Monday, August 19, 2013

Class Expectations With A Hollywood Flair

School is back in session and the first few days of class procedures and polices have been completed with students. These first few days are very tiring because it is a lot of teacher talking and little student doing. To make things a little more interesting, here are some movie clips I show students to help set up expectations for the year. They help set up some interesting discussions with students on what are appropriate and what are inappropriate behaviors in class. I try to keep things simple and use daily repetition to help set up clear room expectations. As you can tell with many of these clips I was a kid of the 80's.

Being Prepared for Class

From Legally Blonde: Elle Wood's First Class at Harvard Law goes terribly wrong.

Talking Points: Know what is needed each day for my class. Come prepared fully ready to learn.

Get To Class On Time

From Fast Times at Ridgemont High: Spicoli meets Mr. Hand for the first time.

Talking Points: I'm not Mr. Hand, but I do care about what you learn in my class. First few days I understand why you might be late, but as an 8th Grade Student I expect you to be in your seat when the bell rings. We have a lot to do each day and a lot to learn about this year so we go from bell to bell. So you don't want to be late and miss out important information.

Why Class Participation is Important 

From Ferris Bueller's Day Off: A Boring Lesson on Economics

Talking Points: My Promise to my students. I wont be the teacher in the clip if you won't be the students in the clip. Specially the last student...ewww gross.

Getting the Teacher's Attention Appropriately
Shrek: Donkey volunteers to help Shrek go find Lord Farquaad

Talking Points: I want you to participate in class, but there is a right way and a wrong way to go about it. I will get you to participate this year by having you raise your hand, whole class choral response, and we will use an interactive response system called Socrative. Remember, you get out of class what you put into it.

Being At Class is Important:

Ferris Bueller's Day Off: Ben Stein takes attendance

Talking Points: I want you here to learn so please be at class.

Why We Have Homework a.ka. Formative Practice

Allen Iverson explains why he wasn't at Practice

Talking Points: Sports, Music, and School requires practice to develop your skills. Formative Work (practice) is just as important as Summative Work (Game/Performance)

What are some ways you help teach room expectations? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comment section below.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

The Connected Teacher: Staying Connected With Parents and Students

The Connected Teacher: Staying Connected With Parents and Students

It is very important to stay connected to students and parents and have open lines of communication. Below are a few things that I do to help students and parents stay connected and informed to the comings and goings in my classroom.

Google Calendar:
One thing I use to help keep students and parents current on daily classwork, project deadlines, and upcoming assessment dates is the use of Google Calendar. This is a very easy and an effective way to keep students and parents up-to date. I am able to input the week's agenda on my computer's iCAL and I have it set to automatically sync to my Google Calendar. I provide a link to parents to my Calendar at the start of the year and keep a permanent link on my course description on my online grade book. If you are a MAC user and use iCAL, syncing to a Google Calendar is very easy and instructions can be found here on Google's Help Page. I also just learned from Richard Byrne's on FreeTechnologyForTeachers about using Google Calendar to add attachments and assignments.

The Team Weekly Newsletter via a Shared Google Doc:
My interdisciplinary team sends out a weekly newsletter to parents on what is going on in each of our classes. Sending weekly e-mails to our Team Leader to compile the newsletter got to be a big hassle, so we started last year using a shared Google Doc that everybody on our team has permission to edit and we make the Google Doc available to view for our parents.  We send a weekly e-mail to parents at the end of each week with a link to our Google Doc with a reminder that it has been updated. Each teacher shares a little about what is going on in their classes, and we also share the "Word of the Week" and the Student of the Week.

I try and send out an e-mail to parents the week before any major due dates or unit assessments to let parents know of any important class news. Parents have always been very appreciative of this. However due to  the  Google Doc newsletter, I no longer send out as many weekly e-mails.

Online Course Management (Blackboard):
Teaching in a one to one laptop computer environment requires me to have a central location to keep important documents, files, etc. This is an essential way I communicate with my students. I am very lucky that my school district has made the commitment to using Blackboard. If your school does not have a Course Management system, I would look at using tools such as Wikispaces, Blogger, Edmodo, Wordpress, or others to have a virtual 24 hour presence with students.

Remind 101
(Update: Now this service is just Remind)
Something new I'm trying this year is using the free texting service Remind101. I am very excited about using this tool this coming school year. It is a safe place for me to send out text messages to students and parents without having to give them my cell phone number. I am really excited about the possibilities with this service this year. As a High Teacher told me about why they use Remind101, "Students have stopped reading their e-mails, but students have not stopped carrying their cellphones. They are always looking at them."

