Context for this Lesson
How does point of view effect how we understand history?
We’ve been reading about the events that lead up to the battle at the Alamo. What's the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the phrase "Remember the Alamo"? What do we know about the Alamo so far? What do we know about the battle that took place there? What are some of the big ideas that people were struggling over? Brainstorm a list of themes and struggles.
Fill in factual details about the events leading up to the battle as needed. [See appendix.] Discuss how the themes and struggles people were concerned with then play out in our lives today. As you move through the discussion start a word bank of words/themes important to the topic. Words might include: allegiance, community, patriotism, heritage, honor, respect, etc.
TRANSITION: It sounds like we know a lot about the time period and about some of the major issues at stake. Let’s take some time now to physically explore some of the ideas and words that we just discussed.
1) Cover the space and Statues
Define an open area on the floor. Ask participants to walk around the floor moving slowing and making sure that their bodies do not touch. Call out a concept mentioned in the previous discussion (allegiance, community, patriotism, heritage, honor, respect, etc.). At the sound of each new word, participants should freeze in an individual statue that says something about the concept. Repeat, with participants progressively connecting with other players. For the next word find a partner or a group of three and make statue that explores the word. Spotlight group statues and discuss the complex ways artwork can symbolize feelings and emotions. Let’s have all the statues on this side of the room remain frozen. The statues on this side of the room can unfreeze. For those unfrozen, tell me what do you see? What makes you think that? What might this have to do with ____? Switch groups and repeat. Discuss the point of view of various statues. Whose voices seem to be in the room with us? Whose voices might be missing? Create a list of stakeholders (folks who were affected by the Battle of the Alamo including soldiers on both sides, family, Native Americans, white settlers, citizens of Mexico, etc.)
Transition: Discuss how objects from the past (artifacts), like statues, carry meaning depending on who is viewing it. A symbol is something that stands for something else by reason of relationship or close association or resemblance. It can be a visible sign for something that is invisible—such as a lion as symbol for courage. It can also be an act, sound, or object that has importance to a person or group.
2) Artifact: DAR
Show the group an old book in a plastic bag. You might pass the book around the circle. Ask the group:
Describe: What do you see? (Have students physically describe the book’s characteristics)
Analyze: What kind of a book does it seem to be? How old might it be? What kind of person might have owned it? Why might it have been important to that person? Where might they have kept it? How might it have gotten into someone else’s hands later?
Relate: How might this book be connected to our discussion about the Alamo?
Transition: Explain that when we work in drama, we get to use our imaginations to transform ourselves and objects around us into something other than what they really are. For our drama today, let’s agree that this is a journal that dates back to 1836—and that tells an important story about what happened at the Alamo. It’s about to cause some problems. It’s become very important to someone you are going to meet in just a moment. She is actually a curator of a museum (the person in charge of a museum—who cares for and supervises the museum). And this diary symbolizes a whole new way of understanding history to her. She is so excited that she has called a press conference.
I’d like to ask you to think like reporters for a few minutes: what sort of questions might a reporter want to know? Brainstrom a list of questions for the reporter. When I put on this jacket/hat/scarf I will become Jill Brown, Curator of the Texas Folklife Museum and you will all become reporters.. Ready?
3) Teacher in Role. The teacher welcomes the group to the press conference and introduces herself as Jill Brown – the curator of the Texas Folklife Museum.
In her opening statement, she reveals:
- 3 days ago the museum came into possession of a diary of extreme historical significance. The diary dates from 1835-36, record of the battle of the Alamo among other things (10 mth period—Nov 85-Aug 36).
It was written by a Mexican soldier, Juan de la Garza and it says some very interesting things:
- Crockett’s real motives had to do with gold (in a well)
- Crockett along with several other “defenders” tried to run away and were captured and executed
- Details about survivors of the Alamo of which there were several: one woman in particular Susanna Dickinson as well as many children she was responsible for tending them.
