Historical History

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History teachers PREPARE students for the FUTURE by teaching about the PAST

28 January 2009

Women's Studies Project

The other day I was teaching my Women's Studies class and it was one of those days, where I can literally see the eyes rolling into the back of their heads. Obviously, something was not going right. I was not enjoying the class and it was abundantly clear the students were not having a good time either. In the middle of my rambling I stopped and said, "Okay, this obviously isn't working. What do you want from this class? You chose this class, so what do you hope to get out the class?" The students, taken back a bit, looked at each other, . . .then me, . . .then at each other again. Finally, after a moment of awkward silence a student in the back quietly said, "Maybe we could do a project or something."

Thus, an idea was born! We were painfully trying to get through the role of women in a variety of cultures from the ancient world. I went home that night and put some thought to how I could get the students to learn the information in a way that they enjoyed and learned something from at the same time.

I decided that I would let the students do the work by researching the cultures and, as a group, present their findings to the class. I broke the students into four groups and gave each group an ancient civilization: Roman, Spartan, Jewish, or Greek. As a group, they researched the culture, any historical events, and two to three significant women from that society. Their task was to put all their research in a coherent PowerPoint presentation, where they could be as creative they wished. I allotted three days to research, using laptops, and create their presentation.

I would love to know if you have any suggestion for how I could do a project similar to this in the future, or if you have done something similar. Please share your ideas and constructive criticism. Today they are on their second day of research, and already a problem I am running into is keeping a class full of girls on task. I am hearing more stories of gossip and less of ancient civilizations. Every few minutes I am reminding them to stay on task.

I really enjoy the class, but I am having trouble keeping them engaged in the material. In addition, since there is no set curriculum, I am having to develop a curriculum as I go along. The teacher, who I have replaced left a vague outline where the class should go, which has been a lot of help thus far, but I am getting the feeling that as the semester progresses I will have to come up with other material. Any suggestion would be greatly appreciated.


  1. I think this is a great idea! In the past I had my students look at medical issues concerning women's studies as well (although I don't know how well you could find this information for ancient studies). Issues such as breast and ovarian cancers and how they were treated might be interesting.

  2. Why not allow students to create videos in the next project? I would suggest using a ning - make sure you email ning to get the ads removed since it is for k12 use. Could they do comparisons of a influential women in different cultures? For a third project, could you require them to collaborate with someone outside your school using only technology (internet, txting, twittering, etc. ) ? Just ideas.....

  3. I talked with the teacher of our Survey of Women Writers course about your project. She shared her syllabus. It's at http://drop.io/womenwriters

    It's a drop, so others can upload related files there, too. The password is moixland

    Hope this helps!