New Class Twitter Page:
I am also trying this new feature this year with my students. I have created a class Twitter page titled @little_abe_213 to connect with my students in a different way. I am hoping to use this to get out information to students and parents and perhaps run weekly history contests. I don't know how many students have Twitter or will connect to me this way, but I am curious to find out how this platform of social media works. With any history contests I run, I will also make them available on my Blackboard Site for students who can not access Twitter.

To help parents access the various resources and information about my class this year, I am going to use the "Share Feature" in Dropbox as a place for students to access things like textbook information, handouts from curriculum night, etc.. I used to rely on parents navigating through my Blackboard site, but  hope by using Dropbox I can make it easier to share important digital documents to my parents.

Some of these methods of communicating with parents I have used for awhile and there are a few things I am trying new this year.

What are some other ways you connect with students and parents in your classes? I would love to hear about them in the comments section below.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Making Inspirational Posters for your Classroom

  1. Making Inspirational Posters for your Classroom: Four Easy to Use Tools

With "Back To School" signs start appearing in stores, its that time of year again when teachers start planning and preparing for your room.  I like placing famous quotes, inspirational messages, and sound words of wisdom around my room for students to look at. 

I love good inspirational posters, and here are a few free web resources I've collected from other teachers to make your very own Inspirational Posters for your class website, or classroom. I am thinking about even having my Homeroom Students make their very own inspirational posters this year that tells a little more about themselves.  I think this would make for a great getting to know you activity with my students. Using a website like BrainQuotes, might be a good place to start to look for that perfect quote. 

I also think these websites are easy to have students generate their own Internet Memes to explain a concept or idea we are discussing in class. I have seen other teachers on Twitter talking about these projects and I hope to write a future post on this. 

Motivational Poster Generators:

1. Motivator: Create your own Motivational Posters: This site is pretty self-explanatory and easy to use.

2. AutoMotivator: This is very similar to the one above, but I think is a little easier to use. What is nice about this website there are default images that you can use or you can pull images from websites. Just make sure you are using images that are okay to use.

3. Quotes Cover:
This is a pretty neat website to create some very neat graphic images and layouts. There are lots of graphic editors to pick from and lots of options on this site. You can also create pretty cool Twitter or Facebook banners. 

I have seen more and more of these popping around lately, and I was excited to find this generator tool to create my own.

There are lots of possibilities and very creative things these websites can allow you to do. 

What type of websites do you use to help decorate your classroom? I would love to hear about them in the comments section below.

**New 2015: Word Swag **

I wanted to add this IOS App since it has become one of my favorite Photo Apps on the iPhone. It does cost ($3.99) but makes beautiful inspirational images.

Photo by Lance Mosier, created using Word Swag

***New 2016***

Saturday, July 27, 2013

End of the Korean War at 60 Years

Korean War Memorial, Washington D.C.

The Korean War: Resources

Today July 27th, 2013 marks the 60th Anniversary of the signing of the Korean War Armistice.  A war that is often times referred to as "America's Forgotten War" is still an important conflict in American History that impacts our lives today.

Here are some websites I have collected over the past few years from several people on Twitter you can use with your students to learn more about the history of the Korean War, as well as its continued impact.

The Korean War 1950-1953

CNN Video: Korean War Remembered:
Good overview video of the conflict from CNN

The Price of Freedom: From the Smithsonian 
This site does a great in depth look at all of the conflicts that America has been involved in. They have an excellent section on the Korean War with videos, slideshows, and images of artifacts used in the Korean War.

The Korean War from the Naval History & Heritage
An overview of the conflict from the US Navy's perspective.

The Korean War: BrainPop Video
I love using BrainPop videos for my Middle School Students because they are fun to watch and very informative  I am pretty lucky that my school does subscribe to BrainPop videos, but even if don't have a subscription you can get a few free viewings. These are videos definitely worth checking out, so click here to learn more about using BrainPop.

History of the Korean War:
This video is a great summary of the conflict of the Korean War.

The Korean Conflict Today

BBC's Guide on North Korea
The BBC has a good overview about North Korea, including its history in the Korean conflict.

CIA World Fact book on North Korea
A very detailed look at the geography, history, and political structure of North Korea.

Crisis Guide: The Korean Peninsula
From the Council of Foreign Relations, this is a very in depth look at the conflict and tensions that still exist even thought the Korean War has ended 60 years ago today.

President Obama's Speech Commemorating the 60th Anniversary
Video from C-SPAN of the 60th Anniversary of the Korean War Armistice presentation.

