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Nonfiction Matters
Inside Nonfiction Matters

We The People, US History 7th Grade — Your Suggestions?

Here is the plan for the 7th grade US History 1 we created at 276, Iany comments, criticisms, suggestions, and — oh ye librarians — ideas for books that we might use within this structure would be most welcome:

As all of you know, US History 1 is this mad dash to get to the Civil War, so US History 2 can begin with Reconstruction. One of the teachers made the brilliant suggestion that instead of beginning with the Bering Strait (more on that in a moment) we begin close to the end with the climactic moment of writing the Constitution: We The People. We frame that moment and then pose two questions to the students — who are “we the people” and how do you arrive at that moment where the laws of a nation are going to be framed by that self-definition?

i) Maps, and our students see the beginning of this story four different ways:

A. West to East (first peoples were Asians across the sea; site in Chile
supports this also a carbon dated chicken in Chile)
B. North to South (Bering Striat – traditional)
C. South to North (Spanish up through Mexico and the use of corn as the center of
Civilization, Santa Fe,)
D. East to West (traditional European, Explores, Columbus***begins to form who
we the people are)

2) Interaction of People and Places

A. Philadelphia (Quakers Mercantile), Boston (Puritans the Crucible) 1600’s, Virginia – very class based (Williamsburg and Jamestown) establishment of new places. Winners in VA women (widows) Bacon’s Rebellion argument made it was the moment when poor whites sided with rich whites

Questions: why did you come, what did you do, how did it change you? Native American efforts to fight, adapt, or leave.

B. Africans people (bring rice) becoming something new. Slave trade.

3) Clash of Empires

The seven years war France v. England

Will France rule North America by linking Canada and the Gulf of Mexico and making the English colonies marginal — part of world battle of empires.

4) Ideas, Connections and Conflicts
Run up to the Revolution
Actors of the Revolution – men who organize revolution and vote Women who weave their own fabric and stop drinking tea.
A presence of slavery makes freedom valuable to colonists (they did not want to pay taxes because they would be slaves to England)
Toleration – why necessary? Religions toleration William Penn, Roger Williams. Political Ideas, Abolition and Suffrage
Great Awakening

5) Conflict of Ideas –
Who are The People — slavery; women; class — each being fought out from Federalist, anti-Federalist debates through Constitution 3/5 clause and into new nation; definition new immigration by being “white’ not by religion; Haitian revolt; Louisiana Purchase; Mexican War (thus Hispanics); Irish immigration

Opening of religious lines and hardening of racial lines

Lincoln Douglas debates: Douglas argues people should be able to decide rules for themselves (one sense of We the People); Lincoln says some ideas are so wrong no common agreement should make them possible (different sense of We the People) .

** ELA theme outsiders

Who are we questions – debates of what makes us what rules do we set,


  1. Shirley Budhos says:

    Looks good to me. I’ll leave the choice of resources to the specialists. It’s certainly more unified and linear than the mess I was taught and saw taught when I taught.


  2. Russell Freedman’s WHO WAS FIRST? is an excellent book to explore the issues of who get here when, and where, and how we know it, and how our understandings continue to be shaped by new research that is changing all the time — it would be great combined with articles that demonstrate what has changed since the book first came out in 2007.

    I would also advocate that a school at the tip of Manhattan focus on Manhattan! Pennsylvania gets all the attention in the Middle Colonies, but all you need to do is read some of Peter Stuyvesant’s letters to see the connections between colonial Manhattan and today. For trade, for fusion of cultures, for the examination of the role for women from all cultures and how that role was narrowed significantly when control shifted from the Dutch to the British, for the role of free and enslaved Africans….you get it all, minus the Puritans and many Quakers (but some!), with colonial New York. The resources of the New York Historical Society and the Museum of the City of New York, as well as the African Burial Ground and the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian should all be able to fill in the gaps as well, and they are most likely sufficiently digitized (like the great online exhibit from the New York Historical Society, “Slavery in New York” at

  3. Marc Aronson says:

    thanks, it is a first step

  4. Marc Aronson says:

    we talked about using Who Was First, good suggestion for NYC — you can actually see the river and the port from the school.