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. Some possible History Related Titles that could be used in your class could be: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn , The Adventures of Tom Sawyer , American History:Speeches and Essays , The Last of the Mohicans , Little Women , The Scarlet Letter , The Souls of Black Folks ,Uncle Tom's Cabin (Told to the Children) , The War of the Worlds , The Wonderful Wizard of Oz , and many many more.

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.