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Posts from the ‘art’ Category

Fave posts of 2019: 12 tips and tricks for using music in the social studies classroom

I know that most of you are settled deep into holiday break mode. Getting up a little bit later than normal. Watching football. Eating too much. Catching up on your reading. Trying to decide if The Mandalorian is worth your time. Enjoying family and friends. Not really thinking about the back to school schedule that cranks up in January.

But if you need a break from all of that free time, we’ve got you covered. Between now and the first week in January, you’ll get a chance to re-live five of the most popular History Tech posts from 2019. Enjoy the reruns!


I am not musically inclined. I like music. I listen to music. Love the Spotify. But I don’t play an instrument and karaoke only in large groups. Maybe I just never had the right training but it’s hard to imagine any music teacher being very successful in coaxing out my inner Bob Dylan.

Which is why it’s not easy for me to think about using music as an important piece of social studies instruction. You might be the same way – integrating music and song lyrics into your classroom just isn’t the first or second thing that comes to mind when you’re designing lessons and units.

But it should be.

I was reminded last night how powerful music can be and how we can use it to help kids connect with our content during the weekly #sschat. Focused on the intersection of music and social studies, the chat provided a wide variety of useful ideas and resources.

Led by Chris Hitchcock and the folks at Get Sounds Around, a bunch of us sat around and shared tips and tools. You can get the full transcript over at sschat but here’s a few of the tidbits I gathered:

  • Pre or post learning writing prompt: What would be the music themes for different historical figures? As in, what would Abe Lincoln play at his political rallies? This could be current songs or songs of the period. Explain your thinking.
  • A variant would be walkup music. Most MLB baseball players have specific music playing as they walk to the plate. NBA players have specific music during introductions. What would Harriet Tubman’s walkup music be?
  • Create both mini and full-blown DBQs that incorporate music and lyrics as one or all of the primary sources.
  • Songs and their lyrics are great primary sources, helping our kids to make sense of time, place, events, and culture. Use the National Archives and Library of Congress primary source analysis worksheets to help students make sense of lyrics and context.
  • Songs have been used for protest and social justice forever. Vietnam, civil rights, American Revolution, South African apartheid, women’s rights. If there’s been a protest, there have been songs that have gone along with it. The New York Times Learning Network has a great lesson that models what this might look like in your classroom.
  • The flip side of protest songs might be to have students look at how governments use music to rally support or as propaganda. Perhaps compare and contrast the music of the Allies and Axis governments during World War Two. Look at songs sung in the US during World War One.
  • One #sschat post discussed how US Civil War music was very upbeat, cheerful, and optimistic in 1861 but changed the mood and lyrics changed over time by 1865. Ask kids to look at context and events that may have had an impact on the music of the time.
  • We can ask our students to look at how popular music develops and changes over time. What’s the history of music? How have different groups and their music influenced what we listen to?
  • There are lots of songs that we sing but never finish. This Land of Your Land and Star Spangled Banner are examples of songs with verses that we don’t sing. Why were those verses included by the author? Why don’t we sing them very often?
  • Musicals are great storytelling devices that provide additional context and richness to historical content. Many teachers have been using Hamilton as part of their lessons. The National Council for the Social Studies Social Education journal has a great Hamilton article and this presentation from a recent NCSS conference is also useful.
  • The NCSS has many other articles and lessons on the use of music. Listening for History: Using Jazz Music as a Primary Source and Integrating Art and Music into Social Studies Instruction are two examples. Another helpful article is “I Didn’t Raise My Boy to Be a Soldier:” Ideas and Strategies for Using Music from the National Jukebox to Teach Difficult Topics in History.
  • The American Historical Association published a longer read way back in 1996 titled Different Drummers: Using Music to Teach History that highlights why and how music should be part of what you do.
  • And don’t forget the power of YouTube. So many of the songs – both new, old, mashed up – are available online. This is a no-brainer.

Need some song titles tied to specific topics and periods? Check out these two crowdsourced Google Docs:

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Glenn is a curriculum and tech integration specialist, speaker, and blogger with a passion for technology and social studies. He delivers engaging professional learning across the country with a focus on consulting, presentations, and keynotes. Find out more about Glenn and how you might learn together by going to his Work with Me page.

Historypalooza 2019 – Google Arts and Culture is more than just a bazillion pretty pictures

It comes but once a year. The National Social Studies Supervisors Association and National Council for the Social Studies combined conference. For a history nerd, it’s the winter holiday break, the Final Four, and fresh out of the oven chocolate chip cookies all rolled into one event.

For three days, it’s about conversations that focus on social studies, tools, resources, evidence, and best practices. So what did I learn?