Gallery of Images from the Guardian Website on how North Korea celebrated the anniversary of the armistace.

***NEW 2016***

North Korea Interactive via the AP has a lot of great information about the Korean Peninsula

11 Mindblowing facts about North Korea via Business Insider (From 2015)

*** New 2017***

The Korean War for Dummies Via Hip Hughes History (YouTube Channel)
I like Keith Hughes and his video. This video provides lots of general information on this conflict.

Why Did America Fight the Korean War? Via PragerU (YouTube Channel
PragerU provides conservative viewpoints on their videos and this one tackles the reasons why the US gets involved in the Korean War.

What if North Korea 'Won' the Korean War? Via AlternateHistoryHub (Youtube Channel)
Counterfactuals can be interesting to tackle and Alternative History Hub produces some great "What If's" This one looks at if North Korea had successfully unified the Korean Peninsula under their leadership.

Rising Tensions with North Korea via C-Span

Tensions Rise between U.S. and North Korea Over Nuclear Testing via PBS. Check out their lesson plan that goes with the video here.

Follow on Twitter Steve Herman the White House Bureau chief of Voice of America News on Twitter @W7VOA. Lots of insight on this region of the world and provides lots of up to date reporting.

The North Korean Nuclear Threat, explained via Vox

 What do you use to help students learn about the Korean War and the current conflict with North Korea? I would love to hear about your resources in the comment section below.

New July 5, 2017
With recent developments I wanted to share this lesson from PBS Newshour Extra
North Korea Test Fires Missile Capable Of Reaching US. The video is below.

New April 27th, 2018 
The two leaders of Korea met today in a landmark meeting. They have agreed to end the Korean War and start the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. Time will tell, but this is a major development.

Korean Summit Highlights from the Washington Post and Live Coverage

Live Coverage from the Washington Post YouTube Channel.

Friday, July 19, 2013

These Are A Few Of My Favorite Things

These Are A Few Of My Favorite Things

Today I had an opportunity to talk to a group of educators from Brazil about my experiences and resources I use as part of our school's laptop 1:1 program. I love sharing some of the great things I have learned teaching in a 1:1 computer environment and what I use with my students. I know I am very fortunate to work in a school where students have access to MacBook Computers. It is a challenge to squeeze in a year's worth of activities, lessons, that we do in my class in a 30-40 minute presentation but below in honor to Julie Andrews here are "A Few Of My Favorite Things."

Beyond the Textbook: 

Virtual Field Trips
Games and Virtual Simulations:
Exit Tickets & Other Quick Formative Assessments: 
Websites Creation or Classroom Enhancers:

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Getting Started With Primary Sources

Getting Started With Primary Sources

The state of Nebraska adopted new State Social Studies Standards last December 2012 and a much welcome sight with these new standards is an emphasis on having students utilize more primary source material in the class. Although I have tried to implement more historical thinking skills and primary sources material in my class, I know there is still a lot more I can do. I also know that in my leadership role as the Middle School Department Chair teachers in my department are going to need help and assistance in this area.

These new standards have really come at a great time. Although Nebraska does not have a Statewide Social Studies Assessment and we have yet to adopt the Common Core Standards,  reading and writing has become a really big emphasis at my school (areas that do have a statewide accountability assessment).  As part of my school's continuos improvement plan I know a large emphasis this coming year will be on reading. What a great time to not only get myself to help incorporate more historical thinking skills but also to make this a part of my Social Studies Department goals for the coming school year.

Back in June, I had an opportunity to attend a Statewide Social Studies Conference in Kearney to dialog with other Nebraska Social Studies educators on the new standards. This was a great opportunity to network with other teachers and also collect resources to share with my staff in my department for the coming school year.

I also had a chance to work with two teachers in my department in early July to look at revamping our District Social Studies Indicators. Although we will not adopt exactly the Nebraska State Standards, we took this opportunity to strengthen our District Social Studies Standards in the area of historical thinking skills.

I am looking forward to working with my teachers in my department and providing a variety of staff development with them during our assigned PLC (Professional Learning Community) time.
This is going to be a worthy goal this coming school year and I am hoping to share successes and failures in this endeavor on my blog.

Here are some resources I am going to be sharing with my staff as we begin to look at ways to incorporate more primary sources into our curriculum and in our summative assessments. I would love to hear from others who are using primary source material in their classroom in the comments section below.

Our Holt Textbooks: 
We do not necessarily follow the textbook chapter by chapter because of the nature of our survey class, but there are a lot of resources that we will be digging into to help develop skills in the use of Primary Sources. For some of my teachers they often times feel more comfortable working within a textbook, and I think this will be a good starting place to at least start.

