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The Vietnam War, Ken Burns, and 7 useful resources

I still remember the week of The Civil War by Ken Burns. It was early in my first teaching position as an 8th grade US history teacher in Derby, America. And it was amazing. So Ken and I have continued to hang out over the last few decades.

Jazz. Baseball. World War II. The Roosevelts.

And now . . . Vietnam.

But this one feels different somehow. Still mesmerizing. Still great production values. Still engaging. Still solid history. But maybe it just feels too recent to be comfortable history.

Vox writer  Read more

Memes: Fun waste of time or incredible literacy integration tool?

We all love a good meme. Visual. Easy to understand. And just the right amount of snark.

But can we use them as part of our instructional designs? Or are they just a questionable way to spend way too much time online? Ask me that question five years ago and I probably would have said waste of time. Fun, sure. But a waste of time.

Now?

I’m starting to believe the combination of visuals and text needed to create a good meme can be used in a variety of ways.

So . . . today, a few meme / social studies / literacy integration ideas: Read more

Be part of a super big lesson plan. (And change the world while you’re at it.)

Some of the best days of the school year are when I get the chance to spend time with the #ESSDACK social studies PLC. Yesterday was one of those days. We talked about a ton of things including the idea of Twitter chats as a professional learning tool. Most of the group already have Twitter accounts and some like @JillWebs@thewarsnak@coachschutte, and @megan_nieman are more serious users. But it was fun working together with the whole group to do a sample online chat with everyone in the room at the same time, exploring the power of scheduled chats. Lots of learning and discussion.

But I’m always amazed at the rabbit hole that you can fall into once you start with the Twitters. And yesterday was no different. As several of us were exploring different social studies hashtags, I ran across something called the World’s Largest Lesson.

The goal of the WLL is simple – support and foster the idea of Sustainable Development Goals.

Several years ago, a ton of world leadership folks got together and finalized 17 different things that will make the world a better place. They titled them the Sustainable Development Goals.

Basic stuff like zero hunger, quality education, reduced inequalities, peace and justice. Yeah. The biggies. Saving the world kinds of things.

The cool thing is that they also developed a plan for actually finding ways to make it happen. To follow through and find solutions.

Another cool thing? Read more

Tip of the Week: 11 Awesome Constitution Day Resources You Know You Need

We all know the story. A group of guys from different parts of the country with different ideas of how to govern got together and came up with a pretty amazing document. It’s a great story with a pretty amazing cast. (I’m looking at you #Hamilton.) And we all have our favorite actors in that story. My fave?

Ben Franklin.

He’s kind of like the sleeper pick in your fantasy football league – everyone knows he’s out there but they ignore him because all the focus is on Jefferson or Madison or one of the other first rounders. But you draft him anyway cause you know he’s got the skills.

Ben was smart, irreverent, great with people, well-read, the ladies loved him, he had that whole kite / electricity / scientist thing working, and was by far the best part of 1776 and John Adams. What’s not to love?

And so it’s fun to go back and read some of what Ben had to say about the document he was preparing to sign in 1787: Read more

WorldGeoChat is my new best bud. I couldn’t be happier.

I get the chance to meet lots of people around the country. And I consider almost all of those people to be friends of mine, even the Denver Bronco tee shirt wearer folks.

But I just found a new best friend. And I couldn’t be happier.

WorldGeoChat has a relatively new website with a bit longer Twitter hashtag presence. And while I’m just getting to know them, am pretty sure that we’ll end up together for the long term.

Seriously. This is good stuff.

Worldgeochat began in Read more

The Oregon Trail, GBL, and 7 suggestions to integrate gaming in the classroom

I had a flashback moment a few days ago as I was reading Lance Mosier’s sweet blog post You Died Of Dysentery! Resources on The Oregon Trail.

First year of teaching. Derby Middle School. Five sections of US history. One section of reading. Thirty plus kids per section. Kansas August with no air conditioning. I was absolutely clueless. And excited about the possibilities.

Desperate to figure out how to fill the time while also hoping to find some sort of instructional focus, I ran across a simple turn by turn game called Archaeology.

We played it on an Apple IIE desktop, with groups of four students taking turns to “dig up” artifacts that eventually revealed the remains of a 18th century New England farmhouse.  The game ran on a 5 1/4 floppy disc that I protected with my life because we couldn’t find a way to create a usable backup. My goal was that kids would begin to see that we learn about the past by finding evidence, analyzing the evidence, and by asking questions. I wanted to create little history detectives.

And it worked.

Kids were engaged. Conversation was happening. Stuff was being learned. Of course, I didn’t know why. I just knew something good was taking place. It wasn’t till much later that I started connecting brain research to what happened back at Derby.

The concept and theory of Game Based Learning was Read more