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History Nerdfest 2016 Day Two: Strategies to Engage Students in Sourcing Content

Okay. The title had already pulled me in but any session that’s playing the Hamilton soundtrack as you enter the room is destined to be awesome.

Ashley and Brian Furgione are talking this afternoon about ways to encourage and support different ways of sourcing evidence. Yes, they are married. And both are middle school teachers and teach US History / Civics in Florida.

They started with the question:

How can we help engage kids in using primary sources and asking great sourcing questions?

And shared some examples:

Heads Up app or HedBanz game
The Heads Up app (iOS and Android) is a fun way to have kids interact with content, vocabulary, and primry sources. You can add an extra deck as an in app purchase that allows you to create and customize your own cards. There is also a Politcially Correct deck. Once kids get the hang of it, move on to a more hands on version with primary sources. Put images or primary sources on card stock and laminate. One student has a deck of these cards that they hold up to their forehead and have to guess what they are holding. The rest of their group have to describe the different properties of the document or image so that the guesser can figure it out. Encourage kids to use the basic sourcing elements – who, where, when, etc of the document.

I’ve never used the Heads Up app or the HedBanz game but I know elementary teachers using the laminated cardstock idea. They put all sorts of stuff on the cards – vocab, maps, place names, people, events, ideas. It all works. Use as pre-lesson activity to measure prior knowledge and has a great review activity at the end of learning.

Social media

One fun idea would be to create sample (or actual) tweets using historical images. They swept right past this so didn’t catch everything about how kids would be sourcing evidence during this activity. Your thoughts? How might we encourage students to analyze a photo or document before, during, or after tweeting something?

Mystery activity

Ashley shared that this could be either an exit card type activity or used during instruction as a brain break. Simply project a historical image or painting for students to view and ask students (in groups or alone) to to try and figure out the who, what, where, when, and what of the image. They need to provide evidence that supports their answer. The idea being that the students have to source the image using contextual clues.

You could also use more modern images – they used an image from a security camera at the gas station where US Olympic swimmer Brian Lochte and group were involved this summer.

You can get an idea of another way of using this mystery idea by browsing an older post describing something I use called a Visual DEI.

Their next mysimg_5595tery activity is called What’s in the envelope?

They provided large envelopes full of laminated primary sources. Acting as museum docents, we had to arrange the primary sources into a “museum gallery.” Then explain why we organized the images the way we did. We then took a gallery walk to see how other groups organized their docs.

Our guiding question? Predict what the sources all have in common.

Other possible options?

  • Have kids create captions for each of the docs.
  • Students have to pick a limited number of docs that they could put in the “final” museum display.
  • Reorgainze the docs by date or to tell an interesting story.
  • Make it a personal story or a family story (so maybe the teacher purposefully includes docs that make this easier and possible).
  • Pick one or two docs to write a RAFT or narrative
  • Perhaps organize by themes? Or by types of docs.
  • Have kids add to the collection by doing additional research
  • Write a response to document what is missing / what needs to be added.
  • If possible, make it personal to teacher or the local area.

Activity Hide and Seek

I really liked this one that seems like it would worked especially well for elementary students – though I might try it with middle school as well. (And maybe even with HS.)

Project an historical image and then have students “hide” somewhere in the image. Then ask them to think about what they see, smell, feel from where they are hiding. Then ask a kid to be the hider and the other kids have to guess where that person is hiding by asking that person questions. These could be: what do you see from where you are hiding? Is it dark? What does it smell like? Are you standing? Are you crouching down?

I think there are sorts of possibilities with this.

What works for you to engage kids with sourcing activities?


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