Colonization: Teaching Ideas and Resources
By Jill Jenkins
One of my readers has requested some ideas for teaching about colonialism. Since I primarily was a Language Arts teacher, but was also certified and taught speech, theater, computers, reading and alternative education, I think I am just the right person to research this. I am joking of course, but since I believe we teach children, not just subjects, I thought I would take a stab at it. One thing I can tell if you can incorporate reading, writing, and critical thinking, the language arts teachers in your building will be your friend forever. One of the most difficult and important skills that students can develop is to synthesize examples, data and ideas from several sources into one coherent paper. The study of history is the perfect platform to teach the skills found in the Common Core Language Arts Test. Help us, history teachers, please.
Step One: Read about It
Since many students are unaware of a world outside their own existence, teaching history is particularly challenging. On resource that I have found valuable are a set of book written in Great Britain: Horrible Histories by Terry Deary. The particularly useful book is entitled, The Barmy British Empire. These graphic non-fiction writing presents histories in texts, cartoons and creations. On particularly excellent piece describes the plight of the aborigines living on Tasmania who were hunted by the more civilized British colonist. I use this particular selection after my class reads the short story, “The Most Dangerous Game” by Richard Connell to demonstrate that the short story is more a reflection of reality than just pure fantasy. However, if you were introducing how the colonization of varies land negatively impacted them, this would be a great resource.
Another resource might be to have students research why countries created colonies. Two different methods might’s be to have students read Karl Marx ‘s “The Modern Theory of Colonisation” and discuss what reasons Europeans had for colonizing the world or you could compare the behavior of the Europeans to those of America and their view of Manifest Destiny. Other articles that might be useful for students to read include:
· “The Long Term Consequences of the Colonization of Africa” by Stanley Courage Duoghah
· “Positive Effects of Colonialism” by Byerris
Step Two: Talk about It
After the students have read a couple of articles, put them into partners and have one student argue for colonization and one against. They must support their position from the evidence that they find in the articles. On great article is a web site describing the massacre of the Northwest Shoshone tribe at Bear River in 1863. Click here
Step Three: View a Video
By adding videos to the educational blend, teachers can make this particular unit unforgettable. I will warn you that you need to preview these videos before you use them with your class, because many of them show women somewhat lacking in clothing and grisly scenes of violence. Nevertheless, they will leave a mark. The best video is the most graphic, but the most informative comes from the BBC. http://atlantablackstar.com/2014/10/07/this-video-gives-a-devastating-look-on-how-european-imperialism-drove-so-many-black-populations-to-near-extinction/ The video demonstrates the devastating effects of colonialism on Africa, the South Pacific, America, and South America. The illustrations are graphic, but the information is powerfully presented. Another almost equally powerful video describes the affects colonialism had on the even modern day Africa:
A third, video describes the psychological effects of colonialism on Africa, but how the introduction of technology has a positive effect. The film is not interesting as it is only a professor talking: however, his analysis is interesting.
Other videos that will be useful of connecting the past to the present:
One of my readers, James Huie, a high school social studies teacher, recommended three longer movies:
- Rabbit Proof Fences: This film depicts the negative impact on colonialism in Australia describing the journey of three aboriginal girls. The film is based on a true story. I have seen this film and can attest that it is a powerful film.
- The Mission: This film starring Robert DeNiro and Jeremy Irons examines the impact of "The Treaty of Madrid" in 1750 on Jesuit Missions as the land was being transferred to the Portuguese. The remote tribe of Native Americans were in danger of falling into slavery. I haven't seen this film but James recommends it strongly.
- Guns, Germs and Steel is both a book published in 1997 and a National Geographic Movie. The premise of both is Professor Jared Diamond searches world and comes to the conclusion that the fate of all mankind depends largely on their contact with guns, germs and steel. Using anthropology, historical reenactments and science to support his conclusion, the film depicts the effects of colonialism on different cultures and locations. Again, this is a film that I have not seen, but James Huie strongly recommends.
Step Four: Write and Create a Project
To help students assimilate all of the information, you may want them to create a Power point Presentation or better yet a Google Presentation where they research a part of the world impacted by colonialism and present how it impacted that area of the world both in negatively and positively.
Another assignment would be to write a diary entry as colonist and their view of what they are doing in that country and a diary entry of an individual is who the victim of colonization.
This might be a good time to discuss Mahatma Gandhi and present his struggle to end colonialism in India. Perhaps, the students could compose and present a song: “The struggle against the Imperialists” or “Gifts from the Colonies.”
Step Five: Reflect on What You Have Learned
The final step is for students to reflect on what they have learned about colonialism. One method is simply a discussion where small groups of students identify what are the most important events and consequences of colonialism. A second method is for students to write about the most important events and consequences of colonialism. A third method is to have each student write a letter to a country that was colonized and sympathizing for the atrocities and explaining what motivated those who did them.
Varying the methods and the mode of instruction will make the message more meaningful and memorable for your students. The advantage of using short reading and the short videos found on You Tube is it allows the class to discuss and digests small pieces of knowledge. If the teacher ties these small strings together with projects, it should increase student learning.