Irish Revolutionary Period DBQ Reflection

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Irish Volunteers with the flag of the Irish Republic, Easter 1916. Courtesy of the BBC.

When I set out to begin my DBQ assignment, the scope was wide and the learning rather shallow. I realized fairly early on that I was looking at a yearlong unit rather than an isolated DBQ assignment, and set out to narrow my focus. I settled on the Irish Revolution, often called the Anglo-Irish War, as the subject of my DBQ. The revolution encompassed many of the points I had hoped to make in the larger unit on revolution, so it seemed like a good platform from which to teach. I had wanted to teach students about the relatively transient elements to many revolutions, that they are progressions rather than moments, summations rather than beginnings. The primary skill taught within the lesson would be the reading of primary documents as a means of historical inquiry. Once I narrowed the focus of my DBQ, I found it much easier to teach said skill. Rather than picking and choosing from a vast array of primary documents that, in some way or another, represented a 20th century revolution, the selection of ten images, documents, and artistic renderings of the Irish Revolution allowed for a deeper understanding of revolutionary sentiment at the outset of the 1900’s.

The final project, entitled “The Irish Revolutionary Period,” traces the development of the Irish Revolution from Easter 1916 to the outbreak of the Irish Civil War in 1921 through images and documents. I tried as best I could to limit the contextual history and allow the documents to speak for themselves, though it could be difficult at times. The topic is one I’m very familiar with, so it took a bit of effort to exclude my editorial inclinations. I feel the project is fairly well-rounded, though I would like a chance to supplement the DBQ with some background lessons. I learned that the process of putting together a DBQ can be especially difficult as a teacher, because it requires one to step back and allow the students to connect the dots, rather than doing the work for them. All in all, I’m happy with the product, and its one I’m bound to use in future lessons, wherever I end up teaching.

This DBQ is part of our class-produced, multi-touch iBook. Available free at iTunes

The Evolution of Revolution in the 20th Century

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Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

My DBQ assignment will revolve around various revolutionary movements in the 20th century. Students will examine primary documents, such as the image above, and attempt to draw conclusions about the factors that contribute to what I will consider “revolutionary moments,” or the boiling over of revolutionary sentiments in a national context. To begin, I will introduce the Proclamation of the Irish Republic. Beginning on Easter 1916, the Irish revolution proved to be the initial unraveling of the British Empire, as they waged war against the central powers in World War I. Unpopular both at home and abroad, the Irish revolution gained momentum over the course of five years, until the signing of a cease fire in 1921 between the government of the United Kingdom and the newly formed Republic of Ireland. War then broke out between Pro-Treaty and Anti-Treaty forces, once they were forced to confront the reality of a divided nation, as outlined by the treaty signed with the British government.

The Irish revolutionary period raises many interesting questions regarding revolution in the 20th century. As most revolutions pitted an independence movement against a larger, imperial force, one must ask who controls the revolution? In the case of Ireland, a revolution did not unite the country, but in fact divided it along lines that persist to this day.

I would ask students to compare the Irish revolution to Mexico’s in later units. Though I have yet to delve deeply into the history of the Mexican revolution, the parallel timelines should elicit some interesting comparisons. Fortunately, both revolutionary periods produced a surfeit of sources that capture the sentiments of the time.

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Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Questions:
Who controls a revolution? The revolutionaries, or their opposition? When and why do revolutions begin? How does the Proclamation of Irish Republic compare to other documents of independence, namely the US Declaration of Independence? Does a revolution necessarily need an enemy? How have revolutions changed in the 21st century?

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Courtesy of The New York Times.

Critique and Comparison: A Lesson Study Exercise

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Courtesy of the Library of Congress

This past week’s lesson study prompted some interesting and insightful dialogue in class with my colleagues regarding our prospective lesson plans in our respective student teaching placements. It quickly became obvious that though we share a singular passion for social studies, many of us have found ourselves teaching subjects and curriculum well outside our expertise and experience. Such is teaching.

I chose to focus my efforts on a human geography class I’ll be teaching at some point in my spring placement. My lesson plan revolved around evaluation and analysis of the agricultural revolution and its far reaching, though by no means worldwide, effects. Given the interest of my cooperating teacher and I in a cooperative learning environment, students would be broken into small groups and asked to evaluate the social, dietary, and environmental effects of an agricultural society compared to a nomadic one. They would have to support their evaluations with documents (pictures, video, and research articles) and then present their findings to the classroom. The students would engage in higher level thinking, critiquing a mode of life to which they’ve become more than accustomed, and comparing it to a lifestyle that’s all but extinct in the developed world.

 lesson study was incredibly helpful when it came to simply putting my thoughts to paper in a more free-flowing manner of writing. The lesson plan format can often hamstring the loftier ideas one might wish to convey in the classroom; the lesson study helped to bear such goals in mind while focusing my efforts on the stringent requirements of a traditional lesson plan. It acted as the necessary intermediary between pedagogy and applicability. Discussion with my peers allowed for constructive criticism of our lesson plans. I, for one, would alter my lesson plan significantly after hearing the input of others. Having to vocalize and justify my lesson to my peers helped me realize that my plan was not easily explicable. If I could not explain it to a group of fellow educators, how might I explain it to a group of skeptical high school students?

 There seems to be a legitimate effort on the part of myself and my peers to make lessons as engaging, interactive, and educative as possible. Few, if any, stuck to the traditional formula of lecture and assessment. Student-centered lesson planning on the part of prospective teachers portends a positive evolution of the educational system. Our work has just begun in the college classroom. The real difficulty lies in our success at applying what we’ve learned to a room full of learners.