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Lesson 4 Discussion

A couple of documents to transcribe.  You only need to work on ONE of them, but they are both interesting and both related to one another.  Here are the citations


#1 - Item: Handwritten Draft of Ronald Reagan Letter to Mrs. William Loeb, Regarding the Space Shuttle Challenger Accident, ca. 02/02/1986 (www.archives.gov, ID#198441), Series: White House Office of Records Management Subject File, 01/20/1981 - 01/20 1989, Collection RR-WHORM: White House Office of Records Management File Systems (White House Central Files) 01/20/1981-10/20/1989,  Ronald Reagan Library, Simi Valley, California.

#2 - Item: Handwritten Draft of Letter from Ronald Reagan to Dr. John A. Howard, Regarding the Space Shuttle Challenger Accident, ca. 02/04/1986 (www.archives.gov, ID#198444), Series: White House Office of Records Management Subject File, 01/20/1981 - 01/20 1989, Collection RR-WHORM: White House Office of Records Management File Systems (White House Central Files) 01/20/1981-10/20/1989,  Ronald Reagan Library, Simi Valley, California.


Note:  You will notice these records come from a "collection" instead of a Record Group.  This is because the Presidential libraries (like most libraries, historical societies, and museums across the country) COLLECT records rather than receiving them from a government agency (Record Group) on a regular, pre-determined basis. 

I found these records online so there are references to an online ID number as well.




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  • I have read lots of Reagan's handwritten notes and it is funny that there are always at least one word that confuses me or I can't read.  I have had a chance to visit the Reagan Library frequently over the last five years (It has a remarkable view!) and one of the exhibits is his handwritten draft of his televised speech of the Challenger disaster, "To slip the surly bonds of earth, and touch the face of God," still chills me to this day almost thirty years later.  I can't help but think that that kind of wordsmithing is what led me into teaching. 

    In my own teaching, I enjoy most the story telling.  I feed off of the energy of the students emotional reaction to a well crafted tale, or to share an intimate historical moment with them.  I scored a 92 in "linguistic" and an "81" in interpersonal.  So, while it might seem old -fashioned I still think that I  make my most impactful connection with a personal connection.   I am pretty sure that in using this knowledge in conjunction with using primary sources; I think I would create the lessons to have them craft a story, or piece together a narrative based upon the reading.  Context is clearly important, but sometimes it is okay to use the imagination...read a letter from Jefferson, and try to empathize with what his emotional state is; or to try and put yourself in his shoes for a moment.  

  • In regards to transcriptions, I've found in researching census records that the transcriptions can be really off. Upon not finding a family in a particular census year search in Ancestry.com or familysearch.org I have resorted to digging through the originals and have found the families I had been looking for. The census taker had spelled the names right, but the transcriber had made errors in interpreting the handwriting.

  • Learning Styles
    The learning styles quiz showed my learning styles to be equally interpersonal, intrapersonal, visual-spatial, and logical-mathematical. However, my students and I enjoy learning in a kinesthetic learning environment. I think the rule of one minute per grade level (for listening to lectures) is mostly accurate. Students seem to absorb more when they have lots of purposeful mini-breaks. Working with primary sources can include movement by grouping, re-grouping, and standing to present. I frequently use some form of Kagan Cooperative structures to keep students moving and engaged.

    Idea for in-depth reading of a document:
    Interpersonal: Meet with a student team reading the same document. Read the document aloud by taking turns (Round Robin). Discuss key sourcing elements (time, place, context of document) and words and phrases that might be important. Ask questions that need to be answered.
    Intrapersonal: Read a document silently / independently. Highlight key words or phrases. Write notes or questions in the margin.
    Interpersonal: Bring your highlighted/annotated document to a team table with members reading the same document.
    Visual Spatial: Create a chart, based on consensus, of key sourcing elements/words/phrases and questions.
    Linguistic/Interpersonal: Present team findings to the class. Team members can each present one element and take turns.

    Ideas for analyzing primary source images:
    Kinesthetic/Logical-Mathematical: Line-up by order of image date or other elements that help students analyze images. For instance, students learning the difference between rural and urban might line up by the number of buildings or trees in a group of different images.

