While reading our Columbus book we came to a section on slavery. This topic became of great interest to my fourth graders and they began to ask a lot of questions in regards to it. They really began to try to put things together and I took advantage of the great dialogue.
This discussion centered around the following summary about what we had read:
Columbus and how he was not meeting the contract he signed with Spain for gold collecting. In order to justify his expedition he sent what gold he had back and a letter. In the letter he offered a suggestion to the King and Queen. Columbus reports that there might be an opportunity to use the "Indians" as profit in the slave trade.
To start the discussion I asked if they had any thoughts on the motive or reasons for why Columbus would send a letter telling the King and Queen to use the Native people as slaves. As they talk and come up with ideas, I clarify points and ask probing questions to get them thinking deeper. The next question I ask is why Columbus felt he could turn the Native people into slaves. Where does that thought come from? It doesn't take long and a student simply states that, "it is because he (Columbus) thinks he is better than them." This is perfect to lead into today's lesson. I transition by asking them if Columbus thinking this way is fair or equal.
With the conclusion of our discussion I ask students if they will help me in making a connection between what they said about Columbus being better than the Natives. I want them to help me make connections that often pertain to us now. The first step in making this connection is to create a web. I often like my kids to create the web, but I explain for time that I am going to do the writing. It is their job to be creative and tell me what to write.
I add the word "Jobs" to the white board. I then ask the class to help me fill it in. This web will not be types of jobs, but instead the class is going to give me what is needed for different jobs. I also ask them to add why people get jobs and their feelings toward a specific job or their job.
Now that we have a visual and a good brainstorm it will be time to start connecting. I explain to the class that they are each going to get a sticky note and I am going to place it face down. They are not to look at it or it will take the fun out of the activity. I do not tell the class that they are being assigned a job and keep the suspense.
I ask students to discuss what else they know about jobs and I begin handing out sticky notes. Off the top of my head I go to each student think of a job and write it down. I do this until every student has a sticky note.
I wanted the jobs to be diverse so I make sure to include jobs that require all types of jobs. Jobs I thought of and wrote: teacher, doctor, sales clerk, chef, boss/manager, athlete, lawyer. dentist, janitor, soldier, garbage collector, waitress, and many others. Each student will get a different job.
Before the class can flip, I want to set up some rules for the activity. First, they are not aloud to make a sound or word on what they read on the sticky. They can not let on that they have any opinion about what they read. All I want is for them to read it and then compare it to the job web created. This is all going to be done silently and I want them to make connections to the web.
I then tell them to flip and allow time for what they are reading and to build connections. The first thing I ask the class is what they think everyone was given. This is an easy one, and I compliment them on using the clues they knew to figure it out.
To judge their job they are going to do the following three things: First, they are going to mark the other side of the sticky with a smiley or unhappy face to express whether they would like the job. Second, they are going to write once of the connections from the web we made onto the sticky. For the last thing, a quick response or thought about the job.
The discussion we are going to have now is to help establish connections of the jobs given and the web. Students can now share their thoughts about the job, BUT have to do it without giving their job away. This keeps the discussion unbiased of the connections students are making to a specific job.
I lead the discussion thorough skills and education required, as well as why people need this job. I then ask them to think of one positive about their job and share it. We then discuss the negatives about their job and share those.
I then ask the question if anyone has ever made a judgement about your job. What do people think of it do we see all jobs as fair or equal?
To continue the fair and equal we then go through and share our job with the class. Each student tells the class their job. I quickly call on each student. Immediately, the student with the janitor job sparks a stream of giggles. There is also a moment when students make remarks like I wish I had that job or they express sounds of admiration.
This is exactly what I am after! I begin to explore the reactions of the class. Starting with the janitor, I asked why that was met with so many giggles. I then ask that student to share the positive they came up with for their job. I ask that student also to explain if they felt judged by the class and are they going to be treated fairly or equally?
I continue this same questioning on another job, but this one that is sometimes looked at as above average.
This is where I ask them to now think of fair and equal. Is every job equal? We come to the determination that they are not, this is either because of education, money, or skill. I then ask if all jobs are treated fairly? This is when you see the eyebrows go up and the connection begin to sink in. I probe that further, by asking someone to explain and the class adds their thoughts to the discussion.
I come back to what we read about Columbus, do people often judge and try to put themselves above other people? How did this thinking affect history? How can we learn from this thinking? Which is better to be treated equally or fairly?
This is how we end the lesson and validation of learning comes from them not wanting to end the conversation. They asked if they had time later in the day could we talk about this more. AWESOME!