One of my favorite first week of school discussions is about perspective. Because of this particular map (which I found at a map store in Seattle a few years ago), it always ends up being a student generated conversation (which I love!!!). After about 3-4 days in class, I inevitably start hearing whispers along the lines of, “you ask…no you ask” and I inwardly smile. I know exactly what’s coming.
The kids don’t want to think I made a mistake when it’s still prime first impression time, but it’s also killing them to not know. Eventually one kid raises their hand and asks why the map is upside down. I respond with “is it” or “why do you think it’s upside down” or something along those lines. What follows EVERY year is a great opening conversation about perspective/point of view, how my class will challenge their perspective of history, and hopefully will give them a good foundation to better understand current events as they grow up.
I try to make sure my kids understand that throughout the year we will study historical events from a variety of perspectives; not just the different perspectives directly involved in the event (like patriots vs loyalists in the Revolutionary War), but those that might not necessarily be initially included in the discussion (like the Japanese reaction to D-Day or American thoughts on Italy’s unification).
Throughout the year my kids talk about why two people living in Philadelphia in 1775 could have placed a different value, or lack therereof, on America’s potential independence. They discuss why one textbook thoroughly covers the Cambodian Genocide and another only gives it one small paragraph. They reflect on how and why citizens in different parts of the world at different points in time viewed society/politics/the world around them and if and why there are similarities and differences. They concretely discuss the variations in how they each look at their own lives, and hopefully begin to understand (and respect) that what is most important or valuable to one student may not be to his or her peer.
Since I am teaching Geography this year, my 6th graders will complete THIS activity to continue working with various perspectives through time and place (and in a deeper, more hands on way), and I will have my other two classes work on it as an end of the semester activity.
With any luck, they will keep their eyes and minds open as they grow up and start interacting with the wider world community, and will remember that for each person or group involved there is a unique perspective to an event.
How do you get your students talking about perspective? I’d love to read about it in the comments!