Wednesday, June 29, 2016

The Revenant: Hugh Glass and the Mountain Men

One of the nice things about summer is a chance to get caught up on some reading. I was finally able to read the novel The Revenant: A Novel Of Revenge by Michael Punke. It truly is a great read. I am hopeful to watch the movie version The Revenant over my summer. I know I'm really behind on some of my movie viewing.

From reading the book I wanted to write a blog of some of the resources I've collected on Mountain Men as well as on the Hugh Glass story. I am hoping to incorporate several of these resources in my Westward Expansion Unit when students explore some of the groups that travel west. Traditionally in my class students explore the following groups as part of our exploration of Westward Expansion between 1800-1850: Mountain Men, Missionaries, Mormons, Pioneers, and Forty Niners.

Chronology of Publications of the Hugh Glass Story via Museum of the Mountain Men is a great detailed resource on what is actually known about Hugh Glass from printed resources in the 1800's.

Hugh Glass Fact v Fiction via the Museum of the Mountain Men gives a very detailed account of what the Revenant movie got correct and what it did not.

Who Was Hugh Glass via Slate also does a great job of balancing History v. Hollywood Hugh Glass story. 

Dan Snow's History Hit Podcast: The Revenant with Professor Jon T Coleman is a great interview to get more details about the life of Hugh Glass and his story. 

The Revenant Movie Trailer (On YouTube): Although the movie is too violent for me to show to my students, I think some elements of the movie trailer might help give students a visual of what life was like as well as some of the dangers associated with this occupation.  I hope it might help students form questions they have about Mountain Men as a launching point for students to conduct research to find out more about these intrepid explorers.

The Revenant A World Unseen Documentary (On YouTube): Looks at the making of this movie. There are lots of very interesting things about the problems they had shooting this movie due to weather and location.  

Other Mountain Men Resources: 

Fort Atkinson, NE  Photo by Lance Mosier
The Museum of the Mountain Men:

Movie Jeremiah Johnson Intro Scene: The 1972 movie Jeremiah Johnson was one of my father's favorite movies. I've shown this clip in the past to introduce to help student's discuss what lured Mountain Men to the West.

Mountain Men: Mountain Men Skills - YouTube Video via The History Chanel from their TV Series.  This particular clip looks at modern day Mountain Man skills that I think could help students discuss what is similar and different from the past.

Do You have any great resources that you have used to help students learn about Westward Expansion, The Mountain Men, or the story of Hugh Glass? I would love to hear about them in the comments section below. 

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

You Died Of Dysentery! Resources on The Oregon Trail

Oregon Trail Days Oak, NE
Growing up as a kid I grew up living one mile from the Oregon Trail. This had a profound impact on me growing up which I discussed in an earlier Blog Post Remembering Local History: The Oregon Trail and the Raids of 1864.

Here are some fun activities to do with students to learn more about The Oregon Trail, including the computer game I remember playing in school as a kid.

Have students play The 1990 version of The Oregon Trail Game via Internet Archives. Have student's journal their experience and compare the game to the actual history.

Here is a very funny fake movie trailer based on The Oregon Trail Game that could be used as an introduction to the game, or as a closure for students playing the game and have them journal how this video portrays life along the trail accurately or inaccurately.

Dysentery, Typhoid and Snake Bites: The Early Days of the Oregon Trail looks at some of the history behind the famous game.

The Oregon Trail Lied To You via PBS Game/Show is an interesting look at the game's impact on students and how the game might of failed at history, but might have taught greater life skills.

Have students create Oregon Trail Tombstone Markers with Oregon Trail Tombstone Generator on possible dangers along the Oregon Trail.

Use Make a Paper Conestoga Covered Wagon via Kevin Honeycutt and have students create a list of important facts about the Oregon Trail on the canvas as a journaling activity.

Listen to a Ben Franklin's World Podcast Episode 077: Rinker Buck, The Oregon Trail to learn about Rinker's experience of trying to travel along The Oregon Trail and some history behind those who travelled west.

The National Oregon/California Trail Center Visitor Center Website has some interesting information for you and your students to look through to learn more about the trail.

The Oregon Trail Website has some also great resources to help students learn more about The Oregon Trail.

Take Painter's Tape and create the dimensions of a typical wagon that was used along The Oregon Trail.

