Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Lesson Plan: Louisiana Purchase

Today is the first day of our large multi-family coop, where I am teaching a class for middle schoolers entitled "Could You Survive the Lewis & Clark Expedition?"  The bulk of the class was spent having the students read aloud my condensed version of a play, "Pardon Me, Mr. Talleyrand, But Did You Say the WHOLE of Louisiana?" that was written by the National Park Service as part of the Lewis and Clark Bicentennial Celebration (it can be found at: ).

This version is simpler than all the specific schemes, spies, and double-crosses presented in the Rhomberg book (see my post of September 14), but it does provide a transnational history perspective of how this territory was traded back and forth between various European rulers, none of whom really wanted to colonize there, but all of whom wanted to keep it so that their enemies wouldn't get it.

I'll admit that it was a tough assignment for the first day of coop--to read aloud with people that you didn't know--but the students all did a great job!  I told them they had demonstrated three of the qualities that you needed to survive the Lewis & Clark Expedition:
1.  Preparation (I sent the script by email, and they all had to print it out, select their characters, and bring it to class)
2.  Courage (It takes courage to read aloud new material in front of a class of people you don't know)
3.  Teamwork (They all helped each other stay on track, gently prompted their neighbor if it was his or her turn, and encouraged each other's readings)

I think it is valuable for them to see how volatile the ownership of the Western territory was at that time, and I think student presenting a Readers Theater version of the play is a much better way to present it than me talking.

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