History Blueprint at the AHA

Photo from Vann 2I had the good fortune to attend the American Historical Association (AHA) conference in Washington, DC, this week. Michelle Delgado, a 7th-grade teacher at Edward Harris Jr. Middle School in Elk Grove, and I presented one of the lessons from the Sites of Encounter in the Medieval World unit. If you’d like to see what we have so far for Lesson 6 – Calicut, click SoE 6 – Calicut 2.

Shennan shadow on VN MemorialI had never visited our nation’s capital before. I was delighted to get the chance to visit the Lincoln Memorial and the Vietnam Memorial. As many have said before me, the Lincoln Memorial was extremely moving. I was also deeply affected by the Vietnam Memorial, as that war dominated much of my youth. Michelle took a picture of the wall with my shadow on it. I share it here with you, as it was so unusual and oddly striking, at least to me!

We are also very close to finishing the first lesson of the Sites of Encounter in the Medieval World unit. Look for an announcement soon about possibilities for piloting that lesson and other lessons during the spring.

Citation: A relief showing a sailing ship from Borobudur, a temple in Magelang in central Java (in modern Indonesia). It was built as a shrine to the Buddha in the 9th century by the Sailendra dynasty which controlled central Java and its trade. Photograph courtesy of Professor Michael Vann, California State University, Sacramento.


Choosing Anchor Texts for Close Reading

Thanks to Debra Schneider for suggesting additional texts for 11th-grade! Here’s Debra’s list in case you missed it:
Excerpts of the Geneva Conventions?
Vietnam’s Declaration of Independence?
Churchill’s Iron Curtain speech?
Truman Doctrine?
JFK’s address to the nation re civil rights in 1963?
John Lewis’s speech Aug ’63 March on Washington?
FDR’s Second Inaugural Address?
Excerpts from Declaration of Sentiments from Seneca Falls?

Beth and I agree that these texts should be added to the list. We already have excerpts from the Vietnamese Declaration of Independence, Churchill’s Iron Curtain speech, the Truman Doctrine, and JFK’s speech on civil rights of 1963 in the History Blueprint Cold War unit. We have designed literacy supports for some of these in the unit. The only document we are unsure about is the Geneva Convention. Would this be the part about universal human rights?

I also suggest pairing some of these texts with another source from the same time period which expresses the opposite point of view. There’s a problem with giving too many inspiring and wise texts to teenagers. They take the ideas for granted and often don’t see that the true significance of the text is that it originally stated a position that contradicted the existing status-quo and the belief systems of most people. If the teacher begins by giving them a text that expresses beliefs and practices that are condemned today, and then gives them the inspiring and transformational text, students will gain insight into the significance of the text as well as understanding the perspective that the text was opposing.

Susan B. AnthonyA good example of this strategy comes from a lesson that Jed Larsen, of Kit Carson Middle School in Sacramento, designed for his 8th-grade US History class. The anchor text he wanted his class to read closely was not the Seneca Falls “Declaration of Sentiments,” but another text on the subject of woman suffrage, Susan B. Anthony’s speech “On Woman’s Right to Vote,” from 1873:

‘Friends and fellow citizens: I stand before you tonight under indictment for the alleged crime of having voted at the last presidential election, without having a lawful right to vote. It shall be my work this evening to prove to you that in thus voting, I not only committed no crime, but, instead, simply exercised my citizen’s rights, guaranteed to me and all United States citizens by the National Constitution, beyond the power of any state to deny.
The preamble of the Federal Constitution says:
“We, the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”
It was we, the people; not we, the white male citizens; nor yet we, the male citizens; but we, the whole people, who formed the Union. And we formed it, not to give the blessings of liberty, but to secure them; not to the half of ourselves and the half of our posterity, but to the whole people – women as well as men. And it is a downright mockery to talk to women of their enjoyment of the blessings of liberty while they are denied the use of the only means of securing them provided by this democratic-republican government – the ballot. . . .
To them this government has no just powers derived from the consent of the governed. To them this government is not a democracy. It is not a republic. It is an odious aristocracy; a hateful oligarchy of sex; the most hateful aristocracy ever established on the face of the globe; an oligarchy of wealth, where the rich govern the poor. An oligarchy of learning, where the educated govern the ignorant, or even an oligarchy of race, where the Saxon rules the African, might be endured; but this oligarchy of sex, which makes father, brothers, husband, sons, the oligarchs over the mother and sisters, the wife and daughters, of every household – which ordains all men sovereigns, all women subjects, carries dissension, discord, and rebellion into every home of the nation.’