Stanford History Education Group (SHEG):
The Stanford History Education Group website has become almost the standard bearer of using primary sources in the classroom. I am looking forward to pulling some activities from their site to incorporate them with our students as well as create some staff development opportunities for my teachers.

Stanford's Beyond the Bubble: also holds tremendous potential I feel to help us find ways to assess students ability to use these skills. 

Teaching History: 
I have bee using this website for the past few years and I am looking forward to using this website as part of our PLC's staff development to help us use more primary sources in our classes.

Smithsonian Source Teaching with Primary Sources: 
I am looking forward to using this resource also for professional development for my teachers. There are several examples of best practices I think will assist us in our goals.

DocsTeach (National Archives)
This is a great resource of not only pre-created primary sources activities but also a good place to find primary sources to use with our students.

Using Primary Sources from the Library of Congress: 
This is a website has a lot of resources and suggestions on using primary sources. I am looking forward to digging deeper with this resource with my teachers on staff development days. 

Historical Thinking Matters: 
This website (also from Stanford) has some great models I would like to have my department look at as not only possible enrichment or differentiation ideas for some of our higher ability students, but also as a model of Historical Thinking in action.

H.S.I: Historical  Scene Investigation: 
This website when I showed to two of my teacher's from my department this summer absolutely loved it. The lessons and primary sources on this website are very clearly written and easy to follow. I feel that this is going to be another good place for teachers to start this year looking at possible lessons to try with their students. 

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Search Engines Not Named Google

Search Engines Not Named Google

In honor of it being National Ice Cream Month 

Student:  Mr. Mosier, when was Ice Cream invented?
ME: That is a great question, how could we find this info out?
Student: Why don't we just "Google It"

Just like Kleenex refers to almost all  Facial Tissues or RollerBlades refers to almost all Inline Skates, so does "Googling" refer to conducting web research. For most of my students Google has become the main tool they use for searching on the internet. The Google Search Bar is defaulted on student's computers at my school on their web browser and for the vast majority of students Google is their one and only search engine.

I don't mean to pick on Google, I probably use Google as my main search engine as well but I also want my students to be aware of other search engines that are out there and be familiar with them.

Here are some of my favorite Search Engines "Not Named Google" that I like to share with my students.

Wolfram Alpha:

If I type in Ice Cream into the search bar on Wolfram Alpha I am probably not going to get much historical information, but I am going to get a wealth of information on the nutritional value of ice cream. If you are looking for data on any topic, Wolfram Alpha is a great resource to use. Check out Wolfram AlphaExamples to find topics that are great to use this search engine and check out this article from Business Insider of some hidden gems in WolframAlpha.


This is another great learning tool that creates Web Concept Maps for your search phrase. What I like about InstaGrok is that it allows you to change the level of complexity of the results by moving the slider from the Chalkboard to the Einstein character making it a great tool for differentiation.  There are lots of links to facts, websites, videos, images, and so much more.  You can also save your search an embed them into websites, so if you are looking for a way to help direct student research this can be a powerful tool to help guide students in their research. If you are introducing a big concept or essential vocabulary term this might be a great resource to use with your students. Below is an embed of my search for Ice Cream.

ice cream | Learn about ice cream on instaGrok, the research engine: Ice Cream | Learn about Ice Cream on instaGrok, the research engine


This might be more designed for teachers to help them discover and organize web content, but it does have great potential as a web search tool for students as well. If you are a teacher and you are looking for lesson ideas, websites, or resources I would definitely bookmark this tool.


I am personally not a big user of Bing, but I do know there are a lot of great features to Bing worth checking out.

There are more search engines out there, but these are some of the ones I have found that are easy for teachers or students to utilize in a school setting.

What are some of your favorite search engines out there not named Google? I would love to hear from you in the comments section below.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

There's Going To Be Fireworks!

There's Going To Be Fireworks!

Independence Hall-
Photo by Lance Mosier

Here are some of my favorite sites and videos that deal with all things Independence Day. Happy 4th of July!


The American Revolution from the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation: There are lots of really interesting podcasts that you can listen to to learn more about this time period.

Founders Online: A new service I'm very excited about. A large collection of primary source documents from the Founding Fathers. I did a search of "Declaration of Independence" that resulted in 353 documents. Might make for some great reading on what the Founder's thought was important about this event in 1776. There are also 26 mentions of fireworks as well so there you go.

