Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Historical Timelines using Google Maps

Timelines and a History Classroom go hand and hand. Having students understanding Chronological Thinking and to be able to see the relationship between cause and effect are important skills in any history classroom.

The past two years I have added a little bit of twist to the traditional timeline by having students create timelines using Google Maps. Not only do students have to place events in order, but they also have to think about relevance of location of those events.

At the conclusion of our study of the events leading up the US Civil War, students create a timeline Google Map of the following events:

  • Missouri Compromise   
  • Kansas-Nebraska Act  
  • Compromise of 1850   
  • Election of Lincoln   
  • Uncle Tom’s Cabin   
  • Secession of South Carolina 
  • John Brown’s raid on Harper’s Ferry   
  • Invention of the cotton gin   
  • Attack on Fort Sumter  
  • Dred Scott Supreme Court decision  
Students have to place the events in the correct historical sequence in which they occurred. 

Students than have to think about a possible location to place that event on their Google Map that is logical for the event. Some of these events happened at an actual location, some happened in a general area, others it can be left up to interpretation where the event location makes the most sense to the student. 

Finally students have to identify five events that they think are the most important to understanding what caused the US Civil War. Students have to write a short caption for those events where they describe the event in their own words as well as a brief explanation on the significance of the event as a causation factor of the US Civil War. 

YouTube directions for students to set-up their Timeline Map:

Overall, I really enjoy the project. Students are stretched a little bit on their thinking and it gives me a chance to see which events students found the most significance from our study of this time period in US History.

I would love in the future to have students create their maps in Google Maps, but create a Narrated Google Tour in Google Earth as an extension to their final project.

Looking for other Timeline Generator Websites, check these website tools out:

What are some ways you use Google Maps in your classroom? Do you have any great ways that incorporate timelines into your classroom? I would love to hear about it in the comments section below.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Where In Time Is Little Abe? Fostering Historical Thinking with Images

Last year I created a fun contest for students to practice some of their historical analysis skills.

When I was at Ford's Theatre in Washington D.C., I found a Abraham Lincoln Doll that I bought to use as my classroom mascot. Each week I created an image where I superimposed the doll's picture over a historical image. I typically looked for images that dealt with a topic we were studying that week, or an image of an important event that happened that week in history.

Famous Westward
 Expansion Landmark
Each Monday I would share with students the image, as well as "Tweet" out the photo on my class Twitter page @litte_abe_213  Since Twitter was "Blocked" on my school's filter, I also placed these images on my Blackboard Course website so students could access the image from their school computer. I looked for images found in the Public Domain as much as I could, or use pictures I've taken at several historic locations to keep copyright in mind.

Google Submission Form
Students had from Monday to Thursday evening each week to investigate a possible time and place for Little Abe's location. When student's thought they had an answer, I had students complete a GoogleDoc form I created for them to answer the weekly challenge.

It was important for students to not only get the correct answer, but to also provide evidence from the image they used to help them identify Little Abe's location that week.

Each Friday in class I would announce the weekly winners and have candy prizes.

I had anywhere from several students to 40 students participate in the contest each week. To keep my expenses down, I usually limited my contest to six winners each week (one for each class period). To help me randomly pick winners I used this handy random name picker from ClassTools.net

I had a lot of fun with this contest last year and I am looking forward to expanding on this concept for the coming school year. Students had fun each week doing this contest, and it really didn't take much time out of my daily class routines.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Students Are Coming To Class With Laptops....So Now What?

Here are some helpful suggestions as teachers to consider that I put together from various resources back in 2008 when my school first handed out laptops to our 8th grade students. What was true on that first day of laptop deployment is as true several years latter. 

I have also included some of the Technology Public Service Announcement Videos I created to help reinforce expectations for students and two of my favorite Infographics on Technology in the classroom. They are short and great to help lead discussions with students.  

Lesson Development

 Have a well clear behavioral objective for how you will use laptops in your classroom. It is important to have a clear objective in mind on how this tool will help enhance the instruction and learning of your content. Realize that some of our students will have the internet at home, and other students will not. Plan for these differences in our students and have them in mind with how you will incorporate laptops into your curriculum. If you need help in developing lesson ideas that integrate technology, please contact a member of the Technology Team.