Jed Larsen chose this text for several reasons: the woman suffrage movement is one of the standards in the 8th-grade US History standards; Anthony makes a forceful case for woman suffrage based on comparison to the constitution; and the text is logically structured and well-written. He says that it is a text his class turns to again and again as they study related issues later in the course.

Godeys Fashions for Dec 1861But to grab his students’ attention and to emphasize the impact of Anthony’s text, he first has students read an excerpt from an article, “How American Women Should Vote,” by Sarah Josepha Hale, the editor of Godey’s Lady’s Book. Hale wrote:

‘“I control seven votes; why should I desire to cast one myself?” said a lady who, if women went to the polls, would be acknowledged as a leader. This lady is a devoted, beloved wife, a faithful, tender mother; she has six sons. She knows her influence is paramount over the minds she has carefully trained. She feels her interests are safe confided to those her affection has made happy. She trusts her country will be nobly served by those whom her example has taught to believe in goodness, therefore she is proud to vote by her proxies. This is the way American women should vote, namely, by influencing rightly the votes of men.’

This short excerpt gives students evidence about the 19th-century cult of true womanhood and Victorian domesticity, as well as expressing counterarguments to Anthony’s text. Larsen reports that his students are shocked that a woman would have argued against woman suffrage. It is that shock that prepares them to read the inspiring and wise text with some understanding of its historical context.

If you have suggestions to add to the “Texts Worthy of Close Reading by Grade Level,” please add them in a comment.

Jed Larsen teaches 7th- and 8th-grade history at Kit Carson Middle School in Sacramento. He is a teacher leader for the History Project at UC Davis.

Text Citations:
Susan B. Anthony, “Women’s Right to Vote, 1873,” Internet Modern History Sourcebook, edited by Paul Halsall, 1997, http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/mod/1873anthony.asp.
Sarah Josepha Hale, “How American Women Should Vote,” Editor’s Table, Godey’s Lady’s Book, April 1852; Mothers in Uncle Tom’s America website, edited by Maureen E. Riedy, University of Virginia, August, 1997, http://xroads.virginia.edu/~ma97/riedy/womvote.html.

Visual Citations:
Francis Benjamin Johnston, Susan B. (Susan Brownell) Anthony, between ca. 1890 and ca. 1910, The Library of Congress, http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2001704086/.
Godey’s Fashions for December 1861, Godey’s Lady’s Book, Library of Congress, http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/97511046/.

Texts for Close Reading

I’m starting a list of “Texts Worthy of Close Reading” by grade level for grades 4 through 11. This is a beginning. I encourage you to comment on the list and recommend additional texts. If enough of us send in suggestions, we will all benefit!

I’ve written my rationale below the list.

Grade 4
“Father Luis Jayme Criticizes the Behavior of Spanish Soldiers, 1772,” from Major Problems in California History, edited by Sucheng Chan and Spencer C. Olin (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1997), 59-60.
“Richard Henry Dana, Jr., Criticizes the Mexicans in California, 1834,” from Two Years Before the Mast (New York: Modern Library, 1964 [originally published 1840], pp. 158-63, in Major Problems, 91-93.
“Louisa Clapp Pokes Fun at Her Experience as a Gold ‘Mineress,’ 1851,” in Major Problems, 114-115, from The Shirley Letters from the California Mines, 1851-1852, edited by Carl I. Wheat (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1961), 83-85.
“Frank Norris Excoriates the Railroad as ‘The Octopus,’ 1901,” in Major Problems, 168-171, from The Octopus, by Frank Norris (New York: Bantam, 1977), 31-33, 368-69.
“John Steinbeck Portrays Social Pressures in Rural California, 1939,” in Major Problems, 269-272, from The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck (New York: Penguin Books, 1976 [originally published 1943]), 119, 144.

