An Idea For Ning In The Classroom

This week my juniors began a unit on the Incas, Mayas and Aztecs. We will discuss the characteristics of the civilizations before the arrival of the Spanish conquistadores and then discuss how their lives changed as the Spanish arrived and took over.

Traditionally, this unit is presented through articles read at home that are discussed in class. As we started the unit, I realized that we were missing out on a deeper understanding of the cultures of these indiginous civilizations. We spent all of first semester on the origins of Spanish culture, but were flying through these other great societies… how can we fix this?

A couple days ago I was talking about this dilema to our new, first year, French teacher. She told me that in order to get her students to better understand the French revolution, she created a Ning for the class. Instead of having the students set up their own personal profile, they set up their profiles as if they were one of the important historical figure of the French Revolution. They then had to do a series of role-playing activities involving reading, writing, and speaking through the Ning to give their perspective on various events of the Spanish revolution.

Awesome idea! Emeline, you rock!

I decided that I needed to do this with my juniors. That night I brainstormed various roles from all the different civilizations as well as different important Spanish figures in the 1500’s. The following is a list of the different characters we chose…

Aztec:
– Cortes
– Melinche
– Moctezuma
– Cuauhtemoc
– Cortes Soldier
– Friar Traveling with Cortes
– Aztec Farmer
– Aztec Spiritual Leader
– Cortes Horse
– Someone about to be sacrificed by the Aztecs
– Enemy tribe member that allied with Cortez

Maya:
– Minor mayan God (ej. agricultura, algo de naturaleza)
– Mayan scientist/writer
– City-state leader
– City-state architect

Inca:
– El Inca
– Inca Spiritual Leader
– Pizarro
– Pizarro soldier
– Friar traveling with Pizarro
– Sun God
– Inca stonemason
– Incan messanger

Spain:
– Spanish King/Queen

The students’ first assignment will be to fill out their character profile. The Ning allows for each person to have a profile and the admin can set up a series of profile questions. Students will have to research where their character lived, what their ocuppation entails, what posessions they have, what their hobbies are, their education, goals for their life, friends that they have in society, they can upload a picture of themselves etc. The goal is to set it up like facebook. The kids think this is a hilarious idea.

Later the kids will write blog reflections on their first encounters with either the Spanish if they are a member of one of the indigenous tribes or their encounter with the indigenous if they are one of the Spaniards. The kids will comment on each others posts and also will present their reflections in class.

The last task will be to discuss their lives post Spanish conquest. They can discuss the immediate affects on their lives and then talk about how later generations of their family coped with the Spanish occupance all the way until their independence from the Spanish with Simon Bolivar, Jose de San Martin and Miguel Hidalgo.

Integrating tech, project-based, deeper understanding, personal connections to the topics… learning. Wohoo! Also, I decided that I’m not treating this as a big project, but rather their homework assignments. This is a motivated group of kids, so I have that luxury. I’m excited to see where it goes.

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