Victory Is Different

 Students will come into your classroom with different levels of understanding and competencies in computer use. Use differentiation by providing for some choice in projects and use. Know that “Victory” for each student is going to be different. Some students will amaze you with their ability, and other students will have small achievements in technology uses throughout the course of a year. Technology projects should have a grade based on the content, not just on the pizzazz of it.  

Start Small, And Then Grow

 Start small, and then grow in how you use laptops. Think about the following: How much time in class will I dedicate to using computers? How will I know if students are demonstrating that they have earned the right to use the laptops in the classroom? How will I know when we (both students and teacher) are ready to try something new? 

Roll With The Punches

 It is very important to always have a “Plan B” so if the network goes down, or if some students do not have a laptop that day, you have options available for your students. Always create back-up copies, or have other ideas in mind to safeguard you from potential problems.

Down Time

 Do you know what students will do when they finish early? Some students will finish early, and others will barely get started. Have a plan ready to go with students on what you want them to do if they finish early. If you don’t, students will find something, and it might not be what you want them to get into. Find enrichment websites, projects, or pre-teach expectations on what you expect students to do when they finish early.  

Utilize Student Leaders

 It can be a daunting task to get around to all students who experience problems while working with computers. Create a culture of collaboration in your classroom and use those student leaders who know what to do, to help out those students who are struggling.

You Are In Charge 

Just because students have laptops, it doesn’t mean that you have lost control of how you run your room. Remember, you are still in charge. It is important to pre-teach laptop expectations and to clearly go over laptop procedures with your students. Stress to students that the laptops are a “learning tool,” not a toy to play with. 

Lids Down and Put-Away

 Pre-teach to students your expectations on when computers need to be out and when computers need to be put away. This fits nicely into our BoysTown Social Skills of “Being Prepared for Class” and “Following Instructions.” You might want to let students know on the board if they will need their laptops for that day, and if not they need to keep their laptops in their bags under the desk. If you are giving instruction, you will want students to keep their lids completely down, otherwise you will find yourself talking only to yourself. 

Move With A Purpose

Use proximity with students to help keep tabs on what students are doing on their laptops. Don’t sit back at your desk, but move around looking for the tell-tale signs that students are off task: kids are fixated on the screen for long periods of times, students typing faster than normal, students head remain in a downward position longer than normal, or students seem to be all looking at one student’s computer screen.

Class Arrangement

 Have a plan on how you want to arrange your desks, chairs so that you can better monitor students when they are on the laptops. For direct instruction, rows work best so you can see what is on the screen. If students are in groups, use the “Move with a Purpose” mentioned above so you can adequately check on all of your student’s screens throughout the lesson.


 Be consistent with the 1-1 Classroom Management Guidelines your school has established. If they haven't, think about creating one as a department or team of teachers. Together as a team, you can make this a very successful model. 

Technology Public Service Announcements

Basic Computer Expectations

Carrying Your Laptop and Protecting From Spills

Charging Your Laptop Each Night

Backing Up Is Smart To Do

Safely Secure Your Laptop

Be Academically Honest

Be Careful What You Post Online

Be Internet Smart

Beware Of The Cold

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Remembering Local History: Oak Oregon Trail Days and the Raids of 1864

On Saturday July 26th, I went back home to my parents farm for a family reunion and special celebration for my Grandma turning 95 years old this year. It just so happens that happening at the same time Oak, Nebraska was having its Oregon Trail Days Celebration. Oak is a very small township comprising of 66 people, at least according to the 2010 US Census.

Oregon Trail Marker near
where I grew up and
the Kiowa Station Emery Station

Oak's Oregon Trail Days is a celebration for the town, but also a way to remember the significance the Oregon Trail and westward expansion had on the growth and development of Nuckolls County, Nebraska. The citizens of Oak also commemorate a series of attacks by Native Americans that took place on August 7, 1864 that killed many of these settlers and drove many more of them back east. The Nebraska Historical Society has a short blurb on their website about these raids: 1864 Indian Raids 

1967 Reenactment at
Kiowa Station

The interesting aspect of this celebration is the tradition of putting together these reenactment raids that have been taking place since 1967. In 1967 my father and uncle participated in one of these reenactments playing the role of Native Americans attacking a stage coach near the Kiowa Station. Many families have been responsible for organizing and staging these reenactments passing these historical skits down to each new generation.

