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.

Friday, April 12, 2013

A Song In Your Step...

A Song In Your Step...Playing Music Into Your Classroom.

I have always been a huge fan of music. Whether it has been singing or playing a musical instrument, music has always been a way for me to get my mood in the right direction.

For the past couple of years I have been playing music in my room as students enter class. I try and find music that matches or fit the Learning Objective that day, or is from the time period we are currently studying.

I sometimes get those random comments from students who don't appreciate my musical choice that day, but I do once an awhile get music requests. If their request matches what we are talking about, I will sometimes go ahead and play the song for them. It is pretty amazing how the  mood of the class changes with this little bit of music as students enter. If the music is reflective or somber, students will typically enter the same. If the music is more high energy, student's energy level also increases.

I tell students that "America's Music is a glimpse into its soul." I don't know if I heard that someplace, or I just  made it up but I feel it's pretty true. I have found music is a great way to help start discussions on how Americans are feeling about a topic or era, their attitudes, or American concerns. It makes for a great way to start a topic: Why do you think Mr. Mosier picked this song today? What do you think we might be talking about today? etc.. For some of my students music is a motivator to get to my room earlier so they can listen to the music that is being played that day.

I have gotten most of my music from our textbook resources CD and some from free Website resources. I always follow copyright, so I don't download illegal music. If I can't find something I typically buy it from iTunes or look for it on Spotify.

Here are some places for free music:

Free Music Archive: A variety of music that is free to use under Creative Commons.

Old Radio World: Not really music, but some popular radio shows from the 1930's & 40's to get a glimpse of pop culture.

Library of Congress- National Jukebox: Recordings that are in the public domain.

Manufacturing Memory: American Popular Music in the 1930's: A good sampling of music from the 1930's.

Music in Slave Life- PBS: Slavery and the Making of America: This is a great resource in general on slave life in America, but the music can also be a place for students to hear the type of music slaves sang. I usually talk about that this music becomes the foundation for Jazz, Rock & Roll, and R&B.

Civil War Songs from the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History (These are as free iTunes downloads) - Soldiers' Songs (Civil War Songs): The Battle Cry of Freedom , Goober Peas , Just Before The Battle Mother , Tenting on the Old Campground , Aura Lee , When Johnny Comes Marching Home 

Music I purchased in iTunes or bought the CD because it works well in my lessons:

I probably don't want to add up the music I've bought the past several of years. At least it's good music and diversifies my iTunes Library some.

Westward Expansion

The Civil War

(All of these are good songs to play on various days in our unit on the Civil War. I also play a lot of songs from the Gilder Lehrman Institute from the links above.)



Progressive Era

World War I

1920's & 30's

World War II

Cold War

Civil Rights Movement

Monday, April 8, 2013

World War II Battle Maps

World War II Battle Maps

My students are just starting our unit on World War II. This is such a huge topic and there is a plethora of resources on the Web. One aspect of this conflict I like to show students is its global nature. Being able to see the mass impact this conflict had across the globe can help them get the sense of how large this war was. Google Earth works great as a resource or students and I to explore the geography of World War II.

I am a huge fan of Google Earth and Google Maps. I love using them to take my students on virtual field trips. I always make this a big deal with my students, zooming down to our school before we go on some trip somewhere to see the area we are currently studying. Getting a sense of location and geography can help facilitate our discussions to get a little deeper into understanding the complexity of global historical events.

If you are new to Google Earth, I would definitely point you to Google Earth Resources for Teachers. There are lots of tutorials and videos to help you get started. If you are interested in creating your own Google Earth Projects, check out this post from assortedStuff: Tech for Learning

KMZ files are files that you can download into Google Earth that somebody has created to use the different layers and features. Below I have listed some great KMZ files that are good to use with World War II. You will need to have Google Earth installed on your computer. It is both Mac and PC compatible. Click here if you need to install the program.

