Perspectives on Slavery: A Lesson

In our class this past week, we learned some characteristics of the Southern part of our country during the 1800’s.  The southern states’ economy was mainly agricultural, and the biggest cash crop was cotton.  Growing and processing cotton was hard and required hours of labor, so plantation owners relied on slave labor in order to make a profit.  Some northerners thought slavery was wrong and called for its abolition, or end.

At stations around the classroom, students read biographies of nine different historical figures, some well known, and some they’d never heard of.  The students had three tasks, each involved critical thinking about the degrees of pro or anti-slavery attitudes and actions of the historical figures they studied.


Task 1)  Discuss with your group whether the person was for or against slavery.  Provide two pieces of evidence from the reading.  Mark a spectrum line where you think this person would fall if one end of the line is “for” and the other end is labeled “against.”

Task 2)  At table groups, create a single spectrum and place each person on that line.  The important part of this task is the conversations students have.  They should not only tell where they think the historical figure should be on the spectrum, but they should use evidence to persuade other students.

Task 3)  The class creates a single spectrum line.  Nine students hold placards with the names of each historical figure and stand in front of the class.  Students shuffle the human spectrum line around by making suggestions and providing reasons.  Not all students agree, and the discussion fosters real engagement.  Take a look at our video, and you will hear some of the discussions during this activity.

What have you been learning about in your classroom?

Who We Are

Well, not enTIREly tireless, but motivated and inspired by my students.

Well, not enTIREly tireless, but motivated and inspired by my students.

Students in this 8th grade history class have been learning history and history skills with me since they were brand new 7th graders.  They are a fantastic group of students from whom I take inspiration.  I continue to learn from my students as well.  They have unique ideas for ways to process some historic topics.  Connor, for example, loves a good debate.  While I couldn’t necessarily work that in to each unit, there comes a time when I see that students are ready with the background knowledge and understanding they need to hash out two (or more) sides of a historical but relevant issue.  Then we go for it.  I will post an example of a collaborative lesson in a future post.  Stay tuned.

I’ve asked my students to introduce themselves here.  A scan of their comments on this post will help you gain an understanding of what California students like, how they spend their after school and weekend time, and you will see that within our class there are lots of differences of opinion and perspectives.  Please reply to a student’s comment by telling a bit about yourself.  We can’t wait to get to know our peers across the globe.

About Our School

This introduction is a compilation of student letters.  Students collaborated to combine information they felt described our school best.

Jaguar Logo

Our School Logo with motto: Integrity, Character, Scholarship, Community

We live in the Central Valley of California, an agricultural area.  The state capital is nearby.  In 2013 the population of our town was 161,000.


Our school has nearly 1,400 students, but we are grouped into teams, so we get to know the kids in our classes pretty well.  Our school year begins in the middle of August and ends at the end of May.  School starts at 8:15 and ends at 2:47 p.m.  However, on Wednesdays, we start at 9:15 a.m. because of teacher meetings.  Most Wednesdays, we have an advocacy class, where we talk about serious subjects like bullying, drugs, and our grades.  Sometimes we have assemblies.  In assemblies, we usually have a motivational speaker or dodge ball/basketball tournaments between students and teachers.  Our school follows a block schedule.  That means we have four classes every day.  Each class is 90 minutes long.  We take math, bridge (a combined reading and math class), social science (history), English, physical education, science, and electives.  We chose our electives before we started school.  In addition to classes, the activities we have a chance to interact with are sports, clubs, playing a musical instrument, and helping others by doing community service projects.

What is your school like?