Reenactment of raid near The Little Blue Station
Reenactments are not without controversy because the question about presenting these historical events fairly and accurately is essential. I remember back in the 1990's when they were holding these events a tribe in Oklahoma was very concerned and came to protest about how their own ancestry was being portrayed. Most left feeling that they had been portrayed fairly, and I believe organizers try to fairly present the events. At the first stop of the tour the narrator spoke about why the the Sioux, Cheyenne and Arapaho quite brilliantly orchestrated their attacks that began on August 7th. As Americans pushed west, Native American's pushed back violently to protect their homes and way of life that was under attack by these settlers encroachment.  It is important to be inclusive in these stories and provide context to the perspective of the participants of these events. 

Family Homestead in 1903 and Now
Connecting historical events to your own personal history is something I aim for and like to share with my students in a hope that they too connect history to their family history.  When the U.S. Calvary came back and put down the raids that drove many of these tribes onto reservations, my Great Great Grandfather (a veteran of the Civil War) was able to make it to Nebraska to settle into this area of Nebraska where my family has lived for over one hundred years. 

If you are interested in learning more about these raids that took place in 1864, here are some resources that were published with interviews and testimonials from those settlers that experienced these raids.

Nebraska History and Record of Pioneer Days Google Book

Publications of the Nebraska State Historical Society Google Book

A Frontier Life by Charles Wesley Wells

The Invasion of America Map: A map that looks at how westward expansion impacted the Native Americans on the Great Plains.

Indians of North America: Selected Resources from the Library of Congress

We Shall Remain: PBS Documentary for American Experience.

Video of Reenactment July 26, 2014 of the Abduction of Laura Roper,  Mrs. Eubanks, and Mrs. Eubanks two children

Video of Reenactment July 26, 2014 of the Massacre at the Oak Grove Ranch

Friday, June 27, 2014

World War I at 100 Years

Saturday June 28th, will mark the 100th Anniversary of the Assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand that helped trigger World War I.

In my 8th Grade US History course I usually spend only a couple of weeks on World War I and use it as an introduction into World War II. Below are some of my favorite resources I've used with students or resources I've recently learned about as we approach this historical event anniversary. I hope these help your students learn more about this conflict that will help set up so much of what will dominate 20th Century History.

MANIA- Militarism, Alliances, Nationalism, Imperialism, and Assassinations.

Interactive Article The Tragedy of Sarajevo via The Times UK gives a lot of great information about what happened on June 28th, 1914

Archdukes, Cynicism, and World War I Crash Course World History #36 gives great general information on this conflict.

The Start of World War I..,As Told With Legos also does a good job of giving general information behind World War I. And who doesn't like Legos? 

BBC World War I website has really put together a lot of great resources on World War I. 
Check out their  Live News of June 28th, 1914 as they retell the Assassination of the Archduke in real time. I hope that this is saved so students can go back and look at some of these resources next spring in my class. You can also follow this event on Twitter @bbcww1 . Make sure you also check out their website BBC World War I  for lots of useful information on World War I. 

I modified this article What if World War One Was A Bar Fight and turned it into What if WWI Was a Fight in the Cafeteria. This led to some great dialog in class about the role of Alliances in World War I.

The NY Times has also put together a really nice interactive page 100 Year Legacy of World War I that is definitely worth checking out. I like some of the front page headlines from their Archives marking some of the key events of WWI.

Soldiers and Trenches

I talked about my own Great Uncle who fought and died in France during World War I in my previous Blog Post A Personal Touch...Soldiers and WWI where I shared some of these resources to help students learn what being a soldier was like in WWI.

For teachers in Nebraska, I would encourage you to look at Nebraskan's in World War I for resources to help you find the names of Nebraskan citizens who fought in World War I.

TrenchWarfare Simulation Game is a fun way to introduce some of the new and old weapons that were used in this conflict.

Over The Top - An Interactive Adventure is from a Canadian website that is set up like the old Chose Your Own Adventure Books. Site provides a lot of good background information for what soldiers dealt with during World War I.

Virtual Tours from BBC are a great way for students to get a 360 degree view of the Trenches. Before doing any type Trench Simulation with students this is a good way for them to get a feel what the Trenches looked like:

Coward from Stephen Murphy is a 28 minute movie on Vimeo that examines the impact Shell Shock had on soldiers. It is a little too much for my Middle School Students, but if you teach a High School World History course it might be something to look at with students.

