Recently my group delved into Unit 9—The Civil War. This module discusses slavery in detailband emphasizes the differences between the economies of the Northern and Southern states. The first three lessons explain the agricultural-based southern economy and the role of enslaved Africans in that culture. It also highlights the cruelty of slavery and discusses the importance of the Underground Railroad. My students were fascinated by this period in American history. It was a pleasure to teach to such an audience and to involve them in teacher-led discussions that critiqued our nation’s difficulties at this pivotal historical point.
But even more rewarding and satisfying was being an observer to these six “below the norm” student’s ownership of the subject. So much so that early this week, I watched a transformation take place….I saw a class of students change from interested learners to historical participants as they maturely debated how keeping slaves may have benefited the southern economy, but also why slavery was inhumane. The maturity with which my students discussed this complex issue was impressive. Even more impressive was the way two students in particular were able to debate the issue through 8 exchanges while maintaining the topic and a respectful attitude toward each other. I also heard them appropriately use modular academic vocabulary words like economy and freedom during their discussion.
In summary, two students who demonstrate daily difficulty with language expression and vocabulary carried on a discussion concerning a complex issue with clarity, respect, and historical accuracy. To me, that helps demonstrate the strength of the Core Knowledge curriculum.
Mary K. Swanson is a Speech Therapist with Ripley Central Schools who has over 20 years of experience in the field. We appreciate Mary's hard work and out of the box thinking regarding use of the NYS Curriculum and thank her for sharing her story.