Tag Archives: history

Anne Frank’s Diary

anne-frank-diary-openOn June 12, 1942, Anne Frank received a small red and white diary as a present for her 13th birthday. The diary, which she named Kitty, was her companion for just over two years. Frank’s last entry in the diary was dated August 1, 1944. Her family’s secret hiding place was raided three days later, on August 4. She died of typhus in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in February or March of 1945.

Explore the ways that eyewitness reports shape our understanding of events we can’t see first-hand. Introduce students to this topic using a lesson (adapted to your grade level), such as Through the Eyes of a Refugee, which examines the first-hand reports of a Syrian refugee, or Evaluating Eyewitness Reports, which examines first-hand accounts of the Great Chicago Fire.

Then have students break into small groups for an end-of-the-year research project. First, provide an outline or list of the main topics you’ve studied during the year. Or, have students use their textbook as a reference. Have each group select an event to research, taking care that topics are not too broad, such as “World War II.” Using primary source documents, have students research the event using eyewitness accounts. A good source of primary documents can be found at the American Slave Narratives website. Finally, have each group present their research to the class, for an end-of-the-year review session.

How else can a diary be used in the classroom?

The 100th Day of School

100The 100th day of school is celebrated in schools around the country, usually near the month of February. The 100th Day of School is usually filled with activities, crafts, and math exercises based on the number 100. Here’s an idea for combining the school celebration with history.

Invite students to investigate what life was like 100 years ago. Using multiple sources, have students read and talk about the clothing that was worn during that time, who was President (or Prime Minister, King, or Queen), what inventions weren’t around then (computers and television, mobile devices, hoverboards, video games, etc), how many states were in the United States at that time (and what the US flag looked like then). Ask the students to find and share other surprising differences between now and 100 years ago. They can record their discoveries using a Venn Diagram.

To take this idea a step further, engage students in researching various aspects of a setting’s decade.  Then using the information they have gathered, students communicate their findings via a presentation tool. Through the sharing of their findings, all students gain an understanding of the historical decades. This understanding can be transferred to historical novels or other studies of history. After all students have presented, students will write a paragraph explaining which decade they would have like to have experienced firsthand.

How do you celebrate the 100th Day of School?

Research of a Documentary Novel of the Landmark Civil Rights Case: Loving vs. Virginia

The following guest post is by author Patricia Hruby Powell.  Powell will be one of our featured speakers at the Middle Level Mosaic at the 2016 Annual Convention.

PatriciaHrubyPowellLoving vs. Virginia is an informational book or a “documentary novel.” The story is told in verse in the voices of Mildred Jeter (African American and Native American) and Richard Loving (White). The couple grew up together, fell in love, married in Washington, DC, came home to Virginia in 1958, and were arrested in bed. It’s hard to believe that less than 60 years ago, interracial marriage was illegal in half of the United States.

Research included my watching Nancy Buirski’s documentary The Loving Story repeatedly. I viewed news clips, studied Hope Ryden’s 1960s film footage of the Lovings, read newspaper and magazine articles contemporary to the times. I read extensively about the convoluted court case that led to the US Supreme Court. I searched for photos and quotes. But perhaps the most fun was interviewing the “players” of my story.

Sadly, both Richard and Mildred Loving are deceased—Mildred died in 2008, and Richard only nine years after the US Supreme Court decision of 1967 which ruled in their favor. But I did speak extensively to Mildred’s brothers, Lewis Jeter and Otha Jeter; Otha Jeter still lives in the neighborhood in Caroline County where they all grew up together. Their neighborhood—or section—was remarkably integrated. Blacks, Whites, and Native Americans worked together, partied together, and in some cases, fell in love. This took place in a state so segregated that state statistician Walter Plecker instated the “Racial Integrity Act” as a health bulletin (!) declaring that interracial marriage was illegal.

One of my favorite interviews was with Richard’s friend, Ray Green. He and five buddies stood around a pickup truck outside a rural convenience store with my husband and me and chatted about their friends, the Lovings. They told stories, laughed, and gave details that would be the foundation of scenes in my book.

Another great part of the research? Remembering how it felt to fall in love. I listened to music that I listened to in my 20s when I was falling in love regularly. My husband and I spoke about falling in love—reminding each other of our stories.

My husband, being a white Southern man, had special insight into Richard. Studying Richard in film clips and reading his words from previous interviews was essential in recreating his character.

From the clips, I know Mildred was soft spoken, a gentle mother to their three children, and altogether charming. The couple was clearly in love. They did not want to be the center of this important civil rights issue. They just wanted to live their quiet lives together—at home in Caroline County.

LovingVsVirginacoverPatricia Hruby Powell’s Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker (Chronicle 2014) garnered Honors from the Boston Globe, The Horn Book, Robert F. Sibert, BolognaRagazzi, Coretta Scott King (for Christian Robinson’s illustrations), and a Parent’s Choice Gold, among others. Loving vs. Virginia (Chronicle 2017) is a Junior Library Guild Selection. Patricia is a former dancer and librarian living in Champaign, IL. Readers have a chance to receive one of  three free copies of her book, Loving V. Virginia, prior to its January 2017 release date by signing up to receive her blog

Teaching, Feminism, and School Rule

ExploringNCTEhistoryThe following post is the second in a series by Jonna Perrillo, NCTE’s Historian.

“Women are destined to rule the schools of every city,” Chicago school superintendent Ella Flagg Young declared in 1909. Better qualified than many men, she contended, women were “no longer satisfied to do the greatest part of the work and yet be denied leadership.”[1] To Young, the nation’s only female superintendent, school reform was one of the nation’s most important feminist projects.

