Here's part 2 of my top 10 lessons of the year. Part 1, the honorable mentions can be found here.
Not the flashiest lab but one I'm very happy with. One of our focus skills in our department this year was source reliability. We went back and forth on how to actually teach the concept. I've always been a fan of the "deep end of the pool" approach to new topics so I tried that here. Instead of teaching reliability piece by piece we just jumped right in with some discussions. I showed a series of slides with two different sources reporting on a topic. Students picked which was more reliable and explained. For example, on the question of "Who does Maria have a crush on?" the sources were a 13 year old girl and a super-smart college professor. Students quickly recognized that the 13 year old girl was more likely to provide reliable information since she was closer to the source.
While this was a great (and easy) introduction I will make some changes next year. I realized as they year went on that reliability really can be evaluated on three levels - time, speaker and context. Those three components ultimately are all that needs to be considered. I will introduce those concepts and have students use those specifically in their answers.
You know a lesson is on the right track when as soon as it ends students ask "When are we doing that again?" After briefly discussing some of the events of colonization and the road to the Revolution my students played this game where they were put in charge of a new British colony. They had to balance survival and relations with Britain with their own personal goals for their colony. They quickly learned that every decision had both costs and benefits. If you build farms one year then you aren't building a fort or hospital. If you don't stock up before Winter though perhaps your colony will starve and no amount of forts will matter.
The game ended up way more simple than I originally designed and was still probably too complicated. The students used this sheet to keep track of their decisions each season and you can see that even it was fairly complex. Still, the kids had a great time and learned of the difficulties faced by the colonists as they tumbled seemingly inevitably toward war with Britain.
I started building a second game later in the year focused on the West with the Oregon Trail as my inspiration. It didn't come together in time but I am eager to find if this is a model I can replicate in other units (particularly somewhere in world history.)
Overall I was happy with the game. It took too long and needs simplified. More importantly it needs a stronger debrief session. That will be much easier to do if I can shorten the actual play time. I'm very happy with the look of the game and the narrative throughout. The hook is solid and games are always cool!
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