Monday, November 13, 2017

See Jane Run. See Dick Die. Death and Childhood in Early America

Alright, I know it's past Halloween and this post's title may sound macabre but, stick with me.  I've been interested in death and dying in early America for some time (and, yes, I realize that also sounds fairly twisted).  It's not the act of dying but the symbolism, customs, objects of remembrance and the meaning placed on those things.  

I was browsing the Smithsonian's "O Say Can You See?" blog and came across an interesting read by Emma Hastings, an intern at the National Museum of American History, about New England primers use of the body's imminent end for instruction.  How might you use this in your American history classroom?

For background, read Hastings' post here.

The Hook
1. Choose any popular children's book.  To illustrate the gulf between early American primers and more recent books, choose a "Dick and Jane" or something with a similar message accessible to children.  Read the story out loud to the class and ask for the moral, message, big takeaway, etc.

2. As a class, discuss the purposes of children's literature.  Is it to entertain, to inform, to persuade a certain idea/lifestyle/religion/etc. is "correct"?  You could also discuss what students would include in a book geared toward today's children.

Introducing the Objects
3. Show students the pages from Hastings' post (all from the collection of the NMAH) and solicit answers to the following questions:

  • What stands out in the images?
  • What do the images have in common?  Any major differences?
  • What was the moral, message, big takeaway, etc. of this collection of images?
  • When/where do you think these books were printed and/or used?  Why then/there?
Forming Context
4. Reveal the dates and locations of each of the books and ask students what they know/think they know about those areas and time periods.

Making Meaning
5. Divide students into teams, hand out large sheets of paper or have students create a Padlet or similar online board, and assign the following task: Using information from these primers, visualize New England in each of the following areas: Religion, Education, and Government.
  • This could be a way to introduce the New England colonies to students.  Use inquiry and primary sources to predict what a group of people believed regarding religion, the purpose of education, and the function of government.
  • Students could record their responses through paragraphs, bulleted lists, pictures, mind mapping, knowledge webs, etc.
6. Student work could be presented and used as a starting point for further inquiry or you could introduce an extension activity.

Extension Activity
7. Students could use the information gleaned from the New England primers to create a biography of a typical New Englander at the turn of the 19th century.  If you're feeling crafty, you could also create a silhouette of your New Englander.

These were a few ideas after reading the post at "O Say Can You See?".  Does anyone else use something similar in their classes?  How else could you utilize these resources from the Smithsonian?

Keeping things ecumenical,

Thursday, June 15, 2017

A Few Ideas on Teaching Mount Vernon Material Culture

The date for the beginning of my Mount Vernon Lifeguard Fellowship is approaching quickly.  As it does, I'm reading and writing more about Washington's world, especially the material culture of Mount Vernon.  Over at my fellowship blog, "Clothing as Culture at Mount Vernon," I posted a couple of new entries.  One covers the delineation of space at Mount Vernon (mentioned on this blog) while the other introduces some resources for teaching about George Washington through objects.

Reproduction of Martha Custis (Washington's) Wedding Shoes (photo by author)

I would love to have you along for the ride this summer as I share resources, lesson plans, and reflections on working at Mount Vernon and the Fred W. Smith library.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

STEM is NOT a Dirty Word!

STEM has been an educational buzzword over the last few years and, unlike many similar acronyms, I think this one has not only value, but staying power as well.  The problem many humanities teachers raise seems to result from fear or frustration.  Is STEM out to conquer the humanities and subjugate the disciplines that lend education soul? How do you teach STEM and still keep your soul?

I led a workshop a couple of days ago on integrating STEM into the humanities curriculum (while keeping your soul).  Most of the attendees were upper elementary and middle school Social Studies and ELA teachers, with an administrator thrown in.  We discussed what STEM is, how a colleague and I blended it with American History to create our own hybrid, and a basic model for designing lessons with STEM in mind.

One takeaway from my conversations with teachers is that there is a great deal of confusion about the purpose of STEM-education and how it can cooperate with courses like English and History.  As a diehard believer in liberal-arts education and a proponent of STEM-integration, this is an issue I want to prioritize throughout the next year.

Below are the slides from the workshop, but to provide a brief summary:

  • STEM is not the accumulation of a "toy box" of technology. It is a mindset shift.
  • STEM is not the enemy of the humanities. 
  • Chances are, you are already teaching elements of STEM in your course.
  • STEM can hook students without sacrificing educational rigor.
  • Students at every grade level and ability can benefit from STEM-integration.
  • The "tool" (technology) should be the last piece in planning STEM-integration.
  • A simple model for adding STEM: start with your standard, learning target, etc., create an essential question, and then bring in resources to support that question through the STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics)

RCET Workshop 2017: STEM in the Humanities from mshomakerteach

I'm sharing a sample unit our 7th grade Social Studies, ELA, STEM, and Science departments collaborated on this year: Yellow Fever 1793. 

Hopefully, this will give you an idea of the possibilities and the freedom that comes from opening your humanities course up to new directions and influences.  Follow the blog as I provide more experiments in STEM-integration throughout the year.


Do you incorporate the STEM fields into your humanities discipline?  If so, how?  If not, what has kept you from trying?

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Material Culture Minute No. 4 (#TMCM): News from Jefferson's "Little Mountain"

Last week, I had the pleasure of revisiting Monticello in Charlottesville, Virginia.  I spent a week at the home of Thomas Jefferson in the summer of 2016 as a Barringer Fellow, during which time I was immersed in Jefferson's life and ideas in his favorite spot on earth.  On this most recent trip I played the part of tourist with my family and took in the many changes the staff at Monticello has made to the house and grounds in such a short amount of time.

I started thinking about those changes and how they could instruct students on the power of historical investigation.  This "TMCM" is about one of the most exciting transformations to Monticello, the excavation and reconstruction of Sally Hemings' living space in the South Dependency.

There, in the corner of this picture, is where Monticello's archaeology department is working to restore the living space of Sally Hemings, slave and mother to possibly six of Thomas Jefferson's children.  When I visited in 2016, this was a popular spot among tourists-it served as the men's bathroom-which was installed in 1941.  

Current discoveries include the original brick floor, a hearth, and traces of shelves.  Once this excavation is complete, it will introduce a completely original connection to the most well-known person owned by Jefferson, as well as a major contribution to the story of enslaved lives at Monticello.  

Below is a news story from CBS Evening News on the Hemings' project at Monticello.  Make sure to visit "TMCM #4" Resources page for ideas on how to use the ongoing work in your classroom.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Material Culture Minute No. 3 (#TMCM): They're Only Buttons, Right?

This week's episode of The Material Culture Minute features some objects from George Washington's Mount Vernon.  

Remember, all TMCM episodes are available by selecting the link on the blog and are free to use with a Creative Commons Attribution license in your classroom, if you would like.  Also, be sure to check out TMCM #3 Resources link at the bottom of this post for a transcript, links to accompanying resources, and class discussion questions.  This is primarily a resource for use in my classroom next year, but you are welcome to use it to increase object-based history inquiry in your room as well.


TMCM #3 Resources

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Big Summer Plans: The Mount Vernon Lifeguard Research Fellowship

Can the clothing of master and enslaved serve as a microcosm of 18th century thoughts on race, place, and social position?

What can clothes teach us about life and perception on a Virginia plantation?

How did slave-owners use clothing to reinforce their position?

How did the enslaved use clothing to navigate beyond their position?

Those are the big questions I’ll be asking this summer as I live and work on George Washington’s Mount Vernon estate.  A few weeks ago, I got the good news that I was chosen as a Lifeguard Teaching Fellow for 2017-2018 and will get to spend three weeks in Alexandria researching and creating lesson plans for use by teachers through the education wing of Mount Vernon.

       Screenshot from Mount Vernon website

This will be my second time at Mount Vernon.  I was accepted into a week-long George Washington Teacher Institute in 2016, where I was able to explore Washington as I think he preferred to be known: an innovative farmer/entrepreneur.  The week featured talks by Ed Lengel, author of “First Entrepreneur: How George Washington Build His-and the Nation’s-Prosperity,” and other guest speakers.  In addition to content-rich talks by scholars on Washington, Mount Vernon, and 18th century commerce, the participating teachers were given open access to the estate, toured the house, distillery, mill, upper and lower gardens, and Pioneer Farm with interpreters and historians, and collaborated with each other on ways to bring Washington’s personal world into our classrooms.

I learned about the Mount Vernon Lifeguard Fellowship during the first couple days of the GWTI in summer 2016 and immediately began thinking of areas related to Washington that I’ve had a long-standing interest in.  I spoke with the library staff about a few ideas and was given suggestions for books to help narrow my focus.