Grade 5
The Declaration of Independence
Abigail Adams, Letter to John Adams, March 31, 1776, http://teachingamericanhistory.org/library/document/letter-to-john-adams/
The Bill of Rights
The Trial of Anne Hutchinson, http://www.swarthmore.edu/SocSci/bdorsey1/41docs/30-hut.html
Transcripts from the Boston Massacre Trial, http://law2.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/bostonmassacre/bostonmassacre.html

Grade 6
“Hammurabi’s Code,” translated by L.W. King, http://eawc.evansville.edu/anthology/hammurabi.htm.
“Covenant between God and Abram,” Genesis 17, http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Genesis%2017&version=NIV
Thucydides, “Pericles’ Funeral Oration,” http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/ancient/pericles-funeralspeech.asp
Bhagavad Gita, http://eawc.evansville.edu/anthology/gita.htm
“Mencius and his Mother: A Lesson Drawn from Weaving,” Lienu zhuan, translated by Anne Kinney, http://chnm.gmu.edu/cyh/primary-sources/189.
Livy, “Cincinnatus Leaves his Farm,” from Titus Livius, The History of Rome, Vol. I. Editor Ernest Rhys, translator Rev. Canon Roberts (Everyman’s Library, J.M. Dent and Sons (London); E.P. Dutton and Co. (New York, 1912), http://courses.cvcc.vccs.edu/history_mcgee/courses/his101/Source%20Documents/wc1d11.htm

Grade 7
“Selections from the Quran,” in Exploring the Global Past: Original Sources in World History, Volume 1, edited by Dale Crandall-Bear (Dubuque, IA: Kendall/Hunt, 2001), 88-93.
“Ibn Battuta in Mali,” http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/1354-ibnbattuta.asp; soon to appear in History Blueprint Sites of Encounter in the Medieval World unit, at chssp.ucdavis.edu.
The Song of Roland, translated by John O’Hagan, http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/basis/roland-ohag.asp.
Popol Vuh (Maya), http://www.utexas.edu/courses/stross/ant322m_files/popolvuh.htm or http://www.criscenzo.com/jaguarsun/popolvuh.html.
Galileo Galilei, “Letter to the Grand Duchess Christina of Tuscany, 1615,” http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/mod/galileo-tuscany.asp.

Grade 8
John Quincy Adams, “Speech on Independence Day, 1821,” http://teachingamericanhistory.org/library/document/speech-on-independence-day/
John L. O’Sullivan, “Manifest Destiny, 1839,” http://www.pbs.org/kera/usmexicanwar/resources/manifest_destiny_sullivan.html
Frederick Douglass, “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?” http://teachingamericanhistory.org/library/document/what-to-the-slave-is-the-fourth-of-july/ or his autobiography
Lincoln’s Speeches, in History Blueprint Civil War unit, lesson 5, http://historyblueprint.org/
Fourteenth Amendment

Grade 10
Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations, http://www.fordham.edu/Halsall/mod/adamsmith-summary.asp
Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen, http://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/rightsof.asp
Rudyard Kipling, “The White Man’s Burden,” http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/mod/kipling.asp
Marx and Engels, The Communist Manifesto, http://public.wsu.edu/~brians/world_civ/worldcivreader/world_civ_reader_2/marx.html
Winston Churchill, “Speech to the House of Commons, 1940,” http://www.winstonchurchill.org/learn/speeches/speeches-of-winston-churchill/128-we-shall-fight-on-the-beaches
Gustav Havel, “Speech to the Nation,” in History Blueprint Cold War Unit, lesson CWA/W5, http://chssp.ucdavis.edu/programs/historyblueprint/coldwar

