Sometimes, a casual conversation makes you stop in your tracks. Back in early January, my dad said, “you know, the end of the month is 50 years since I arrived in Viet Nam”. I hadn’t realized it was. He arrived in Viet Nam right before the Tet Offensive in 1968. He was only 20 years old. I thought for a moment and responded with, “That means this April is the 50th anniversary of Dr. King’s assassination”. He nodded.
2017 brought my family so many amazing celebrations, most notably, my father’s 70th birthday and my parents’ 40 anniversary. As 2018 began, I hadn’t realized the historical impact of this year. 50 years have passed since 1968, since Dr. King’s assassination, Robert Kennedy’s assassination, Viet Nam, and everything else that occurred in this pivotal year.
I teach in an urban community so all of my students know about Dr. King and many other influential African Americans. One of my former students even celebrates her birthday today, along with Dr. Maya Angelou. History can be hard for students to connect to as it all occurred “so long ago”. When we meet people that lived through something, it brings life to that event. That event now has a story with real people connected to it. It shows us how these events impacted the people that lived through it. It shows us the life and legacy of that historic person.
Last week before our spring break, I told my students today is the 50th anniversary since we wouldn’t be in school today. It caught some of them off guard too and they stopped to think about what I just said. It made me think about the fact that Dr. King was just a few years older than me at the time he was killed. It makes me wonder if we have made progress. It made me realize that many of the people from modern history are already gone.
As one student said, “we are losing so many great black people”. Linda Brown died on March 25. We happened to be studying the Supreme Court case Brown v. Board of Education in one class that week. We are losing many of the people who have shaped history over the years. Dr. Maya Angelou and Nelson Mandela just two that come to mind. I can no longer say, “she is still alive”. So, I find stories connected to these people to illustrate their legacy.
As we remember Dr. King today, we honor his life and legacy. We look to see is shaping the next 50. Among them, Dr. King and his legacy will live on.
I have to admit, I have been excited about this map since the end of last year. This giant map of the United States stayed in my trunk all last year. Its partner, the world map, was proudly hung on my classroom wall all last year. Students labeled the world map at the beginning of the year and used string to draw the equator, prime meridian, and time zones in the continental United States. Throughout the year, we placed current events from around the world on the map, all while the U.S. map stayed in my trunk. Then at the end of last year, I finally thought of what to do lwith the U.S. map! I was going to make a giant map of the 2016 election results. Every state was traced in both blue and red and then laminated.
Below are step by step pictures of how I made the map and the final result.
The completed map. Students’ predictions are along the top and side of the map. Numbers are written with expo marker because it easily wipes off.
It is finally here and America has elected a new president. My students and I have been talking about this election since last year and we still can’t stop talking about it. All last year, they wanted to know who our next president was going to be, but each political party had to nominate a candidate. First, we discussed how candidates campaign and primary elections. One by one, candidates dropped out of the primary race and we narrowed down the choices. Since both conventions were over the summer, we ended last school year still not knowing who the candidates were. However, once we returned in September, the race to the White House was in full swing.
My students are too young to vote, but that didn’t stop their curious minds. Students asked questions about the candidates as well as the election process. Perhaps they were invested this year since the winner may run for re-election in 2020 – when most of my students will be eligible to vote. All 12 of New Jersey’s congressional representative were eligible for re-election. We spent time learning about why we have 12 congressmen and 2 senators and about the Electoral College. We played an engaging game using Airhead candy and an interactive map from 270towin.com. Fun and interactive classes tend to be the greatest lessons. Next, students made their predictions. Some states were harder to predict than others. In order to make their predictions, we analyzed the results from the 2004, 2008, and 2012.
The day after the election we compared our predictions to the actual results. Yes, we were all surprised, but we looked at the data to see how it all unfolded. Then, we created a giant map to display the results and use as a reference for future lessons. We said we will pay attention to the transition and it will continue to be a topic of discussion; just because the election is over does not mean we don’t stop learning and caring.