She would have been bitterly disappointed if she were able to survey the education landscape six and a half decades later, during the battle for the Equal Rights Amendment. Female superintendents were still virtually unheard of. While 84% of elementary school teachers were women, 81% of elementary school principals were men.  In high schools, 46% of teachers were women; over 98% of principals were men.[2] Women were underrepresented in administration for the same reason they were overrepresented in elementary classrooms: they were considered nurturing and “soft,” while men could discipline children and colleagues alike.

Women teachers in the 1970s, like other groups of working women, fought for maternity leave, equal pay, and access to administrative channels from which they had historically been shut out.  But to change any of the inequities of the job, they needed to address a professional culture that rewarded a minority of men.

With this mind, NCTE’s Committee on the Role and Image of Women in the Council and the Profession met in the fall of 1971 to draft recommendations for producing “positive change” for women teachers. The guidelines advanced a platform of self-reflection and personal narrative that paralleled the composition theories NCTE members were adopting in their classrooms.  They recommended an educative approach to sexism, one that focused on “awareness” and teachers’ “own unexamined assumptions,” and urged women teachers to “involve their colleagues and administrators in self-evaluations of their attitudes towards women.” Men needed to change, the committee argued, but so did women, who required encouragement “to participate actively in all professional meetings” and “to answer the questions men ask.”[3]

In the committee’s identification of “culture” as the enemy, it embraced a less radical and policy-focused version of feminism than what was being exercised outside of the schoolhouse, one that assumed that the penalties women teachers faced resided as much in their own limited professional self-perceptions as in institutional structures.  But this view also coupled personal accountability (in women and men) with professional partnership (between women and men) in ways that correctly read how healthy academic institutions should work.

Today teaching remains a feminized profession: 76% of all public school teachers are women.  But in the forty years since the committee issued its guidelines, women have risen up through the administrative ranks. Nearly 52% of principals now are women.  Even with a continued gender disparity between elementary and high school leadership, the difference marks a significant change that, along with changes in maternity leave and pay structures, reflects the realization of many 1970s feminist teachers’ goals.

Yet, as Kate Rousmaniere argues in The Principal’s Office, differences in school administration are due less to the culture within individual schools and more to wide changes in the profession.  Simply put, as the principalship became less attractive beginning in the 1980s—more focused on mandate regulation and management than instructional leadership—fewer men were interested in the job.[4]  Women have broken through a cycle Young described in which leadership was treated as “the inherited right of man alone,” but women’s own inheritance is a mixed bag.[5]

In many ways, today’s teaching environment is far less liberatory than that of the 1970s; women may have earned access, but they have lost intellectual autonomy.

Given that women continue to occupy the majority of positions in schools, advancing the profession—improving the job and the quality of education offered to students—will remain women’s work.  NCTE members are in a particularly strong position to continue to develop new sets of guidelines that address teacher and student disenfranchisement and highlight teacher leadership in our classrooms, schools, and nation.  The Committee on the Role and Image of Women in the Council and the Profession was right to see that attitudes toward ordinary teachers matter and that partnership in schools is key to reform.  This is as good a time as any to be reminded of what 1970s teachers already knew.

[1] “The Highest Salaried Woman in the World,” Western Journal of Education 14 (1909): 515–516.

[2] Tyack, David, and Elisabeth Hansot, Managers of Virtue: Public School Leadership in America, 18201980 (New York: Basic Books, 1982), 183.

[3] NCTE Committee on the Role and Image of Women in the Council and the Profession, Guidelines for Confronting Attitudes that Penalize Women (Urbana, IL: NCTE, 1971).

[4] Kate Rousmaniere, The Principal’s Office: A Social History of the American School Principal (Albany, NY: State University of New York, 2014).

[5] “The Highest Salaried Woman in the World,” 516.

Poetry Across the Content Areas

Poetry reading, writing and enjoyment don’t just have to be limited to the English Language Arts classroom. These resources from NCTE and ReadWriteThink.org show poetry across the content areas.

Poetry of Place: Helping Students Write Their Worlds is chockfull of student poetry samples and unique ideas, including field trips and a poetry night hike, to spark students’ imaginations and inspire them to write poetry.

360 Degrees of Text: Using Poetry to Teach Close Reading and Powerful Writing describes an approach to teaching critical literacy that has students investigate texts through a full spectrum of learning modalities, harnessing the excitement of performance, imitation, creative writing, and argument/debate activities to become more powerful thinkers, readers, and writers.  View the sample chapter online to read more about poetry as a means into academic writing. Learn more with these ReadWriteThink.org poetry lesson plans from the author.

Students learning English develop their poetry writing through dialogue about the topic of journeys and their interactions with visual art as described in “Finding the Right Words: Art Conversations and Poetry”. Similarly, in this lesson, students explore ekphrasis—writing inspired by art. Students find pieces of art that inspire them and compose a booklet of poems about the pieces they have chosen.

Poetry in Science” describes how a seventh-grade teacher incorporated poetry writing into her science class, helping students to learn the science material and helping the teacher to evaluate the students’ knowledge. This Community Story shares how the ReadWriteThink.org’s poetry tools and lessons helped a teacher see all the different ways students could write poetry, including in the Science classroom.

Two math teachers, two English teachers, and 86 students bridge cultural divides between mathematics and English in urban Massachusetts and rural Iowa as described in “Math in the Margins: Writing across Curricula into Community Heritage”.

To understand better the subtle relationship between history and English, first-year students in an introductory literature class compare Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem about the 1876 deaths of General George Armstrong Custer and his men with historical accounts of the Battle of the Little Bighorn in order to discover how historical and poetic truths are related in this article. Try a similar idea with this lesson plan which pairs a magazine article about the Edmund Fitzgerald shipwreck in 1975 with the Gordon Lightfoot song, “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.”

For more poetry resources, visit the NCTE Online Store and the ReadWriteThink.org calendar entry on National Poetry Month.