Monthly Archives: November 2014

Orchestrating Deeper Learning

When I have a History lesson, the students end up learning more than just discrete historical facts. Sometimes I wonder how I actually managed to connect Mathematical concepts (and I am NOT a Maths teacher) in a history lesson.  Actually, in the end, I realized I wasn’t just teaching a History lesson, but it became a lesson in questioning the difference between training and learning, and in effect what learning means to the students.

Having looked through the students’ test responses, I realized that many of them seem to have a problem answering WHY questions, and end up listing a sequence of events rather than identifying the causes, and explaining the link between the causes and the historical event.  Upon deeper reflection, I realized that part of the problem is that the History text is written as a sequence of events, interspersed sometimes with a sentence that identifies the cause of a particular historical event. Yet, it seems like students ‘read’ without really differentiating between sentences that are merely recounting and sentences that constructs a cause / effect relationship of some kind.

Many teachers would generalize that these students have a problem with reading, and stop there.Yet, when we say that about the students, are we in effect looking at the students through a ‘deficit’ model of learning; students lack the ability to read, so they can’t understand what they are reading in History texts ( or any texts), and that’s why they are always handicapped by this.

This deficit construct is hardly helpful.  Most of the time this leads to teachers limiting the students’ ability to learn deeper, because if they can’t even read a simple text and understand the text, then how can they ever go beyond this level of learning.  Often, this means that teachers will end up reading the text for the students and creating ‘notes’ to TELL them explicitly what are the different causes and students need ONLY memorise those for a test / exam. Yet, if teachers are doing the ‘READING’ for the students, how are students ever going to develop these reading skills for themselves?

How did Maths become part of this? Well, I realized that students were not AWARE of how to read for different purpose, and how there are ways to parse / chunk different parts of a sentence, depending on what you are paying attention to.  In History, recounting events requires a certain awareness of sequence, and usually this means organizing the sentences into some kind of order, usually chronological.  Thus, students needed to learn how to identify the parts of the sentences that signal EVENTS, and the parts that signal A CAUSE of an event.

I decided to start with a question about chronology, and my question to the students was based on the most basic concept of Mathematics, the number sequence or number lines. I asked them whether they can count, and of course they could, i.e 0, 1,2,3,4,5,6 etc. Then I threw this question at them: Does that mean you UNDERSTAND the concept of numbers? What is the underlying connection between this sequence of numbers? They were stumped by my question, yet counting numbers is one of the most basic Mathematical concept that students learn in lower primary. Then I asked them, can an animal count? Have you watched videos or read articles that show you an animal like a parrot, or a dog, or even a monkey being able to count 1, 2, ,3 ,4 ,5 etc? Does that mean that animals can process and understand the concept of Mathematics?

The point I was trying to get the students to grapple with is the difference between training and learning, rote memorization and understanding.  I suspect that most of the students could not differentiate between the two, and sometimes, I feel that such questions about what understanding means become lost in the educational rhetoric of testing, where student ‘learning’ is measured by worksheets / tests that only ask them to display what they have been TRAINED to imitate, often without any real test of understanding. Yes, that’s what it means when students can get the right answers, and yet have no idea why the answer is right.

The connection between the chronology and causation in History is really the same as the connection between counting numbers and understanding he principle underlying the relationship between the numbers. It is here that you begin to see that why some educators criticize the way students are taught in school, with different subjects slotted into the timetable as if learning can be compartmentalized. This is why I have always approached teaching and learning from the principles of UBD, especially Enduring Understandings and Essential Questions. As illustrated in my example, whether in Mathematics or History, the essential questions and enduring understandings of these two subjects can be similar, the BIG IDEAS and KEY CONCEPTS that transcend a particular subject or context, and thus of value to learning.

In historical inquiry and understanding, the students need to able to discern what is that ‘story’ or ‘narrative’, but more importantly, why this narrative has been constructed in this way, and how the writer of that narrative has chosen to include certain events in a certain order.  These questions form the basis of deeper critical thought and understanding. Students would need to be able to NOTICE that particular sequence and UNCOVER what it tells us about the cause-effect pattern that the writer is constructing, and at a higher level of understanding, to evaluate that particular EXPLANATION of an event for its bias, reliability, credibility and usefulness. If students still think learning is the same as ‘training’, i.e. All I have to do is imitate what the teacher is doing, and just ‘follow’ the steps, then they will be unable to really move to the stage of learning. Learning can never be standardized, the way our students make connections, notice different things, move along a certain pathway through that learning, they are all highly individual, often chaotic, and usually idiosyncratic.

