Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum

Teacher professional development and classroom resources across the curriculum

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Teaching Multicultural Literature : A Workshop for the Middle Grades
Workshop 1 Workshop 2 Workshop 3 Workshop 4 Workshop 5 Workshop 6 Workshop 7 Workshop 8
Workshop 6: Historical and Cultural Context - Langston Hughes and Christopher Moore
Authors and Literary Works
Video Summary
Teaching Strategies
Connecting History and Poetry
Field Tips
Student Work
Interactive Workbook -- Explore two poems using strategies from these workshops. Go.
Channel-Talk -- Share your views on the discussion board. Go.

Teaching Strategies
Field Trips


Field trips can connect schoolwork with the world, making it tangible and memorable. A field trip stimulates questions and ideas at the beginning or end of a unit. Field trips also provide an experiential "text" for students to study and interrogate.

Stanlee Brimberg carefully prepares his students to visit to the African Burial Ground in Lower Manhattan through readings, a video, photography, archaeology, a visit from a scholar and author, and poetry activities. By the time the students reach the site, they have absorbed background knowledge and have questions to investigate. They also have handouts to guide them in making notes and answering questions. The trip helps the students focus on the question: "How and why do we remember or memorialize people who have died?"

Field Trips in Stanlee Brimberg's Classroom

To contextualize the African Burial Ground, Brimberg takes his students to Trinity Churchyard, where white, Christian members of the early New Amsterdam community were buried. Brimberg has given the students trip sheets with prompts such as "Draw or describe in words at least three different kinds of stone markers you see," and "Why do you think some people were buried here and others were not? Where do you think the others are?"

Next, they visit the African Burial Ground memorial site. A handout helps the students interpret a memorial called "The New Ring Shout" and Barbara Chase-Riboud's sculpture, Africa Rising. The trip sheet for this area includes questions such as "Does the piece seem to tell you a story? What is the story?

When the students visit the burial ground, they are again guided by a trip sheet with questions such as "According to what you learned, did this ever look like Trinity Churchyard?", "Why do you think so (or not)?", "You may know that the remains of the people buried here were taken to Howard University for study and that they will be reburied here. We don't know their names. How should their gravesites look?", and "If you could say or write something to one of the people buried here, what would that be?" The students work in small groups to compare the sites and connect them to poems by Langston Hughes and Barbara Chase-Riboud. (See: Trip Sheets.)

When the students return to the classroom, they discuss memorializing the dead. Finally, Brimberg asks them to design ideas for burial site commemorative stamps. He notes that the students now understand the concept of a symbol and how it "can mean something bigger than just that image." (See Student Work.)

Tips and Variations for Field Trips

Before the Trip, Teachers Should:

  • Visit the site to find connections to curricula, assess potential problems, and plan how the students could best use their time.

  • Give as much context as possible bso that the students will understand what they see. Teachers might consider having the students do something like a journal or a K/W/L chart in which they list questions they have, expectations for their visit, or plans for ways to use what they will see. (See Teaching Strategies: K/W/L.)

  • Create a trip sheet like Stanlee Brimberg's that prompts students to draw, write responses, answer questions, or find items for a "scavenger hunt" of the location. This sheet, however, should not be so directive that the students can't see and respond to the site in their own ways.

  • Set standards of etiquette and respectful behavior.

During the Trip, Teachers Should:

  • Build in opportunities for students to view the site or work alone, in pairs, or in small groups. On a trip to a museum, for example, the students could be asked an open-ended question like, "Find a work that represents our theme or time period and sketch it. In class we will share our choices and discuss why we chose them." The students could also choose one aspect or part of the site to explore.

  • Consider giving some students disposable cameras, small tape recorders, or mandates to record specific information. When the class is back at school, they can compile a complete picture.

After the Trip:

  • Allow the students to synthesize their experience creatively. For example, they might create trip brochures for other classes or the school library. They might create children's books about a theme from the field trip. Or they might present their experience orally to another class or grade.

Benefits of Field Trips

  • Field trips bring classroom study alive for students and help them remember and relate to what they have learned. They provide rich resources that can rarely be approximated in the classroom. They also help connect school to the world.

  • Field trips provide new cultural contexts for literature and provoke questions.

  • Field trips stimulate and focus class work by helping students synthesize information.

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