Blueprint Focus Groups

Originally posted on October 25, 2011 by Shennan Hutton

The Blueprint project has been keeping me rather busy for the last few weeks. We have been revising the Civil War unit based on the feedback we received from teachers and advisors. This has been a massive undertaking. To produce lesson plans, primary source materials, background readings, visuals, literacy strategies, historical thinking skills, multimedia sources, activities and keys – the entire package for instruction, in other words – has been an exceptionally time-consuming process. Today we finished with the second complete draft, and we’re preparing to send it out for feedback.

I have also been meeting with focus groups of teachers across the state at our partner districts. On October 4, at the Orange Unified School District, Amy Hale, Kristi Peckham and I met with 26 history teachers. I gave them an overview of our Blueprint Project and the Civil War unit, and Amy and Kristi guided them through our Pre-test Assessment and the Lincoln’s Speeches lesson. Then the Orange teachers gave us detailed and extremely helpful feedback. I took pictures at the event.

On October 10, Mark Ennen, Jasmin Brown, Lisa Hutton, and I met with the Long Beach Unified School District history teachers. Angela La Torre, Jah-Yee Woo and I met with the Oakland teachers last Thursday, and we meet with the Mount Diablo teachers next Wednesday.

I’ve been busy, but it has been a very thrilling process. Hearing the positive feedback and creative suggestions from history teachers helps me to know that we are on the right track, and at the same time, challenges me to do even more. The curriculum work is incredibly engaging. Just to uncover all the splendid visual resources in the Library of Congress’ collections has been fantastic. Let me show you one I discovered this week.

The old slave says: “God bless you, massa! You feed us and clothe us. When we are sick, you nurse us, and when too old to work, you provide for us.”

The master says: “These poor creatures are a sacred legacy from my ancestors, and while a dollar is left [to] me, nothing shall be spared to increase their comfort and happiness.”

Only a historian could love this shocking portrayal of slavery as a benevolent institution! I deplore the message, but it is a great teaching tool – a graphic depiction of the pro-slavery argument that modern students find so difficult to comprehend.

Lithograph drawn by Edward W. Clay, and published by Arthur Donnelly, in New York, 1841. Source: Library of Congress: