What do Students Come in Knowing?
Today I was chatting with someone on Twitter about my Western Civ course. I mentioned that I was considering dropping my superficial attempts to prepare students for the start of my class, which begins in 16th century Europe. Usually, I will try to 'bring them up to speed', connecting the start of my course to history that they have previously studied. This usually does not feel like an effective way to start my course.
Seventh grade was the last time my students studied European history. In eighth grade, they study American history, ending around the 1920s. They'll pick up US history again in eleventh grade. And they'll study World history in tenth, after finishing Western Civ in ninth.
It does not seem worth using direct instruction if I am going to use it as a quick refresher of history they either covered quickly in seventh grade, or possibly never got to.
Superficially covering material is not meaningful teaching. It seems more reasonable to have students explore material previously covered (or never covered) when the need arises, when inquiry demands it.
Outline of my Western Civ Course: 90/90 minute blocks (content is mandated by district curriculum)
Intro: What is history? Why do people study the past?- 2 days (2)
Sci Rev-6 days (8)
Enlightenment- 6 days (14)
French Rev 10 days (24)
Napoleon and Congress of Vienna 6 days (30)
Industrial Rev 6 days (36)
Unification of Italy 3 days (39)
Unification of Germany 3 days (42)
European Imperialism 4 days (46)
World War I 10 days (56)
Russian Revolution 4 days (60)
Between the Wars 10 days (70)
85 days out of 90