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Upper School Corner - Mr. Greg Schneider

Thursday, 17 November, 2016 - 5:11 pm

Mr. Schneider’s 6th Grade US History

As the British Colonies in the New World inevitably inch closer and closer to all-out war against the Crown, we are reminded of the power that words have over human events.  Our 6th graders have been exploring this remarkable time in the history of our country with a focus on the impact of the written and spoken word.  They are reminded of the power of words that each of them is endowed.  Whether these words are written down or spoken aloud, they have the opportunity to reflect on the impact their words have on the world around them.  When they write a powerful, emotionally moving essay they are able to affect anyone who reads it.  And more immediately, their spoken words affect all those who are within their earshot.   As they go through their daily school routines, it is imperative for them to use words carefully so that they do not offend others.

As the history of our nation unfolds before them, they are starting to see a shift in the attitudes and beliefs of the colonists.  Even though many of the colonists in the New World, who now number more than a million, left the Old World to avoid the oppression of royalty, they still see themselves as dedicated subjects of the King George.  In 1775 they still view the idea of independence with horror.  However, events like the battle against the British at Concord and the Battle of Bunker Hill continue to chip away at this reticence to shun British rule.   Even these events do not garner the popular support for secession from the Crown.  This is where our students get the opportunity to explore the words of Patriots like Thomas Paine who wrote a pamphlet entitled “Common Sense” to inspire his fellow colonists to rise up against the British.  In this brilliant piece of persuasive writing, Paine states that, “Of more worth is one honest man, than all of the crowned ruffians who ever lived.”  The students are able to connect these ideas to the First Great Awakening which they studied earlier in the year that espoused the then novel idea that no one man has the right to oppress other men and that all men are equal in the eyes of their Maker.  This awakening laid the groundwork for the revolution which was to take place more than 40 years later.  These powerful ideas culminate in the eloquent call to arms made by Thomas Paine who urges his fellow colonists, “Ye that love mankind!  Ye that dare oppose not only tyranny, but the tyrant, stand forth!...The sun never shined on a cause of greater worth.”  With these utterly inspirational words as motivation, our students have been writing their own persuasive essays and analyzing the events which led to the creation of our country.

With this focus on the power of words, our students have had the opportunity to work independently and in groups to absorb the lessons we have been taught by history.  When they work independently, they are reminded to be aware of the impact of their words and therefore to choose them carefully as they craft their responses to challenges.  As members of teams, they must communicate effectively in order to keep projects on track and to use words wisely to enchant the audience.  Lastly, they are able to present their project to the class so that they too can witness the power their own words have to sway and inform the masses.  These opportunities to ‘learn by doing’ allow them to live out ideas which may seem only two-dimensional and purely theoretical in the pages of their history books.

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