Mission US: For Crown or Colony - Great game to learn more about the causes of the American Revolution. A fun game for students to play.

Road to Revolution: Quiz yourself on your knowledge of events leading up to the American Revolution.

Charters of Freedom: Declaration of Independence -  Lots of high resolution images of the original document as well as other resources to learn more about this and other charter documents.

RevolutionaryWarAnimated: Watch some of the important battles of the Revolutionary War.

John Adams The Letters Behind the HBO Miniseries: A great little website of some of the letters used to help in the HBO John Adams Miniseries.


To Late to Apologize: A Declaration
Love this video. Does a great job explaining the Declaration of Independence. I have students watch this video before starting their assignment on their Break-Up Letter to King George.

What are some of your favorite resources to help talk about Independence Day? I would love to hear in the comments section below.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Gettysburg at 150

Gettysburg at 150

My visit to Gettysburg in 2009
This week marks an important anniversary of a very pivotal battle in the Civil War and in American History. Although I wish I was able to be at Gettysburg, PA this summer there are lots of ways to be a part of the celebration and resources you can use with your students next fall when school resumes to help them learn more about this pivotal battle. Below are various websites I have collected; some of which I have used with my students and others I hope to be able to incorporate into my lessons in the future. Of course as we go through the three days of Gettysburg, The Gettysburg Foundation has lot of resources to follow during this anniversary.

The Battlefield

My visit to Gettysburg in 2009
Gettysburg Battlefield Cam: Earthcam has been running a live video feed from atop the Codori Barn that gives a clear view of Pickett's Charge. I hope this camera is able to stay, because I would love to be able to take my students to this camera to have them view for themselves the great distance the confederate soldier's had to travel during Pickett's Charge.

Cutting Edge Map of the Battlefield: This newly released map is able to use technology to show what the commanders saw themselves from their vantage point during the battle. This is a very cool idea and concept, and I think that this can help students to transport themselves to a different time and place and witness the battlefield in a different way. of Gettysburg: I really love HistoryAnimated, because there are lots of battles from several different wars and I have found them very useful with students. The Battle of Gettysburg does a fantastic job of laying out the major events of the battle during these three days.

Gettysburg 360: This is a new resource that I am excited to let students explore to learn more about the battlefield.  I had students view another great resource from the folks of the Civil War Trust, which was their Antietam 360 tour and students loved using this resource to learn more about that battle. From what I've seen at Gettysburg 360, I'm excited to add this as another resource for students. It really lets students virtually explore the area and learn about some of the key aspects of the battle. For many of my students, this is the closest they probably will ever get to these historic locations and really helps create that virtual experience for them. Teachers should also check out their Lesson Center for ideas on ways brining the Civil War to life for your students.

The Soldiers

Civil War Voices: Soldier Studies  I have not used this resource with students, but it could provide you a place to look for Soldier letter's and diaries that are free to search and use with students. Using "Gettysburg" as a search phrase, I was able to find both Union and Confederate reflections of the battle.

Civil War Veterans Come Alive: Have student listen to the Rebel Yell from this Smithsonian Video that captured veterans of Gettysburg on the 75th Anniversary of the Gettysburg Battle.

Watch the Civil War Veterans at the 75th Anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg

The Gettysburg Address

Gettysburg Interactive: The Smithsonian has a very neat interactive feature that allows you to closely examine this document and lean more about Lincoln's famous address.

Gettysburg Address UDL Edition by Cast: This site allows to to change how much support you want to give students as they read the document. I like some of the built in dictionary tools, the text to audio feature,  and some of thee explanations on why some of the language was used by Lincoln.

Animated Gettysburg Address. This is by far one of my favorite videos to show to students of the significance of Gettysburg.

I am looking forward to following the Gettysburg 150th Anniversary these next few days and I am also looking forward to incorporating some of these new resources with my students next school year. What resources do you use to help teach the Civil War? I would love to hear from you in the comments section below. 

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Making the Most of Memorial Day

Memorial Day...also known as Decoration Day.

Arlington National Cemetery
photo by Lance Mosier.
For many Memorial Day is the official start to Summer. Although I appreciate a good barbecue and warmer weather, the true meaning of Memorial Day is to remember all the brave Americans who have lost their lives defending this country.

Memorial Day originally started after one of America's most bloodiest wars, The Civil War. The holiday was originally known as Decoration Day, which was a day to go to cemeteries to pay respect to loved ones who were killed during this conflict. Viewing these two websites, Civil War Infographic of Causalities and Battles and Casualties of the Civil War Map, it is easy to see why so many began this tradition. Everybody in the country was impacted by this war in some way or another.

