Friday, March 22, 2013

Bringing the 1920s To Life, a 1920s Newspaper

While in my internship, I had an opportunity to teach in a very different type of classroom.  NewTech classrooms are project based classes.  The class I was in, American Studies, is a combination of American history and American literature.  To get the "full" NewTech experience, I created my own project about the Roaring 20s.

While trying to think of what kind of project I wanted, I finally came up with the idea to have the students write a newspaper from the 1920s.  This allowed them to highlight the key events from the decade and understand what life was like then.  This would segway into their next project, which involved them reading F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby.

To give students background information about each event during the 1920s they would cover in the newspaper, I created a brief PowerPoint for each of the main themes.  While sitting through the PowerPoint, students had to complete some sort of exit activity.  It varied based on the PowerPoint and highlighted what I wanted the students to take away from the PowerPoint and apply to their newspaper.

The PowerPoints covered:
1. World War I
2. Women's Suffrage/Women in the 1920s
3. Prohibition
4. Harlem Renaissance
5. Consumerism

After each PowerPoint and exit ticket, students (in their assigned groups) were told to create one aspect of their newspaper.  For World War I they had to write a regular article.  The article had to include: causes, major players, military tactics, key battles, outcome, along with at least two visuals.  For women's suffrage, students had to create a miniature protest poster (on a regular computer sheet of paper) in favor of women's suffrage.  They could either draw it by hand or make it on the computer.  I was worried about the Prohibition activity where students had to write letters to the editor for and against Prohibition.  My mentor teacher was fully supportive of me though, and the students really got into it.  One group wrote the "for" letter as a battered wife and the "against" letter as her drunk husband.  This was the first aspect of teh newspaper where students could really step into the shoes of someone from the 1920s.  The Harlem Renaissance aspect of the project was realy what impressed me from my students.  We analyze a few poems from the Harlem Renaissance and talked about the themes for the poems and novels from the movement.  Each student had to write a poem as if they lived in the Harlem Renaissance.  I was expecting a lot of mediocre poems and protesting, and while not every poem was perfect, a lot of them blew me away.  I had no idea my students were so profound and able to express themselves so eloquently.  I even hung up some of the poems in the hall for the rest of the school to read.  Another aspect of the Harlem Renaissance portion was a biography about a famous person from the Harlem Renaissance.  Groups got to pick who they thought was interesting and write a biography about them.  They couldn't talk about anything that happened after 1929, however, since they "live" in the 1920s.  To go along with the last PowerPoint, students learned about the rise in consumerism in America and the switch from "needs" to "wants".  We analyzed advertisements, and they had to pick popular products from the 1920s.  Each student had to create one advertisement for a product they thought was interesting.  They could NOT create an advertisement for alcohol, not because it was not appropriate, but because Prohibition was going on and alcohol was illegal.

Students did not create parts of their newspaper limited to what we covered in the PowerPoints.  Students also had to pick a popular jazz song from the 1920s and write a review of it and write two articles of choice from a list of events.  One had to be a first person account and one a regular article.  If they wanted to add more to the newspaper, and they had time to do so, then that was fine with me.

Everything was eventually put together in Publisher (or PowerPoint if they wanted), and each group made a newspaper.  They included by lines, photos, captions, etc., everything necessary to make the newspapers look authentic (authenticity is emphasized in NewTech).

Along with the newspaper, students had to write a three paragraph essay individually, answering the following question:  How did America change in the 1920s, making it a "modern" nation? 

Overall, the newspaper came out wonderfully.  Students really jumped into their rolls and got into it.  You could tell they were learning a lot more than they usually learned in a traditional classroom.  This is definitely a project I can modify and use in a "traditional" classroom in the future.

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