As a teacher, I’m constantly exhorted to reflect on my practice. One self-identified area of weakness is giving the students ample opportunities to delve into primary sources, particularly in World History class.
As my two NEH Summer Seminars have taught me, allowing students to explore sources, participate in inquiry cycles, and reach their own fact-based conclusions is a crucial aspect of learning.
Thus, when the school librarian informed me about an extensive primary source, The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database, I decided to incorporate it into a unit on Medieval Africa. Last year, my 7th grade World History students created podcasts about Medieval Africa, griots, and oral history as a part of the unit. This year, they created podcasts like the one that opens this blog post.
Using this lesson plan as a foundation, each student was assigned a particular area of research. Since I’m teaching in Latin America, I changed some of the research questions to focus on Latin America instead of North America. I also have a proudly Brazilian student. To his excitement, I created questions that were Brazil-focused (there’s a historical reason why Brazil has the largest amount of people of African descent outside of Africa!). Students also had to incorporate information from the text The Royal Kingdoms of Ghana, Mali, and Songhay.
Despite a one-on-one conference, the ESL student who created the above podcast struggled to fully articulate the law of jettison in relation to Captain Collingwood’s decision to throw (read: murder) over 100 slaves overboard in the name of survival and an insurance claim. As she repeatedly alludes to at the end of the podcast, she did grasp the horror that was the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade.
I was proud of this student’s introduction because she incorporated the attention grabbing techniques we discussed in English class (along with a few transition words to boot!). Overall, I still want the students to produce stronger, more content-rich podcasts, but this was definitely a start. If any teachers are interested in completing a similar project with their students please feel free to reach out to me.
Estoy a la orden (I’m available).