Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Word Sorts Activity in a Lesson on Slavery in America

The institution of slavery is a difficult subject to teach in many schools.  It reminds Americans that in the not too distant past, human beings were being bought and sold like animals.  However, if American history is to be taught in its entirety (good with the bad), slavery must be addressed.  So the question is how this can be done in such a fashion as to not make any student feel uncomfortable while still covering the subject material.  This topic becomes even more of a challenge to teach when there are African Americans in the class. 

SLAVERY IN AMERICA  To cover such sensitive material in the depth this teacher does is impressive.  The word sort is a form of front loading vocabulary to not only prepare them for the lesson, but to see how much they might already know.  A free sort allows students to group the words any way that fits for them.  Since there is not right or wrong answer, and since they are working with partners, anxiety levels are low especially for ELLs.  Students are free to justify their word sorts in any fashion that works for them.  The teacher selects some key words which they will need in reading about Harriet Tubman. 

Word sorts may be used in any subject area and at any grade level.  For English language learners, this activity taps into prior experiences/knowledge through cognates, support from peers, guidance from teachers, etc.  Using this approach builds an academic foundation which in turn leads to students being in a position to approach the lesson, task, reading with far more confidence since the key words will no longer be new.



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