Activity 1: Free Writing.
Write on the board, "The Discovery of America."
Tell students they will spend several sessions reading and writing about early American history, beginning with the discovery of America. In order to get started, ask them to write non-stop for ten minutes, about anything they remember about how America got discovered, by whom, why, when, and what/who was found there. Tell them not to worry about spelling, punctuation, or grammar for this exercise, which will be used just as a way for them to begin their study of this theme. Encourage them to include as much information as they can.
When students have finished writing, divide them into small groups and ask them to read what they have written in their groups. Have each group choose one student to act as recorder, compiling the group's list of facts. If some of the facts as remembered by individual members are contradictory, tell students to note their disagreements so they can confirm their sense of the facts based on the reading they will do on this theme.
Regroup as an entire class. Have each group report back, and as the lists are read, record the information on newsprint and post on the walls of the room. These lists will be returned to and revised as new information is introduced, throughout the sessions in which this theme is explored. Record the information under the categories "Who," "What," "Where," "When," and "Why."
When groups have finished reporting back, draw students' attention to the word "discovery." Introduce the concept of point of view by asking questions such as: From whose perspective was America discovered by Columbus? Who else might we say discovered America? How can we identify point of view when we read about events?
Activity 2: Identifying and Comparing Point of View.
Distribute three articles covering the same event, or editorials about the same issue, from two different newspapers. Distribute so that students on one side of the class have one of the articles, and students on the other side of the class have the other.
Ask students what they already know about the event or issue. List responses that are facts in one column, and responses that are opinions in another. When students have finished responding, have them try to determine why responses were placed in one or the other column. Try to elicit the category headings "Fact" and "Opinion" before providing them. Ask students to describe the difference.
Have students read the articles silently.
When students have finished reading, have one group write a sentence describing the event covered in the article (have them include what they consider to be the most important details related to the event); have another group describe the author's perspective on the event; and have a third group describe how they know this is the author's perspective.
Have each group report back to the class. As they report, draw attention to the textual features which help to establish point of view, such as adjective choice, markers which signal point of view (e.g., moreover, similarly, in any case), placement of facts, and repetition and amount of space devoted to different aspects of the event. As students report back, write on board, categorizing the different features they observe. Then have students compare these features across articles. Create a chart with the class to help students see the differences between/among articles.
Have students return to their groups to reread the articles and make a more complete list of all features in the article which contribute to establishing points of view.
For homework: Have students exchange articles; read; and as they did in class, list the features which establish points of view.
Activity 3: Analyzing Point of View in Historical Writing.
Provide an out-of-sequence account of major events and causal factors surrounding Columbus's voyage to America and its subsequent settlement by Europeans. Include the following events/causal factors: Spain sought gold and spices in order to increase its national wealth; Columbus was looking for an alternative, more efficient route to Asia; Columbus's ships landed in the Americas in October, 1492; Indians/Native Americans met Columbus's ships with gifts and friendship; Indians were taken captive, brought to Europe to be displayed as savages, and used as slaves in the Americas.
Have students work in groups to sequence the above sentences, keeping in mind relationships of cause and effect. When students report back, have groups justify their responses based on causal connections.
Excerpt a traditional recounting of the discovery of America from a text such as THE COLUMBIA HISTORY OF THE WORLD (see citation in Materials
section). Have students read the text in groups and decide whether the author's account favors a European or a Native American perspective. Ask students to base their decision upon an analysis of textual features, as they did in Activity Two.
When groups report back, write their responses on two different pages of newsprint, one with textual features which they have identified as conveying a European perspective, and the other with features conveying a Native American perspective.
Divide students into two groups. Assign different newspapers to each group. Have each group follow a news story as it is reported in one newspaper over the course of a week. Have students list evidence of the newspaper's or the author's perspective as it is revealed in the week's coverage of the event. Have each group compare what they have discovered at the end of the week.