***New 7/16/16***
What The Oregon Trail Looks Like Today From Above Video via

***New 10/05/16***
Nine Places Where You Can Still See Wheel Tracks from the Oregon Trail via

Do you have any favorite resources to learn about The Oregon Trail? I would love to hear about them in the comments section below.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Creating An Abolitionist Society Meeting

Got this idea from a session at The National Council for Social Studies Convention in 2009 from Andy Robinson and Joan Brodsky Schur titled "Staging An Abolitionist Convention."  I have modified their idea a little bit to better suit my teaching style and my students I teach.  I usually conduct this simulation after our unit learning about slavery but before we get too far into the Events Leading Up To The United States Civil War. 

The Problem Debated At Our Meeting: 

How should we respond to the 1850 Fugitive Slave Law? By this time we have studied as a class the institution of slavery and have introduced to growing North and South tension over the expansion of Slavery. We have talked about the Missouri Compromise and the Compromise of 1850 to help set up this issue. This has included the controversy surrounding the Fugitive Slave Law and the impact of the book Uncle Tom's Cabin

The Research Phase:

Students are assigned an abolitionists to research and use this form to collect information about their abolitionist. 
Meet the Abolitionist Notes
I have pulled together short biographies for students to download and read about each of these abolitionists. I try and create a good mix of Men, Women, White, and African-American Abolitionists. I also try to include a good mix of Abolitionists that have different views on their activism towards ending slavery.   I have found American Experience: The Abolitionists a great resources for both text and video about some of the major leaders in the Abolitionist movement.  Some of the Abolitionist I have students represent are: William Lloyd Garrison, William Wells Brown, Wendell Phillips, Theodore Parker, Sojourner Truth, Sarah Grimke, Salmon Portland Chase, Robert Purvis, Mary Weston, Maria Steward, Lydia Maria Francis, Lucy Stone, Lucretia Coffin Mott, Lewis Tappan, Lewis Hayden, James Mott, James Birney, Henry David Thoreau, Henry Brewster Stanton, Henry Highland Garnet, Harriet Tubman, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Gerrit Smith, George Luther Stearns, Frederick Douglas, Frances Harper, Elizabeth Cady Staton, and Angelina Grimke. 

Abolitionist Meeting Preparation 

After students have researched their Abolitionist, they think about how their Abolitionist would respond to the passage of a new Fugitive Slave Law. I really try and emphasize to the students to try and put themselves into the shoes of their abolitionists which can be difficult. For some of my students I do allow them to respond from their own perspective.  Students are given four options:
  1. Protest Peacefully, but don't directly break the law. 
  2. Actively work in the Underground Railroad to help slaves escape to Canada. 
  3. Resort to using violence to bring about the end of slavery by joining John Brown in the Kansas Territory. 
  4. Give Up on the Slavery Issue

Tickets to the Meeting: 

I have used this Ticket Generator Website as well as being dressed up as an abolitionist to bring a little excitement to our meeting. 
Levi Coffin

Time To Mingle:

I usually give students time to mingle with each other using an Ally Grid to find relatives, spouses, and potential allies in the debate to come. This gets students moving around a little bit, but also helps them discover connections with other students. Several of these abolitionists are related or married to each other and many more have worked with each other before. This also gives students a chance to pre-debate their thoughts on the course of action they are leaning towards and finding others who support their position. 

 A Fun Twist: You could also have your class vote on if women should be allowed to attend. This was a very serious problem in the abolitionist societies. Not all abolitionist were willing to let women fully participate.  If the class votes not to allow them, I have had the girls form a secondary meeting in the hallway and I use a program like CoveritLive to incorporate their discussions with the rest of the class and encourage them to "barge into" our meeting to interrupt if they have a point to make or question. 

If you do this you have to really know your students and trust your students in two different places during the simulation. 

The Debate:

We have a class debate and discussion listing pros and cons to some of the different options. I really try and involve as many students in the discussions. A lot of our discussions center on being prepared to deal with potential consequences of actively breaking the law (fines, jail time, etc..) and what is the best course of action to deal with what is viewed as an un-fair law. 

Closure-Follow Up:

To wrap up this activity I have students write a blog post on my Blackboard course where they have to state their case on what they feel should be done in response to The Fugitive Slave Act by listing advantages and disadvantages they have learned throughout this activity. 

