SOLE Results: Was the US successful from 1781-1789?

The Sole Project:

This year I completed a SOLE that asked the question:  Was the US successful from 1781-1789? 
The results I received were pretty good considering I did not give out a super specific rubric.  I did give them a guide that allowed them to take it in any direction that they wanted.  And the results were pretty good.  Most chose to create a PPT in their groups as the final piece, but others chose to create a poster.  I even had one group write a well-developed essay. 

The freedom motivated many students, but was a challenge for others.  Some wanted specifically what I wanted in the project, but I refused and on the first day many complained that the project was just too hard.  I stuck to my guns and eventually all the students I had turned in a finished project.  Below is an outline of the process I underwent with my students. 

Day 1:  Students used printouts and the text to begin doing research.  Historians often use older texts to discover things about the past so I wanted to use this as an opportunity to drive that point home.  Plus, there should always be value in discovering things in printed texts as well.  Research online really does not have all the resources that could be used yet.  I also was unable to get computers that first day.  The students filled out an organizer.  Where I just drew some squares on a piece of paper. This tripped them up quite a bit because I relied on them to create the shape they wanted.  Some created two columns of success and not success. Some broke it down into years.  Others did sections of the text.  It was neat to see the process of their mind create the tools they needed. 

Day 2:  More Research.  This time we used computers and the texts.  I had put some videos on my blog as a starting point.  Some went and found other things online. 

Day 3:  Final day for research on the computer.  Most still had not finished the computer research so I gave them another day.  They surfed around to find more information. 

Day 4:  They began working on their project.  They were allowed to choose whatever medium they wanted.  I ended up with essays, posters, and PPTS. 

Day 5:  They used this final day to finish up the project and turned it in.  Below are a few results. 

Overall, the project was a success.  For the first time in a long time the students could tell me all about Shays’ Rebellion, the Northwest Ordnance, and other events from the time period.  I think it helped them understand why American needed a new constitution better than all of the readings I have done in the past.  I am kind of emboldened by this process and I am thinking I might have the students write a historiographic essay on Andrew Jackson next quarter to see how his portray might be different than others. 

For those of you who are wondering about the validity of the SOLE it does work, but might make your students uncomfortable.  Some of my students yelled at me as I pulled back.  To some I was simply not doing enough for them or my job.  I helped many do research, but I never told them any answers. As the project finished I think that it was important I didn’t become as involved, but was more of a guiding hand that constantly posed questions.  It was hard not answering the questions, but overall this seems to be the way things should be done.  Some needed prompting to stay on task occasionally, so the method is not perfect.  Students still need the structure of the classroom to stay focused and for me to keep helping them stay focused on the process.  It was a risk I took this year and it seems to have paid off.

Give it a try.  You will be amazed with what some of the students will create.       

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