July 7, 2011
Lesson's Essential Question: What is power? Is separate really equal?
Lesson's Topic: Segregation in the U.S. south from 1896 to 1954
Lesson's Objectives: Students will know or be able to:
1. Articulate their definition of “power”; “segregation”; “equality”
2. Examine the relationship between Plessy v. Ferguson and Brown v. Board
3. Name everyone in the room
Activity: Straw vs. Stirrer
Each student arbitrarily received a drinking straw or a coffee stirrer. Then students were asked to breath through it for a minute without breathing through their nose. They were asked to evaluate their feelings, especially when they knew that someone next to them was breathing through a smaller or larger tube.
Activity's Objective: Students experienced first-hand what it meant to have limited resources and what it meant to be denied access to something others took for granted. We explained to the students that to some, it might have looked like every student had access to oxygen, whereas in reality, there were obstacles they had to overcome while trying to breathe. Together, we drew similarities between our activity and "separate but equal" access to education during the Civil Rights Movement.
Students' Written Responses to the Prompt
"How did it make you feel to have limited resources?"
I believe both the activity and its real connection to abstract ideas had a great potential. However, I believe I could have emphasized more strongly the parallels between what the students experienced with their difficulties breathing and what African-Americans experienced when they were denied access to education. I think the question of "How did it make you feel to have limited resources?" was not well-tied to the lesson objectives. When I reflect about the activity and what I was trying to accomplish, I realize that a better question could have been: "Was there segregation in the room? Explain" or "Name three similarities between what you experienced during the activity and what African-Americans were going through before the Civil Rights Movement. Explain." As it was, I feel we directed students' thinking towards our objectives but did not guide or expand it enough to truly meet our goals.