July 2016

What IS An 'Academic' or 'Historical' Argument? (And What Is It NOT?)

Argumentative WritingIn an academic context, argument isn't a bad thing at all. In fact, it's crazy beneficial. It's how science is supposed to work - great minds doing research and writing papers primarily so other great minds can criticize and question everything about them and explain why they're flawed or incomplete. It's our preferred format for difficult legal questions, whether determining the constitutionality of a company policy or trying to figure out if you actually stole that car before or after the body was stuffed in the trunk.

And it's how history and its interpretation(s) get sorted out. At least, that's how it's supposed to work...

How Power Confronts Dissent

Note: I’m writing this post in response to circumstances of which I’m a part, but it’s not really about me. I’m living the dream and daily thankful for the support of the #11FF and beyond. 

I confess that I’m developing a certain defensiveness, however, on behalf of others who have done far more good than myself and pay a greater ongoing price for daring to question power. If, after reading this, you wish to express dissent, please direct it to me. If you’re interested in offering support, please offer it to them. 

Writing With Brownies In A Box

TypingIf you ever want to have real fun, start talking about the 'correct' way to teach writing with any group of teachers. For serious fireworks, try it with AP History folks after you've all had a drink or two. Better you stick with safer, less provocative topics like abortion, religion, or the validity of comic books and superhero movies as cultural touchstones.

Coronado's Letter ("What I AM Sure Of Is This...")

After Coronado gave up on the Seven Cities of Whatever, he penned a missive to the King summarizing his experiences and discoveries. Ask yourself what tone and intent are suggested by his choice of words nearly six centuries later. 

The full letter, a classroom edit, and printable versions can be found here

Coronado (Why Don't You Come To Your Senses?)

CoronadoIt had been less than a half-century since Columbus sailed the ocean blue and stumbled across this little roadblock to India. The British seemed in no hurry to settle the new continent – Jamestown was established in 1607, Plymouth in 1620, and the Puritans started arriving around 1630. Spain, however, wasted little time making their presence felt across Central America and Southwestern North America.

Training the Voices In Your Head (Slightly Less Awkward Practice)

A slightly less awkward way to promote awareness of those ‘inner voices’ is to use a movie clip of some sort as our temporary substitute for a reading selection. We’ll watch a bit of it, then stop and practice some of the types of questioning and thinking we want to inculcate in our reading voices as well. Ideally it’s something high-interest but which most of them haven’t seen before.

Let’s start with this:

Training the Voices In Your Head (Awkward Practice)

Pitch Perfect AnnouncersOne way to highlight the role of the Color Commentary Voice is to model it with students – both what it sounds like when it’s MISBEHAVING and what it might sound like when its’ COOPERATING. To do this, I ask for a volunteer with a strong reading voice to read aloud from something educational I want to cover anyway.