In my curriculum, the Enlightenment is given enough time to be a sort of “mini-unit” or introduction to the French Revolution. My objective was for my students to understand the changes the Enlightenment thinkers wanted made to government. I used this lesson to introduce the various Enlightenment philosophes and their ideas. It took 2 45-minute class periods.
When my students came into the room, they were assigned groups using the method I explained in this post. At each group of 4 desks, I placed 4 sheets of lined paper and 4 biographies that explained background/beliefs of various Enlightenment philosophes (I found these at World History For Us All). The lined paper also had a color written on the top (to be used later).
I explained to my students their objective for the 2-day lesson (we post objectives in the form of Essential Questions, so their question was “What changes did Enlightenment thinkers want made to government?”) and gave them a brief setting for the unit.
Then, I instructed them that each group member would read about an individual Enlightenment thinker and take notes on the lined paper on their beliefs about government. Then, they would be compiling the information as a class and creating their own notes on the topic.
When each group member completed that task, they had to get a netbook from me (I checked out the netbook cart at my school for the day). Each group got one netbook. Each class period was given a Typewith.me document to collaborate on (Typewith.me is a service which allows multiple people to collaborate on one document simultaneously, no accounts needed). Each group was instructed to type in their Group Number as the name in Typewith.me and to change their color to the color listed on lined paper.
The students were really amazed with the fact that they could see each other creating the notes. I also projected the notes at the front of the classroom as they were being typed. They were able to complete the notes in that class period.
Note about Typewith.me: It did give me some downtime issues that day, and my 4th period class wasn’t able to access the Typewith.me doc. Always have a back up plan- I had them type their notes onto a Word Doc and hand it in using my Dropitto.me link.
Next: I threw their notes into Wordle and use the images to convey the main ideas. To read about how I conducted Day 2 of this lesson using Wordle and the notes students created, click through the “Read More” link.
After school: I copied and pasted each Typewith.me document into a Word Doc, formatted it so it was uniform, and made enough copies for each student in each class period. I also put the words from each Typewith.me doc into Wordle to show which words were repeated the most in their notes. I did take out the philosophe names in Wordle, as their notes were broken down by philosophe.
Again, students were broken into groups as they entered the room (they did not work in the same groups as Day 1). Each group was given a large poster paper and markers. I reminded them of the Essential Question for the lesson and told them that today they would be finding the “Big Ideas” about government in the Enlightenment.
I distributed copies of the notes to the students and explained what I had done with them. I also projected the Wordle image for that class period and explained what the word cloud represents. I had 4 separate Wordle images for 4 separate classes, but here’s one example:
I told them to share out the words that were the biggest, and I highlighted them on the Smartboard.
Then, I gave them their assignment instructions. Using the notes that their class had created and the word cloud, each group needed to come up with 3 statements that summarized “Big Ideas of the Enlightenment.” The statements should include some of the big words we just highlighted, as they represent the main ideas of the philosophes.
The groups did a great job with it. We had statements like “They wanted government power to come from the people,” “Religion should be separate from government,” “People are born with natural rights,” “Power of the government should be limited,” which are all the conclusions I had hoped they would come to.