As I’ve mentioned before, sometimes we have to spice up our delivery of…well…boring content. Although the historian jury is still out on the accuracy of what we teach about feudalism, my good friends in Columbus still tell me to teach it and threaten that it may appear on an 8th grade social studies achievement test (should the test ever resurface). So I teach feudalism.
Feudalism is based on relationships between different groups of people. So we spend calorie after calorieprocessing these relationships and dissecting the roles of kings, lords, vassals, and peasants. The students are able to convert the first image on the IWB to the second through oral and written explanations. By the end, they master it.
Before we reach that point, however, I find my highest students getting bored with the repetition and are no longer getting anything out of the slightly-varied explanations. And thus was born, No Pronoun Day.
The idea is really quite simple. Instead of my students demonstrating their mastery with, “He gives him some land. Then he hires him to protect the castle from him. But he doesn’t do this for free so he…,” I watch as even my highest students methodically and meticulously draw arrows and explain, “The king gives the lord some land. Then the lord hires the vassal to protect the castle from the vikings. But the knight doesn’t do this for free so the lord…” See the difference? But that only authentically engages one of the 31 students. So I added this kink: when the explainer slips up and uses a pronoun, the audience has permission to rudely yell, “Who’s [pronoun]?!” It looks something like this:
High student brags to table about how easy this challenge will be – gets called on and goes to IWB.
High student: Here’s how feudalism works. The king owns lots of land and marries the queen. The king gives some of the land to the king’s friend, a lord. The lord needs help protecting his cas…
Class: WHO’S HIS?!
High student is frustrated (the good kind) and asks for a second attempt.
High student: Again, feudalism works like this. The king owns a whole bunch land and marries the queen. The king has a friend, a lord, and the king gives some of the king’s land to the lord. The lord needs help protecting the lord’s castle from the vikings because they ar….
Class: WHO’S THEY?!
High student sits down, flustered (again, the good kind) and low student who has been actively watching/listening goes to the IWB.
Low student: Here’s feudalism. The king has a bunch of land…”
Low student explains feudalism perfectly and “gets past” the high student’s point in our feudalism narrative. Self-esteem is raised, objectives are met.
Wash, rinse, repeat.