Grade 11
Upton Sinclair, The Jungle, http://historymatters.gmu.edu/d/5727/
Social Policy Debate: William Graham Sumner, “What the Social Classes Owe to Each Other, 1883,” and Walter Rauschenbusch, “Christianizing the Social Order, 1912,” http://nationalhumanitiescenter.org/pds/gilded/power/text9/text9read.htm
Theodore Roosevelt, “Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine,” http://www.ourdocuments.gov/doc.php?flash=true&doc=56&page=transcript
Woodrow Wilson, “Fourteen Points,” http://www.ourdocuments.gov/doc.php?doc=62&page=transcript
Franklin D. Roosevelt, “First Inaugural Address,” http://historymatters.gmu.edu/d/5057/
Franklin D. Roosevelt, “Annual Address to Congress, 1941,” http://www.ourdocuments.gov/doc.php?doc=70&page=transcript

Click here for the list in a pdf file: Texts Worthy of Close Reading by Grade Level

My rationale:

One of the major emphases of the Common Core State Standards is on close reading of informational texts. The close reading strategy involves reading a text several times, with a different purpose each time. Students read the text on their own initially, rather than hearing first as it is read aloud. Then they re-read the text, discussing it as a class and in small groups, marking up the text with cognitive markers and marginal notes, and answering text-dependent questions. With each reading, they penetrate more deeply into the structure, meaning, and style of text. According to Douglas Fisher and Nancy Frey, “The purpose [of close reading] is to build habits of readers as they engage with the complex texts of the discipline and to build their stamina and skills for being able to do so independently.”

The Common Core State Standards call for close reading at every grade level and in a wide range of subject areas. In the middle and high schools, history teachers can make a huge contribution to the efforts of their schools to meet the Common Core Standards by incorporating close reading into their courses. This would not be a sacrifice that history teachers make for the sake of their schools, but a positive move that will benefit history teachers, help their students and improve the teaching of history. After all, what does a historian do with a primary source? Read it once and get the gist? Or read over and over, posing different questions and looking at different aspects, in an effort to understand the author’s purpose and underlying agenda? If we develop questions and reading activities that help students act as historians, close reading becomes a strategy for teaching history, not something the English teachers want us to do.

For elementary teachers who teach both language arts and social studies, the hurdle is more the switch from stories to “informational texts.” What does that term mean exactly? How can the teacher get her or his struggling readers through informational texts? First, I recommend that the informational texts be interesting. Most textbooks are not particularly interesting, and I would not recommend doing close reading using textbook passages. Secondly, I recommend that the texts we choose for our students should further either the social studies or science content standards of the grade levels we teach. The informational texts should directly serve as many educational objectives as possible.

Both elementary and secondary teachers know that doing close reading will take a lot of class time. With so much to cover, how will we find the time to engage in close reading? While this decision has to remain in the hands of the teacher, department and/or school, I have two suggestions. Use the fact that students will not be tested on history-social science content this year to relax the pace of coverage. And start modestly. Choose a manageable number of texts (maybe 6 per year or 1 per month) to read closely. Choose texts that are worth time and effort and further your objectives for the students.

The list above is partial and very incomplete. The selections for each grade level align with the California History-Social Science standards for that grade. Most of the documents are widely available on the web, although most need to be excerpted further, especially for the elementary and middle school grades. That work remains to be done. Please comment on this blogpost to add your choice texts to the list, or email me at slhutton@ucdavis.edu.

Scholars at an Abbasid library. Maqamat of al-Hariri, Illustration by Yahyá al-Wasiti, 1237, photo taken by Zereshk from text in the Bibliotheque Nationale de France. Wikipedia Commons, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Maqamat_hariri.jpg.
Douglas Fisher and Nancy Frey, Engaging the Adolescent Learner: Text Complexity and Close Readings (International Reading Association, 2013).

Blueprint Progress Report

Shennan in Grand CanyonAs my colleague Beth Slutsky wrote in the last post, I was away for a bit on a grand vacation – literally.  I took a six-day rafting trip on the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon.  It was magnificent, stupendous, exhilarating, and many other superlative adjectives that I wouldn’t otherwise use.  I highly recommend the trip to anyone who can tolerate not taking a shower for six days (although there were frequent river dips.)

I returned to find Blueprint unit development in full swing.  We’ve released the Cold War unit.  If you’re a high school US or world history teacher, try out some or all of it this year and send in your comments.  We’re going to do another revision of it at the end of this school year.  The more input we get on what works and what doesn’t, the better.