My proposed project is “Clothing as Culture: Material Culture and Race at Mount Vernon” and will explore how the clothing of the Washington family and the enslaved defined social standing, reinforced 18th century ideas of racial superiority, and how the enslaved used clothing to navigate society on and off the estate.  Through production and purchase accounts made by the Washington family, archaeology evidence from the house for families, and surviving clothes and cloth, I hope to create a course of study for teaching object- and place-based history to students at the middle and high school levels.

I've created an online research journal at and will be writing about new information I discover, links to resources, and how living and working at Mount Vernon is shaping my research.  I'll be cross posting some of those entries here at Live American History.  Though primarily created for my use in collecting and curating content for my lesson(s), I hope the MV Fellow blog will serve as a resource you can use to add more object- and place-based history education, and more George Washington, in your classroom.

Glad to have you along for the trip,


Saturday, April 29, 2017

Material Culture Minute No. 2 (#TMCM): What can We Learn from a Rail Spike?

One theme we explore in 7th and 8th grade American History is movement.  Whether trekking across the Appalachian Mountains before the Revolution, steaming up and down the Mississippi, or navigating the dangers and adventure of the Oregon and Santa Fe trails, American history is a history of a moving people.  

The expansion of American railroading is a topic of great interest to me, mainly because of how it affected popular culture, material culture, politics, race relations, and the landscape.  The second installment of "The Material Culture Minute" explores an object deeply tied (I will not apologize for that pun) to railroad history, a rail spike.

Below are two videos I've shown in class when discussing American rail culture.  Both are the famous song about John Henry, the steel-driving man, but done in two completely different ways.  The first is by George Pegram and is done in his traditional old-time way.  The second is from the great bluesman, Mississippi Fred McDowell.  I like students to listen to both and hypothesize why two different cultures embrace John Henry as an integral part of their folk music.   

Remember, all TMCM episodes are available by selecting the link on the blog and are free to use with a Creative Commons Attribution license in your classroom, if you would like.  Also, be sure to check out the TMCM #2 Resources for a transcript, links to accompanying resources, and class discussion questions.  This is primarily a resource for use in my classroom next year, but you are welcome to use it to increase object-based history inquiry in your room as well.

Thanks and keep driving,

Monday, April 24, 2017

It's Alive! Challenging Students to Create their own Breakout Game

During the final week of March, I lost my mind.

Classes were starting to get stuck in a routine.  Now, I'm not opposed to routine, but I do get bored easily.  We were nearing the end of our American Revolution unit and I wanted students to do something that would let them practice using what they had learned and give me an opportunity to assess their understanding of our learning targets.
"Plan a Breakout game!  It's the perfect way to practice and assess."  That's what the angel on my shoulder told me as I pondered what to do.  
Turns out that angel was a little wicked, because it only told me half the story.  Asking students to plan a BreakoutEDU game is an incredible way for them to review material and for me to see what they do and do not know.  It's also a logistical nightmare!  

This post was written for a couple of reasons: 
  1. To share how I structured this activity
  2. To seek suggestions for improvement
How I structured the activity

I started by determining a goal and what items were essential for me to assess student understanding.

As a class, we discussed what was expected and brainstormed ideas for our story and how students would incorporate what they had learned into the game.  Students were then divided into small groups and tasked with creating a story and rough outline of how their game would work.  We met together the next day and each group shared its ideas before we voted as a class on which game we would like to build on.

We decided to use the stock BreakoutEDU materials for maximum playability and discussed what we would need to do to complete our game in three days.  I asked for volunteers to form teams to address those needs before students then began working in self-appointed groups.  Some students moved to teams once their tasks were done or if they felt they would be more successful.

On the third day, we came back together as a class and mapped out the game on the board.  Seeing it visually helped students figure out which items were used, if all clues led somewhere else, and if the game sounded achievable and like something they would want to play.

I asked each team to nominate one person to represent them during the final phase of game creation, the set-up instructions.

One way I excited the students about this activity was mentioning that I would like to submit these games for inclusion either on the BreakoutEDU site or in the sandbox.  I gave the new team a blank game template from BreakoutEDU and tasked them with "making the instructions" for our game.  

We played the games on Monday and, well, see for yourself.