Use this World War I Interactive Map to look at some of the major battles of the war.

Use the World War I Propaganda Posters from UNC to look at how Propaganda was used in the US during World War I.

If you are looking for a variety of Primary Source Documents, check out the World War I Document Archive from BYU.

Docs Teach also has a great Primary Source Lesson on the The Zimmerman Telegram.

Use this Pull Back Map of Europe 1914-2014 to show some of the geopolitical consequences from World War II.

What are some of your favorite resources on teaching about World War I? I would love to hear about them in the comments section below. 

Monday, June 9, 2014

Do Laptops Have A Place In Note Taking?

Last week Scientific American came out with an article titled Learning Secret: Don't Take Notes with a Laptop; my interest was definitely peeked. If you have not yet read the article, I definitely would take the time to read it. Although the audience is college students and professors, I think it does have implications for those of us in K-12 that use technology in our classrooms.

Digital Note Template from my
Westward Expansion Unit
For the past six years I have had the privilege of being able to work in an environment where all my students have a school issued laptop.  I have allowed students a choice of taking their notes on their computer using a Digital Note Guide or on a paper one. The article made me question what I do in my classroom with my students in allowing them to take notes on their computer.  Usually the majority of my students decide to take their notes on their computer.

Here is how I frame the choice to students:

Digital Notes Advantages:
  1. Digital Notes being on your computer will always be with you. No forgetting them in your locker.
  2. Digital Notes incorporate color images, maps, links to additional resources that can help extend learning.
  3. Digital Notes makes it easier to use a "Color Code" system to highlight critical information.
Digital Notes Disadvantages:
  1. If you are not a very effective at typing; can provide challenges.
  2. Computers can be an easy distraction, so if you are easily distracted by your computer this might not be the best option for you.
  3. Your Computer crashes and doesn't save your notes, you might have to go to my Blackboard Site to re-type the notes after class.  
I also make sure that when my students take notes they put their notes into a full screen mode, which is easier when using the Apple Program Pages. I also typically teach from the back of the room and roam around so I can see student computer screens. This is definitely added by my wireless remote I use that gives me the flexibility to be away from my computer in the front of the room. I know that there are times that not all of my students are "On Task" but I don't believe it is any worse than with paper notes. Students who are repeatedly distracted with their computer I usually have them close their screens and give them a paper copy of the note guide to use for the rest of the unit.

With the Scientific American Article and the article from EducationNews "With Handwriting on decline, Will Student Learning Suffer?" has given me pause to think if I should continue with allowing students to take notes with their laptops. Do Laptops have a place in note taking?

I can not argue with the research or their findings. I have heard similar concerns  made previously at workshops and other conferences. I guess it goes with that old adage "If you want to remember something write it down." I have also had in-depth conversations with colleagues on this topic, many allowing students to take notes on their computer in very limited circumstances. I understand the reluctance for teachers to allow students to use their laptop in note taking. Many reasons are justifiable such as in math classroom or science classroom where paper and pencil still beats computer based note taking system. The Scientific American article definitely gives credence to not have students take notes on their computer.

Despite these concerns I am not ready to give up on computers as a note taking platform. But, I also know that if I want student's to learn that I can't assume they will master my content by just passively taking notes in my class...with or without a computer. Maybe that is a more important point that I didn't see mentioned in either articles. Learning is not a spectator sport but requires student interaction and reflection of the learning process. Do we as teachers effectively prepare students on the learning process and how technology can help or hinder it?

Personally, most notes I take anymore I do by using the service Everynote because no matter where I'm at I can access these notes with my iPhone, iPad, or laptop computer. Having access to my notes when I need them I think is an advantage of computerized note taking. I think the same is true for my students. Like it or not, for many of my students they are very engrossed into anything digital. They have their computers with them most of the time and having the notes in a place that is easy to access I feel is still advantageous over the traditional notebook approach to note taking. There is little chance of "forgetting their notes in their locker" because their laptop is their constant companion.

In Marzano Classroom Instruction that Works there are four take aways to note taking
  1. Verbatim note taking is least effective way to take notes.
  2. Notes should be considered a work in progress
  3. Notes should be used as study guide for test.
  4. The more notes are taken the better.

