Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Organization of United States History Curriculum

Current discussions in the social studies department center on where my high school should begin to teach United States History.  In addition, we are discussing the placement of these courses, their starting period for 10th and 11th grades, US I and US II history.The state "end of course" exams are not yet  implemented so it is important to gather input from stakeholders including teachers, administrators, parents, students, and curriculum experts.
The implementation of technology into these newly redesigned courses also needs to be addressed. Will the community be supportive of changing each social studies classroom into a 21st century classroom? These classrooms will each have smart boards, laptops for each student, LCD projectors in the ceilings, among just a few of the technological advances needed to create interactive 21st century classrooms.


  1. Scope of US I and US II
    The new content standards specify that by 8th grade students have to study American history through Reconstruction and the Middle Ages. That has big implications for the high school courses. As far as World History is concerned, it looks like the Renaissance is the logical starting point. As far as US History is concerned, we need to delineate the "breaking point" between the two courses, assuming US I starts after Reconstruction. I am not opposed to a "review" of the Civil War. With these assumptions, where should we "break" US I and US II? What is the rationale for choosing the break? (as posted by Steve Gregor on WTPS Share Point Team Discussion Board)

  2. I strongly disagree with a proposal that would have U.S. History II beginning with the post-World War II era. When I first taught U.S. II, we started in the post-Reconstruction era and were essentially teaching approximately 130 years of history. In those days, I rarely got past the Watergate era. Recently, we began teaching the course at the beginning of the 20th century and I’ve been able to finish the year with a discussion of 9/11. So even though I haven’t been able to teach the most recent presidents and their administrations in depth, I have gotten much further than I have in the past.

    In looking at this proposal, I don’t think the Civil War, a defining event in U.S. History, should be taught at the middle school level. At the very least, I think U.S. I should start with a comprehensive review of the sectional strife leading to the war (or include the decade leading up to the Civil War in the U.S. I curriculum), and then the first full unit should focus on the war itself and the significance and legacies of the war.

    Ideally, I’d like to see U.S. II start with World War I in 1914, giving us a 100-year time frame for the course. Since I make so many connections between the World Wars, I’d like to still teach the two wars within the same curriculum.

    However, if U.S. I will be taught with a significantly later starting date, I understand that the scope for that course will have to go further. In that scenario, I would suggest that U.S. II start with the post-World War I era since the 1920s, in some respects, mark the beginning of the modern age in American history. I would probably still include a review of the end of WWI and Versailles before I began a unit on WWII.

    I can’t perceive U.S. II starting any later than 1929 with the stock market crash and onset of the Great Depression, an event that helped give rise to the dictators – a bridge to our unit on World War II. If we were to use that as a starting point for the U.S. History II course - and U.S. I started with the sectional strife of 1850 - both courses would be covering approximately 80 years of history (1850-1929; 1929-present), which I think is very reasonable for a full-year course.

    Also, do the C.P., Honors and A.P. levels all have to have the same time frames for their curriculums?

  3. While I think that discussion of US I and US II is important, I am more intrigued by the technology discussion. Where are we going to get the money to design these classrooms of the future? My classroom has a boom box and an overhead. I just recently received an LCD projector, but I have no white board or smart board in which to utilize this technology. In fact, I don't even have a printer in my room that works consistently. We are teaching our students in a 19th century fashion while sending them into a 21st century technological world.

  4. I would like to recommend a blog that discusses the 21st century classroom. www.technologyintegrationineducation.com the article is "the future of classroom education"
    The newest technology is out there we need the finances, a new technology department that is well-trained and equipped to run a 21st century school, and support from the community to make this a priority.

  5. I can open my current blog about history curriculum up to my students’ comments, but the truth is that a separate blog dealing with a topic they are learning about would be a better tool. I am in the middle of a unit on Enlightened Despotism, which leads into the French Revolutionary Period. Developing a blog about Napoleon, someone that the students are always interested in and are willing to research would be a more appropriate blog for my history class. I would love to set something up about the good Napoleon vs. the bad Napoleon.
    When I was in Ireland a few years ago, Trinity College in Dublin was having a Napoleon exhibit. My son and I attended the exhibit, which was very prejudicial against Napoleon; my son did not understand why the Irish would be against Napoleon, since my son was correctly taught that the Irish backed Napoleon and would have loved to see the defeat of England. I explained that Elizabeth I founded Trinity College as a stronghold of Protestantism in Catholic Ireland, that her goal was to convert the heathens to Protestantism. The English Protestants were Napoleon’s greatest enemy, not the Catholic Irishmen. The exhibit was prejudicial because of the religious dissent at the back of all modern history. A blog based on the two views of Napoleon would be a great sounding board for the students, a good learning experience for both the students and me, and a tool for research and writing.
    I would set this blog up for my European History class, which is a 12th grade elective course. It will enable my European history students to share their findings, to discuss the different points of view and to make their research viewable to all instead of just me. As our text states: “Blogs engage readers with ideas and questions and links. They ask readers to think and to respond. They demand interaction.” (Richardson, 2010, p. 18). Blogging can become a good tool to help students think and write at a higher level, using more analysis and synthesis over a longer period time with reflection on what they have posted to the blog. (Richardson, 2010). The blog can be the tool that aids the students in their thesis development and overall writing.

    Richardson, W. (2010). Blogs, wikis, podcasts, and other powerful web tools for classrooms (Third Edition ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin, a Sage Company.

  6. If you are a member of edutopia check out this link - http://www.edutopia.org/harrison-high-school-technology-integration-video
    It demonstrates how a 21st century school works.