Northerner In Nashville

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
May 14 2012

The Evolution of a Teacher

It’s Sunday night before the last full week of school. I can’t remember the last time I felt this mentally and physically exhausted. What with getting ready to move and preparing for the end of school, there have been a lot of really un-fun real-people things to deal with.

So here’s to thinking about the FUN things that have been going on recently. We took our state tests a few weeks ago and fingers crossed, we did well. That left a chunk of time where we needed to create a project for our final Open House. I took the chance to do a version of a project I’ve been thinking about doing all year, but wasn’t sure how to implement.

We made a lapbook about slavery in Tennessee. Here is the outside

Flip it open and you’ll see three parts. On the left, students got to pick a primary document and write about it. I was impressed that most of my kids actually picked the documents with text, rather than the image. In the middle is our state divided into the three geopolitical parts. On the right hand side is the vocabulary used in the unit (overseer, abolitionist, conductors, patrollers)

Not only did we include basic information, but we were able to incorporate foldables (that worked!) into the book. The vocabulary words flip to reveal the definition. The geopolitical folds share information about how the areas perceived slavery and the number of slaves used in those areas.

Surprise! The middle flips open as well. We used a timeline to look at the events that led up to the Emancipation Proclamation. We actually started further back, but it wasn’t going to fit. Each of the main dates is actually a foldable as well. When you flip it up, you can see the population in the state for free blacks compared to slaves. We actually talked about population trends in math class, looking at the differences between years, various states, and between free/enslaved.

I could not have imagined doing a project like this last year. Simply put, my brain was not ready for it. I didn’t think my kids could handle some of it and I certainly didn’t have all the procedures in place for fun things with materials (a kid was sent to the hospital for sticking his fingers in another kid’s scissors, so that is somewhat justified). I also was really limited in how my kids used color and finding ways for them to be expressive while meeting more basic expectations. I also prepared for this in advance, creating a mockup that the kids could reference AND I built it up along with them.

How much did they learn? Worlds more than they did last year on the same topic. They actually enjoyed the project and were begging to work on it. They have more pride in these projects than almost any of the other projects that we’ve done all year. THIS is the kind of teaching I want to be doing.

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