Med World Team 1We’re also working on the third draft of the Sites of Encounter in the Medieval World unit.  We are at the stage where we put together the five lessons that were each created by a different teacher.  Although the teachers had the same mission and processed the same content from the same professors, individual styles and solo design produced great differences among the lessons.  The teachers who worked on this unit created exceptionally fine lessons.  Mary Miller’s lesson on Sicily emphasizes geographical understanding and analysis of written sources.  Erica Aguirre (not shown) designed the Majorca lesson as a group learning experience.  For the Quanzhou lesson, John Muller created a tightly-scaffolded reading-to-writing lesson which takes students through analyzing excerpts from Marco Polo and Ibn Battuta and critiquing travel narratives.  Shomara Gooden’s lesson on Mali and Cairo guides students through complex visual and written primary sources with superb graphic organizers and group activities.  For the final lesson on Calicut, Michelle Delgado wove together analysis of primary sources and scaffolds for gathering evidence, forming interpretations and writing an argumentative essay.  I cannot thank these teachers enough for the high quality of their work.

Weaving the lessons into a comprehensive unit involves two major tasks: pulling together the common threads of the unit through all of the lessons and filling content “holes.”  We have identified several holes, the biggest of which is the Mongol Empire.  We’re planning to add a mini-lesson on the Mongols which will fit between the Sicily and Quanzhou lessons.  We plan other mini-lessons as well, on the Black Death and Zheng He’s voyages.  These are topics that transcend the individual sites of encounter and do not fit well into the focus of the larger lessons.  Rather than disturbing the flow of those lessons, we will add one-day mini-lessons between the main five lessons.  We are also thinking about reordering the lessons to put the Majorca lesson later in the sequence, because it deals with a later time period and has connections to fifteenth-century European voyages around Africa and across the Atlantic.  Here is the idea:

  1. Sicily
  2. Mongol Empire (mini)
  3. Quanzhou
  4. Zheng He’s voyages (mini)
  5. Mali and Cairo
  6. Individual research project assignment (mini)
  7. Majorca
  8. Black Death (mini)
  9. Calicut

417px-Haggadah_14th_centAnother important thread that we must draw through all the lessons is the sequential development of the targeted Common Core Reading and Writing Standards for Literacy in History-Social Studies.  Lesson one has to introduce the skills required for close reading (RH2 and 3), citing specific textual evidence (RH1), internalizing key vocabulary (RH4), and integrating ideas from multiple sources (RH7, 8 and 9).  We have to build in research strategies and practice activities (WHST7, 8 and 9), short writing assignments and reading-to-writing scaffolds (WHST4 and 5) to teach students how to synthesize evidence from multiple primary and secondary sources and deploy that evidence logically to support larger claims (WHST1).  We have to create scaffolds that will enable English Learners and students who read and write below grade level to be successful.  Each lesson has to contain activities that build those skills so that students can demonstrate proficiency on the individual research project and the final argumentative essay.

All this will take us a while, but I must say that it is a labor of love.  I’ll keep you posted!

Citation: A folio from the Washington Haggadah, African and Middle Eastern Division, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. http://www.loc.gov/rr/amed/guide/hs-beauty.html.

Cold War Blueprint Unit Makes its Debut

Hi my name is Beth Slutsky, and I’m one of Shennan’s close friends at the History Project. While Shennan is paddling her way down the Colorado River on what I’m sure is a wildly adventurous trip, I wanted to update you on what we’ve been up to at Davis.  In fact, we have very good news to tell our CHSSP friends. I am proud to announce that after months in development, the Cold War Blueprint Unit is now available on our website:  http://chssp.ucdavis.edu/programs/historyblueprint/coldwar .  You can view and download all of the different pieces from this website.  Over the past few months Shennan has provided you with terrific snapshots of activities in the unit, but I’d like to introduce the Cold War Unit in its entirety.