What went well?

  • Using the stock BreakoutEDU materials makes the game playable by anyone with a basic kit.  The limited materials also encouraged students to create additional puzzles and clues.
  • Discussing expectations as a class kept students focused on the end goal.
  • It was encouraging listening to students brainstorming as a class.  It provided an opportunity for me to hear what they knew, what excited them, and actually seemed to encourage less vocal students to participate.
  • Overall, students chose well in the creation of the set-up instructions teams.
  • Using the template provided by BreakoutEDU helped ensure the game came together.
  • Three days seemed like a good amount of time to complete this activity. (Most) students didn't lose interest and they weren't rushed.

What needs improvement?

  • Some students pouted for three days because their suggestions weren't chosen.  I know there's always some hurt feelings, etc. with middle school students, but still, it was annoying.
  • Most self-appointed teams stayed on task, with some students even moving to another team in order to keep from getting distracted.  However, a few teams were distracted and distracting.
  • Although many of the quiet students spoke up during brainstorming, it was the loudest students that drove the direction of the product.
  • Some students tried turning all responsibility over to the students who are perceived as "the smart kids".  How can I increase students' self-efficacy? 
  • I was too involved in mapping out the game on the white board.  I tried turning over almost complete control to the students, but still had to lead the discussion to complete the game map.
  • Students struggled writing explanations for how to set up the game they created!
I challenged my History Lab! honors students (featured in the video above) and had to alter gameplay due to not having five Breakout kits.  I asked History Lab! what they thought about the games.  They said:

  • Some clues didn't connect well
  • Required content knowledge they didn't have
  • Fun to play when the game clues all worked
I think there's a lot of benefit to using BreakoutEDU in the classroom and allowing students to make their own games.  Hopefully, we'll try this again next year with a better plan and it will run smoothly.  

Have any of you led students through designing their own Breakout games?  What process did you use?


"Design Your Own Breakout Game" Student handout

Sunday, April 23, 2017

The Material Culture Minute No.1 (#TMCM) Mystery Sphere from Fort Davidson

Last week I shared a project I've started working on called, "The Material Culture Minute".  TMCM will be a series of short videos focusing on one or two historical objects.  I plan on using these videos in class next year to introduce more material culture study into every unit.  

The plan is to introduce a new video every Monday on the blog and they will be cataloged on the TMCM page (link is in the menu on the right side of the blog).  Although these will be created for use with my classes, I am sharing them through a Creative Commons Attribution license for other teachers to use in their classrooms as well.

Make sure to click here for the video transcript, links to resources, and class discussion questions to accompany the video.

Here's to teaching history through objects,

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Introducing: "The Material Culture Minute"

A few weeks ago, during a week-long blogging challenge, I was reminded of how much I love teaching with objects and place.  I use material culture in my history classroom quite a bit, but I want to incorporate it better into my entire curriculum, instead of just hit or miss within different units.

To help accomplish this, I'm creating a series of short videos called, "The Material Culture Minute".  This series will follow a simple format: present an object, or a couple of objects, and ask students to think critically about the object(s).  Each video will be around a minute long and will include resources for discussing the object(s) with a focus on sourcing, contextualization, corroboration, and close-reading.

This series will be used in my room throughout the upcoming year as bell-ringers, exit tickets, and incorporated into units.  As videos are finished they will be posted on "The Material Culture Minute" page (the link is in the blog menu to the right) and are shared under a creative commons license for use in your classroom.

My plan is to release one every Monday, with the first one next Monday, April 24 (over a Civil War cannon ball).  However, it's standardized testing season and the end of the school year, so that schedule may not be fixed.

Here are some other recent posts related to object- and place-based education:
"Why I Teach History with Place"
"The Power of Place"
"How to Start Teaching with Objects in Only 5 Minutes"
"Engineering a Flood Prevention System for Cahokia"
"Historical EDC (Everyday Carry)" 

Again, these are created to help me incorporate object-based inquiry into my classroom, but I hope other teachers find them useful.  If you do try the video series with your classes, please let me know your experience.

Trying new things together,

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Spreading Misinformation: Revisiting Fake News

The other day on Twitter, this post caught my eye.

You can read the Washington Post article here.* At the beginning of second semester, I welcomed students back with an activity on fake news (I wrote this blog post about it).  One of the elements of that activity involved a story about George Washington's body being stolen from the tomb at Mount Vernon and carried through the wilds of Virginia at the start of the Civil War.