I think at the end of the day, if students are just taking notes verbatim to what is on my presentation than very learning is going on no matter how they take notes. The key is to have student's summarize what they learn and here is where I think laptops can help strengthen student learning. Modeling summarization of notes is something I try and do with my students.  From the reading of the article I think this is something I need to make sure I keep emphasizing and showing them ways to effectively take notes. 

Student reflective learning must be a part of the process, regardless of how students take notes. In my class I try and set up reflection routines throughout my lesson. I use Anticipatory Sets at the beginning of each class period to review critical information from the previous day's lesson to help "Pull Forward" that information to build on for that day's lesson. Students write their responses to my set questions on an online journal on my Blackboard site. Students share with a table partner their summaries as well as participate in a large class discussion.  By having students keep their journal online, they are able to go back and re-read their reflections. I can also access student reflections as well if I have concerns on where a student is currently standing in regards to their understanding of a particular topic. Student summarization  is a big part of how I structure my class. I try and have students constantly reflect on their learning, sharing with other students, and sharing with me what they are learning.

I do constant Formative Checks of understanding at the end of class by using tools such as Socrative. Here I can get immediate feedback from students on how they are doing, but I also think it provides students another opportunity to process and reflect on their own learning of the topic we are studying in class.

Using other tools such as Padlet students can share their own short reflections to me, but also to other students as well in a digital environment that they can check back with latter. I have also found success with websites like CoveritLive or Todaysmeet, and Google Docs to give my multiple ways to engage with my students that I couldn't get in a non-computer environment.

Cornell Notes Template
in Pages
I have used Cornell Note Taking Strategies as a model for students on note taking, even creating a Template in Apple's Pages Program that student's can download to use as their note guide. I don't have students do this every time we take notes, but when I feel it can be a beneficial strategy for students to use.

If you are not familiar with the Cornell Note Taking Strategy, below is a great instructional video.

Causes of the Industrial Revolution
Graphic Organizer
in Keynote

I have also used graphic organizers like this ones to help students summarize their understandings in both text and image form. These are in effect digital notes where students are manipulating information in a visual way.

The article titled Learning Secret: Don't Take Notes with a Laptop has definitely given me pause on students taking their notes on their laptops. Despite these concerns I still think that some of the benefits out way some of the potential costs. I am not ready to give up teaching students positive ways to take notes using technology. I also believe that there are times when paper and pencil notes might be more of an effective strategy to use. It just means that as a teacher I need to think through what approach is the best and also giving students the opportunity to also take ownership in their own learning.

As long as I continue to provide students multiple opportunities to process and reflect on their learning I think any negative aspects of the laptops will be outweighed by the positive interaction with them. As the article states "When it comes to taking notes, students need fewer gigs, more brain power." My own adage with technology integration has always been "It's not about the technology, it's about the student learning."  I think I might share this article with my students at the beginning of the year and have them think about the role of note taking in their own learning process.

Do you have students use laptops to take notes or do you prefer paper notes? I would love to hear about other teacher's strategies on effective note taking strategies. With or without technology.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

D-Day at 70 Years

WWII Memorial Washington DC
photo by Lance Mosier
This Friday marks the 70th Anniversary of the D-Day Landing. Here are a wide variety of website resources to use for 70th Anniversary.

D-Day to Victory:
(**2016** Site appears to be down in the US)
This is a very great comprehensive website that starts with D-Day and ends with the fall of Berlin. Lots of interactive features as well as interviews from those who participated in these battles that liberated Europe. 

D-Day and the Normandy Invasion by the National Archives & Records Administration: This is a very comprehensive exhibit from the Google Cultural Institute. Full of primary source documents, photos, and audio of this important battle of WWII.

The Normandy Invasion Captured on 16 mm Kodachrome Film (1944):  Video footage shot from
WWII Memorial Washington D.C.
Photo by Lance Mosier
George Stevens that is posted on Open Culture's Website

Interactive Map of the D-Day Invasion: A very nice interactive map of the Normandy Invasion. 

WWII Soldier Slang: It is always fun for students see how slang language changes from generation. Might be fun for you to share a few examples with students.

