A RELEVANT APPROACH TO HISTORY (AT-RISK LEARNERS)
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Appropriate for grades 7-12.
This activity may be used to assist in a unit plan or parts of it may be used to develop class and/or take home projects. It would not be hard to adapt any of this top group work.
The impact and relevance of historical occurrences often baffle the young learner as his dealing with time has been brief. The explanation of time, itself, leads the learner into a confusing dimension. Each learner notes that clock hours are the same for everyone, yet can perceive of the "feeling" of time moving slowly during a lecture or passing by quickly while enjoying a long awaited spring break? By dolescence, most learners have experienced "time getting away from me" or the feeling of "never ending moments". What adult has not been faced with the question that begins, "Back in your day...."? To teach history is to gain a relevance and perspective on time and the impact of events.
One of the characteristics of the at-risk learner (defined as a learner, though having the academic ability to do so, may not complete the requirements for course work leading to graduation) is a feeling of isolation. He often exhibits a lack of perspective of his immediate environment, time lines and his role within society. To attempt to present the components of history to a student who is not dealing with the present suggests many complicated obstacles.
The purpose of this exercise is to assist the at-risk learner in gaining a perspective and impact to his environment. The study of individuals and societies will help the student develop an awareness of the differences and likeness of people as they seek adventure, security and the conquest of their environment. These commonalties may assist the learner in realizing his own potential for impacting his environment, developing an appreciation for the accomplishments of others and securing his own sense of identity and self worth.
Students will be able to:
1. Identify by date, impact and stage of Canadian development at least three major inventions, discoveries, famous people, or events. (Ideas: Telephone, rail roads, Louis Riel, The B.N.A. Act, etc.)
2. Identify by name, accomplishment and impact the Prime Ministers and/or key historical figures from the student's date of birth to the present.
3. Identify by name, accomplishment and impact the Prime Ministers and/or key historical figures from the dates of his parents' births to the birth of the student. (This could be continued back to the grandparents)
4. Identify the requirement (age, residency, etc.) for individuals seeking and holding public office.
1. Often, civic leaders and government officials seem elite, unapproachable and representative of a world much different from the perceived world of the at-risk learner. These barriers must be broken down to disclose the "humanness" of people in power. Have civic officials, legislators and other public service representatives visit with the students and answer questions. Include such information as background, education, changes their lives might have taken, professional accomplishments and personal goals. Most individuals are willing to be open with students, allowing the students to realize the frailties and methods of overcoming obstacles to reach goals and become successful.
In conjunction with the activity above, have students research elections in which only a few votes determined the outcome of the election.
2. Have student do a family tree, including great great grandparents, if possible.
Relating to the activity above, have students parallel a time line of Prime Ministers to the time line of family members.
Continue the analysis above with other noteworthy individuals, discoveries, inventions and events.
3. Have student select one individual from his family tree and write a diary-like paper to reflect what impact individuals, discoveries, inventions and events possibly had on his life. If possible, a relative may be interviewed to expand this activity.
Interview a younger child. Grades three (3) and four (4) students are fairly open and uninhibited. The student should be able to gain a perspective of the changing perception of time as a person lives longer. This activity can be extended or reversed to interview an elderly individual.
4. Have student "alter" his own time line by "sliding" his birth date back or forward ten (10) years. Have the student predict changes in clothing styles, activities, career goals, etc.
Have student create a possible marriage and family of his own. Have him predict events, discoveries and inventions which he might experience during his life time.
The activity above can be projected to predict the year the student will become a grandparent and predict what events might occur.
The activities in this exercise do not require additional materials or texts, simply direction from the teacher. An important consideration in presenting any materials to at-risk learners is a strong understanding and rapport between the students and teacher and the timing of the presentation of concepts, activities and information.
TYING IT ALL TOGETHER:
Perhaps one of the most fundamental needs of all people is the need to have a feeling of belonging, acceptance and self-worth. To know that our existence has an impact and meaning. Many young children are dealing with the loss of such security.
History reflects the accomplishments, the aspirations, the failures of other people much like ourselves. By linking these commonalties, students may be encouraged to learn more from those individuals who walked before and influenced their environment. Armed with this knowledge, perhaps they will be better prepared to accept their responsibility as democratic citizens and make a difference in their world.