We just finished the American Revolution and will cover government, including the Washington and Adams administrations and the election of 1800, before the year's out.  The Washington Post article got me thinking about how I could bookend second semester with GW and fake news.  Bonus points if I could figure out a way to incorporate my favorite 18th century figure, Jefferson, "doing whatever the hell it is [he] does in Monticello"!  

My goal for this lesson is to allow students to build on the skills of identifying fake news learned in January, compare primary sources, and apply the methods of creating fake news to another historical figure; and what better figure to spread rumors about than Jefferson? 

I like to think of Washington as the man who embodied popular ideas of virtue and Jefferson as the man who promoted the ideas of virtue.  I love TJ and the kids know it.  They've read his words, virtually visited Monticello, sourced objects from his life, and used Monticello as a model for designing new public buildings (in History Lab!).  I figure that they've been exposed to his words and ideas enough to make some relatively believable propaganda.  Plus, I think know they'll take some weird enjoyment from crushing the reputation of one of my historical heroes.   

"And Another Thing, Mr. Age of Enlightenment"** Lesson Plan
  1. Review fake news and discuss how it can be spotted.
  2. Have students read the Washington Post article, reading closely for specific items in the text, ex. what the fake news implied, what methods were used to make it believable, who was responsible, and how it affected Washington.  Students should share out their answers.
  3. Hand out an excerpt from one of the "spurious" letters (the entire book from the Evans Early American Imprint Collection) and an excerpt of one of Washington's actual letters (I like this example from the Papers of George Washington).  Do not tell students which letter is fake.
  4. Students will read the two letters, hypothesizing which letter is the fake, and why they believe that before sharing in a class discussion.
  5. Unmask the fake letter to great celebration or dismay.
  6. Introduce the letter from Washington to Mathew Carey, 27 October 1788.  Read through it with students, pausing to highlight methods making the spurious letters believable.  Ask students if they believe writing believable fake news is a simple or complicated thing and why.
  7. Hand out the "A True Relation of A Most Unfortunate Incident Involving Mr. Jefferson" template and inform students they are going to practice crafting a fake news element about Thomas Jefferson.
  8. Students will spend some time reviewing the 1800 election, events in Jefferson's life, and reading samples of his writing.  Remind them to keep those methods of making a story believable in mind as they review.
  9. Assign students the task of adopting a persona to unmask some scandalous news about Jefferson and writing a fake letter/letters as Jefferson to be included in this expose. Use the "A True Relation..." template as a guide.
  10. We will probably do a gallery walk and post our fake news somewhere with real letters from Jefferson mixed in.  We can even ask other students to guess which letters from Jefferson are real and which are fake.
I'll introduce this lesson after students have explored the election of 1800 and the campaign tactics utilized throughout.  I have a few weeks before I try this out and, as a work in progress, I would love to hear your ideas for improvements and extensions.


*The Post article deals with the publication of seven spurious letters assembled together and released in a book in London in 1777.  These seven letters, purportedly written by GW to Lund Washington back at Mount Vernon, cast doubt on the General's faith in the American cause and their ability to defeat the British.

**Shout out to "Cabinet Battle #1" from Hamilton.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Why I Teach History with Place

Summer workshop and fellowship acceptances and rejections have started rolling in.  I won't know about all of them that I applied for until May 20, but I've started planning my summer travels.  Working on another blog post the other day, I came across the draft of a post I started in January but never finished.  Although I want to build on it sometime in the future, I feel it's appropriate given the season and the object-based and place-based posts I've got on deck.

Why I Teach History with Place [Draft]

I had the honor of attending the best PD of my teaching career in three different locations this past summer and, at each site, I walked in the footsteps of the past.  Standing on the hill of Monticello's south dependency this summer, a thought came to my mind: "This is where Jefferson walked".  Now, you can praise or damn Jefferson to kingdom come, but you can't steal the history nerd goosebumps that accompanied that realization.

I ate in Jefferson's garden and imagined him pottering around, making notes about peas.  I stood "in the room where it happened," was dwarfed by his "Indian Hall," and walked through the dependencies and slave cabins that make up the hidden story of Monticello.