Photograph of Marines of Company I in Vietnam. October 30, 1969
Source: National Archives, ARC Identifier # 532492

The content of the Cold War Unit is intended to be all-encompassing for world and U.S. History students. It is united structurally and intellectually by one unit investigative question that frames the whole thing: Why and how was the Cold War fought? In posing such a broad question, the unit draws on new historical scholarship about the global context of the Cold War.

Here is a bit of what we wrote to introduce and frame the unit: The Cold War that spanned more than four decades touched nearly every country on earth. The ideological, diplomatic, military, and cultural struggle that started between the Soviet Union and United States went through a number of phases as people and countries in the post-World War II era struggled to define what freedom would mean for them. This unit of study contains two strands – one for world history students and one for U.S. history students. The first path through the Cold War focuses on the origins of the world-wide conflict; the newly emerging nations that had been colonies before World War II, and then after the war had to choose whether to align themselves with the United States, the Soviets, or choose something else; the international conflicts that arose as a result of those alliances; and finally the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union. The second path through the Cold War teaches students about the roots of the conflict; the ways in which the American government imagined and implemented anti-communist policies abroad and at home; the effects of the Cold War on individual Americans; the war as it came to Vietnam; and finally the end of the Cold War.

This unit also provides detailed instructions to support student analysis of a number of relevant primary sources, including

addresses made by Churchill, Stalin, Truman, Gandhi, Castro, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Reagan, Gorbachev, and dozens of ordinary citizens that experienced the turmoil and daily life of the Cold War. The unit concludes as it begins with a focus on an engaging and historically significant question: Why and how was the Cold War Fought?

In addition to teaching students about the Cold War, this unit teaches students how to read, write, and think historically, analyze historical evidence from primary and secondary sources, and make interpretations. Students will practice Common Core reading and writing skills, especially identifying the perspective and point of view of a source, integrating information from visual and written sources, identifying evidence from sources, using that evidence to support an argument or interpretation, and communicating that argument in well-conceived sentence, paragraph, essay, or explanation.

"Fallout shelter built by Louis Severance adjacent to his home near Akron, Mich., includes a special ventilation and escape hatch, an entrance to his basement, tiny kitchen, running water, sanitary facilities, and a sleeping and living area for the family of four. The shelter cost about $1,000. It has a 10-inch reinforced concrete ceiling with thick earth cover and concrete walls. Severance says, 'Ever since I was convinced what damage H-Bombs can do, I've wanted to build the shelter. Just as with my chicken farm, when there's a need I build it." By an unknown photographer, ca. 1960 National Archives and Records Administration, Records of the Defense Civil Preparedness Agency (397-MA-2s-160) [VENDOR # 125]

“Fallout shelter built by Louis Severance adjacent to his home near Akron, Mich., includes a special ventilation and escape hatch, an entrance to his basement, tiny kitchen, running water, sanitary facilities, and a sleeping and living area for the family of four. The shelter cost about $1,000. It has a 10-inch reinforced concrete ceiling with thick earth cover and concrete walls. Severance says, ‘Ever since I was convinced what damage H-Bombs can do, I’ve wanted to build the shelter. Just as with my chicken farm, when there’s a need I build it.”
By an unknown photographer, ca. 1960
National Archives and Records Administration, Records of the Defense Civil Preparedness Agency
(397-MA-2s-160) [VENDOR # 125]

• Both World and U.S. history students will learn about the origins of the ideological and geostrategic conflict, and how the U.S. and Soviet Union created competing blocs in which to engage each other (CWW/A1).
• World history students will study how newly emerging nations attempted to negotiate a third way between the two super-powers, but often faced serious struggles from within and outside their borders, as was the case with the Suez Canal Crisis and Chile (CWW2, CWW3).
• U.S. history students will learn about how containment was used as a strategy to wage the Cold War abroad through foreign and military policy (CWA2), at home through a re-organization of an anti-communist government and build up of American suburbs (CWA3), and in the escalation of the war in Vietnam (CWA4).
• The unit concludes with an investigation into how the Cold War ended, which focuses not simply on the collapse of the Soviet Union, but also on the many changes preceding it inside and outside of the Soviet Union, and the world order that came to replace it (CWW/A5).

