I would like to incorporate trimester independent projects for my 11th grade modern US history class. Any suggestions, beyond reading a book or watching a movie?

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Depending on the time period, students could interview friend/ family/ faculty who lived through the time period and compare their interviewee's answers to the historical record.  For instance, how similar is my interviewee's experiances to how most people understand the time period.

 

I guess this really isn't an independent project, but it's worked well for me. I like to have students become a historical figure and have a have a "Thanksgiving dinner" or "Christmas breakfast" prior to a break.  It is a nice way for students to ease into a break from school.  It works best if all of the figures have a unifying theme; like Progressive reformers or Civil Rights activists.  To keep the conversation flowing, I have students randomly chose another figure in the class that they also have to research so they can ask that person questions.  I usually moderate by asking the figures to briefly introduce themselves, and then ask basic questions that any of the figures could answer.  Usually, students have great questions for each other, so mine aren't needed.  If you have time, or want to extend the dinner party, you could ask students to switch seats based on who's ideas their figure most agrees with, or ask students how their figures might react to current events.  I've also had students bring in food to the party that represents their figure and explain the food choice.  Depending on the depth you'd like the students to get into with their figures, or the size of your classes, the dinner party normally extends beyond one period. 

I have students craft an entry for National History Day.  I let them decide if they want to compete with it outside of school, but it makes for a nice independent, research driven, creative project.  I like it!

You could have them research ...

1.  a court case - Tinker, Bakke, Brown, Roe, Gideon, Miranda, Engel, etc. - and have them create annotated timelines, bios, venn diagrams that show the case's impact, the history of the people involved, and the differing opinions of both the justices who wrote opinions and the general public.  I'd also have them talk about how the United States is (or is it?) different today because of the case.

2.  a social problem that existed during the time period your class is studying - ie. child labor, civil rights, etc. and have them create a "mission" that would solve the problem....they would have to include any programs that began during that time and evaluate its effectiveness.

3.  teenagers during the time period you're studying...the 20s, 30s, 40s, etc. and have them create a vignette, portrait, sensory figure that describes and analyzes the life of a typical teenager during that historical time period.

 

Hope that helps,

:)

Something else I just came across from John Chase on twitter ... having students create memorials...ie. Theodore Roosevelt, etc. and besides building the actual memorials, students are asked to choose a popular song to use at the dedication of their creation...this idea can grow in so many ways...http://www.learningfromlyrics.org/

I'm doing this with my middle school students...and they love it! I never thought about introducing it with my 11th graders, thanks.

 

I can share any of these things I've done if you want:

  • People already mentioned: create a memorial and National History Day
  • Nominate less well known people for a fictive History Hall of Fame (or shame)
  • Counter-Factuals: pick a turning point, and ask what if things had happened differently
  • Pick a current issue and trace its origin through history
  • Write a diary/create a blog as a historical figure (or someone living through a historical period)
  • Compare/Contrast competing interpretations of history (Zinn and anything else always works)

This is along the lines of what everyone else is giving you.  Family history, Local history, Veterans history, Music history (research the history of a favorite band & influences)  My 8th graders are doing the Veterans history, which will be used for our Veteran's Day program.  I am using the family, local, & music projects with my Juniors, and planning on running for 3 quarters of the year.  Will collect and assess in the last quarter.  All projects include all technology which is applicable to the end product.  iMovie, online publishing, ect...  I have suggested that anyone who wants to do the local history narrow it down to a specific region, fire department, local business, specific department or organization within the school.(could do the history of the school boys/girls basketball team.)  I am drawing up some of the parameters for these projects this weekend, but we will also make it up as we go.  Trying to give students ownership in their research & production.  All of these will be heavily based in the interview process.

 

You could easily modify any of these to the time frame you want.  

Illustrated Timeline Projects.  Minimum of ten dates, evert descriptions (in students own words), illustrations and student chooses one of the events and does a short research report about the importance/significance of that event.

Oh, another neat idea I learned about at a SS Conference several years ago, is an e-mail or IM exchange between two famous people.....for your time period, perhaps JFK and Kruschev discussing the Cuban Missile Crisis?  

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