This semester I had the amazing chance to student teach at Kent Innovation High school. A school that is focused on the use of Project Based Learning and collaboration not just between students but also between teachers. I found myself in a room with of course my Cooperating Teacher (CT) and an english teacher. All of my history lessons were crafted with the english teacher in a way that students would learn historical content and english writing skills. My eyes have been opened to this new form of teaching and I hope to take this into my classroom someday even if it's just me making a conscious effort to work with an english teacher or any other teacher in my school.
One example of this collaboration at work was a lesson we did about the dust bowl when studying the Great Depression. We wanted students to understand the plight of those living out West. So I created an interactive presentation with Peardeck that students went through as a class. Kids were put in the shoes of farmers and tasked with trying to make money, they would buy supplies, plant crops, have the chance to take out loans to expand their farms. All was well... till the dust bowl hit. The activity was designed in a way that students would not make it out well. We unpacked what we learned as a group and then gave students their mini project for the week.
The chaos in the West gave the president reason to travel the coast trying to get people to understand that they needed to help out the farmers in the East. Students were tasked with writing a speech of their own and recording it on Flipgrid. The english focus of this project cycle was argumentative writing. Students once their video was recorded were responsible for responding to a classmates video and trying to find holes in their arguments. The original group would then come back with a rebuttal. This more tangible approach to arguments helped students start develop the right mindset before we dove into the actual writing.
I have seen first hand how history can come alive to kids even when learning about the details of the past if the content is engaging and relevant. This lesson ended with students looking at global events and how they might come to effect our country or even their own lives in the same way the dust bowl didn't directly affect those in New York but it would hurt them when less food was made and farmers didn't buy new equipment from the factories out East. That's what makes history jump off the text books and into kids lives. I like to think that I teach life lessons... and history, english or another subject is a vehicle my class will use.