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Exploring Your CommunityExploring-Your-Community

  • Subject: U.S. History
  • |
  • Grade(s): 6-8
  • |
  • Duration: Three class periods

Lesson Plan Sections

Objectives



Students will understand the following:
1. A community has an essence, or feel, about it.
2. The essence is the overall impression made by residents, business people, and institutions.

Materials


For this lesson, you will need:
Video camera and tape (If a video camera is not available, this project can be altered so that students present their end product as an oral presentation complete with posters or hand-held visuals and, perhaps, audio accompaniment.)

Procedures


1. Ask your class to consider what makes the community around their school special. If they respond that the community is not special and is interchangeable with a lot of other communities, press them further, insisting that just as each person has his or her own identity, so does a community. Motivate students by explaining that if they can communicate the essence of their community in class orally, they will get a chance to make a videotape that captures that essence. (An alternative to a videotape is a multimedia presentation—perhaps on a computer—using photographs, drawings, and other graphics as well as audio.)
2. To help students generate descriptive words and phrases about their community, ask them to answer some or all of the following questions, and keep track of their answers on the board or on poster paper. observation questions
  • What sounds do you hear in the community?
  • What tastes can you find in the community?
  • What smells do you associate with the community?
  • What does the community look like? What doesn’t it look like?
5w-how? questions
  • Whatis the community most famous for, or what should it be famous for?
  • Wherein the community do people go to feel good?
  • Whenis the community most enjoyable? most annoying?
  • Whydo people live here?
  • Howwould we change the community if we could?
what if? questions
  • What if this community didn’t exist? Where would we go to school then?
  • What if the community won an award of many millions of dollars? What could be done with the money to improve the community?
3. With the class, go over the responses you’ve noted on the board or poster paper. Based on those responses, ask the students to state the essence of the community—that is, the overall impression the community makes on them. That overall impression should become the underlying theme of their videotape. The class should also use the responses to come up with ideas of people, places, and objects to videotape in an attempt to capture the essence of the community. Make a separate list of their ideas.
4. For each item on the list, students must now suggest what the sound track will be:
  • onscreen student hosts for some sections?
  • interviews with special people in the community?
  • general voiceover commentary about some places?
  • sounds identified with certain places or objects?
  • music that captures the essence of the community or parts of the community?
5. Assign students to jobs, which include but aren’t necessarily limited to the following:
  • directorial team (to plan the sequence of the videotape, time for each section, angles of shots)
  • advance team (to make appointments for visiting people to be featured and interiors to be shot)
  • camera operators
  • writers (of scripts for on-screen reports, off-screen voices, questions for interviewers)
  • onscreen reporters (including interviewers) and off-screen voices
  • editors (to shorten, cut, or rearrange segments of video)
  • artists (to create title screens and credits)
  • music specialists (to perform music or to select appropriate music to be played)
6. Allow time for students to rehearse the scripts, tape each segment, overlay additions to the sound track, review and edit the tape, prepare and shoot titles and credits.
7. When the class is satisfied that its tape captures the essence of the community, invite other classes or members of the community to a showing of the tape (or other multimedia presentation).

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Adaptations


Adaptations for Older Students:
Older students may opt for more sophisticated videotaping techniques—more complicated angles, various fade-ins and fade-outs, slow motion, intercutting.

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Discussion Questions


1. Terry Williams, the creator of Harlem Diary, says that he is “just trying to chronicle what the kids are doing.” Discuss the nature of this and other chronicles to evaluate how effective Mr. Williams is at achieving his goal. Consider what other elements he might add to his chronicle if he were to make Harlem Diary II.
2. Harlem Diary is offered as an opportunity for the student videographers to “tell the larger story—the autobiography of the city” of Harlem. Analyze the video to determine which items contribute to telling the autobiography of this area. Then discuss what your students would include if they were to create an autobiography of their own city or town.
3. Music contributes very significantly to the flavor of Harlem Diary. Watch the video again to experience the full impact of the music. Stop after each musical change to discuss the feelings the music imparts. Hypothesize about the origin and influences of each piece of music.
4. Damon Williams, whose first appearance in the video is during his incarceration, and Rasheed Swindell, who is learning boxing, both experience some problems with responsibility and discipline. Discuss these topics in relation to success in life. Summarize ways in which both youths could change some of their behaviors to develop more positive traits.
5. One of the students featured in Harlem Diary comments that “there’s a lot of talent here in Harlem, a lot of strength here in Harlem, and there’s a lot of love here in Harlem.” Interpret these ideas and consider other places where this may also be the case.
6. As the video ends the narrator says that “young people in Harlem in many ways are no different than those elsewhere in this country. Their desires and their dreams are the same: a good life, safe and free of trouble, a nice place to live.” Discuss the extent to which you agree or disagree with this statement. Have your students compare and contrast life in your community to life in Harlem. Invite your students to conduct additional research about Harlem to gain more information and develop a perspective beyond the video.

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Evaluation


In this project, where the end product is dependent on timely input from many students, you may want to rate individuals on cooperative spirit, on-time performance, response to criticism, perseverance, and so on.

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Extensions


Community Role Models
Ask students to think about someone in the community who provides guidance for them. It can be a parent, a grandparent, a neighborhood merchant, a worker in an after-school center, or anyone else. Direct students to write a letter to their role model. The letter should describe the impact that the person is having on a student’s life. Then suggest that students share their letters with someone else who is important to them. For example, your students may regard a parent as a role model and decide to share the letter with the parent’s parent.