Thinking, and that includes processes ( not only cognitive, but emotional and even social) like noticing, perception, experiencing dissonance, questioning, associations and connections, reflecting etc, is a complex phenomenon. Yet, how much of our teaching actually allow the students to experience this flow of engagement that is challenging yet extremely satisfying?

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Teaching History – 2014-09-27 Update #6

Obsessed with this adorable primary source anchor chart. I think I will have to make one of my own! [Source]

teaching history

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September 1, 1532: Anne Boleyn Becomes Marquess of Pembroke

Author: lissabryan

Anne Boleyn was born into a wealthy and well-connected family. While she had no title, her grandfather was a duke, and her father held several important court positions before Anne caught the eye of the king.

Her mother was a Howard, one of the most powerful families in England, and her father descended from the Butler family. Royal blood flowed in Anne’s veins, because she could claim Edward I, Eleanor of Aquitaine, and Henry II as ancestors.

Anne Boleyn was actually more well-born than Henry VIII himself.

There’s no doubt that Thomas Boleyn struggled financially during his younger years, but the notion that Anne was a girl plucked from genteel poverty and obscurity by the king is false. By the time Anne was reaching marriageable age, Thomas was a successful courtier, wealthy enough to finance careers at court for his children, and Anne was a popular young woman with fine marriage prospects.

In 1525, the king elevated Anne’s father to Viscount Rochford. Anne afterward signed her letters as Anne Rochford. Four years later, the king gave Thomas Boleyn the titles of Earl of Ormond and Earl of Wiltshire. (The king then granted the title Viscount Rochford to Anne’s brother, George.) This came with a significant increase in income for the Boleyn family.

On Sunday, September 1, 1532, Henry gave Anne her own title – the Marquess of Pembroke. It was the first time a woman had ever been granted a hereditary peerage in her own right.

The ceremony was held in the king’s presence chamber at Windsor. The short contemporary description we have mentions Anne wore a red velvet robe, trimmed with ermine, and her long auburn hair flowed loose. Henry placed a coronet on her head and handed her two patent documents, one of which listed the title she had been given and the other the lands it included.

Not including the property Henry had already given her, Anne now owned five manors and controlled an income of over £1,000 … £200 more than her her father’s income had been when the king first noticed Anne. She was a very wealthy woman.

The title came with the interesting provision that did not go unnoticed by the court. Usually, titles were specified to pass on to the legitimate sons of the title holder. Anne’s patent specified only that it would pass on to her male heirs.

Speculation must have been rife in regards to this omission. Perhaps some thought a bastard was already on its way, or that Anne would finally surrender her virginity without a wedding ring if she was assured any illegitimate son would have a semi-royal title.

There must have been those who thought the title was intended to be a “consolation prize” since Katharine of Aragon showed no signs of being willing to surrender and agree to the annulment Henry sought. Was that the intent? To throw the court off track in regards to what Henry was really planning?

There were a few reasons for Anne’s elevation to the peerage. Firstly, no one could now say that Henry was marrying a commoner – he was marrying a marquess. The following March, the king asked the Duchess of Norfolk if she did not think Anne was a finely dowered woman. The letter notes they sat in Anne’s apartments, “beautifully ornamented with splendid tapestry hangings, and the finest of buffets covered with gold plate.” The Duchess, who was no friend of Anne’s, must have internally rolled her eyes, since a good portion of that fine dowry had come from the king’s own coffers.

Secondly, Henry was meeting with King Francis in France in November, and he intended to bring Anne along, even though there was no royal lady willing to receive her. Anne would remain behind in Calais with her royal-sized retinue until Francis reciprocated the visit on English territory. While she waited, the people of Calais entertained her in royal style. When Francis came to Calais, he danced with a masked lady who -surprise!- revealed herself as Anne once the dance had ended. They chatted privately and Francis tacitly recognized Anne as Henry’s next consort, as hoped.

The stage was set for the next step in the plan.

