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McREL Standards Activity

Salon Simulation

Purpose:As a result of this activity, students will enhance their understanding of the role of the salon in eighteenth century Europe and how it helped to spread scientific ideas and Enlightenment thought.
Related Standard & Benchmarks:
World History
 Standard 27.Understands how European society experienced political, economic, and cultural transformations in an age of global intercommunication between 1450 and 1750
   Level IV [Grade 9-12]
   Benchmark 4. Understands influences on the spread of scientific ideas and Enlightenment thought (e.g., the importance of royal societies and other international networks in disseminating scientific ideas and methods; how academies, salons, and popular publishing spread Enlightenment thought; how the salons of aristocratic and bourgeois Parisian women influenced French political affairs, and why men eventually created their own salons; how Chinese humanist philosophy influenced the ideas of major Enlightenment writers and thinkers)
Language Arts
 Standard 8.Uses listening and speaking strategies for different purposes
   Level IV [Grade 9-12]
   Benchmark 1. Uses criteria to evaluate own and others’ effectiveness in group discussions and formal presentations (e.g., accuracy, relevance, and organization of information; clarity of delivery; relationships among purpose, audience, and content; types of arguments used; effectiveness of own contributions)
Language Arts
 Standard 1.Uses the general skills and strategies of the writing process
   Level IV [Grade 9-12]
   Benchmark 7. Writes expository compositions (e.g., synthesizes and organizes information from first- and second-hand sources, including books, magazines, computer data banks, and the community; uses a variety of techniques to develop the main idea [names, describes, or differentiates parts; compares or contrasts; uses cause-and-effect reasoning; examines the history of a subject; cites an anecdote to provide an example; illustrates through a scenario; provides interesting facts about the subject]; distinguishes relative importance of facts, data, and ideas; uses domain-specific vocabulary, such as appropriate technical terms and notations; provides concluding statement that articulates implications or significance of the topic)
Student Product:Small group discussions and short essay
Material & Resources:No special resources required for this activity.
Teacher's Note:Prerequisite Knowledge:

This activity is focused solely on helping students gain a clearer understanding of the concept of a "salon." Students should already have been introduced to different concepts regarding scientific and Enlightenment thought of this time period.

You can adjust the time spent in discussion (currently ten minutes per discussion) and the number of discussions according to your schedule.

As a class, review the different ways in which new ideas were disseminated during this time period (e.g., royal societies, international networks, academies, salons, popular publishing). This activity will focus on the role of the salon as an important mechanism for spreading ideas during this time period.

Preliminary Activity
Students will be divided into small discussion groups; before doing so, inform students that they will be responsible for evaluating their own effectiveness as a participant in the group discussion. You may use an established or a class-generated rubric to identify the discussion skills and strategies to be evaluated (e.g., discussion skills suggested by (Zola, 1992): taking a position, making relevant comments, using evidence to support a position, drawing another person into the discussion, asking a clarifying question, recognizing contradictions or recognizing irrelevant comments; accuracy, relevance, and organization of information [applicable to the Primary Activity]).

Divide students into groups of four or five; one student in each group will act as the host for that table. In these groups, the students will discuss a topic of interest that they come up with as a class (e.g., current events related to politics or scientific discoveries, literature, trends). Each group should spend about 5 minutes discussing the topic among themselves; the host of the table should either take notes or pay careful attention to the issues that are raised during discussion. When the 5 minutes are up, have students separate into new groups, with each host remaining at the original table. The host at each table should initiate a new discussion by reviewing the issues that came up during the first discussion; students can use their first discussion to inform the second one, as well as branching off into previously unexplored ideas. At the end of another 5 minutes, repeat the same process, with a new student acting as the host at each table.

After groups have participated in three separate discussions, they should return to their original group to discuss how information and ideas spread from one table to another. Some questions to consider might be:

Did the same ideas resurface in each group? If so, were they expressed in slightly different ways each time?

Did you learn something new in each group?

Did you receive contradictory information in different groups?

Primary Activity
Next, students should be given time (either in class or as homework) to prepare for another round of discussions that focus on issues that might have been discussed in an eighteenth century salon (e.g., the best education for a child, the mind as a blank slate from birth, the latest scientific discoveries). In their research, students might focus on specific, significant individuals of the time period (e.g., Voltaire, Galileo) and their philosophies or discoveries, or on particular perspectives or topics that were of importance in the eighteenth century. Suggest that students take notes, make outlines, or organize information in some way that will be useful to them in the next round of discussions.

After students have prepared, repeat the same discussion process, with students spending ten minutes in each group. At the end of the process, have each student write a short essay that discusses the following issues: Did the activity function in a similar way to the salons of the Enlightenment Era? Was the salon an effective way to spread ideas and information? Why or why not?  What were the advantages and/or disadvantages of this method of discussing ideas and discoveries?