Monday, March 23, 2009

Lesson Plan I: 2nd Great Awakening

The previous discussions about teaching got me thinking that it might be a good idea to present one of my teaching lessons, which could serve as a point of departure for a dialogue about specific methodology or approaches in general.

This week I put together a new 3-part lesson on the Second Great Awakening for my evening course which meets once a week for 3 hours and 20 minutes. Such a large chunk of time provides ample room for creative approaches, but this lesson could easily be broken up to fit 50 minute sessions. Below I primarily discuss the in-class project (third part of the lesson), which was pretty cool in my book.

Background: The class is the first half of the U.S. survey. Students have been reading sections of their textbook covering the transforming U.S. North from 1820-1860 (students multiple choice exams every 2 weeks to encourage regular and timely reading). In the previous class session, I lectured on the market revolution, the changing urban landscape, and the emergence of separate spheres ideology.

The lesson:
In the first part of the lesson students discussed a selection from Nathan Huggins' Slave and Citizen: The Life of Frederick Douglass (in the Guarneri, America Compared reader). We discussed race, gender, abolitionism, anti-slavery, and reformism.

In the second part, I lectured on the Second Great Awakening and various reform movements (temperance, prisons, women's rights).

In the third, students read (in class) a set of primary source documents from Chapter 4 (Religious Revivals and the Second Great Awakening) in Wilentz and Earle, eds., Major Problems in the Early Republic, 1787-1848, 2nd edition. I gave them the following prompts. The numbers with the #-sign signify which documents to read. I also wanted students to revisit related sections of the textbook.

Use evidence from primary source documents and the textbook (see the document numbers & page numbers given with the topic) to construct a short skit in which you address the following numbered issues. The skit must include at least three people and at least two must have dialogue. As long you address the issues listed with the assigned topic, you are free to be as creative as you like to convey the information. I will need a written script at the beginning of the presentation.

News report on a camp meeting (#2, #3, & American Promise, pp. 379-80)
1. Where is the camp meeting and why is it at that location?
2. What ideas were expressed at these camp meetings?
3. Express what it would have been like to participate in a camp meeting.
4. How would gender have affected the experience?
5. Include the relationships between at least two different groups of people that participated in camp revivals

Debate show: role of women in society (#7 & American Promise, pp. 376-80 [NOT “Education & Training of Youths”] & 425-26)
1. What was the role of middle-class women according to separate spheres ideology?
2. What sorts of things were women “supposed” to do?
3. Justify that role and that participation in society
4. What alternatives did some women present to that model of womanhood? (Be specific in identifying particular groups or things they did)
5. What arguments did they use to justify these alternatives?

Discussion of college students at a coffee house about religion on campus (#3 & American Promise, pp. 378-80)
1. To what degree did people participate in “awakenings” on campus?
2. What experiences did people have who participated in the “awakenings”?
3. What activities did ‘converted’ people engage in?
4. What various responses did college students have to the “awakenings”?
5. What concerns might have prompted college students to participate in these revivals?
6. How unique were college students among youths who received education (think also of who could have been a college student and who could not, or was more unlikely to become one)?

Advertisement for a Temperance Reform Chapter (#4 & American Promise, pp. 379-81)
1. Who belonged to the Temperance Reform chapter?
2. How did temperance reform fit with middle-class notions of manhood? How would it not?
3. How did temperance reform fit with middle-class notions of womanhood? How would it not?
4. Why would people who engaged in revivalist activities of the Second Great Awakening tend to support temperance reform?

Advertisement for Anti-Slavery group (#6 & American Promise, pp. 379-80 & 381-85 & 426-27 & 430)
1. Where and how did African Americans in the North participate in the Second Great Awakening?
2. To what extent did African-Americans in the North control their religious education and religious leadership?
3. What obstacles did revivalist African Americans face?
4. How were anti-slavery and abolition societies connected to the Second Great Awakening?
5. What activities did they engage in and why?

It took students 10 minutes for students to read and collect their thoughts, 30 minutes of group work to create their skits and 10 minutes to perform (because of time constraints I omitted the requirement to submit a written script). When students were ready to present, I introduced the set of skits as the evening television line-up for Channel 2 WSGA (Second Great Awakening). We began with a news report, then an ad, followed by the debate show, then an ad, and wrapped up with the evening drama (college students at the coffee shop).

The overarching goal was to have students portray and see the many different experiences of the 2nd Great Awakening--at least in the North--by placing themselves in the shoes of historical characters.

There were 5-6 students in each group and students got to work right away because they have been engaging in these sorts of in-class projects all semester. As stated in the instructions, at least 3 people needed to participate in the performance so that individuals nervous about being in front of the class would not be forced into an uncomfortable situation. Still, for most groups, all members contributed to the performance.

Students seemed to enjoy the task and the presentations, certainly no one was asleep or surfing the web. The task provided for a variety of learning types and created a memorable experience, which hopefully will be reflected in the upcoming exams.


CGB said...

I like this a lot. I have tried a similar approach in written assignments in which I encourage my students to write in the form of a fictive memoir, or a newspaper report. What I have failed to do so far (but will now after reading your post), was to give them a series of concrete instructions on what issues they absolutely needed to address. My thinking behind the assignment was rather that I wanted students to identify themselves what the important issues were; a task the best students accomplished very well on their own. But I lost those of my students who were less prepared already for college level history.

The Daft Laird said...

I also really like this assignment. My sense is that many students will understand and be engaged by this method because they've probably done something similar in high school history courses.

I think this is a particularly effective method for a survey course, since (in my view at least) one of the main goals is to deliver information in an engaging way.

That said--and I don't mean this as a criticism of the lesson plan as you used it T/S--I don't think this would work as well in an upper-level class. One of the weaknesses of this approach is that it would seem more difficult to grapple with complex material. But, since I'll be teaching three survey courses in the fall, that isn't a big concern for me.

CGB said...

Well, as I mentioned earlier, I have used a similar assignment in a course, which was a 300-level seminar. I don't think that the assignment made it more difficult to process complex material. But that is only true for certain types of learners, I think. Some students are intmidated by the "creativity pressure" of this kind of assignment and prefer something more conventional. I usually give them that option and I find it always surprising how many students prefer the conventional essay format. It might be more familiar to them; it might also feel safer.