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Newseum is a no-brainer for all social studies classrooms


I’ve been on a current events kick lately. A recent newsletter from social studies guru Mike Hasley reminded me of another awesome news resource called Newseum. And apparently I’ve never really posted anything about Newseum here at History Tech.

Not sure how I’ve never gotten around to that. The Newseum is a very cool, actual museum located in Washington DC with a powerful online presence. Their mission is to “champion the five freedoms of the First Amendment through exhibits, public programs and education.” And I know that you’ve got one or two other museum choices in DC but if you’re in the area, the Newseum is a very fun place to spend some time. Last time I visited, they had an awesome exhibit highlighting Pulitzer Prize winner photographs and the stories behind them. Amazing.

But the cool thing is that even if you can’t make it across the country for an actual visit, the Newseum has aton of online goodies that are perfect for social studies teachers.

First things first. Mike’s newsletter highlights just one of the many free things you can get at the Newseum site – a free poster with lesson plan ideas highlighting the theme of Mapping It Out: Freedom of the Press Versus Public Safety during the Civil War. The poster is a replica of an 1861 front page of The New York Herald, which features a large map of the positions of rebel forces in Virginia. The back of the poster offers several lesson ideas, such as decoding the map and the implications of revealing such information.

Second. Download their PDF document titled Newseum Guide to Online Teacher Resources. It’s the perfect place to start. It not only provides suggestions about how to teach current events, civil rights, and the First Amendment, it has a ton of other links, tools, and resources.

Third. Once you’ve requested your free poster, head over to the Digital Classroom that has multiple modules and lessons featuring interactive timelines, archival videos, and downloadable historic front pages through the lenses of historical connections, media literacy and civics.

  • Flexible, ready-to-teach lesson plans and handouts
  • Standards-aligned content, including Common Core
  • Integrated interactives that support media literacy, critical thinking skills and civic engagement
  • Hundreds of primary sources, including historic front pages, photographs and newsreels
  • Video lessons and viewing guides
  • Extension activity ideas
  • Opportunities for students to submit their work

Fourth. Get tons of ready to use lesson plans in three main areas: Media Literacy, History and Civics. Seriously good stuff here.

newseum 1

Fifth. Visit the Front Pages Gallery. A front page can reveal as much about a newspaper and its community as it does about the day’s news.  Each day, the Newseum receives more than 800 electronic files of newspaper front pages from around the world. Eighty of them are enlarged and printed for display in the Today’s Front Pages Gallery.

Find your local paper as well as all of the other 900 papers in their Today’s Front Pages online exhibit. Think about that for a second or two. Compare and contrast. Bias. Perspective. Choices. Priorities. Close reading. Primary sources. Sourcing. Contextualization. Corroboration. All of the things we want kids to be good at – right there, every day, for free.

Sixth. Keep up with the latest news from the Newseum Education on their blog – a mix of content, collection highlights and online dialogues among teachers.

To give you an idea of the kinds of stuff you can do with Newseum resources, go back and review a post I wrote several years ago about a presentation by Mary Beth Tinker of Tinker v. Des Moines fame at a NCSS conference. Mary Beth is working with the Newseum and the Student Press Law Center to educate kids about their rights. And perhaps more importantly, educators. The question they are focusing on?

What is the schoolhouse gate in the 21st century?

They began by asking what kids think about the First Amendment and the Five Freedoms. Basically the First Amendment applies to everyone but the cool discussions begin when we try and define what stuff like “press” and “petition” mean in 2015.

What a great way to start awesome conversations. Simply find or create provocative sentences / photos and have kids discuss them. For example:

  • You can’t censor some speech without threatening all speech
  • For a newspaper to leak this information is nothing more than endangering the nation.
  • Sometimes, it’s not okay for people to protest governmental decisions.

Then ask students – why do people disagree? How should the Amendment be interpreted? Who decides?

  • When and what can students text? At school sponsored events?
  • What hashtags are allowed?
  • Anonymous and off-campus Twitter accounts that refer to specific students during school? Twitter“burn books” that tag students by name?

(By the way, Mary Beth is taking her story and lessons around the country on the Tinker Tour. If you’re anywhere close to one of her stops, you and your kids need to go.)

Newseum folks shared the following online resources as part of their presentation:

How have I not shared this before? Yeah. I don’t know either. So quit wasting time and head on over. And I’d love to hear how you’re using Newseum resources in your classrooms!

3 Comments Post a comment
  1. Reblogged this on Open Doors Literacy and commented:
    I always love free sources for high-quality reading material. I also love resources that integrate literacy and content instruction. Newseum looks like a great site for teachers who want to teach reading, history, and civics through close study of primary sources, and Glenn Wiebe has written a great post to orient you to its offerings.

    March 25, 2015

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