Hello everyone - I've been teaching U.S. History at the 11th grade level for eight years now and I usually begin each year with "The Body Ritual of the Nacirema" lesson http://mrwinandsclass.wikispaces.com/file/view/Nacirema+Lesson.pdf in order to teach the many facets of Cultural idealogies and how Ethnocentrism shapes(d) our preception of "Other" cultures and our biases that go along with those preconceptions - then i tie it all together with discussins and lessons regarding the founding of our country in the cultural mismosh of European, Native American, and African citizens. Actaully, it's a pretty good lesson if you haven't seen it (feel free to try it yourself) - We are a small school (500 studnets, about 125/grade level) and the 9th grade teach has adopted a similar lesson for his students and I am finding that when they now reach me - Body Ritual loses some of its intrinsic value... basicly, the discovery that Nacirema is "American" spelled backwards and that through this lesson, they are actually judging themselves! So... now I need something new, relevant, and full of "pizzaz!" - any info would be greatly appreciated.
What a great question—and how impressive that at the end of the year you’re already planning for the beginning of the next! I’m including a few suggestions below. They don’t meet the same objective as the Nacirema lesson, but might be interesting ways to start the year for history students:
If you want to review the analysis of primary documents with your students, you could select any of the primary source analysis activities in our guide, Engaging Students with Primary Sources and investigate what we can learn from primary materials. Alternatively, you might modify the Understanding and Using Primary Sources in History lesson here. Or, if you want to get them thinking about how historians do what they do and specifically how exhibits are made, you might have them view our Creating Stories electronic field trip: and complete some or all of the related Creating Stories Activity Kit.
I also wonder if you would want to discuss the question of why we study history. Long ago, I read John Hope Franklin’s essay “Birth of a Nation: Propaganda as History,” which has stuck with me. While centered on the way in which the portrayal of Reconstruction in the film influenced popular understanding of that era (and of African Americans) in the early 20th century, and how that view persisted, it could be used to consider the value of continuously reexamining the past, or of the way in which certain interpretations of the past, especially films, shape our understanding of a particular historical moment or comment on contemporary social issues.
I’m looking forward to hearing others’ ideas!
National Museum of American History
Now that the school year has started or is just beginning in many districts, I wanted to follow up on this question. Martin, have you started the year, and if so, what did you do? Or, if you haven't yet, what do you have planned?
For anyone still thinking about how to begin the year, you might be interested in a new activity developed by my colleague Jenny: building object portraits. In these portraits, students represent themselves with five objects. We tested this at the end of the last school year with students in Alabama and the teachers who implemented it found it to be a great way for the students to really get to know each other and to build community in the classroom, in addition to teaching about the different ways we can look at objects--a nice way to start the year! You can find a short description of the program in this blog post and a guide to the project and the related Flickr site here.
National Museum of American History