D-Day: Was Omaha Beach named to honor of local man's war efforts? Interesting article from the Omaha World Herald about a possible explanation behind the naming of Omaha Beach. 

Men of D-Day is a page to all those who fought on D-Day. This section of the website has lots of personal stories of different men who fought in D-Day. Also check out their Photo Album page for various images. 

D-Day Landing Scenes in 1944 and Now: It is always fun to look at images of historical places to see how they look today and in the past. This neat interactive from the Guardian has very great than and now pictures. 

WWII Interactive Map: This interactive map covers all of the major battles of Europe from 1939-1945 that is full of information. 

CrashCourse WWII: I have really become a great fan of the CrashCourse Videos. They give a great overview on many topics. Here is their WWII Video.  

WWII Memorial Washington DC
Photo by Lance Mosier
D-Day Comic Book: Comicbookplus has a lot of old archived comic books, but here is one that was published in 1963 that tells the story of D-Day.

Before and After D-Day: Color Photos from England and France: Color Photos from Life that are very vivid and capture many aspects of soldier life. 

National WWII Museum New Orleans: D-Day information: Very detailed information about the D-Day invasion from the National WWII Museum New Orleans

President Reagan's Speech at the 40th Anniversary of D-Day: YouTube video from the Reagan Presidential Library from the 40th Anniversary presentation.

President Obama's Speech at the 70th Anniversary of D-Day:

What resources do you have that help tell the story of the D-Day/Normandy Invasion? I would love to hear about them in the section below. 

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Connecting Students To Their Federal Government

The power of Social Media is in the ability to connect people with each other. Below is a list of some of the various social media accounts for the US Federal Government. Most of these are the official accounts, but I have also added a few outside accounts that are worth following to connect you and your students to their Federal Government. If you are interested in how Social Media impacts government interactions with its citizens, check out Twitter's Government Twitter Feed: @gov as well as their website.

These resources would be great for teachers to stay up to date with current events they can bring back to their classroom, resources for students to connect to these government agencies and what they do, participate in Q&A with these agencies, and much more.

The Legislative Branch:

Follow current bills going through the US Congress follow On Twitter: @congressdotgov 

To find social media information about your current Representative or Senator go to:  http://beta.congress.gov/members

The Executive Branch:

The President of the United States

The US State Department

The US Department of Defense (The Pentagon Channel)

The US Department of Labor

The US Department of Education

The US Department of Transportation

The US Department of Homeland Security

The US Department of Energy

The US Department of Justice

The US Department of the Treasury 

The US Department of Agriculture

The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS)

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

Other Agencies:

Did I miss an agency? Check out the USA.gov Federal Directory to find the agency you are looking for. You can also follow the USA.gov YouTube Channel, Twitter Page @USAgov, &  Facebook Page.

For younger kids, you might want to check out Kids.gov website and these Social Media Accounts:

The Judicial Branch (US Supreme Court):

Of the three branches of government, the Judicial Branch has the fewest official accounts that I could find. However, here are are some Blogs, Twitter Feeds, and Apps to help you stay current with news coming from the Highest Court In The Land

  • SCOTUS Blog: Has articles and links to current cases being heard and analysis of the latest decisions. 
  • SCOTUSblog On Twitter: @SCOTUSBlog
  • ISCOTUSnow IOS and Android App from IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law 
  • OYEZ Project on Twitter: @oyez
Did I miss anything? Do you have ideas on ways to use wield the power of Social Media with your students? I would love to hear about them in the comments section below.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Power of the Spoken Word

Primary Sources are a great way to connect students to major historical events. One downside of course can be the reading level of some of these texts. Here are eight great audio resources to help students connect with the spoken word that I have used and really like.
A collection of thousands of hours of audio. Check out the U.S. President's Gallery to hear various presidential speeches from Benjamin Harrison to Barack Obama.  Listen here to President Theodore Roosevelt explain why the Big Bosses resist the Progressive Era
This website really is a treasure trove of resources for you and your students if you are studying U.S. Presidents. Check out their Presidential Gallery as well as their Speech Archive. For examples of using this resource with your students, look at their Presidential Classroom. I found this interaction between President John F. Kennedy and head of NASA James Webb discussing the possibility of a lunar landing fascinating.
This is a great resource to listen to former slaves discuss what life was like on the Plantation. I would encourage students to also use the transcripts. I usually have students listen to several excerpts from this collection as part of their study on Plantation life in 1850's.