Author: lissabryan

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Henry Norris, Accused of Adultery with Anne Boleyn

Author: lissabryan

Born around 1582, Henry Norris was a courtier who rose in the ranks to become Groom of the Stool. He was a close friend of Henry VIII, until he was accused of adultery with the queen, Anne Boleyn.

We’re not certain who Norris’s parents were. He was the son of either Edward or Richard Norris. His family had a history of service to the court, as Edward Norris was knighted for his service in the Battle of Stoke, and Henry Norris’s brother, John, was an esquire of the body of Henry VII, afterward serving Edward IV and Queen Mary I.

Norris achieved a number of court positions, including keeper of the king’s privy purse. He went to the Field of the Cloth of Gold with Henry VIII, and became a close friend of the king.

Interestingly, he doesn’t seem to have always acted as a sycophant either to the king, or to the current queen. As an example, he allowed Cardinal Wolsey to stay in his rooms when Wolsey fell from favor and found no rooms had been appointed for the Cardinal at court. But this doesn’t seem to have negatively impacted his relationship with the king, or with the woman who Henry was seeking to marry, Anne Boleyn.

The trust Henry had in Norris is evident because the king sent him as an agent in sensitive matters. He was present when Wolsey surrendered the Privy Seal. He was one of the very few witnesses to Henry and Anne’s wedding, and he was sent by the king to witness the execution of recalcitrant monks.

The rewards of this trust and position were plentiful. Along with the pay from his various court positions, Norris was given a yearly annuity of £100, and granted part of Thomas More‘s property after that man’s execution. As a result, his income topped £1300 a year, making him richer than many nobles.

Norris was appointed Groom of the Stool in 1529. His duties included cleaning the person of the king after he used his “close stool” or toilet. This intimate position was one of the most highly sought court appointments, as strange as that seems today.

According to David Starkey:

The Groom of the Stool had (to our eyes) the most menial tasks; his standing, though, was the highest … Clearly then, the royal body service must have been seen as entirely honorable, without a trace of the demeaning or the humiliating.

This person was usually the closest friend of the king, his confidant, and his personal advisor. Norris was with the king from the moment he rose in the morning until the moment he retired to his bed. He controlled access to the king, so whoever wanted to see Henry had to go through Norris first.

Norris had three children with his first wife, Mary Fiennes, but she died in 1530. He began negotiations to wed Anne Boleyn’s cousin, Madge Shelton. Madge may have been a short-term mistress of Henry VIII when his attention began to wander from Anne Boleyn. Madge’s mother seems to have resented Anne for encouraging this affair to “keep it in the family,” so to speak, and prevent the king from being influenced by a woman of a rival faction.

Perhaps it was that relationship with the king – or the rumors of it besmirching Madge’s reputation – that made Norris hesitate to marry her. For whatever reason he delayed the match, Anne Boleyn was irritated by it. She chided Norris one day when he was in her chambers. Norris replied he prefered to “tarry a time,” which Anne took to mean he was saying he had feelings for her.

Anne reportedly retorted that he was looking for a dead man’s shoes and if “aught but good” happened to the king, Norris would seek to marry her himself.

Norris replied he would never dare lift his head so high for fear it would be cut off, and Anne said she could lower him if she wanted.

The “confession” of this argument supposedly came from Anne herself while she was in the Tower, as reported by one of the unfriendly women assigned to guard her, Mistress Coffin. We don’t know the exact wording of the confrontation because it’s being recorded third-hand, through the words of a hostile witness. The records themselves are damaged by fire. So, the context of the conversation with Norris can only be speculated.

Writing these words bluntly strips them of any context. Many writers interpret Anne’s last line as a threat, that she would destroy Norris, but to me, that makes little sense in light of the conversation. Why would she suddenly threaten him? Especially when she realized listeners might take the conversation too seriously and sent Norris to his confessor to swear that she was a “good woman” and that it meant nothing? Would she threaten a man, and then ask him for help?

Some have interpreted this as Anne going way “too far” in the courtly game – possibly because of the stress she was under from losing the king’s favor – and that both of them were immediately aghast at what she had said. But Anne was an expert courtier who actually managed to hold her composure better when she had an audience – as this conversation obviously did. It seems out of character for her suddenly to lose her skills at repartee, especially when she had no emotional involvement with the man in question.

