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Tip of the Week: 25 moments that changed history

I ran across an article on my Flipboard from Time the other day. Titled “25 Moments that Changed America,” the article highlights “instances big and small that cleared the way for something greater to come after. Many of those moments are easy to name: the assassinations, the invasions, the elections. Many are more subtle, their impact visible only in hindsight.”

You see lists like this every once in a while. With some sites, it seems as if that’s all you see. But I click on them anyway. I think we all do. I’m pretty sure there’s some part of the brain that is attracted to lists. So don’t judge my title.

As history folks, we’re especially drawn to that sort of list because, well . . . we’re nerds. We like history trivia. We like learning. We like connecting pieces of the past to the present. So of course we read the list. You’re probably over there right now.

But I also hope that you’re drawn to the list because you know that it might be the foundation for a great lesson or activity. 

So now that you’ve gone over the list, what are some ways that you might use the Time’s list with your kids?

1. Make it about more than US history. Spread it out geographically to other parts of the world – 25 Moments That Changed Europe or China or the English Empire or India or Nigeria.

2. Make it about more than the 20th century. How about a list that focuses on the Middle Ages? Ancient Greece? US colonial period?

3. Make it about your students. They work in groups to develop a list and have to justify their lists. Compare lists. Develop a class list. Argue a lot.

4. Make it about corporate sponsorship. I’ve not really fleshed this one out yet. But there’s got to be a way to tie in Nike or Pepsi or Halliburton to the list – in both positive and negative ways. Could you kids write some sort of list as if it were a commercial?

5. Make it about literacy. Create writing prompts from the list’s content. If the author was a Republican / Democrat / Woman / Man / Politician / European / 1% / Working Class / African, would the list look different? How would the list look 100 years from now? What conspiracy theory best fits this list? Which of the events on the list would make the best action / romance / comedy movie? Why?

6. Make it about the YouTubes. Or Instagram. Or Twitter. Or one of the other 1,000,000 social media tools available. You and your students can use them to ask for input about the list. Or take advantage of their reach to share thoughts and conclusions.

7. Make it about content other than history. Can you or your students create a list that focuses on geography or economics? Government?

8. Make it about rankings. In groups, students use your list and rank them from most to least important. Of course, they have to explain why.

9. Make it about media. Have students create lists focused on historical fiction or movies. What events were the most important in The Name of the Rose or The Watsons Go to Birmingham. Maybe Saving Private Ryan, Gandhi or All the President’s Men?

I’m stopping at nine cause the research says odd numbered lists work best. Pretty sure you can come up with a few more

If you get stuck, there are more lists. Trust me. Tons and tons of lists.

Have fun!


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