    Kinesthetic/Interpersonal: Post a theme or category title in each corner of a classroom. Students stand up and move to the corner of the room with the theme or category that best fits their image.
    Kinesthetic/Visual Spatial/Logical-Mathematical: Cut a primary image into six square pieces. Have students look closely at their square and list the elements they observe. Have students make a predication about what the larger picture might be. After individual work is done, re-group students in order for them to reassemble the whole picture and confirm or disprove their predictions. Ask students to share their thinking by presenting to the class (Interpersonal/Linguistic) and/or writing individually about their thinking process (Intrapersonal/Linguistic).

  • I have taken a few of these tests before when I assign them to my students for our PLS class.  We spend a good deal of time talking about intellectual and emotional development, and they seem to enjoy taking tests like this one, or the True Colors test.  I scored highest in Linguistic-Verbal (I have a degree in English and taught LA for 3 years), and had a tie for a close second with Logical-Mathematical and Interpersonal.  I think this represents how I learn fairly well.  I am a sucker for the details of pretty much anything.  I have to know how something works, or the story behind an event.  I usually prefer to read about a topic, but listening to a speech/lecture is okay too.  Being a teacher certainly allows me to utilize all three of these styles pretty well.  I constantly get to interact with other people, and teaching language arts and history allows me to focus on using lots of written language in the classroom. 

    I think a transcribing exercise, similar to what we are doing with the Reagan letters, would be an effective way to engage a linguistic/logical person.  The need to focus on the minute details of each letter would appease a logical-mathematical person's needs as well.  Of course a good discussion of the process and then an interpretation of what was read would be necessary to tie it all together for the interpersonal part.  I actually had my kids to a little transcribing with the Gettysburg Address last week, and found that it went pretty well.  We had some fun trying to figure out what Lincoln wrote, and then were able to use our transcriptions to have a discussion about Lincoln's views of the nation compared to those of the Confederacy.

  • I was identified as 81% musical and interpersonal, followed by 75% bodily/kinesthetic.  My idea for transcribing and analyzing primary sources using these three learning styles requires another source which I used to use, but I haven't in a while:  the Green Book of Song.  This source has most every song known to man cataloged by topic.  So, what I would propose is, once a student finds a document they wish to transcribe and analyze, they "form a band" together of 3-5 students.  They take their assigned/found document, and use the methods for transcribing described in the lesson.  Then, they find a song which they can link topically to the document they worked on.  Their group is to rewrite the lyrics to the song, incorporating what they learned into their new "revised" lyrics.  Finally, they would perform the song for the class, and explain how the original song and the document were linked.  

    As an aside, I use lots of music in my class, I guess I know why now.  I make the students cd's of music inspired by the history we study each year.  In addition, I have students make World History/European History (I used to do US History, too) themed Christmas carols to sing before finals at the end of first semester.

  •     I found the results from the eutopia learning style test puzzling. My highest score was 75% with the naturalistic learning style (only because I am an avid gardener & enjoy pets.)  My next highest was musical at 56% (I am a musician,) linguistic 33%, then intrapersonal at 31%. Because I did not feel these scores accurately depicted my learning style, I took another test at literacyworks.org. I felt the questions were better formulated. My results built on a 5 point scale were: 4.71 musical (go figure…) followed by intrapersonal at 3.71, naturalistic 3.57.  I find these scores were more accurate than the eutopia site. However, I really feel that my style is intrapersonal. I need to read the subject matter (texts, and my written notes from lectures) and go over them by myself.  I need more personal reflection to absorb subject matter. I spend way too much time reflecting and trying to “get it right” and am a little uncomfortable sharing with a group. Personally, I really disagree with the naturalistic “diagnosis” and it does not truly fit my learning style.
        I’m currently teaching a jazz unit. My classes will be singing jazz arrangements for the spring concert. I’m throwing in some jazz history for them to more appreciate and understand the art of jazz. For instance, the topic of minstrelsy was brought up in our studies. If I were to pursue that topic for their understanding, I could have them study a picture found in the archives of a minstrel show which should lead to a discussion of the racism and culture of the times. The intrapersonal style approach would be for a student to study and analyze the picture on his/her own, and create a written analysis. (Not that exciting or creative as an approach, but I believe suited to that style of learning......)