  1. WWII KMZ File: I really like this file. It is very comprehensive and organizes battles into Geographic Areas or Theaters of War. It can be a little overwhelming, but if you uncheck areas that you are not focusing on it can be a little easier to navigate. Each battle is linked to a Wikipedia Article that describes aspect of the battle. 
  2. Night by Elie Wiesel: If you are having students read this novel along with your study of WWII, this can be a great Geography link that highlights major areas in Wiesel's journey to Auschwitz. This is one of several Google Earth Virtual trips from Google LitTrips. There are lots of great resources worth looking at along with your Language Arts teacher. Some of the links on this file does lead to graphic material, so I would definitely preview before using with your students. Even if you are not reading the novel, but need a link to help students better understand the Holocaust this is a great resource. 
  3. Diary of Anne Frank: Like Night, this follows the story of Anne Frank and the horors of the Holocaust. If you are having students read this as part of your World War II unit or if you just want to view the Holocaust as part of WWII this can be a beneficial resource in Google Earth.
  4. Mapping the Holocaust: There are two KMZ layers (Timeline Layer and Holocaust Encyclopedia Layer) from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Some of the links does show graphic material, so please preview before using. I like showing students the locations of the various Ghettos and Concentration Camps to show patterns where they were located in Europe. 

Other Map Resources: These do not require Google Earth, but a Web Browser and Internet Connection.

1. HistoryAnimated: I am a big fan of HistoryAnimated. There are several great interactive Battle Maps that run off your Web Browser. I have used their Revolutionary War and Civil War Battle Maps. Students love them and so do I. They also are starting to build up their World War II Battle Maps, and they look phenomenal.
    • Battle of Britain: I just learned of this one today. It combines some real audio from the time along with some neat visual description of battle tactics. 
    • Europe Theatre: This looks fairly new, but seems that they will be adding others soon. 
    • Pacific Theatre: I have used the Battle of Iwo Jima along with selected scenes from WWII HD from the History Chanel to help students explore this battle in World War II. 
2. History Chanel Interactive Map: This is a very cool interactive map that has several different topics students can explore. There is a lot of information. I have had students explore the Nazi Expansion. Lots of images and information.

If you are looking for some other KMZ files for Google Earth for other topics, I would definitely check these out as these two sites as well.

What type of Geography/Map resources do you use? Would love to hear what others are using in the comment section below.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Creating A Decision Making Game

Creating A Decision Making Game

Growing up in the 1980's I loved reading Choose your Own Adventure Books.  Being in control of the story was such a cool thing for a young kid growing up. Trying out the various scenarios, going back and trying different approaches to see how the outcome of the story would change always seem to make the story come to life.

A few weeks ago I watched a staff development video on saving Keynotes as an HTML file that could be embedded into Blackboard.  I got to thinking, what a great way to use Keynote as a way to create  some type of game that students could play online  to enhance student's learning experience. In about a month my student's and I will be studying the Cold War. One of our major topics we look at is the Cuban Missile Crisis. In the past we watched a few video segments of the movie Thirteen Days and we would discuss Kennedy's decision to embargo Cuba and how that all played out. I love the movie, but I never felt that my students connected very well to this lesson.

So I went ahead and started to create a Non-Linear Presentation in Keynote to make a Cuban Missile Crisis game. In this game my students will be President Kennedy and they will have to research the crisis and make a decision what should the US course of action be to resolve this situation. **2017 I took my presentation and created a Google Presentation this year and it worked great for students to interact through the simulation. 
 The Game begins.

Students would have to research the possible choices. 

If students pick a "wrong" choice they would have to go back and try again. 

If students pick Embargo, they get to see how the crisis ended. 

*New 2016* Clouds Over Cuba ( )is a great resource from the JFK Library with lots of resources. I like my students to skip to the What If Chapter to see a Fake Documentary of what could have been.

I still have some "tweaks" to make on the game, but I am excited to see how student's respond. I am hoping for students to discuss which actions they picked and why, and possibly talk about "What If...." scenarios. With recent current events coming out of North Korea, this type of scenario seems to be playing out again.

 If you have never made a non-linear presentation in Keynote or PowerPoint;  they are actually quite easy to make. They require basic understanding of hyperlinks. A quick search in YouTube will get you back several tutorial videos. Here is one video that I found that does a pretty decent job of explaining the process.

Here is a slideshare presentation that also does a good job explaining Nonlinear PowerPoints.

There are other resources out there if you are interested in having students create Decision Making Type Activities.

Two books I have used for inspiration that have good activities, questions, and background readings have been:

Key Decisions in U.S. History Volume I (1450-1860)

Key Decisions in U.S. History Volume II (1861-1994)

I am also thinking about creating a few other Decision Making Games before our year ends, perhaps for our Civil Rights Movement  that incorporates some Primary Sources.