 Below are a list of websites and resources to help you and your students remember Memorial Day.

Learn About The Soldiers:

Great Great Grandfather who served in Civil War.
Civil War Soldier Database: Search for a family member or local civil war soldier who fought in the Civil War to learn about what unit they were in, battles they fought in, and other interesting information about this Civil War Soldier. I found some great information about my own family member who served in the Civil War.

The Civil War 14 National Cemeteries: Search the 14 Civil War National Cemeteries by using their database to look for family or those in your community who fought in the Civil War and are buried at these cemeteries.

Antietam 360- Battle of Antietam: Can't make it to a National Cemetery or a Civil War Battlefield, go to this very well done website. Visit the Antietam Civil War Battlefield and learn from Park Rangers about this important battle and some of the interesting history found there.

My Great Uncle who died in France
 during World War I

Nebraskans in World War I: Database of Nebraska Soldiers who served in World War I. You can search by names or by counties. This is where I found a picture of my Uncle Frank. I talked about this in a previous Blog Post "A Personal Touch...Soldiers and World War I"

The Price of Freedom: Americans at War A good interactive database of artifacts and items soldiers used in all wars American's have been involved in to learn about the life of a Soldier.

***New 2017*** Soldiers, Veterans, and War in American Life via PBS Learning Media has a great collection of videos, images, and lesson plans to help students explore the solider's perspective.

Vietnam Memorial
Photo by Lance Mosier

Visit The Vietnam Memorial Wall 

(Virtually if you can't make it to D.C.)

Look for soldiers from your community who died in Vietnam by using the database from the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund and than visit the Virtual Wall at View the Wall to find their names on the Memorial itself.

I had my students do this when we were studying the Vietnam War. I was able to get a list of alumni from our High School who died in Vietnam and I had students see if they could find their names on the Wall and any history about them. 

Learn about TAPS and Arlington National Cemetery

Taps Player Statue at
Arlington Visitor Center
Photo by Lance Mosier
Taps Bugler: Is a A very informative website about the history of Taps, sound files and music, and other really interesting information about this iconic song.

Arlington National Cemetery App: If you get a chance to visit Arlington National Cemetery and have a Smartphone (iPhone, Droid) make sure you download the app to help you find markers and monuments at the cemetery. 

Read On Hallowed Ground by Robert M. Poole which is a great book on the History of Arlington Cemetery. Great read for Memorial Day. 

Watch My Favorite Rendition of the Gettysburg Address. 

Watch The Changing Of The Guards At The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

Watch the Changing of the Guards at the Tomb of  the Unknown Soldier. Here is a video I shot while in DC in April, 2013.

The First Decoration Day by David W. Blight Yale University  
Learn about African Americans important role in Decoration Day at Charleston, SC. 

Quote of President Truman at the
WWII Memorial Washington D.C.
Photo by Lance Mosier

I hope that you find these resources helpful to you and your students. I would love to hear from you what you do to help connect Memorial Day, Soldiers, and our Cemeteries to our students in the comments section below.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

HMTV...History Music Television

"I want my H-MTV"

I am at an interesting age where I'm young enough to have enjoyed how music videos changed how we experience our music, yet old enough to remember when you could watch MTV to actually watch music videos.

Music videos are a great way to tie our two most powerful senses of "Sight and Sound" to help convey emotion of a song.

As a wrote in an earlier post "A Song In Your Step" I have always enjoyed music and try to play as much music in my classroom to help set the stage of learning of that day for my students.

Another way I have incorporated music into my classroom is by creating music videos that tie specific music with historical photos. It really helps lead our discussion in class where students can both examine the lyrics of the song and the various images used to discuss the themes and attitudes of the historica event we are focusing on. I have found it really helps our discussion go to a much deeper level.

Making the Music Video:

The easiest way to do this is by using iPhoto's Slideshow Feature. iPhoto is fairly easy to use, and has enough editing features to make it very profesional looking.

Of course it is possible to use online tools like Animoto, or using slideshow features in Powerpoint and Keynote to create these music videos.

Most of the songs I have used for my music videos have been purchased on iTunes or CD's that I've purchased.

If you looking for general thematic music, FreePlay Music is a great tool to find music to fit a particular theme, mood, or style.

There are also a lot of places to find historical images, it is just important that you follow copyright law and use agreements. Using the Advanced Google Image Search, you can filter your results by usage rights to help you find images to use.

