One of the most challenging parts of teaching research are texts above a student's current reading level. The textbook our eighth grade students read has a lexile level near what the average sophomore or junior can read and understand. So far, we've been wrestling with annotation and most students are becoming adept at finding the topic and its supporting facts in each paragraph. Its a skill they will hone over the next several few weeks as we begin our first research project and continue history onto the American Revolution.
One other way of reading texts is by looking at primary documents. This week we played around with the Mayflower Compact. There is a nice explanation of the document here.
We took the document in steps. Step one was to find the key words. Here is what we found:
Mayflower CompactIn the name of God, Amen. We whose names are underwritten, the loyal subjects of our dread sovereign lord King James, by the grace of God, of Great Britain, France, and Ireland King, Defender of the Faith, etc. Having undertaken, for the glory of God, and advancement of the Christian faith, and honor of our king and country, a voyage to plant the first colony in the northern parts of Virginia, do by these presents solemnly and mutually in the presence of God and one of another, covenant, and combine ourselves together into a civil body politic, for our better ordering and preservation, and furtherance of the ends aforesaid; and by virtue hereof to enact, constitute, and frame such just and equal laws, ordinances, acts, constitutions, offices from time to time, as shall be thought most meet and convenient for the general good of the colony: unto which we promise all due submission and obedience. In witness whereof we have hereunder subscribed our names; Cape Cod, the 11th of November, in the year of the reign of our sovereign lord King James, of England, France and Ireland eighteenth and of Scotland fifty-fourth, Anno Domini 1620.
Step two asks us to take those words and sum up the document:
Christian colonists, signed below, on their way to Virginia, in serious attitude, promise to make and submit to decisions, both spoken and written, that will help keep the individual safe as well as for the good of the colony.
This is the summary 13- and 14-year olds came up with from their reflection on a document 400+ years old!!!
The third step asks them to make this their own by putting it in their own words. Ultimately, they may not use any of the words in the document (I let them fudge on the first one). After a few mistarts, I have found the best way to do this is to have them write a haiku or tweet of the document. If you can sum something in 140 characters and 17 syllables, you have a good scald on its understanding. Here is a sample of what they came up with:
civil body politic
is very interesting
the first new world document
makes life fair and equal
The mayflower compact shows equal laws and general good of colony #mayflowercompact
#mayflowercompact is a document that states people need to be treated = and laws are for =. we make up one civil body politic
voyage to 'ginia
coming into civil body politic
equal laws for general good
The Mayflower Compact is a document about the government and how we must submit to be acommunity. Sometimes we don't like it but its ok, we are a unit.
we Christian British
will survive with freedom in
our new colony
we make a voyage
plan to start a colony
promise to succeed
voyage in the colony
equal laws 'r important
submission 'n obedience
Yes, I know that they are using the words from the original and, yes, I know that they are killing the haiku meter and ... but--when people ask me why I teach this age group its the moments in my class today they learned and understood. Its like catching lightning in a bottle...