Creating Successful Student Lessons around
Facilitator: Michael Federspiel
How long should an American Memory-based lesson be?
How ambitious? What kinds of support do we need to
provide for students, so that they can find materials on
the web site, make sense of them, and present what they
have learned? Participants in this workshop will learn
about the components of successful web-related lessons by
working with student lessons that have been field-tested
in the facilitator's high school classroom. The sample
lessons were designed to enrich students' study of John
Steinbecks Grapes of Wrath, and involve
three different American Memory Collections that focus on
the Depression Era. Playing the role of students,
participants will complete a lesson, discuss their
findings, then analyze the lesson's components and
investigate ways to extend it using additional
At the end of this workshop participants will be able
- identify key components of successful student
- navigate and search photographic, text and audio
collections in American Memory
- describe some of the realities that Steinbeck
would have seen while writing The Grapes of
Wrath (the physical, cultural and economic
aspects of Dust Bowl and migrant life)
- describe some of the styles and subjects of New
Deal era photographers, as well as the purposes
and accomplishments of New Deal writers and
- Selected "Intercalary Chapters" from
John Steinbecks The Grapes of Wrath:
- Chapter 9 - Selling Possessions
- Chapter 11 - Tractors / Houses
- Chapter 12 - Route 66
- Samples of students' projects and work
1. Introduction (15 minutes)
We discuss the goals of the workshop, and explain that
participants will role-play sophomores in an American
Studies class that is reading The Grapes of Wrath.
Fellows are given selected chapter handouts from the
novel (the intercalary chapters) to establish
the Dust Bowl-related themes to be investigated. The
student handout for the "FSA / OWI Project"
assignment is distributed, and instructions for
completing it are discussed (including modifications for
2. Lesson Work Time (45 minutes)
Working with a partner, complete the "FSA / OWI Project"
student lesson. For the purposes of this workshop,
observe these modifications to the lesson:
- Spend about 20 minutes on Part One of the lesson.
To abbreviate this part, read through only one or
two of the seven essays on FSA photographers;
fill out only two or three sections of the
- Spend about 25 minutes on Part Two of the lesson.
To abbreviate this part, simply bookmark and/or
print out images for your thematic report.
The facilitator will work individually with Fellows to
answer questions and guide site navigation and collection
3. Debriefing the Lesson (30 minutes)
Participants continue to play the role of students, as
they share their findings from both Parts One and Two of
the lesson. The facilitator, in the role of teacher,
leads the discussion and models ways of drawing out
students observations, connecting themes, and
relating findings back to the novel. The facilitator
shows examples of his students work on this
assignment, so that participants may compare their own
work with what students are able to do.
4. Analysis of Lesson Components (20 minutes)
Participants now step back into the role of educators
to analyze two things: first, the lesson just completed
(i.e. its learning objectives, its structure, the
handouts); second, their own wider experiences creating
and using web-related lessons. What consistently works?
What should be avoided? This discussion will emphasize
the need to create small, doable lessons that
incrementally build student skills in using particular
collections, and that can be linked with others to form a
5. Extending the Lesson Using Audio and Text
Collections (40 minutes)
Using what you have learned from the sample lesson and
our discussion, work with a partner to design an
extension of the "Documenting the Depression"
lesson, this time using audio and full-text collections.
Do these steps:
- Select either the Voices from the Dust Bowl or
the American Life Histories collection. Spend
about 20 minutes surveying the collection,
especially the resources found on its homepage.
- Be prepared to describe for the group a
simple, structured activity (like Part One
of of the sample lesson) that would orient
students to the collection by focusing their
attention on one or more of the homepage
- To which homepage resource(s) would you
- What kind of activity and/or handout
could you create to guide their work?
- How would this activity prepare students
to search the collection and use its
documents to investigate a Dust
- Gather as a large group to share your lesson
extensions with the new collections. What new
ideas for small, structured lessons emerged
across the group? How can you take some of these
strategies and use them in your own lesson