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Kelsey Pacer and Laura Israelsen are my people. They may be more nuts about Googley stuff than I am and love sharing their favorite tools and ideas. I sat in on part of their My Maps session earlier in the week and this afternoon, they’re sharing some great ideas for using Google Arts and Culture.

If you never had the chance to visit Arts and Culture, you really need to set time aside to do some serious exploring. The site is dedicated to Read more

Holy artwork, Batman! Teachers should be using #SeeingAmerica and SmartHistory!

Art is hard. It’s not that I don’t like it. It’s that sometimes I just don’t get it. Maybe it’s modern art that causes me trouble. Maybe I’m just too literal. The piece to the left hanging in Seattle’s art museum? I got nothing.

But with the help of an older sister and a daughter, both strong with the art force, I’ve gotten better at making sense of color, shape, perspective, of context and hidden messages. And with the help of a lot of bright people at places like the Smithsonian and Library of Congress, I’m also getting better at looking at art as a form of primary source information, as another way to understand place and time,

For the last few months, I’ve been highlighting the very cool way that teachers are using Norman Rockwell’s Four Freedoms to help students think about the Bill of Rights and contemporary issues. I love using interpretations of the Boston Massacre by Paul Revere and Alonzo Chappel to talk about historical accuracy and encourage historical thinking. The National Portrait Gallery has been huge in showing me ways that we can use portraits such as the Lansdowne image of George Washington by Gilbert Stuart and John Brown in his US Army blanket by Ole Peter Hansen Balling. And who hasn’t used images such as John Gast’s American Progress to lead conversations about Manifest Destiny and the interactions between settlers and American Indians?

But I’m starting to believe even more in the power of artwork as story and primary source. So it’s always great to find another site and set of tools that help integrate art into instruction and learning. I recently ran across SmartHistory and am loving it.

Smarthistory believes that: Read more

Hot chocolate. The Columbian Exchange. And pirates.

She says that it’s been both a blessing and a curse.

My daughter is in Washington DC waiting to start an internship at the Smithsonian Museum of American History. The position was scheduled to begin on January 14. But . . . mmm, yeah. She’s had a couple of weeks of free time due to the inability of grownups to get along and do important things such as paying people and funding the government. And like 100s of thousands of others, she’s looking forward to getting in to work over the next few days.

The silver lining, of course, is that she’s had a few days to act like a tourist – touring monuments, exploring great little eateries, and visiting museums that have remained open. One of her new faves is the Folger Shakespeare Library. And to be honest, it’s a site I haven’t spent a ton of time exploring until she started texting photos and links to it.

One of the most interesting images for me as a history nerd? Read more

Art. So much more than something hanging on a wall.

Both my kids have always had a strong sense of art, of being able to create visually appealing pieces. (The Rowdie effort to the left by the oldest is not one of his best efforts, though it does accurately convey the family pet’s personality.) We constantly had crayons, painting supplies, easels, and all sorts of other artsy things in use around the house.

I wasn’t much help. My art skills have been described as “creative” and “abstract.”

Both kids continue to share their love for the medium and to help me think about art and artists. And today, a quick conversation with a high school US history teacher meandered down a path that focused on ways to integrate art into our instruction.

So it got me thinking a bit.

We often forget how powerful the arts can be in connecting our kids with social studies content and big ideas. Art, in all of its forms, is a great way to create emotion, generate connections, and build relationships. Whether viewing landscapes, portraits, or historical events through the eyes of contemporary artists, students can get a sense of time, of place, of interpretation that would be impossible using other forms of primary sources.

One of the quickest ways to incorporate the arts is to focus on the visual – paintings, drawings, and images. But I often notice it missing from the toolkits of many social studies teachers. And I’m not exactly sure why. Maybe we’re just not aware of the resources available or the kinds of questions to ask. If we’ve never thought too much about using artwork as an instructional tools, it can be hard finding a jumping off point.

So what can it look like when we intentionally integrate visual art into our classrooms? Try some of these ideas and resources: Read more

Rockwell’s Four Freedoms in the 21st century and rethinking art as history

How great is the Smithsonian? Seriously. Take a few minutes to think about all the teaching goodness that they provide. Learning Lab. History Explorer. Lesson plans. Podcasts. Webcasts. It goes on and on.

But there’s always been a bit of old school in me. So I still subscribe to the print version of the Smithsonian magazine. Yes. You can get many of the print articles at the online version but I like turning pages.

The problem, of course, is between online versions of things and print versions of things, I’m always playing catch-up with my reading schedule. The March Smithsonian just now just made it to the top of the pile and I was blown away by an article by Abigail Tucker.

Titled A 21st-Century Reimagining of Norman Rockwell’s Four Freedoms, the article focuses on the question: Read more