Historical reasoning and decision-making (1 and 2)
Get your students thinking with this fun history activity. The Tournament of…series combines three different avenues for historical studies (technology through history, European art, Asian art) that requires students to consider the pair presented and argue which is more important.
Set it up like you would a sports tournament (think about the madness of tournament season in early spring) and see which technologies or arts are competing for the top spot!
Students have to use their own personal experiences with some of the technology, their memory of the content learned, and intuition to make a decision. This is a great resource to get students who do not normally participate to engage because there is no correct answer.
Let’s pretend one of the pairs is the great discovery of fire and the fantastic invention of the wheel. Students will need to consider how these helped humans as a whole, civilizations specifically, and how they led to further advancements. This thinking process is historical reasoning. When they finalize an answer and defend their point of view they have successfully completed another history skill: decision-making.
Get the debate started! Use it at the beginning of the year as an ice-breaker, during the biggest sports tournament of the year to help reengage students before or after spring break, and at the end to keep them learning right before school ends. The competition will always be different.
2. Poem of Mulan
Historical analysis (3)
Analysis of a primary source? Check. Integration of poetry/literature and history? Check. Including the study of women in history? Check. Common core-aligned? Check.
Analysis of poetry doesn’t have to be from a literary perspective. When you focus on the history of the words and phrases and the imagery the author is trying to portray an entirely different perspective is revealed. This is one way to engage students in historical analysis.
Using a translation of the Poem of Mulan, capture the fun and the whimsy of a story many students will know thanks to the popular feature-length cartoon. Analyze how women are portrayed in the poem and consider how radical the story actually is. Analyze the geography and the technology that is used to illustrate the story. Trace the changes throughout history and see how the story has been used to illustrate a woman’s place in the world.
This can be a multi-day lesson as you incorporate other elements of women’s history or Chinese history but this can also be a standalone lesson where you focus on the reading of a primary source.
3. Leif Erikson
Historical comprehension (4)
Historical comprehension deals with understanding context and to a certain point, motivation. It does not help to think about historical events through the eyes of a 21st-century person. This is very, VERY difficult for people and in my opinion, is something that students need lots of scaffolded practice to do well.
Christopher Columbus is a great subject to begin scaffolded practice. My TpT resource is a beginning step for students to think about the true history behind the European discovery of the Americas. The quick reads give students an introduction to the debate of which European explorer should get the credit and outlines modern attempts to give more or less recognition to both explorers.
In the end, students are asked to consider many different aspects before they make up their own minds.
4. Elizabeth Bathory
Historical analysis and interpretation (5)
Students can engage in historical analysis all they want but they must have an opportunity to interpret the information as they wish. History is not a study of facts but opinions. They must make up their own minds about events so they understand this.
Elizabeth Bathory was a Hungarian noblewoman who is known for being the world’s most prolific serial killer. Stories of her bloodbaths are infamous. This historical analysis focuses on her history and trying to figure out what is fact (something that actually happened) and myth (something that was made up out of the surrounding circumstances).
What makes Bathory interesting is there is a small faction of historians who believe Elizabeth is actually innocent of the charges. Some contend that she was the victim of a long chain of events that were set in place to reduce her wealth and influence in Eastern Europe and hopefully to absorb the Bathory territory into the Holy Roman Empire.
The workbook follows the streaming podcast as we explore the possibilities of her innocent but in the end, students make up their own mind. They have to interpret the information and the sources to determine if she is innocent, if it is possible she is innocent, or if she is guilty as charged.
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