Unlike textbooks and documentaries, places force a person to adjust.  Modern bodies are often out of sorts with historic stairs, ceiling heights, and furniture.  Add unpredictable temperatures and smells and the experience intensifies.  Put historic tools or objects in someone's hands and ask them to complete a task and watch what happens.  I teach history with place because it forces change.

After a short train ride and a few days exploring Alexandria on my own, I settled in for the George Washington Teacher Institute at Mount Vernon.  I watched the sun rise over the Potomac from the same spot as George Washington and rode the boundaries of his farms, just like he did (minus the horse and with the comfort of air conditioning).

There are two fences off the main entrance of the main house at Mount Vernon.  Beyond those fences is where the work of Mount Vernon happened and where the human engine of the estate operated.  It was a powerful experience to stand there and imagine the lives on both sides of the fences: master and slave.  Of course we know about the abstract differences and separation between black and white, but place also teaches about the physical separation.  I teach history with place because it defines abstract ideas.

There are two museums in Deerfield Village, a day trip from New Haven, where we explored the infamous raid of 1704 with historian John Demos.  More than just exploring the raid, we explored how the story of raid is told and asked what implications that had for teaching colonial American history.

Library of Congress

Historic Deerfield offers a picturesque walk along well-maintained streets and tours inside select homes, including the Wells-Thorn house.  Costumed docents lead visitors through an architectural reconstruction of several interior layouts and styles from 1725 to the 1850s.  Historic Deerfield offers classes, demonstrations, a well-appointed gift shop, and colorful maps.  Around the corner is the Memorial Hall Museum, run by the Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association, and stacked to the rafters with local history.  This is a true local/regional museum with a variety of object ranging from antique farm implements to modern Native American art and even a famed door from the 1704 raid complete with hatchet marks.

Historic Deerfield provides a rich educational service and excels at maintaining historical properties.  They also know how to continually attract people to Deerfield, Mass.  However, that door in Memorial Hall told me more about the Deerfield Raid than an entire day just walking through town.  Objects and place combined to tell the story of an event from both sides. The home on the other side of that door was a fortress and an obstacle.  I teach history with place because it teaches perspective.  

I would encourage you to start incorporating place into your teaching.  Even if students haven't been there, bring your experiences back to them.  Show videos, pictures, and objects.  Skype or do a Google Hangout with them if you're somewhere while school's in session.  Take a virtual field trip, create a Thinglink, have a Twitter chat with a curator, something!  Place can add dimension to any subject area, not just history.  

Get out and explore, but don't forget to bring something back with you.


Sunday, April 2, 2017

Historical EDC (Everyday Carry)

I was fortunate enough to participate in the Monticello Teacher Institute in 2016 and, while at Monticello, saw a display of items Jefferson carried on his person every day.

This got me thinking about a topic I was very interested in for about 6 months a few years ago: EDC, or, Everyday Carry.  One of those blog rabbit holes that I went down and stayed awhile, EDC asks a simple question: what do different types of people carry with them? Imagine thousands of Tumblr pages of neatly arranged junk from your purse, backpack, or pockets.

                                        Photo by user: MACZTER

Connected to EDC are sites like The Selby, that take viewers inside the personal spaces of artists, chefs, designers, writers, etc. and groups photographing things they would carry from a burning building.  I imagine I'm drawn to topics like this because I love objects and material culture and what they say about people and society.  So, as I thought about Jefferson's EDC, I debated whether this could be done in my classroom.  My students will soon be examining Washington's first term as president and I plan on trying an EDC-inspired lesson over that topic.

As I begin to frame the lesson, I want to keep a couple of key questions in mind:

1.  How can we help students see historical figures as everyday people making everyday decisions, instead of seeing them as icons who lived for posterity?  

2.  How can we help students realize that they are "making history" right now?  

I also want students to be mindful of their answers and justify each object they "take" from Washington's pockets.

As I spend more time on the mechanics of this lesson it will undoubtedly change, but this is what I have right now.

How could you use the EDC concept in your classroom? How can this foundation be approved upon?


Friday, March 31, 2017

How to Start Teaching with Objects in Only 5 Minutes**

Method #1

1. Make a copy of the "Object Story" template, available here.

2. Go to the Smithsonian Learning Lab online. 

3. Search for a topic you cover.

4. Choose an interesting object.

5. Copy and paste it inside the frame on the "Object Story" template.

6. Use as a bell-ringer, exit ticket, or in-class writing prompt.*

*I have students analyze with a quick 5W+H strategy.  Who, What, Where, When, and Why the object was created? How did the object either reflect or shape people during the time period?