This resource can be a very helpful resource and tool for multiple reasons (Check out their Wayback Machine to view the changing nature of the Internet for example) You can also find several audio clips that can be helpful in students examination of a historical period by searching their extensive database. Here is a Fireside Chat of President Roosevelt from December 29th, 1940 discussing the growing concerns in Europe that could be used to discuss American Neutrality and Roosevelt's concerns in Asia and Europe. I have also used several excerpts of speeches given my Malcolm X from Famous Speeches of Malcolm X to use as a compare/contrast with speeches given by Dr. King such as his I Have A Dream.

American Rhetoric is a great resource to find famous speeches in history. Check out their Top 100 Speeches to find audio and transcripts of famous speeches in history.
Just like it can be important to use short excerpts from written primary documents, it is also important to use short sections of audio instead of having students listen to an entire 20-40 minute speech. Audacity  is a great free audio editing tool thank makes it easy to trim selected audio sections you want students to listen to into manageable 1-2 minute excepts. 

Most of the resources I listed above are audio recordings of speeches. Librovox is more designed as a free Audio Book Tool for books in Public Domain, but there are some great audio clips that can be used in your classroom. Their Catalog has a growing list of books that get constantly updated and can be searched by author, title, genre, & language. Their US Historical Documents Section has audio readings of the Articles of Confederation, US Constitution, Declaration of Independence, and the Gettysburg Address. For students who need to listen to the text as they read along, this can be a useful tool to help struggling readers engage with the text of these famous documents.
Like Librivox, this is resource for Free Audio Books (that are no longer protected from Copyright) from the University of South Florida. Check out some of their Collections: American Founders, The Civil War, Historic American Documents, and African-American Literature.  If there is a particular author you are looking for check out their Author Section. If you are looking for a certain reading level, check out their Flesh-Kincaid Grade Level section. 

Quick Links to some of my favorite audio resources:

These are some of my favorite audio resources to use with students to connect to the spoken word. Do you have any that should also be included? I would love to hear about them in the comments section below. 

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Patriot or Loyalist? Espionage During American Revolution

I thought being a spy would be cool...of course I was eight at the time but I thought this was a future job for me. Although I didn't find my way to Langley I still enjoy espionage books and movies. It might have been all of those James Bond movies I watched or Tom Clancy novels I read growing up as a kid. I have always been rather captivated by the spy thriller.

I was very excited when I saw that AMC was coming out with an new TV series called TURN. AMC's latest new show based upon the book Washington's Spies: The Story of America's First Spy Ring by Alexander Rose.

It will be interesting to see how the series captures some of historical elements of this period in American History. You can follow the show on Twitter @TurnAMC as well as the author Alexander Rose @AlexRoseWriter.

With global espionage concerns, the NSA phone scandals, & Edward Snowden there is definitely a lot of potential to tie current events with historical uses of spying in American History and can lead to some great debates among students in your class. These spy stories are definitely captivating tales that will get students excited about history.

Here are some resources that you can use with your students to connect the history behind AMC'sTURN and Spying in the American Revolution:

Spy Letters of the American Revolution is a great resource of the role spies played in the American Revolution, including the Culper Ring which the new AMC series TURN is based upon. The story of the Culper Ring is a very fascinating story and many of the techniques used by these spies are still part of spy trade craft today.
  • Check out the section Methods and Techniques. Here they describe spy craft and how it was used by American and British spies during the American Revolution. 
  • There are also interactive lessons prepared on some of the trade craft used by spies during this period, such as using invisible ink and masking letters.  This would make for some great in class activities.
  • There are also Primary Sources, such as the letters in Gallery of Letters for students to take a look at how secret messages were sent. 

Mount Vernon's Website also has some great information on the Culper Spy Ring and General George Washington's involvement in this espionage. http://www.mountvernon.org/spy

Major Benjamin Tallmadge was General Washington's director of military intelligence and Founders Online has 143 letters between General George Washington and Tallmadge. Have students due a close read of some of their letters to analyze the correspondence between Washington & Tallmadge. (Close Reading Infographic)

Listen to an interview of Alexander Rose from the New York Public Library that is a very in-depth look behind the history behind his book Washington's Spies: The Story of America's First Spy Ring and espionage during this time period.