The Library of Congress Prints and Photo's Division has a great collection of searchable images as well as guides to help direct your search. If you are looking for images of 20th Century America, LIFE PHOTOS are a very extensive collection of images. Historical Photos in Shmoop can also help you find images of a particular time period. Just make sure you are abiding by Copyright Law when using these images with students.

My Music Videos I Have Created I Share With Students:

I wish I could show you my videos, but because songs are protected under Copyright I will tell you which songs I use for which topic.

Slave Songs... before the Civil War
Slave Shout Songs from the Coast of Georgia (iTunes)
Music in Slave Life from PBS

Heart of the Appaloosa...Story of the Nez Perce
The Heart of the Appaloosa

It's a Hard Knocked Life.....Child Labor and photos of Lewis Hines
It's the Hard-Knock Life

If Everyone Cared....Images of the Great Depression
If Everyone Cared

Fish Cheer.....Woodstock, Vietnam Protests, and Counterculture
The Fish Cheer

Fortunate Son....Images of the Vietnam War
Fortunate Son

We Shall Overcome....struggle for Civil Rights
We Shall Overcome

Student Extension

Of course a great project idea would be to get students to create their own music video. Students can find images and music to help convey a theme of a historical event or time period that you are studying.

How do you use music and images in your classroom? Love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Analyzing Historical Images....Debunking Time Travel

Analyzing Historical Images

There is that old adage "A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words." It definitely can be an important skill for young Historians to be able to analyze Historical images. The TPS-Barat Primary Source Nexus has lots of great resources for History Teachers on using Primary Sources Material. My state has yet to adopt the Common Core Standards, but Primary Source Nexus has a great resource on how image analysis ties into Common Core: analyzing historical images can connect to the Common Core Literacy Standards.

If you are new to using image analysis in your classroom, The Library of Congress has a powerful learning module on Analyzing Primary Sources: Prints and Photos. This can be a great tool for staff development on how to use the Library of Congress resources.

I want a fun way for students to to be introduced to this skill for next year. So I've always thought it would be fun to use famous historical images to create a mashup with something in the picture that doesn't necessarily belong there, such as your's truly.

By giving students some a practice image such as this one, might be a way for students to look closely at details of an image.

Photoshop is probably the best to create these "photobombs" but I was able to use the Alpha tool in Apples Pages to spice images together and use iPhoto to add Black and White effects to the images.

Primary Source Nexus has a good Image Analysis Pyrmaid to help focus students thoughts that I'm looking forward to using with my students:

The trick is to get students to focus on the details, listing the facts, looking at historical context, speculating perspectives, being critical of things that don't make sense, and raising more questions to than they answer.

I also think it might be fun to have students create their own Historical Mashups or photobombs as a creative writing assignment. What would they see or hear in some of history's most famous photos. That sounds like a great future blog post.

What are some ways you introduce image analysis in your class? Love to hear your ideas in the comments section.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The Truman Decision...The Interactive Online Debate

Should Truman drop the Atomic Bomb

Having class discussions and debates is a very important part of a US History Class. The challenge in any type of debate is to make sure that all students get opportunities to express their opinion. For students that are shy, this always poses a problem. The more vocal students typically take over a discussion very quickly drowning out class debate. 

The past few years I have tried some online forums to help students debate class topics online. I have used:

Of all that I've used, I like CoveritLive the best.

Pros of CoveritLive

  • I can moderate comments. With working with 8th Grade students I have had problems in the past with inappropriate comments being posted in online forums. With CoveritLive I can check comments before they become live to prevent something inappropriate coming through and I can send a direct warning message to the student who made the comment. 
  • I can embed Videos, Images, and Polls for students to react and respond to. Check out CoveritLive Features to learn more. 
  • I can record and replay the discussion after students are done. This way students can go back and read comments. I can also go back and look at comments to give a participation grade in the debate. 
  • CoveritLive Pricing: They have a Trial Account that is free and other options if you contact their Customer Support. 

Cons of CoveritLive

  • There is a time component involved setting up the debate. Where TodaysMeet and Google Docs are quick and spontaneous, CoveritLive requires a level of pre-planning.
  • There is a Learning Curve. You have to embed the  CoveritLive  on a Wiki, Blog, or site that allows embed code. If you are unfamiliar with embeding code into a website this, it can be a challenge for first time users. If your school has "intensive web filters" you might run into some problems. For help, check out CoveritLive Support. 
  • It is a little stressful managing the online debate and trying to keep tabs on students in class. 

