A Complete Lesson Plan on the Causes of History

Today is August 28. Fifty-five years ago on this date, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech, a masterpiece of American rhetoric and a plea to this nation to exhibit some fundamental decency. On this day in 1922, the first paid radio advertisement on radio, on WEAF in New York, was heard: Queensboro Realty solicited interest in a new apartment complex in Jackson Heights.

Here is lesson plan on the causes of history. I use this in the first few days of school for a variety of reasons, but primarily to demonstrate to students that in our global studies class, they will do the thinking and talking, and in so doing, I seek to get them to think about the conceptual meaning of history. If you look at the bottom of the lesson plan, I’ve included a snippet of text on what I think are, for the purposes of a global studies course for high school freshmen, the nine most salient drivers of history. I often ask students to make a class poster of that text after the lesson concludes.

The lesson begins with this Cultural Literacy worksheet on Spanish philosopher George Santayana’s famous maxim, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” This strikes me as a key piece of Cultural Literacy (I have, incidentally, heard this quote attributed to Aristotle, Karl Marx, and John F. Kennedy, among others), but it also serves as a provocative dish where food for thought goes, and students often take it as a reason to take history seriously as a subject. If the lesson goes into a second day–and depending on the loquacity of your students, and their willingness to participate class discussions, this lesson can even go into a third day, as it has for me on a couple of occasions–then you might want this context clues worksheet on the noun barbarian to take your through. And, nota bene, if this lesson does run to three days, there are plenty of other short exercises on this blog you can use to open this lesson.

Finally, here is the worksheet for this lesson that is really simply a note-taking template. This is a brainstorming and discussion lesson, and as such it is an attempt to draw students into the life of classroom discourse right at the very beginning of the year. My long experience shows me that the sooner a teacher engages students at this level, the better results he or she will get over the course of the school year.

This lesson also attempts, as you will see when you use it, to get students thinking and speaking abstractly, interpretively, and extemporaneously–again, the essence of brainstorming. If students identify Trade and Commercial Interaction as a cause of history, ask how and why. Of course we highly trained teacher of social studies understand the way trade–with expanded human interaction, the need for written language, the way diets change and culture spreads, and so forth–affects history. We need to make sure our students understand that as well, and chances are pretty good the possess the prior knowledge to draw those conclusions. As I used to plead with a co-teacher, “For heaven’s sake, ask them [i.e. the students] a question!”

If you find typos in these documents, I would appreciate a notification. And, as always, if you find this material useful in your practice, I would be grateful to hear what you think of it. I seek your peer review.

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