  • I scored highest in the interpersonal and verbal-linguistic styles.  As was mentioned by someone else, it is pretty obvious that teaching, and in particular the seminar program I am in, fits me very well. I definitely learn best through words, both reading them and then trying to translate the ideas into my own.  The interpersonal style does not differentiate between the power of the written or spoken word.   What is slightly different for me, though, is that in order to stick something into my head I definitely have to write it.  If I am just listening I have a hard time making sense of the topic.  If I can write it, I can actually visualize the words on the paper later.  I remember taking tests in high school and literally recalling a "photo" of a paragraph from the textbook or a page from my notes and seeing the words I needed for an answer.  The process we use in the seminar program where I teach is based off the socratic method of questioning mentioned by the visual-spatial style.  No wonder I love my job so much - it allows me to do all the things I naturally love.

    As far as using primary documents with these learning styles, the process I use often in my classroom reflects these two methods.  We take a primary text and read through it individually.  Students draw on the text, making summaries, connecting pieces, asking questions, reacting, and linking it to other things we've discussed.  Then we move to a group process where they re-read and discuss, exchanging ideas.  Eventually we discuss the text as an entire class, moving beyond comprehension to connections beyond the text.  While this process is very powerful, after several weeks of this it is nice to change up the routine.  I am appreciating the interesting ideas you all are putting forth.

  • From the learning styles inventory I learned that I have attributes in most of them--all of the metrics were over 50%. Strongest were visual-spatial, interpersonal, and linguistic. Actually, I think I'm strongest as a verbal-linguistic learner, in part perhaps because I've trained my mind that way since toddler-hood and my learning habit is foremost sequential and conceptual. But the inventory is good--it picked up the visual and metrical (musical) orientation that I think is inate.

    (The English teacher dies hard, though. I noticed that even Thomas Jefferson used the contraction "It's," meaning "it is," in place of the possessive "its."  OK, I give up. Kind of liberating.)

    As a teacher I ask people to read and write; and I guess this is a reflection of myself: It feels respectful of the learner to require that kind of intellectual effort and to develop abstract, meta-cognitive skills. It is thrilling for folks to find that they are able to attach meaning and to articulate their experience of the world or of their intellectual growth. But we used to experiential methods, too, so people could induct meaning.  But, in teaching kids to use the Archives, I would ask them to re-live the experiences that they are discovering. For example, as a former theater teacher, I've had quite a bit of experience helping students translate the abstract (like a digital image of a powerful document--or of sharecroppers in the fields)--into a one-act play that is grounded in what really happened and that enables them to internalize and make their own meaning.

    Having said all that, I will now enjoy what other folks--the "real" teachers in this ning, have to say. They are the experts, for sure!

  • Based on the Learning Styles survey results, my preferred way of learning is through Interpersonal methods.  This makes perfect sense to me and goes a long way toward explaining why I chose to make my career as a teacher.   I think that there can be more power and creativity in well run groups than in the work of even a brilliant individual.  This is only true though, IF the group is well run, and that is the rub.  

    Practicing effective group processes and being able to easily contribute ideas and questions in group settings are valuable 21st C. skills, whether one enjoys doing them or not.  But for students who thrive on interpersonal interactions one possible lesson for using primary sources might be-

    • Have small cooperative groups "close read" a challenging text, supporting each other in its' interpretation.
    • Do a "think/pair/share" focusing on the following question: What are one or two questions that you think really get at the significance of this document?
    • After the groups share out, have the class pick two or three from those that the groups came up with and discuss them whole group...
  • The Learning Style results for me were as follows:  A tie (67%) in Linguistic and Visual-Spatial with Intrapersonal a close second (63%).  I do like to read and see information in order to process it and learn it.  I can get lost in reading or researching and like to set goals for myself which would explain the intrapersonal. 


    A lesson in using primary resources with these learning styles would be to assign students to create a podcast condensing their research into a one or two minute summary.  A student researching the territorial guard in Alaska during World War II could find and analyze documents related to the territorial guard, along with pictures of the guard.  They would then storyboard their findings and create a podcast from the storyboard.  Students would present their podcasts to the class. 

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