Do you have any great simulations that you use or resources to look at Abolitionists? I would love to hear about them in the comments section below. 

Thursday, June 9, 2016

The Stars and Stripes: Flag Day Resources

Photo by Lance Mosier
June 14th is Flag Day. Here are some interesting links I have collected over the years to learn more about the US Flag.

(1) Why Do We Celebrate Flag Day

Watch All About Flag day via PBS Learning Media

Visit Fast Flag Facts via to learn about Flag Day and other interesting facts about the Stars and Stripes. 

(2) Betsy Ross

Listen to episode 050 Marla Miller, Betsy Ross and the Making of America from @lizcovart and her podcast Ben Franklin's World to sort out the history from the legend surrounding Betsy Ross.  

Take a Virtual Field Trip to the home of Betsy Ross in Historic Philadelphia

(3) See How The Flag Has Changed Over Time

For Flag Day, Watch how much the American Flag Has Changed via @PhilEdwardsInc and VOX is a video that looks at the changes in the US Flag throughout our nation's history.

Check out Flags At The Smithsonian on Pinterest to see many great pictures of the US Flag and its display throughout History. 

(4) The National Anthem

Learn more about the Flag that inspired the National Anthem with The Star-Spangled Banner: The Flag That Inspired The National Anthem via The Smithsonian National Museum of American History. Lots of great interactives to learn about the War of 1812 and the creation of the National Anthem.

Read The African American girl who helped make the Star-Spangled Banner via the Smithsonian to learn about this young girls contribution to the flag that flew over Fort McHenry during the War of 1812.

(5) Now The Rules

Read the US Flag Code on the Cornell University Law's Website to learn about rules of display and how and when a  new star gets added.

What are some of your favorite resources to learn about the US Flag? I would love to hear about them in the comments section below.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Digital Dipsticks: Easy Tools for Formative Assessments

Being a classroom teacher it is really important to be able to gauge what students are understanding and more importantly what they are not understanding. Using Formative Assessment is essential to help make informed decisions as a teacher.

There are lots of great low tech Formative Assessments  I've used in class such as white boards, exit tickets on scratch paper. sticky notes,  choral response, hand gestures, etc.. All of these are great and I still use them, but working in a school that each student comes with a laptop I've also found some great web based tools to help provide formative assessment opportunities. What is nice about some of these technology options is it provides students with immediate feedback so they can self-diagnose problems and I as a teacher can quickly pull reports to find problem areas.

Below is a presentation I gave at a School District In-service a couple of year ago. I've added a few new resources that I've found that I am excited about trying out with my students in the coming school year. The more "tools" in my "toolbox" I have the more options I have to monitor and assess what is going on in my classroom. I also think students also need some variety so things don't become too routine and boring.

I will also include links to these web-sites and tutorial videos to help you get started.

Slide Show Presentation:

Links to Resources:

(1) Socrative

(2) Kahoot

(3) Quizziz

(4) Padlet

(5) Wizerme

YouTube Tutorial Chanels:

Socrative YouTube Chanel:


Kahoot YouTube Chanel:

Quizziz YouTube Chanel:

Wizerme YouTube Chanel:

Do you have some great ways to conduct Formative Assessments with students (Tech or No-Tech)? I would love to hear about them in the comments section below.

What would that cost today?

photo credit: Money via photopin (license);
Students always want to know how much something in the past would cost today. Here are some resources that I've used to help to take a cost of an item in the past and bring it to a dollar value of today. An important note to tell students that these are approximations. I've also included YouTube videos that do a good job explaining how money works.

Measuring Worth Website: This is a great website I used a lot to compare prices at different time periods. There is also a lot of background information on how the numbers are determined and several historical examples to look through. I've found this a very trustworthy and great website to use to help s  

iOS App Inflation Calculator: This is an app that works as another great tool to adjust for inflation of currency.  I've found myself using this app in class when students ask me during a lesson. It's pretty easy to pull out my phone and do a quick comparison. 

If a man in the North paid $300 to avoid the Draft
during the Civil War, what would the cost be today?

YouTube Videos:

Here are some good YouTube Videos that talk about how money works. 

What Gives A Dollar Bill Its Value? A TED-ED Video

Explaining Inflation by Wall Street Survivor

What is Money? by Economic Detective

That Film About Money by We The Economy

What are some resources you use to help students learn about money? I would love to hear about them in the comments section below.