Method #2

1. Print off the "Primary Source Analysis Tool" from the Library of Congress.

2. Locate the Library of Congress' "Digital Collections" page.

3. Search for a topic you cover.

4. Choose a collection to browse what objects are available.

5. Select and object and have students analyze it using the graphic organizer from the LoC.

**I realize browsing objects will take more than five minutes, but hopefully you see how easy it is to get started on creating an object-based classroom.

Monday, March 27, 2017

What I Learned by Vlogging an Entire Week

After years of false starts, I began blogging in earnest this calendar year.  My district was on Spring Break last week and I challenged myself to blog and vlog for seven days.  Because I've been inspired by the #GoOpen movement and have become passionate about sharing work with other educators to improve the impact of our discipline, I decided to blog and vlog about my classroom and activities and resources that have been successful throughout the year.  

During what I called, #OERWeek, I shared a variety of resources for use in anyone's classroom.  On Twitter, I connected with some like-minded educators, was encouraged and challenged, and had opportunity to reflect on my practice.

Here are five big takeaways from my blogging and vlogging experience:

1. It took a lot of work (and a little embarrassment) 

I watch vlogs on YouTube and some are polished and even cinematic while others capture life in the moment.  I tried going for somewhere in between and it took forever.  Most of my vlogs are around 8-10 minutes, but it took me between 1-2 hours for each.  Figuring on the low end, that's roughly 7 hours to produce 56 minutes of footage.  I can't imagine the time/devotion it takes for a more cinematic entry.

Vlogging was also uncomfortable.  I was raised before the shift in "selfie culture" and it's strange to me to film myself, edit what I say, and share it with the world...opening myself up to people I've never met.  That being said...

2. It forced me to reflect on my practice

If you ever want to test the meddle of your curriculum and/or approach to teaching, record yourself talking about it, listen to yourself repeatedly for an hour while editing, and then share it with other educators.  I learned about holes in my curriculum I didn't realize were there.  I discovered areas I need to improve in, not just my curriculum, but in my practice and relationships.  I also found the places my approach to teaching works and starting thinking of ways to focus on those places.  

3. It connected me to people I wouldn't encounter otherwise

Twitter is, hands down, the best professional development out there.  I have restructured entire units based on Twitter chats and have been given access to places I can't just take off and visit and research that improves my curriculum.  However, Twitter connections are limited and there are people I would never connect with by the traditional Twitter algorithms.  By hashtagging my blog posts during #OERweek, I met educators I didn't follow who shared my posts, which got viewed by their followers, which got retweeted to their followers, and on.  

4. It put me in the shoes of my students (for just a minute)

Everyday we ask students to get uncomfortable.  We expect them to try things they may not excel at in areas they might not like or may struggle with.  Blogging everyday and, especially, vlogging got me uncomfortable.  I tried something new and had mixed success.  How often do students feel this way?  Are we even aware of how they feel as they reach outside familiar territory?  The experience of #OERweek is one I will try to remember as I push students to venture into strange and unfamiliar educational experiences.

5. It encouraged new ideas

I started drafts of eight new blog posts while writing/recording posts for #OERweek.  I developed an idea for a weekly series of vlogs I'd like to do on material culture for use in classrooms.  I also connected with a couple of local sites to discuss how to incorporate local history in the classroom and online through blogging and social media.  It's difficult to start and can be embarrassing or even intimidating, but it's paid off for me.  I encourage you to take a risk and see what comes of it.

Below are the vlogs for each day of #OERWeek 2017.  I would love to hear from you if you plan on using or have used any of the resources mentioned in the vlogs in your own classroom.  Also, please use the hashtags #OERWeek, #OER, and/or #GoOpen if you share out resources from your own classes or want to connect.

Day 1: Teaching Students to Do History
Day 2: Age of Exploration HyperDocs
Day 3: English Colonization App Smashing
Day 4: Working Backwards in History to Save Jamestown
Day 5: Planning a Revolutionary Dinner Party
Day 6: Student Engineering-Cahokian Flood Prevention
Day 7: Student Innovation and Inventing for Our First President

Thanks for following along and, hopefully, the journey's just beginning.