The lesson plan was intended to teach students in middle school about the grievances of the American colonists and why they wanted to declare their independence from Britain. The activity the lesson plan designs incorporates a large amount of cooperative learning. The students are broken up into different groups and have to work together to come up with their own grievances based upon a proclamation that is read aloud. When the students have completed the activity, they have to continue collaborating together and read about the significance of why the colonists wanted their independence in their textbook. All in all, this lesson plan is designed to get students to work together to learn about the colonist’s grievances and try to compare and contrast them to their own grievances they made during the class activity.
When viewing the lesson plan, Jean Piaget’s formal operational stage can be seen. The plan was designed for students at the middle school level, which is the intended age of Piaget’s formal operational stage. According to this stage, students are able to move from concrete thinking to more of an abstract and hypothetical thinking. In the lesson plan, students have to think in a hypothetical way. They have to think about how different their surroundings would be, how their lifestyles would be affected, and how their individual freedoms may be skewed if the proclamation that was read to them was implemented in today. As well, the lesson plan explains how students have to write grievances with their group regarding their opinions on the proclamation. This can be seen as providing students with the continuity to think more abstractly because they are trying to situate themselves in a world where democracy is nonexistent. Therefore, they are engaging in abstract thought because they have to think of a world outside their own.
Besides the four stages Piaget believed each child goes through sequentially, he also believed that peer interactions were important to cognitive development. Another cognitive theorist, Vygotsky, also believed in the importance of cooperative learning. He greatly believed that by children working together, it could help them construct meaning and draw a better understanding of the world around them. Thus, these two theorists believed that learning is constructive and interacting with others can help further students’ learning. This lesson plan involves a beneficial activity that keeps all the students engaged within the classroom. Students are broken up into different groups where they are able to work together to create their own grievances and read about why the colonists declared their independence. Additionally, the teacher is not lecturing. Rather, she is allowing the students to collaborate with one another to further their learning and understanding regarding the American Revolution.
In the activity, the students are being both “minds-on” and “hands-on.” The students are being minds-on because they are trying to picture a life where monarchy reigns. This can help them successfully create and give significant grievances to the royal court in regards to the proclamation. The students are also being minds-on because they have to collaborate with one another to discover how their grievances relate to those of the American colonists. As for being hands on, the students have to work together to create, write, and present their grievances to the royal court of the classroom.
Another example on how students are being hands-on in the activity is through role-playing. They are placing themselves in either the position of the American colonists or the position of the royal court. This is meant for them to learn the different feelings of certain individuals during the time era and have them develop an understanding of why the war for independence happened. The lesson plan explains how students have to choose a card that indicates what group they are supposed to be in for the activity. This implies that the activity that the students will be engaging in is role-playing. The students are able to know what character they have to transform themselves into so they can modify their mindset to fit to that group they are intended to be in for the activity. Role-play is something beneficial to incorporate within lesson plans because it can help keep students engaged within the classroom. In this activity, the students are staying engaged when they represent their group’s grievances to the royal court as well as when they are reading about the colonists in their textbook. Additionally, role-playing can help students think in a different manner. It can help strengthen their skills of thinking outside the box. For this activity, the students are thinking outside the box because they have to situate themselves where the governmental system in America is a not democratic, what it would be like living under imperialistic rule and how their lives would be extremely altered.
Role Playing is also useful to students because it can help them move information that they learned from their short-term memory into their long-term memory. This process is known as information processing. One way students can transfer newly learned information to their long-term memory is through elaborative rehearsal. They can attach associations with the material that is being learned, or discovered, and organize it to fit into their existing knowledge. In the lesson plan’s activity, the students have to create their own grievances, based off the proclamation that is read aloud to them. They have to associate what is stated in the proclamation to their own grievances they created with their group. Besides the grievances, they can further draw associations with how the proclamation violates their individual freedoms. Attaching associations can also help further a students’ understanding on why the colonists wanted their independence. They can link what they gained from their experience with the activity and their textbook reading to the real grievances the American colonists had. Thus, this can help better their understanding of the material because they are able to link information together. Correlating information helps keep it organized and easier to retrieve out of memory. As well, this is what the brain likes, and therefore, by being able to intertwine pieces of information together, it can help an individual move information into their long-term memory and improve retrieval.
