Why Did They Go To America?
This activity from Jane Jones, who teaches in Cirencester, demonstrates how you can significantly improve an activity by taking it out of a textbook and giving it a kinaesthetic twist. I write this with mixed-feelings as the activity is one I created for What is History? Year 7 as an introduction to causation but I have to admit that Jane’s version is much more involving and likely to lead to effective and lasting learning than the paper version.
Below is Jane’s description of the lesson together with a series of supporting items.
I wanted the pupils to get several things out of the lesson. One was that the white settlers went to America over a long period (They tend to think it all happened in a short space of time) I wanted to bring out that in many instances their reasons would be the same as emigrants today, and that there was usually more than one motivation - and sometimes not always voluntary. I also want to counteract the anti-asylum seeker sentiment sometimes expressed in our school - that was a side issue but I realised it was likely to arise out of their feedback.
1. To prepare for the lesson I wrote out the information from Ian's What is History book as if the characters were speaking, found suitable images to match (with some poetic license), from Google - Anne Bradstreet, John Winthrop Olaudah Equiano and (I think) William Goffe are correct but I have just found 'suitable' ones for the others (John Washington is a portrait of Prince Rupert). I then laminated the sheets. I also made tabards with the character's names and date on. I had not modelled them on a pupil previously however, and they were rather too big.
2. I also made or bought hats or facial hair/wig for all the characters: Puritan hat and plain cardboard bonnet for John Winthrop and Anne Bradstreet, Cavalier's hat for John Washington. I had a curly wig for William Goffe, a bowler for Olaudah Equiano and mobcap for Elizabeth Hardy. James MacMichael had a beard and moustache. This is not totally necessary, but it adds a great deal of excitement and buzz to the activity
3. I had created the timeline sheet with a differentiated sheet for the SEN pupils, the differentiation being some reasons for emigrating in a word-bank. I put the keywords Emigrant and Emigration on the board.
4. I also prepared the attached lesson plan and the powerpoint. The cartoon about asylum seekers was a last minute addition which I added to the plenary - partly because I anticipated that immigration to this country would come up in feedback (it did!)
1. As the class came in the PowerPoint was on IWB and the timeline sheets on their desks. I instructed them to think of as many reasons as they could why you would leave your country. As they were doing this I got the pupils who were to perform in the roleplay - (they had been previously selected for excellent work in another lesson), and put them in their hats and tabards, and got them to organise themselves in timeline order. As they were doing this, I got feedback from the rest of the class about reasons - we did get an enquiry about asylum seekers and I included the words asylum = place of safety on the keyword list.
2. Then in turn, the emigrants read their stories and I elicited the reason or reasons from the other pupils. They added these to their timelines. It resulted in a very lively lesson - lots of questions and pupils pointing out the fact that Elizabeth Hardy and Olaudah Equiano were involuntary emigrants and we explored the meaning of transportation and slavery.
3. We then compared the reasons with the reasons pupils had originally come up with, and of course found similarities. Differences were also explored - the idea of political and religious persecution being allied with asylum seeking.
4. We watched about 8 minutes of an old BBC History File video on Native Americans and contact with white settlers and how smallpox and other diseases were passed to Native Americans. Attitudes to land were also explored - relating to previous lessons about Native American religion and their respect for the land, how it could not be owned.
The pupils were very enthused and some quietening techniques were needed. However, they all achieved my objectives for 'most' and one pupil even understood 'Manifest Destiny' - a task that I know is very hard for Year 8. They clearly understood the quick plenary Odd One Out task. I finished off with the cartoon of the Mayflower greeted by a chief with a placard saying 'No to Asylum Seekers' Many understood what the cartoon was trying to say and appreciated the humour.
After all classes had used the hats, I put them up in the classroom on display with large A3 versions of the characters' speeches as a reminder. Next time I teach causation I will remind them about 'Reasons for going to America....' and that there is rarely JUST one reason/cause for anything.
Changes next time? Make the tabards fit the pupils - there were some distractions as they didn't fit. Put the same pictures on the pupils' timelines - makes it more memorable. I will also take pictures of the pupils performing for the display.
1. Which textbook-based activities that you use regularly could be fruitfully turned into a more kinaesthetic activity?
2. The 2008 KS3 Programme of Study specifies a theme on ‘Movement and Settlement’. How could this activity fit into the teaching of that theme?
3. How would you build on what pupils have learned about causation from this activity?