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We are transitioning into a unit on Jacksonian Democracy and the kids received a simple assignment last night. I wanted them to know the background on the election of 1824, but I didn’t want to spend class time on it–yep, feeling a bit squeezed for time. The election has such a great intro to it… “tonight you are going to take notes on the section in your text that talks about the election of 1824. That is when Andrew Jackson decided to run for president and received more popular votes, and more electoral votes than anyone else in the election, and then became president in 1828.” Hmmm…
It is somewhat complicated to have the kids take written notes on the section-they just never seem to know how to summarize it in words, it is hard to explain orally (remember, it’s middle school, requires an explanation of the electoral college and laws governing it in 1824), and hard to do it in question/answer form. Actually it is easy to do it in all of those ways, it’s hard to make it stick and have them understand what actually happened and why.
Last night I told them to go home and read the section and come back with a visual(s) that they would use if they were the teacher to explain the Election of 1824 to the class. Today I gave them a very short HAYD(pronounced hayed)(How Are You Doing)(no quizzes in our class, they didn’t know a “HAYD” was coming, just wanted to check their understanding)(is using this many parentheses breaking a law?) so I gave them a HAYD on the election. Everyone got every single question correct(almost), except for #4. The question was Who received the most electoral votes in the Election of 1824? Every single kid got the question wrong except for one. Now usually I would blame it on my teaching, but since I did not “teach” this section it must be something else. I asked the class and they just point blank told me they wrote Adams because he received the most electoral votes. They didn’t give much of an explanation, and there was sort of a “duh” tone in their voices(a very kind “duh” tone like “come on Mr. B, what are you not getting here, do you really need us to explain it to you.”)
After pushing them a couple kids opened up the text and said, ” it says right here, Jackson received the most popular votes, but did not have enough to win the office.” They knew that Adams eventually became president, they didn’t know about how the electoral college worked in 1824, and putting together everything they did know, they came up with an answer that was as right as it could be…but wrong historically. Glad I asked them.
I took pictures of some of the images that they brought to class (please note that some of the images are just one of a set):
Each kid drew what they needed, and frankly I don’t understand some of the symbolism in their images mean, but based on the HAYDs and the discussion it sure made sense to them.
A great story teller once told me that you should never tell the audience what the point of a story is, everyone should be free to develop their own point based on how they connected to the story. So there you go, take whatever you need. I know that I learned two things today and I actually realized that I had stopped looking at individual parts of a lesson and only looking at lessons as a whole…make sense? So sometimes when something goes bad, I blame the “big idea” of the lesson, instead of the individual components. Think I need to stop and give myself a HAYD at the end of each lesson more often instead at the end of a series of lessons, or at the end of a unit.