I get a few messages a month from people who saw my guest post on The Civic Educator, asking about my curriculum and my experience with it. I have also reposted it on the site here. Here's some updates on my progress a year later in 2019.
It's been a while since I have posted. I keep telling myself that I would write more often, but school responsibilities take over my priorities. As I enter my 3rd year in the class room, I've added even more responsibilities to my plate. I just don't know when to stop!
If you're interested in thematic teaching, here's an update about my curriculum. It is still a work-in-progress and I'm hoping to start uploading materials onto my website in the near future after I tweak some things out, hopefully by Summer 2019. It's a slow experimental transition from chronological to thematic rather than a complete overhaul. It's currently in its 2nd year of experimentation.
One downside I've noticed is that when I choose thematic over chronological some students will get confused which time period they're in as the unit changes. Students are so used to chronological teaching that when we jump around time periods between units a few will get confused. It will definitely be necessary to front-load a timeline to students OR keep a timeline somewhere in the classroom so they do not get confused.
For example, in my Revolutions unit, we cover the American, French, Mexican, Russian, Chinese, Iranian, and Cuban Revolutions. Then in my Race & Culture unit, we cover mainly the Atlantic Slave Trade, Imperialism, and the present day as a legacy of imperialism and racism - then we watch and analyze/critique a films that cover race in today's society, such as The Hate U Give, The Black Panther, and the 13th (Documentary). If there's time, or depending on the circumstances, I swap it with Hotel Rwanda. A few students got confused because they're lost with the time period we're in. They're too used to a chronological model.
One thing I experimented with at the end of my first year doing thematic and now incorporating it is simulations, periodically. I am using this book, International Relations in Action. It's relatively inexpensive, around $15. Definitely worth checking out. It covers topics like environmental issues, ethnic conflicts, nuclear proliferation, etc. It assigns students into imaginary countries with specific roles per student. They have to work together to solve issues and score points. I used it in college and had so much fun with it. I decided to try it out with my students at the end of last year. They LOVE it! I've been using it to teach related historical content and then have them do a related scenario so they can see how people/country interact with each other. This is definitely worth trying out! I introduced this to my team English teacher and now we do this with both our classes. I will write about this experience in a future post.
Here are other resources I am using that has been helpful:
Visible Learning for Teachers (Book) - A bit pricier between $20-30, but a good resource to reflect on.
Teaching US History Thematically: Document-Based Lessons in the Secondary Classroom (Book) - Obviously this covers US history, but the first several chapters are interesting reflection points about thematic teaching, which further reinforces the advocacy of thematic teaching. I was already trying out thematic teaching when I discovered this text and met the author last year at a conference and it's glad to know that we're not the only ones out there.