Teacher Prep Work:

After creating my account in CoveritLive, I went into the Media Center in CoveritLive to add images and types of poll questions I wanted to ask during the debate. I pre-thought out what type of questions I would ask to help faciltate discussions. I let students guide this discussion once we get started, but having a pre-plan of attack is helpful for those spur of the moment decisions. You can create polls pretty quickly on the fly, but it is easier to have them pre-created and ready to push out to students.

Student Prep Work: Mr. Truman I think....

Before we held our class debate, students were given a Pages Document that I created to help them research three different scenarios that President Truman had to end the War against Japan during WWII.
     A. Drop the atomic bomb.
     B. Demonstrate the atomic bomb   to Japanese
     C. Invade Japan.

Students read about advantages and disadvantages for each option, as well as watched an embeded video of a Kamikaze attack.  Their homework that needed to be completed before the day of they debate was to pick one option and explain why they would recommend this option to President Truman. Student had to provide two reasons why the felt their option they were recommended was the best.  Students also had to pick which option they thought was the worst choice and provide an explanation why they felt it was a bad choice.  Students had to bring their recommendations to class filled out the next day.

Day of the Debate:

Before students got out their computers, I had students share with a partner their Student Prep from the day before. While students are doing this I do a quick scan to make sure all students are ready for the debate. After students share, we go over expectations for the day. 
  • Comments must be positive at all times. No put downs are allowed. 
  • Make sure your comments help support the discussion that is going on.
  • All comments are moderated and after two strikes, you will be removed from the online debate.
  • Listen to your teacher's instructions at allPost Debate:
Usually at the end of the debate, or the next day we watch part of the following YouTube Clip that recreates the Atom Bomb drop on Hiroshima. Students final piece is to write a three to four paragraph reflection on the debate. What they learned from the debate? What they thought was the best decision Truman could make and why? Why the didn't like the other options?

There are lots of resources that can be used for an Atomic Bomb debate. Here are few I've used. I would love to hear what you use in the comments section below.

Who Fired the Shot Heard Around The World?

Who Fired the Shot Heard Around The World?

History is full of mystery. That is the joy of Historical Studies is that we don't always know what happened with great certainty  What we do know comes from the first hand accounts of those who witnessed history.

April 19th marks the anniversary of the Battle of Lexington. This pivotal moment in American History known as the "Shot Heard Around The World" is often times seen as the first major battle of the American Revolution.

This is also a great event to introduce students to Historical Thinking by analyzing various primary sources from eyewitnesses of this particular event.

I always start this lesson with the following School House Rocks Video. You can never go wrong with some School House Rock.

After students have watched the video, we watch a Battle simulation from RevolutionaryWarAnimated: Battle of Lexington &  Concord.

I tell students that that their job today is to find out a great mystery. Who fired the first shot of the Revolution? Was it the Colonists or the British Red Coats?  I lead students into a discussion on how we can find out what happened and introduce Primary Sources.

HSI Historical Scene Investigation has several excellent examples of Primary Source Material for students to use from the Battle of Lexington.

My greatest challenge when working with Primary Sources, especially from this time period, is the language difficulty my student have. I have a diverse level of readers and learners and sometimes the text can be a challenge. Here are some strategies that I've used.

The Print Option:

I print out the Documents and highlight key words/phrases for my students.

The Digital Option-Using Diigo to annotate, highlight Websites:

Since my school is a One to One Laptop School where each student has a laptop, I have started to use the tools in Diigo to help digitize these primary sources online.

I am a huge fan of Diigo, and it is my primary bookmarking tool that  I use. I also like Diigo because it is possible for me to highlight and annotate websites with sticky notes. I can save these annotations and share these links to my students so they can access these annotations.

Diigo is a free resource and I would definitely check them out as a way to help model analyzing Primary Source reading skills to students.

Here is an example of a website that is annotated with Highlights and floating stickies to help focus student's reading from an account from the Boston Massacre: Anonymous Account of the Boston Massacre.

What is great about this link, is I can share this to students who need help with the document as a way of differentiation.

Usually the first time we analyze a document I will share this with all my students, but latter in the year I can differentiate with my students on who needs more or less support with the documents.

Click the links for tutorials on  getting started using the Highlight and StickyNote feature in Diigo.

After students have looked at various Primary Sources, I have student vote on who they thought was responsible using tools such as a Google Doc or Socrative

What is great about this lesson, is that there really is no right or wrong answer. It is a good opotrunity to introduce my students to using Historical evidence to support their claims.

Other Primary Source Materials on the Battle of Lexington 

What are ways you introduce Primary Source Materials to students? How do you teach about the Battle of Lexington and Concord? I would love to read your comments.