A note on organization:
• Cold War World/America (hereafter CWW/A)1 (Origins of the Cold War) is intended for both world and US history students.
• CWW2 (Decolonization) and CWW3 (Principles vs. Practices) are intended for world history students.
• CWA2 (Containment Abroad), CWA3 (Containment at Home), and CWA4 (Vietnam) are intended for US history students.
• The unit concludes with a common lesson for world and US history students, CWW/A5 (End of the Cold War)

While this unit has been months in the making, we still have many more months in front of us as we streamline and revise its different components. On our website you’ll find a “provide feedback” link where you can click and send us your thoughts and suggestions about how it can be even better.

History Blueprint Tackles the End of the Cold War

Berlin WallOne of the most amazing experiences I had as a 10th-grade world history teacher (1986-2000) was to teach about the end of the Cold War as it happened. 1989 produced one breath-taking change after another. As I watched people open champagne bottles while standing on top of the Berlin Wall, I knew what my lesson would be for the next day. I knew that my students (some of whom now actually teach history themselves) would care deeply about the history happening before their eyes.

The interest of students in the Cold War waned along with the euphoria. Today’s 10th-graders barely remember 9/11, let alone 1989. It’s a struggle to get them to take communism seriously, either as an ideology or as the American enemy in the Cold War. But that is a struggle I can take on willingly now at the college level. It’s always the job of the history teacher to promote historical empathy for events of the past.

In contrast, I’m more concerned when I hear people say that the US under President Reagan’s leadership held firm against the Soviet Union and that caused the fall of communism. My objection is not that this is wrong, but that it is too simple. Although US pressure in the arms race was a contributing factor, the communist system in the Soviet Union fell from within. Tough talk was not enough, and sadly, thousands of people pouring into the streets to protest weren’t enough either. Neither would have worked if communism was working economically.

CWAW5 End-1The final lesson of the History Blueprint Cold War unit lays out the multiple causes of the end of the Cold War in logical order and compelling detail. While the lesson covers the dialogue between Reagan and Gorbachev, students also explore the economic stresses and systemic failures of the command economy model in the Soviet Union.

Here is the introduction to the portion of Lesson CWW/A5 that addresses “Cracks in the Soviet Union in the 1980s.”

In the early 1980s, the Soviet Union appeared to be thriving to outside observers. Its nuclear stockpile was larger than the United States, it was building new military bases throughout Africa and the Middle East, and its political clout in parts of the world, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, was at an all-time high.

But appearances were deceiving. The Soviet economy was outperforming the United States in several key industrial areas, but it was doing so at enormous cost – Soviet industries were far less efficient than their American counterparts, a fact that could be attributed to the growing technological gap between the United States and the USSR. Furthermore, the Soviet Union maintained an oppressive hold on political and cultural life within the Eastern Bloc, sparking a great deal of social discontent. To top things off, all of these problems were exacerbated by the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan, which was dragging on with no end in sight. Inside the Soviet Union’s Iron Curtain, residents in Eastern Europe began to grow restless and vocalize their discontent in ways that had not been allowed in earlier years.

Soviet TankYou will be reading and answering questions about four documents that highlight the problems that the USSR faced in the mid-1980s. The first compares the Soviet economy with the American economy. The second is Lech Walesa’s 1983 Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech, an example of the conflict between the Polish worker union Solidarity and the Soviet Union, a state ostensibly founded in providing for the world’s workers. The third piece is an excerpt from a memoir written by a Soviet soldier deployed to Afghanistan. The fourth document is an excerpt from Mikhail Gorbachev’s memoirs, addressing the disaster at Chernobyl. In April 1986, the worst environmental accident in world history happened at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine, releasing a great deal of radioactive material into the Soviet Union and parts of Europe. The explosion, fire, and release of radiation affected the lives of hundreds of thousands of people (though less than 100 were killed in the immediate explosion), and the area around the nuclear power plant will be contaminated for 24,000 years.

To see the sources and activities of this portion of Lesson CWW/A5, click Cracks in Soviet Union CWW-A5.

A teacher today can’t take advantage of the natural excitement of unfolding events as I could in 1989, but this lesson will give them a way to teach comprehensively about the end of the Cold War. The advantage teachers have today is the perspective of time (as well as not having to worry about MAD!)

