In any case, I’d love to spend a year in APUSH focusing on regionalism and nationalism! I could use this theme for historiography examples, primary and secondary source selection, etc. I could even do one fiction selection, a long-time dream of mine that felt impossible because of the breadth choices--now I can do lit circles in APUSH!! Perhaps twice and then we could also practice this HTS comparison. Maybe one of the texts could be a short story? I wonder what Bryan would say about comparing a novel and a short story...is that kosher?
This may finally be a way to make APUSH a class in which we can do depth!! This would be a way to seriously level up this class.
A theme makes it much easier to incorporate art and poetry--it puts a focusing lens on the epic amount of high-quality content choices available when teaching US History. There are still some non-negotiable documents and topics that must be covered, some of which won’t fit into the theme. I’d like to use this as an opportunity to more effectively incorporate fiction, poetry, and art into my course, so I’m not going to worry about those pillars fitting into the theme--I know the conversation between the theme and the core texts will happen naturally. Using a theme for selecting those texts and images will make it much easier to actually incorporate them. I imagine using selections of poetry/art/fiction in each period, with Period 1-2 blocked together. I’d like to incorporate fiction in two periods; it would make sense to use those periods in which I can effectively reduce the reading using Crash Course US History and apushreview.com. That means Period 5 would be an excellent candidate, but I’d rather use Period 6 because I like (and have stronger expertise) in that period’s literature. I also like a lot of literature from Period 7...I know I want to use novels in Period 8.
Hmmm...perhaps a solution is to have literature groups during different periods for different students. Like, everyone has to do two literature circles (one in Trimester 2 and one in Trimester 3) and there will be available texts in Periods 5-8. Multiple texts would have to be available for each period. This could work especially well because Tuesday is a work day in T2 and T3, and lit circles could meet for three weeks on those work days.
These texts could then also be incorporated into course theme projects!! If students are working on a theme that ties into the larger course theme...hmmm...that’s problematic terminology there. Maybe course theme projects HAVE to be about the theme?? But that reduces choice in a way that makes me uncomfortable. I’m going to need to think about how the course theme project would fit into this idea.
I would also be open to developing a theme as a class in the first week in school, collecting novels we’d like to read, questions we’d like to answer, etc. That would make my job a bit more challenging, because I wouldn’t have the summer to prepare, but perhaps that’s just another learning opportunity because I wouldn’t be able to prepare a sanitized, pre-packaged set of texts and images but rather we would have to construct that set ourselves over the year. Ooo I like this idea even more!
I would begin this conversation by putting up the actual APUSH course themes and have students write as many questions as possible about each. Themes that generate the most questions--or perhaps the most interesting questions??--would be further explored through explorations of fiction and art. Final selection should be consensus or voting? The model used in the classroom project at the in Salem was voting; I think they may have required a ⅔ majority to ensure greater buy-in.
The existing themes are: Identity; Work, Exchange, Technology; Peopling; Politics and Power; America in the World; Environment and Geography; Ideas, Beliefs, Culture. Even these are too broad for me...but they provide a good starting place for the conversation. I think I would plant several examples of fiction and art for each theme to give students more idea-generating material than just words. Now that I try to give an example, though, I see the examples cut across the themes. I was considering Zora Neale Hurston’s “Their Eyes Were Watching God” and Jacob Lawrence’s paintings, but they fit under Identity, Peopling, and Ideas, Beliefs, Culture. On the one hand, that means it will be easier to put core texts in conversation with the theme than I originally thought--because so many texts intersect themes. On the other hand, this makes these themes potentially useless as a starting point. Perhaps the idea of collecting some artifacts to prompt questioning to lead to an essential question for the course has merit, but the introduction of the “official” themes is unwarranted. Yes. I think this is a better iteration.
Okay, I think I’m done with my brainstorm session for now.
Questions to ponder:
- How will the course theme project fit into this? I’m beginning to see that the course theme projects will almost certaining have to use this theme--or perhaps a more specific subset of the theme. Finally an opportunity to work on question-asking in APUSH!
- What “provocations” should I use? I will definitely incorporate student ideas here.
- What are some possible themes and corresponding texts? Some students are more creative after seeing a few examples.
- In what ways can I pilot parts of this with APUSH2017?