YouTube Video George Washington the Spy

Read AMC's "TURN": Everything Historians Need to Know article from the Journal of the American Revolution and discuss History V. Hollywood with students.

Read AMC's TURN Online Comic of the Backstory of the Culper Ring or read some of their blog posts about the series.

Mashable also has a very neat infographic titled Spy Toolkit looking at spy tools throughout history. This would be a great resource to have students discuss how technology has changed spying throughout history.

CIA's website for students has a History of American Intelligence to look when and where spying has been used in American History. It is very comprehensive and make sure to check out the information on Anna Strong (one of the members of the Culper Spy Ring and a central character in TURN) and how laundry was used to send coded messages.

If you ever get to Washington DC, a must visit is the International Spy Museum. There are many great exhibits and hands on experiences to learn about the history of espionage.  It was one of my favorite interactive museums in Washington DC.
 Do you have any interesting resources or ideas on incorporating the history of espionage into your curriculum? I would love to hear about them in the comment section below. 

Thursday, March 27, 2014

March Madness: Most Influential In US History

I have to admit that I am somewhat of a big basketball nut. March is also when my wife feels she becomes a basketball widow as wall to wall games are on TV and my attention is to needlessly to say somewhat distracted.

I saw last year several teachers who started using a "March Madness Type Bracket" in their classrooms and I wanted to see if I could replicate this in my own classroom. I wanted to take two strong passions of mine Basketball and History and see if this ignites dialog, debate, and learning with my students.

It Started With The List:

This was probably the hardest thing about starting my bracket; who's in and who's out. I wanted to pick people that my students and I had talked about this year so I decided I would focus on Americans we had studied or would be studying within the first week of starting our brackets. So I settled on famous Americans from 1776 to 1930. I than started to list some of the famous Americans we had studied as part of my survey curriculum of US History. It quickly presented itself that I would be able to establish four categories with about eight people in each categories giving me 32 names. I think that number of 32 was a good starting point. There were a few individuals that I had to leave off and others in hindsight I might not include next time but it did give me a decent starting place.

Using PrintMyBrackets.com I created a 32 team bracket with four divisions: Presidents, Innovators, Reformers, & Military.

Filling Out The Bracket

The success of March Madness in large part comes from all of the brackets, office pools, and competitions that people sign up for leading up to opening weekend. People's investment comes from in large part from who they feel should win. I wanted to recreate that so I created four Google Docs that provided students with short biographies of each of the entries. I also linked to biographies found at  Biography.com to provide students with additional information about each of the individuals to learn about what their significance to US History was (i.e. Alice Paul, George Washington). Students were than tasked with filling out their bracket ahead of time to see who should make their Elite Eight, Final Four, and Championship Game.  Students were encouraged to think critically about each of their choices and be prepared to defend their answers. Students were also told to post who their winner was on my class blog.

Let The Madness Begin

Each Friday for the next five weeks students will vote for which entry should move on. I had a student ask me before we started as they were filling out their bracket "Is there a correct answer?" I had to chuckle and reply, "I don't know how this is going to end and that is the fun. It all depends on how your classmates vote each week."

I also have been enjoying listening to students argue about who should win and why. Seeing students passionate and excited about this has gone beyond my expectations for this project.

Students are voting using a Google Survey I am creating each week and I'm posting results on the following Monday. The nice thing about using GoogleDocs is my ability to quickly determine winners in each round and create the next survey for the following round. I will be excited to find out who makes it to the Championship Round and how students keep going on this project.

Changes For Next Time

A few things I think I might change for next time:
  • See if I can have students generate the list of 32 Americans that should be on the list and open it up to all time periods. I also could make this a larger list and expand up to 64 people. 
  • Have students create signs/posters on who they think should win and post these around the room. 
  • Add a more of a research element into this project where students would need to go beyond posting a blog post, but create some type of final project explaining why this person deserves the title of "Most Influential US Historical Figure." It might be fun for them to create commercials using iMovie or Animoto that we could share leading up to the voting. Students could also create advertisement biography sheets using Edu Gloster or Prezi

March Madness Other Examples And Resources

Do you do a March Madness bracket with your students? I would love to hear about it in the comments section below.