategies that develop students’ historical thinking skills through interactions with a variety of instructional resources. Teachers will contribute lesson plans and student artifacts to an online workspace and will participate in online collaboration to sustain a district-wide community of practice.

Grantee Name:Lee County Board of Education
Project Name:Plowing Freedom’s Ground
Project Director:John Saye
Funding:$1,723,751 over 5 years
Number of Teachers Served Overall:150
Number of School Districts Served:4
Grade Levels:4-12
Partners:Persistent Issues in History Network at Auburn University
Topics:Year 1: Civil Rights and Social Movements (1940-1980)
Year 2: The Jacksonian Era (1820-1850)
Year 3: Reconstruction to the Great Migration (1863-1915)
Year 4: Revolution and the New Nation (1754-1820s)
Year 5: Sectionalism and the Civil War (1850-1865)
Methods:Summer seminars, 1-day retreats, workshops, peer lesson observations, online mentoring/collaboration

The Lee County, Tallapoosa County, Alexander City, and Phoenix City School Districts in eastern Alabama include four schools that had not achieved Adequate Yearly Progress and two that were in Year 2 Delay status at the time of the grant application. Plowing Freedom’s Ground will target schools with low student achievement in history and few teachers who have completed advanced course work in U.S. history. Yearly activities will include a week-long summer seminar, a week-long lesson study workshop during which teachers will prepare problem-based historical inquiry lessons, three day-long professional development retreats during the school year, and mentoring and technical support through affiliates of the Persistent Issues in History Network at Auburn and Indiana Universities. Lesson Study teams will visit one another’s classrooms during the year to observe and videotape fellow teachers delivering jointly designed lessons. A cohort of 30 teachers will participate in the program each year and will be encouraged to develop themselves as curriculum leaders and mentors in their districts. The thematic focus of Plowing Freedom’s Ground will be pivotal events in American history that exemplify the persistent democratic challenge of ensuring fairness and justice for all Americans. The primary instructional strategy to be employed is problem-based historical inquiry learning; Lesson Study workshops will help teachers develop technology-enhanced, problem-based historical inquiry lessons that promote student engagement, historical thinking, and reasoning and democratic citizenship. Each Lesson Study team’s refined lesson plan, support materials, and video products will become part of the Persistent Issues in History Web site.

Grantee Name:Tuscaloosa City Schools
Project Name:Obtaining Unalienable Rights (OUR)
Project Director:Marjorie Freyer
Funding:$1,657,294 over 5 years
Number of Teachers Served Overall:50-70
Number of School Districts Served:3
Grade Levels:5-12
Partners:University of Alabama, American Village, the Safe House and Black History Museum, Westervelt-Warner Museum of American Art, Moundville Archaeological Park
Topics:Year 1: Constitution, Legislation, and the Courts
Year 2: Influential People and Movements
Year 3: Immigrants and Immigration
Year 4: Popular Media and Historiography
Year 5: America and the World
Methods:Summer institutes, independent study, speakers, peer coaching, team study, online discussion, pull-out days, field experiences

Tuscaloosa City and County Schools will collaborate with Hale County Schools, which is located in Alabama’s Black Belt. Many teachers in these districts have not taken a formal American history course for 10 or more years, and a survey of selected students found little or no knowledge about the way historians study and think about history. Each year will feature a kick-off event designed to set the historical context and to distribute books for independent study and classroom resource packets. Other annual activities will include day-long workshops, evening speakers’ forums, a week-long summer institute, an independent book study, online discussions and team study, and peer coaching in small groups that combine veteran and less experienced teachers. A two-part cohort approach will select 20 high-needs teachers to participate in all 5 years, and add 10 teachers each year who will participate on a year-to-year basis. OUR will focus on delivering relevant context and multidimensional understanding of history topics that teachers have identified as important and that align with Alabama content standards. Delivery of content and instructional strategies will conform to the OUR blueprint for an ideal classroom environment: using primary source analysis and historical inquiry, history-related service learning, print and electronic resources, and intellectual challenge; collaborating with colleagues to plan, teach, observe, and critique lessons; and implementing best teaching practices and new historical content and resources. OUR products will include the classroom blueprint, teaching materials (e.g., primary source documents, DVDs, historical fiction, and nonfiction), an online community, and traveling history trunks for classroom use.

Last Modified: 09/03/2009