Now that the TALONS class has wrapped up our English Civil War unit in Social Studies, the time for reflections has come. Sometimes it can be difficult to bring together all that we have been learning in the past weeks, especially with the variety of teachers and the media used to cover the topics we find important, but that is exactly what I am going to do right now.

After the class had divided the quite large topic of the ‘English Civil War’ into subsections, my group and I chose to explore the topic of Oliver and Richard Cromwell. Both men had prominent roles in England during the 1600’s and I thought it would be beneficial to understand their effect on the English Civil War, to better understand how and why things played out as they did. With some basic knowledge on both of these people from the previous CRAAP testing, my group and I (Aidan and Jamie) set out to do a little more research before solidifying a project idea. Because we felt there were many events in their lives that were pivotal to the progress of Parliament and/or the military in someway, we decided to create an overlapping timeline of both Cromwells’ lives. This media provided the date-by-date events of his life, which would then be complemented by a more artistic approach of writing and performing a song, which brought forth more perspectives on the matter, from the point of view of people who were under Oliver and Richard Cromwell’s rule. In short, the more factual timeline created a basic level of knowledge in the classroom, which could then be used to better understand the content of our song.

Before I go on, feel free to browse through the lyrics. It is to the tune of Royals by Lorde. We thought it quite appropriate.

The main idea that we wanted to convey in our song was that there were many different viewpoints and opinions on the rule of the Cromwells, Oliver in particular. He was both revered and hated. And the lyrics of the song portray how people (the middle class and his advisors) came to trust him as he gained more power, even though he too was not born into riches.  People supported his cause because he believed in democratic rule, rather than having a monarch holding the majority of power over the population. In contrast, the song also includes the opposing voice of the Royalists, claiming that his supposed Parliamentary rule was just like the preceding king’s and that his best interest was not truly in the collective people of England.

I thought it was important to show both sides of Oliver Cromwell’s rule, to understand the different reasons why he was either loved or hated (and eventually hated or hated) by his people. Knowing the facts and then translating the reasons to be on one side or the other brings us closer to the question: Which side would you choose? This was one of the bigger ponder-worthy queries that the class considered throughout the entire unit, and I think understanding the bias-free facts (as bias-free as possible, anyway) as well as the definite opposing viewpoints  can help each person form their own decision on the matter.

Ways to improve my lessons in the future would be to encourage more interaction with the media and the way that the media is presented. Because different groups were presenting on similar or related topics, it become easy for people in the class to tune out, so I would like to work on keeping people engaged throughout the entire lesson, so that people can get a full understanding about our topic.

To improve the entire collaborative unit process, I would suggest more collaboration between the defined groups assigned to different topics. I found that there was a lot of repeat in the material that was being presented, and if each group had an idea of what was already being covered, we could prevent redundancies. The idea of the student-taught lessons was to decide on what we thought was important to learn, intra-group discussion could help each lesson keep its relevance in the whole unit, as well as create flow in our original chronological order frame work.

As for some of the other lessons/activities in the class, I particularly enjoyed the mock trial of Charles the first, which successfully brought together the class in a very interactive way. Because we had to research certain roles of people presenting in court, we were forced to create a strong argument for that role, and translate the facts into a biased opinion. This is another good example of exploring why people during the rule of Charles the First either supported him or not, and it gave us the chance to think critically about these peoples’ opinions at the time that this was all going on. Of course, there were people who were very passionate in their arguments (which is probably how it went down hundreds of years ago too) which reduced the lulls in the activity, but also made it very entertaining and easy to participate in. We talk a lot in the TALONS room about how difficult it is to reach a consensus, and the mock trial showed that this does not only apply to making lessons plans or deciding on project ideas. Just like in our regular TALONS happenings, I recognized a similar back-and-forth negotiations in the mock trial, and the same want-to-be-heard attitudes in some cases. The only difference is that there is no last decision made by the jury that decides everyone’s fate, like in the trial, but this made me wonder how things would be different in the classroom if there were six people that could have the last word in our classroom discussions. An interesting idea indeed.

Throughout all the lessons and presentations, my goal was to stay engaged in all the different topics and discussions so that I could help make my own group’s lesson as complementary as possible. Like I have mentioned a few times, I wanted to minimize unneeded repetition, and fill in the gaps of material so that I, as well as the entire class, could have a very complete understanding of the concepts that we had agreed were important. I also took time to reflect upon how my knowledge from the lessons could help me in participating in some of the bigger activities, such as the Risk game and the mock trial, so that I was constantly thinking about how I could apply my current learning to future learning. I think that if we, as a class, had a similar mindset such as this, we could be very successful in accomplishing the goals that we set in the beginning of the unit. In other words, if we keep in mind what we set out to know, and are constantly evaluating our progress (rather than just at the end) then I think we will come closer to knowing that we accomplished these goals.

Now to address one of the big questions of the unit: Who shall we cheer for?

After some in-depth researching of Oliver Cromwell, as well as some very enlightening arguments made at the mock trial, I have decided that I would have to side with the Parliamentarians. This is because I feel that the overall effect of these people was positive, and that their cause ultimately turned England in a good direction. Although many could agree that Oliver was not the poster-child leader, I don’t think that we can judge him as a fair representation of all the people behind his cause, who believed in a more democratic rule. The Roundheads were not happy with a single monarch ruling the country almost single-handedly, and I can respect their persistence in pursuing a future where not only the rich can decide for an entire population. Not to say that our democracy represents all of the voices in Canada today, but the acts of the Parliamentarians were responsible for substantial change in their own country, one that transferred over into how we now choose our leaders and let our voices be heard.