Session 6 – Planning Your Year | Big History Project


Big History is a big course. And it’s hard to fit
13.8 billion years into a single year,
let alone a semester. In this video, we’ll look
at how to plan your year of teaching the
Big History Project. We’ll walk through advice
from teachers, most of all, from me, Scott Henstrand. I teach the Big History Project
at Brooklyn School for Collaborative Studies
in New York. There are a few things
you can do to make planning your year a lot easier. First, you want to go through
the teacher materials as best you can
and have them handy as you’re putting
together your plan. Second, I like to think
about a couple of instructional goals
for the year to help me really focus on which
activities I want to choose. Next, select a course plan,
and then make it your own. Everyone teaches Big History
their own way, reflecting their school
and the needs of their kids. Finally, I’ll share some
of the gotchas I’ve run into over the years. I learned how to handle them
the hard way. Luckily, you won’t have to. Before I plan my year, I like to spend a little time
reviewing a few things. Doing this helps me
to review all of the materials and resources, but it also
helps me decide what I want to focus on that year. I like to go back and rewatch
David Christian’s TED Talk to help refresh my sense of the
core narrative of the course. It’s also helpful to review
the big BHP Course Guide, which is a great summary
of the large concepts and skills you’ll cover in the course. I usually print out
all the course themes pages and keep it by my side
as a reference. Finally, I like to have
the BHP rubrics nearby as well. I’ve found those documents
essential to deciding which activities to keep
and which to ditch. There’s a lot to think about
from an instructional standpoint when you’re first teaching
the Big History Project. You want to think about the core
narrative of the thresholds. You want to think about
the driving questions and how you’ll use them
to shape the activities. Then there’s the focus
on reading using the three
close reads technique. There are numerous elements
of writing to address, there are debates,
group projects, and don’t forget the
Little Big History Project. It’s a lot. And it’s really a lot
when you’re a newbie. So think about choosing
a couple of things to focus on in that first year. Over time, you’re going
to revise these practices and go a little deeper. This might seem
ridiculously obvious, but as you get ready
to plan your year, start by counting
the actual number of days you have to teach the course. Before settling on the number
of days you want to spend on each unit, think
about the number of days you actually have to work with. Keep in mind that the later
units take a little more time to cover than the earlier ones. You might be tempted
to skimp on or even cut out the earlier units. Don’t, please don’t. If you do, you end up disrupting
the core narrative of the course and it feels disjointed. Also, you’re going to want
to make sure you leave time for Unit Ten, The Future. This last unit of the course
is where students get to think about what they’ve learned
and what it will mean for them. It’s consistently the part of
the course kids enjoy the most. To make your life
a little easier, BHP provides three core course
plans: the year-long version, semester-long version,
and the world history extension. You can also take a look
at course plans put together by experienced teachers,
which reflect their unique circumstances
or focus. I start with the year-long
version and adjust it to fit my goals. On my first pass through, I usually highlight one
or two things in each unit. Next, I use the course planning
template to list the things I’ll do differently
from the core course plan. Doing it this way makes it
all go a little more quickly. As I said earlier, there are
a few places I stumbled, where I had to learn
the hard way. The gotchas. Here’s one: The first year
I taught BHP, I just jumped in, using my plan. I was surprised to discover
that in this course, I was going to be less
of a teacher and more of a learner, right
alongside my students. Early on, they took over
discussions and I ended up being more of a facilitator,
helping to keep the discussions on-track and making sure
everyone was heard. By the end of the first unit, I realized I was going to focus
on history as narrative. It was where students
gravitated naturally. And here’s another: Throughout the year,
I found that students organically initiated
discussions about religion. I tried to make sure
the students understood that I had no vested interest
in what they believed or didn’t believe,
all I was interested in was whether they
could back up their thinking with claim testing. This shaped many of the lessons. I was surprised by the way
the room would just about explode with discussions. Okay, that’s pretty much it,
so let’s recap. This is a big course,
so it’s important to plan. Before you do, make sure
to spend a little time reviewing the teacher materials. Next, you’re going to want
to pick a few things as your instructional focus
for the year. Then, choose a course plan
to use as a base and tailor it to create your own course plan. That’s all for now. Be sure to visit the
BHP teacher community on Yammer for more on course planning.

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