Community Collages
Encourage students to create collages about their community. Suggest they consider the following materials as elements in their collages:
newspaper stories about the community
ads for businesses in the community
ticket stubs from community performances or sporting events
programs from religious services
agenda from community meetings
menus from local restaurants
found objects

They should make up titles for their finished collages.


 

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Suggested Readings


Shimmy Shimmy Shimmy Like My Sister Kate: Looking at the Harlem Renaissance Through Poems
Nikki Giovanni [editor], Henry Holt, 1996
The experience of Harlem life has spurred the artistic endeavors of many of its black residents. This compilation of poetry is geared towards young adult readers, offering discussion of the original Harlem Renaissance.

In the Line of Fire: Youths, Guns, and Violence in Urban America
Joseph F. Sheley and James D. Wright, A. de Gruyter, 1995
How gun laws affect the social experience of urban youths, including the experiences of youth both as criminals and as victims of crime, is the topic of this volume in the series “Social Institutions and Social Change.”

The New African American Urban History
Kenneth W. Goings & Raymond A. Mohl [editors], Sage Publications, 1996
This collection of essays covers: 1) the transplanted social customs of rural blacks to the North, 2) the experience of newly urbanized blacks as household wage laborers, 3) black working-class opposition in the Jim Crow South, and 4) overviews of black Americans as city dwellers.

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Links


Genesis: A Photo Essay of the Black Community in Kansas City, Missouri From 1885
See a photo essay from a time when video was not available.

Stamp On Black History
Take the Black History tour, including the Harlem Renaissance, and learn more about the black Americans who have placed their stamp on history through important inventions, discoveries, art, science, music, medicine and sports.

Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture
The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture is a national research library devoted to collecting, preserving and providing access to resources documenting the experiences of peoples of African descent throughout the world.

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Vocabulary


Click on any of the vocabulary words below to hear them pronounced and used in a sentence.

speaker    sociology
Definition:The study of the development, structure, interaction, and collective behavior of organized groups of human beings.
Context:Terry Williams, writer and sociologist.

speaker    resilience
Definition:An ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change.
Context:These kids that I saw represented something called resilience—that is the ability to overcome adversity and go on to do good.

speaker    chronicle
Definition:To record and describe.
Context:I’m just trying to chronicle what these kids are doing.

speaker    role model
Definition:A person whose behavior in a particular role is imitated by others.
Context:My grandmother is a good role model to me.

speaker    sickle-cell anemia
Definition:A chronic inherited anemia in which a large proportion or the majority of the red blood cells tend to sickle, or change into an abnormal crescent shape.
Context:Sickle-cell anemia is a disease that you get from your parents. And when you get sick, it’s like you get sharp pains in your bones.

speaker    credentials
Definition:Something that gives a title to credit or confidence.
Context:As a black man I will only get so far without credentials.

speaker    perspective
Definition:Point of view.
Context:And since it’s a higher point of view, you get the pictures from a different perspective.

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Standards


This lesson plan may be used to address the academic standards listed below. These standards are drawn from Content Knowledge: A Compendium of Standards and Benchmarks for K-12 Education: 2nd Edition and have been provided courtesy of theMid-continent Research for Education and Learningin Aurora, Colorado.
 
Grade level:6-8
Subject area:life skills
Standard:
Performs self-appraisal.
Benchmarks:
Identifies personal strengths and weaknesses.

Grade level:6-8
Subject area:life skills
Standard:
Performs self-appraisal.
Benchmarks:
Identifies key accomplishments and successes in life.

Grade level:6-8
Subject area:behavioral studies
Standard:
Understands various meanings of social group, general implications of group membership, and different ways that groups function.
Benchmarks:
Understands that each culture has distinctive patterns of behavior that are usually practiced by most of the people who grow up in it.

Grade level:6-8
Subject area:behavioral studies
Standard:
Understands various meanings of social group, general implications of group membership, and different ways that groups function.
Benchmarks:
Understands that various factors affect decisions that individuals make.

Grade level:9-12
Subject area:behavioral studies
Standard:
Understands various meanings of social group, general implications of group membership, and different ways that groups function.
Benchmarks:
Understands that heredity, culture, and personal experience interact in shaping human behavior, and that the relative importance of each of these influences is not clear in most circumstances.

Grade level:9-12
Subject area:behavioral studies
Standard:
Understands various meanings of social group, general implications of group membership, and different ways that groups function.
Benchmarks:
Understands that family, gender, ethnicity, nationality, institutional affiliations, socioeconomic status, and other group and cultural influences contribute to the shaping of a person’s identity.

Grade level:9-12
Subject area:the arts
Standard:
Understands connections among the various art forms and other disciplines.
Benchmarks:
Knows ways in which various arts media can be integrated.

Grade level:9-12
Subject area:the arts
Standard:
Understands connections among the various art forms and other disciplines.
Benchmarks:
Understands how elements, materials, technologies, artistic processes are used in similar and distinctive ways in the various art forms.

Grade level:6-8
Subject area:the arts
Standard:
Understands connections among the various art forms and other disciplines.
Benchmarks:
Understands the characteristics and presentation of characters, environments, and actions in the various art forms.

Grade level:9-12
Subject area:geography
Standard:
Understands that culture and experience influence people’s perceptions of places and regions.
Benchmarks:
Understands why places and regions are important to individual human identity and as symbols for unifying or fragmenting society.

Grade level:9-12
Subject area:geography
Standard:
Understands that culture and experience influence people’s perceptions of places and regions.
Benchmarks:
Understands how individuals view places and regions on the basis of their stage of life, sex, social class, ethnicity, values, and belief systems.

Credit


Tish Raff, a social studies teacher and administrator at Sequoyah Elementary School in Derwood, Maryland.

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