To me, it makes more sense if the entire conversation is flirtatious. He says he can’t stick his head up so high, and she says she can lower him down, so his head won’t be so far up. It’s silly, but so was much of the courtly flirtation of the day. Afterward, she realizes their words could be misinterpreted by someone who overheard the conversation, so she asks him to swear it meant nothing to his confessor.

This conversation was Anne’s guess about why Norris had been arrested. Anne was wrong. The conversation, and those dangerous words about a “dead man’s shoes” aren’t even mentioned on the indictment. It seems Cromwell might not even have known about it, or didn’t think it was notable enough to be included in the accusations. Maybe he felt he already had more than enough “evidence” to complete his task.

Rather, it seems that Norris was chosen because of the fact he had clashed with Cromwell regarding the funds from the dissolved monasteries. Norris supported Anne’s position on this matter – that the money should go to fund schools, rather than going into the royal treasury. Norris may have also been using his position as Henry’s confidant to give Anne information about Henry’s overtures toward rebuilding the alliance with the Emperor and discarding his alliance with the French. Norris, as a reformer, was no friend of the more conservative Seymour faction, either.

Some scholars have speculated that Cromwell may have been afraid that Norris’s position with the king was so strong that he could convince Henry to derail the plan, or possibly put Cromwell himself in danger. Norris was a strong supporter of Anne, wealthy, popular, and influential … Cromwell was already using the coup against Anne to rid himself of pesky political problems like William Brereton. Why not kill another bird with the same stone?

After leaving the Mayday joust, in which Norris had competed – riding a horse provided by the king himself – the king turned to Norris and began to interrogate him about Anne’s supposed adultery.

According to what Norris said in the Tower later, the king offered him a full pardon if he would confess to adultery with Anne, but Norris replied he would rather die a thousand deaths than falsely implicate an innocent person. De Carles claims Norris offered to defend Queen Anne’s honor through trial by combat, but was refused. He was arrested and after being questioned, was sent to the Tower.

It’s chilling, Henry’s indifference to the fate of Norris, once his closest friend. A cursory glance at the “evidence” would have shown Norris and the other men could not have been guilty of the charges against them. The indictment claims Anne had sex with Norris on October 6, 1533 at Westminster, but Anne was still secluded in her chambers at Greenwich during that time, after giving birth to Princess Elizabeth.

But Henry was determined to see Anne die, and perhaps the idea that her “lovers” were the king’s closest confidants gave the accusations more shocking power. The verdict was pre-ordained, and everyone knew it. Cromwell inventoried Norris’s property two days after his arrest, and began fielding inquiries about distributing it to favored courtiers even before the trial.

Henry seems to have wasted no time in mourning the fates of those in the Tower, as he took his barge of musicians and laughing courtiers down the Thames nightly to party with Jane Seymour. His best friend … The woman that he had once loved enough to shake apart his entire kingdom …

Something unusual happened during Norris’s interrogation. Chapuys reports at one point that two of Anne’s supposed lovers had confessed. Sir William FitzWilliam had interrogated Norris and presented something Norris said as being a confession, but the document does not survive, nor any mention of its contents. There is a badly damaged document which may relate to this confession, written by Sir William Kingston, in which Norris seems to deny that the confession is legitimate.

At Norris’s trial, the confession was read and Norris declared he had been tricked into giving it. Moreover, he stated that anyone who would present it as being a true confession was worthy of standing in Norris’s place (that is, as a condemned prisoner about to meet the axe.) Was FitzWilliam trying the same tactics as Richard Rich, who invented a false confession supposedly made by Thomas More at his trial?

As the king wished, Norris was found guilty along with the other accused. He went to the scaffold a few days later with George Boleyn, Mark Smeaton, Francis Weston, and William Brereton.

One of the witnesses recorded that Norris “said almost nothing at all” before he laid his head on the block. Likely, he gave the usual speech about being a penitent sinner and exhorting the audience to live a pious life. Norris was the second to bow before the axe, and died after only one blow.

His body was brought back inside the walls of the Tower and buried in the churchyard behind the chapel of St. Peter-ad-Vincula. He was placed in the same grave as Francis Weston. When the Waterloo Block was constructed, the church yard was excavated and any bones discovered were interred in the crypt of the chapel. If Norris’s remains survived, they are buried there.

Author: lissabryan

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