Strategies for Empowering Students


  • To promote the students interest in history's events and people

  • To help students, through authentic tasks, understand how the past can affect the present
  • To encourage students to use their creative and critical thinking skills

  • Develop a knowledge base about historical events and people
  • Create an interest in history
  • Connect events in history with events happening now

  • History
  • Language Arts
  • Career Development
  • Character Building

Explain to the students that an important project has been assigned to station INFORM-TV, and applications are being accepted for the various positions available. List the following jobs (roles) on the board: reporter, news writer, editor, television producer, researcher, graphic artist, and television news anchor. Allow students to select the job(s) for which they would like to apply. There can be multiple people for each job. The students are to write to the executive producer, explaining why they would like a certain position, their qualifications, and why they would be the best person for the position. The class can determine how applicants will be selected.

The project involves the task of "reconstructing" history. Ask students to think about a particular event in history. If students cannot think of any specifics, have them do some research. Discuss what led up to the event, what incidents occurred, and the outcome. Then ask students what they think the country, world, or the fate of a certain racial or religious group might be like today if things had turned out differently (see example).

The researchers, news reporters, and writers will work together in teams of 3 to 5, gather all the necessary information, and rewrite or reconstruct certain events in history. In other words, they will have an opportunity to become "time machines," or to take a "quantum leap," travel back in time, and change the face of history. This reconstruction will be presented by the anchors on the six o'clock broadcast.

As a starter, provide some historical events. Students will probably have to read about these events to gain a knowledge base, which is one of the exercise's primary objectives. Students should be encouraged to create their own list of historical events that they would like to reconstruct.

Historical Events

  • The American colonies win independence from England
  • The North defeats the South in the Civil War (ask students their interpretation of this statement)
  • The Japanese bomb Pearl Harbor
  • The Great Depression of 1929
  • The mass production of the automobile
  • The Mexican revolution
  • The dropping of the atomic bomb
  • The Industrial Revolution
  • The Bay of Pigs
  • The Harlem Renaissance
  • The internment of Japanese
  • The Holocaust

SPECIAL REPORT!

The South has won the Civil War! Confederate soldiers were victorious over the ill-prepared Union Army. The surviving Northern troops are preparing to gather their wounded and dead and return to their homes in the North. As a result of this astounding victory, there will be no changes in the current policy regarding the owning of slaves.

Now the South can return to its regal way of life. We can start to rebuild our plantations, get our crops planted, and continue the way of life that our ancestors left us as a rightful legacy and that we can now leave to our children and our children's children.

We will continue to take care of our slaves as we have always done. We will ensure that they are fed, clothed, and cared for as long as they remain our property and on our plantations. They are happy with their way of life and did not welcome the changes that President Lincoln tried to force on them. We are happy that the South will be able to resume our beautiful way of life. Long live the South!

Have students read the quote by Maya Angelou: "History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived again."

Have them research the life of Maya Angelou to determine the following:

  • What is her profession, career, or vocation?
  • What are her beliefs, values, and views about life, the world, and people?
  • What are some other books, poems, and statements made by Maya Angelou that provide insights into her character, convictions, and viewpoints?
  • How does her writing reflect her beliefs and values?

  • How did students use their writing skills?

  • In what ways did students demonstrate their decision making skills?

  • How well were teams able to work together?

  • Did students increase their knowledge about historical events, people, and places?

  • How was this knowledge demonstrated?
 



Credits

Excerpted from Beyond Rhetoric and Rainbows: A Journey to the Place Where Learning Lives ©1996 University of Illinois Extension.