Besides drawing upon associations, another example of elaborative rehearsal that can be seen within the lesson plan is organization. Organization is useful because it keeps information in the brain clear and understandable. By being organized, the brain can better link new information to existing schemas, it can better recall, and it can more successfully transfer information into long-term memory. Information that is moved into long-term memory is placed into a network model, which is where information in the memory is organized into a network of schemas. Through elaborative rehearsal, students can organize newly learned information and relate it to their previous knowledge, or existing network of schemas. For example, the students engaging in this activity may already have some previous knowledge on the American Revolution. This previous knowledge they may have is set up into a network of schemas in their long-term memory. When they participate in the lesson plan’s activity, they can further expand their existing knowledge of the Revolution. The students are being able to learn and discover how their grievances, experiences, and what they read in their textbook relates to their existing knowledge of the war. Thus, by making connections to their existing knowledge that is set up into a network in their long-term memory, they are expanding their network of schemas. As well, by making connections to old information, the brain is more likely to be able to maintain, recall, and retrieve the new information.
Another concept that can be related to this lesson plan is the constructivist theory, or how students should try to individually discover and transform complex information. In the activity, the students have to listen to what is being read from the proclamation, discover how it is taking away their freedoms and transform their feelings, or opinions, into grievances. Though the activity is designed to have the students work in a group, they can still create their own individual opinion they can share with their group members. It is always beneficial to get other perspectives because it helps lessen biasness. Also, when the students have to read about the grievances of the colonists in their textbook, they are discovering and transforming complex information. As said previously, they are working together but each student can gain a different perspective on what they are reading. They can individually discover the colonist’s grievances and try to transform their own grievances to see if they compare to those of the colonists.
A negative aspect of the lesson plan is how it tries to initiate inductive learning but does not. The plan sets up the teacher to be involved within the activity. Their role is to be queen, or king. The lesson plan explains how having the teacher be the head of the activity avoids “arbitration.” However, the plan does not fully dictate whether or not the teacher fully participates or if they leave the activity up to the students. Because the plan does not provide detail on what the teacher’s exact role is, teachers who do implement this activity within their classrooms can become more involved than necessary. This then would lead to deductive learning. Instead of the students discovering the answers or principles of the activity, the teachers would simply be giving it to them. A way this activity can successfully dictate inductive learning and avoid too much teacher involvement is if the teacher was not the hierarchical leader. They could put all their student’s names in a hat and just draw one name. This would be able to give all students a chance to be the leader. The teacher can still watch and monitor the lesson. However, they would be able to provide their students with more autonomy to transform the classroom to best suit the activity, create their grievances, and discover the truth behind the grievances of the American colonists.
The last negative aspect that can be seen when viewing the lesson plan is its objective. It is quite vague, and the word “understand” is used to describe what the students will be able to know and do. The word “understand” is not appropriate to use in an objective because it is not observable or measurable. The objective for the lesson plan would be better if the author said “define” or “explain” the grievances of the colonists. If the author used these two terms, when looking at Bloom’s taxonomy, the students will be partaking in the comprehension stage. This means that the objective’s goal is to have the students be able to grasp the meaning of certain material by interpreting or extrapolating information. In this case, the students will be able to use what they learned from the activity towards the reading in the textbook. They can at first try to comprehend what happened during the activity as well as try to interpret the importance of why they had to come up with their own grievances. Once they have figured that out, they can read about the grievances of the American Colonists and explain how their grievances links to the historical information they read.
To conclude, the lesson plan incorporates good collaborative learning that can keep learners engaged within the classroom. This can help students become more willing to participate, help them make better associations, and can help with the variety of learning styles that are found in a classroom setting. However, as mentioned earlier, what would make this lesson even better is if the directions were not so vague and if the objective was more accurate in stating what exactly the students should be able to know and do. Overall, as a history major, I feel that this activity would be fun to encompass inside the classroom. It was a well-depicted lesson plan that can have an impact on student’s knowledge on why the American colonists wanted America to become autonomous.