Diary appears to be authentic, but still doing tests/ comparing translations. This could change our understandings of this historical moment. Ownership is, however, being debated (as soon as it surfaced, several other people are claiming rights to it:
- Mexican govt
- Descendents of de la Garza in Mex and US
- A few well placed politicians (local, state, natl)
- A concerned citizen’s group—Rep. Of Texas
- The Alamo Museum •
- Text book publishers (Houghton Mifflin)
- A Tejano rights group --she feels her organization would be the best guardian of this item.
- We've been in discussions with the Smithsonian, where it should be eventually housed. This diary will be important for a book she’s writing—The Battle for Texas: The REAL Story. She needs public support for the Museum to retain custody.
TIR should now entertain questions from the group and towards the end of the press conference should try to pressure the group by saying something like: “I don’t want to prejudice you, but it is in the national best interest to let people know what’s going on—so they can make up their own minds what’s fair. After hearing all the facts I’m sure they’ll side with me. Thank you.” She should then invent a reason to leave the meeting (meeting with translator’s, etc.).
NOTE: If students have trouble coming up with questions to ask the TIR, stop the drama and brainstorm together (or in pairs or small groups) a list of questions a group of reporters might want to ask this woman. Then continue playing in role together.
Transition by discussing the TIR activity: So, what seems to be her interest in this book? Why? Who else would you want to talk to in order to find out more? Make a list on the board of other people who might have a different point of view. In what ways might these people have a different point of view than hers? Write a few basics notes by each person on the list. In general, how do people in the present affect our understanding of the past?
4) Interviews: Ask participants to work in pairs. One person in the pair is a reporter. He/she will interview the other, who will be asked to think like one of the people on the list who might represent a POV that is very different than what the curator said about the diary and the events at the Alamo. After 10 –15 minutes, regroup and ask the “reporters” what they found out.
NOTE: If students need more background information in order to successfully conduct these interviews, ask them to research and/or write a short diary entry from another point of view first. Then resume the drama work and have them interview each other.
REFLECTING ON THE LESSON: (these questions are the conclusion of your lesson)
D: What things came up in your interviews? How are those opinions or points of view similar or different from the curator’s view?
A: Why are there so many different points of view on this situation? How might cultural heritage, race or ethnicity affect someone’s point of view on an historical event?
R: How does cultural heritage, race or ethnicity impact our views on events that happen today?
EVALUATING THE SESSION:
What did I notice about the engagement level of the group? What pleased me about their work today? What caused me concern? To what degree do the students seem to grasp the main factors leading up to the battle of the Alamo? What do students seem to understand about the relationship between point of view and cultural heritage, race, & ethnicity? What do they seem to understand about the connection between POV and how history might be represented? What things still need to be examined? How might I follow up this lesson?
Why go to the Alamo?
Given the information in their textbook and the conflicting information that the “diary” contained, create flashback scenes or images in which a decision is made to go to the Alamo and face certain death. Discuss how the different points of view might be represented – including Anglo, Tejano, and Mexican points of view. What were the different investments?
What did the Alamo compound look like? Where did people live? Discuss how space was used and who was allowed in the various spaces. Create maps and/or models of the space or create a mock floor plan in your classroom.
Consider how symbolic rituals work in the US (pledge of allegiance, singing the National Anthem, the folding of the flag, playing “Taps,” at a military funeral, etc.) Depending on the previous work, ask participants to form three or four groups: Mexican govt., American govt., American descendents, Mexican descendents. Ask each group to consider what it would mean to have the book in their possession. Ask them to create a ritual that would somehow literalize that symbolic meaning. Share each of the rituals.
A Jury Decides:
Tell the participants that the rightful ownership of the diary is now going to be decided by in court. Ask some students to become the jury that must decide who will be granted custody of this diary. Ask others students to represent some of the different people who want the diary. What are their reasons? How can they argue their point of view clearly and provide convincing supportive evidence? How will the jury decide which point of view is more valid than another? How will they tell all the parties involved about their decision? What reactions can they anticipate? How will they deal with the reactions?
Ask participants to imagine that they are members of the community that has come together around the Alamo. As things are getting ready for the upcoming battle, what is going on in their heads … and hearts.