We’ve seen how essential questions can organize an entire US history course.
This week we see how one can begin a unit on the Women’s Movement and inspire students to become more thoughtful about how gender roles affect human identity and relationships. In light of recent revelations of sexual harassment and gender bias in the workplace, the increase of women serving in political leadership roles in Congress, there is perhaps no more important theme to explore.
US history teacher and online course-taker Melissa Kinsey poses the question:
How do gender roles define people?
In the lead up, Melissa organizes her class in gender groups and plays or reads The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch. After the video students complete a Stereotype-t-chart on which they identify stereotypes introduced in the book and stereotypes which exist today. Students add to the chart after watching I’m Glad I’m a Boy! I’m Glad I’m a Girl!
After class discussion, she shows a graphic of how her unit will be organized with the question placed right in the middle for emphasis. On an exit slip students write out an initial response to the question using what they have learned in this opening lesson. Then, as the unit progresses, students revisit the very same essential question (and the supporting ones) to build even more sophisticated understandings of how gender roles have come to define women and men throughout American history.
Most impressive here is the fact that Melissa has set up a recursive learning experience where students will gain deep understanding through repeated exposure to the same original question.
An interesting companion essential question would be should gender roles define people? That might open up all sorts of possibilities to explore what kind of society we should want to live in.
Here are some conversations which feature quotes by famous women.
“Your silence will not protect you.” Audre Lorde (Essential Question: How do we know when to be silent?)