Rather than using the lesson as a whole-class, multi-day lesson, I spent about an hour with it to introduce the controversies and complications of the era. I divided students into small groups and gave each group a question to discuss. Students seemed to struggle with how to approach the discussion with their group members, so I decided to have a whole-class discussion of one of the questions not chosen by the students. It happened to be Question 3, “What do you propose should happen to these Confederate leaders?”
The benefit of choosing Question 3 was that students were very passionate about their choices and it led to a level of discussion that I have not previously had with the group. It was also interesting because many students made comments reflective of the various Reconstruction plans, as well as the philosophies of Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. DuBois – all without knowing any of those ideas previously!
I heard student comments of, “Yeah they should be punished! Have you ever heard the saying ‘A closed mouth don’t get fed’?” I also heard students remark “Silence speaks louder than words,” in support of not seeking retribution against former Confederates, but instead letting the future successes of African Americans speak for themselves.
The discussion provided me with an effective way to help students explore the various Reconstruction plans and ideologies of prominent African Americans without lecturing at them or boring them. Because they “experienced” it, and reasoned through it themselves, I feel confident that they are much more likely to remember the content than if I had tried to force it into their brains myself.
I find both of the Zinn Ed lessons on Reconstruction to be well thought out and immediately useable for teachers with very little prep involved. The procedure instructions and pre-teaching comments are relevant. Thank you for providing this resource!