I would be interested in your ideas on what topics might make for a fun decision making game in the comments section below.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Water is Life...Modeling Historical Memory

Water is Life...Modeling Historical Memory

A while back ago I came across a post from the Smithsonian Museum of National History Agriculture Inovation and Heritage Archive that is collecting stories about farming practices in the past 70 years. I wrote about it in my post "Preserving Our Memories." Below is my entry that I am submitting to the website. I hope it gets accepted, but even if it doesn't I hope to use it as a model to share with my students on recording our memories. This has been a fun process for me to go through and I look forward to sharing this with my students. For any of my rural followers, I would encourage you to think about doing something similar with your own memories or with your students.

Water is life to farmers on the Great Plains. My family which migrated to South Central Nebraska at the end of the 19th Century learned this fact very quickly. Water is life and water here is very different than the more reliable water fall in the Ohio River Valley where my family came from. My ancestors struggled with the unreliability of rain as cycles of droughts swept across this region of the country with the worst being for my Great Grandfather and Grandfather during the Dust Bowl years during the Great Depression. Not being able to rely on rains from the sky above, required new creativity and ingenuity to keep the crops growing during the hot dry summers. Luckily a large massive underground water reserve called the Ogallala Aquifer was quickly tapped as the life source to keep crops watered and able to grow in the hot Nebraska summers. My ancestors use of windmill technology switched by my father’s time to using old diesel tractor motors connected to water wells to help pull the water from below to the crops. Stories from my parents describe their youths being spent in the 1950‘s and 1960‘s setting up irrigation ditches and syphon tubes to water the corn crops quenching for water.  The urgency to get the water to the crops passed onto my father who took over the family farm in the late 1970’s.  

As a kid of a family farm growing up in the 1980’s and 1990‘s the urgency in my father’s voice to get the water to the crops occurred as soon as the corn was tilled and reached a certain height. It was time to lay out the irrigation pipe and we only seem to  have a short window to get all of this work done. Every early summer morning at first sunlight, my father, mother, brothers and I would load up the truck and begin our day of laying out 6 inch or 8 inch aluminum pipe to the recently tilled corn. Going to the piles of irrigation pipe that had been stacked from the previous fall, we would begin to lift and place pipe after pipe onto the trailer. After bouts with skunks and rabbits living among the pipes we learned very quickly to check the pipes before we began working on them first. Nobody wanted to get sprayed. Plastic irrigation pipe gates were checked to insure that they worked, and broken and cracked gates were quickly replaced. As a 6 and 7 year old I always struggled getting the gasket and plastic piece snapped together with the plastic hooks that were supposed to slide into the slot. I always seemed to drop something down the pipe that would have to be later fished out. 

Once the trailer was full of pipe, we would than drive out to the corn field and begin the process of setting out the pipe amongst the rows of corn. When I was young, I was usually given the responsibility of driving down the corn rows with very simple directions; drive slow, straight and listen to dad’s instructions. Sometimes I would be driving a tractor, other times an old truck but I always relished this very important job in contributing to my parents farming enterprise. As I got older and was able to lift the pipe off the trailer, I was given the task of helping pull the pipe off the trailer and hooking the long pipes together making sure that pipes were properly placed so the gates would point down the long corn rows. It always required tremendous team work that often times worked well when working with my older brother, and other times ended in blaming the other for problems in this process. The majority of the morning was spent repeating this process stopping only occasionally for water breaks. As the sun reached higher into the sky and the day became warmer and warmer, it was time to switch chores for the day. 

We would go with my dad to another corn field that had already been watered with the pipe that we had already set out. We would shut off some gates and open up others. My dad would carry around a small notebook that would note times and fields that water was running. In his little book, he would note how much water was coming out of the well, what time the well was started, and when that water should reach the end of the field. For a young kid, it was always an amazing process seeing him at work organizing several fields spread out all around the county. Dad had his system and he had it down to a science. By evening after it had cooled off, we were quickly put back into action to continue the laying of pipe in the race to get water to the crops. 

This process would repeat throughout most of the summer. We would sometimes need to pull the pipes apart so we could switch sides that needed watering. We would help my father set up elbows or T-Joints to direct the water to needed areas around the corn fields. Fixing gates, setting rows, using shovels to fix where the water needed to go, wallowing knee deep out into the muddy fields, were all part of our summer routines to make sure that the crops were watered. Our only respite  would occur when thunderstorms would roll through the area quenching the dry land and giving us a break from our irrigation duties. 

I have since move away from the farm for a more urban life style, but as I drive home to visit my family in the summer and see the center irrigation pivots now running. It seems that technology is continuing to change farming practices making things more efficient. But one thing remains. Water is life, and farmers in South Central Nebraska remember this fact the start of each summer.