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History Class Prepares Students for their Futures

In their Early Modern World History class, Whitfield freshmen are introduced to historical topics connected to world history from the fifteenth century until the beginning of the nineteenth. By examining the narrative of significant global events, figures, and movements, students gain an understanding of the social, political, and economic development of the early modern world.

Currently students are working on 5-Minute Presentations.  This project requires students to write an essay on a historical topic and give a short formal lecture to their classmates. “Our 5-Minute Presentations are designed to expose students to higher-level historical methodologies and help them develop more sophisticated research, writing, and public speaking skills,” said faculty member Dr. Miller Boyd.  They also further develop competencies to support their preparation for college and life, such as: confidence and familiarity with public speaking; conducting research and assessing credible sources; and, organizing and building a presentation.

The process of building a 5-Minute Presentation is spread out over several weeks. Students are first charged with selecting a topic with the latitude to select one that is closely aligned to personal interests, such as art, dance, music, or sports, so long as the topic also directly connects to the 1400-1800 A.D/C.E. time period. For example, one student is preparing a lecture on Mob Football, a game that is connected to the early history of soccer. Another student will present on aspects of medieval European dance.

Next, students learn more about how to conduct in-depth research on their topic. Through workshops, they learn about the differences between primary and secondary sources, how to use Whitfield’s library databases, and how to source articles and e-books through Warrior Web.  Students are encouraged to visit local libraries to obtain books and periodicals not found online. Through research they must source enough material to make a 5-Minute Presentation on their chosen topic.

After a thoughtful and thorough review of their sources, students will create an outline for a historical essay that will be the foundation for the script of their 5-Minute Presentation. Demonstrating and refining skills developed in eighth grade, students will craft a thesis and provide evidence to support their claims. From there, they will determine the best way to organize their essays and presentations.

Once their final essay is approved by Dr. Boyd, students will build a PowerPoint or Google Slide presentation. Students must select images that complement their script and will be instructed as to what should and should not be placed in a PowerPoint/Google Slide Presentation.

Students are guided through presentation practice and complete this unit by giving formal lectures to the class. At the end of each presentation, students must open the floor for questions and answer them by drawing upon their research and the arguments they posed in their essays.

“At the conclusion of our 5-Minute Presentation projects, students will have a better handle on the historical writing process and will be better equipped to give formal, academic presentations in the future,” said Dr. Boyd.