A West German visitor to the Berlin Wall uses a hammer and a chisel to chip off a piece of the Wall as a souvenir. A portion of the Wall has already been demolished at Potsdamer Platz, 11/14/1989; Source: National Archives ARC Identifier: 6460158.
President Reagan and Soviet General Secretary Gorbachev meet in the boathouse during the Geneva Summit in Switzerland, 11/19/85. Reagan Presidential Library, FC31982-11.
Soldiers ride aboard a Soviet BMD airborne combat vehicle, 03/25/1986, National Archives, http://research.archives.gov/description/6399442.

Common Core Skills and the Cold War in the Third World

1024px-Nasser_cheered_by_supporters_in_1956We’re still hard at work on the Cold War unit. This unit presents an extra challenge because the Cold War lasted for such a long period and involved so many nations. We’ve had to pick and choose among the many proxy wars and crises of the period between 1947 and 1991. These choices have been quite difficult. For example, the second lesson of the world history strand focuses on the process of decolonization and the attempts of Third World nations to find a third way rather than to align themselves with either the US or the Soviet Union. We selected Egypt (the Suez Crisis of 1956) and Cuba (the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1961), after debating furiously over Algeria, Indonesia, Vietnam, etc. But even though the lesson does not cover all the important variations of decolonization and its entanglement with the Cold War, the two case studies of Egypt and Cuba are developed in considerable depth. The goal is to teach students not only about the crises but also about the underlying issues of anti-colonialism, economic dependence and nationalism. With a grasp of those issues, students can begin to grapple with the diverse points of view of the participants in the crisis.

The case study on the Suez Crisis gives students practice in two key Common Core skills: close reading of texts and analyzing diverse points of view.

The case study on Egypt begins with a secondary background reading CWW2.8 Background Suez Canal on the building of the Suez Canal, British colonialism in Egypt, Egyptian resistance, Nasser’s “third way” and the Suez Crisis of 1956. It contains comprehension questions to guide students through the material. Next, the teacher divides students into groups of four to read Gamal Abd al-Nasser’s “Speech at Alexandria,” delivered on July 26, 1956.CWW2.9 Nasser Speech at Alexandria The activity has students analyze propaganda in the speech and determine how the speech would appeal to different groups in Egypt and abroad. Students then read the speech and complete the analysis as a group. After they finish, the teacher has students share examples of propaganda and loaded words.

The next step is a simulation of a conference on the Suez Canal Crisis. The students are divided into seven groups to represent Egypt, the US, the Soviet Union, Great Britian, France, Indonesia and Pakistan. Each group has a national position paper to help them prepare for the simulation, along with general instructions CWW2.10 Suez Canal Crisis Conference Group Assignment. Here are examples of two position papers: for the Soviet Union CWW2.10.2 Soviet Position Paper, and for Indonesia CWW2.10.5 Indonesia Position Paper. The students prepare a speech, a poster, and questions for other groups. In the simulation, each group speaker delivers the speech and presents the poster. The other groups ask questions and the group answers. The group questions can continue as long as time allows.

At the end, the students read a secondary text on the resolution of the crisis and answer the questions about UN Resolution 118. If re-teaching is necessary, this paper also has a brief diagram of the crisis and an explanation of key vocabulary. Students should be able to define Nasser’s version of the Third Way, the views of the US, Soviet Union, Britain and Egypt, and the terms nationalism, sovereignty, and nationalization.

Egyptian Prime Minister Nasser cheered in Cairo after announcing the Suez Canal Company, August 1, 1956, from Ricky-Dale Calhoun, “The Musketeer’s Cloak: Strategic Deception During the Suez Crisis of 1956,” Studies in Intelligence, vol. 51, no. 2 (Central Intelligence Agency, June 2007), pp. 47-58 [Available online from CIA – Studies in Intelligence]. Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Nasser_cheered_by_supporters_in_1956.jpg.
I apologize for the incorrect citation given previously in this blogpost. My thanks to Dr. Calhoun for bringing this to my attention.