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Posts from the ‘civil war’ Category

Caption This! Using photos and text to analyze primary sources

One of the most powerful professional learning strategies is also one of the easiest.

You ready for this? You might want to sit down. Ready?

One of the most powerful professional learning strategies is . . . making intentional time for teachers to talk with other teachers. Yup. Teachers yakking with each other. Consultant presentations? Absolutely. Book studies? Yes, please. After school webinars? Sure. But the best PD is often just the two of us sharing ideas over some nachos and a cold beverage. (Hmmm . . . Nacho PD? On a Friday? At 4:00? Today?)

It’s taken me longer than it should have to realize the simple fact that teachers talking with other teachers makes everyone smarter.

You already know this. When two or three social studies teachers get together pretty much anywhere besides the hallway outside their classroom, you’re almost 100% guaranteed to get a great conversation about best practice and great strategies.

I’m lucky. I get the chance to have conversations with so many really great social studies practitioners. Heck . . . just a few days ago, high school history rock star Derek Schutte shared his awesome idea of asking kids to do voice-overs of historical events as if they’re sports casters. I love that idea! Research. Context. Primary sources. Emotional engagement. Student choice and voice. (You know want to know more about that. Make that connection and see an example via Twitter.)

It was last fall during one of those random but powerful teacher conversations that got me hooked on the idea of Caption This. I did some online internetting and found several different variations floating around so I wasn’t exactly sure where the idea for the activity might have started. But I loved the concept and especially appreciated how it asks kids to contextualize and solve problems using visual clues.

So I shared the basic idea with the ESSDACK Social Studies PLC. A recent Tweet from one of my PLC buddies (and former Kansas History Teacher of the Year), Jill Weber, reminded me of our conversation:

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4 things I learned during my #civilwarsupertour

Maybe it’s there.

Maybe it’s not.

But we had to go either way, just to say we did. Because it’s not very often that you get the chance to view the burial site of someone’s arm.

So we followed a dirt road off the main highway down to Ellwood Manor near the Chancellorsville battlefield. We had a great tour of the house, discussed why Union general Sheridan hated his fellow general Sedgwick, and examined the cannon balls embedded in a preserved tree trunk.

And then . . . the arm cemetery.

On May 2, 1863, during an evening scouting ride, Confederate general Stonewall Jackson was shot multiple times by his own troops. His left arm was amputated and he died days later from pneumonia. But military chaplain Tucker Lacy didn’t think that the arm of such a Confederate rock star should end up in a pile of limbs of lesser men. So he wrapped the arm in a blanket and took it to the family cemetery at Ellwood. The chaplain gave the limb a standard Christian burial and placed a marker above the site.

The arm is still there. At least the marker is. Urban legends suggest multiple attempts at reburials including one by a Marine Corps general in the 1920s. After conversations and research, the National Park Service staff there aren’t so sure.

But it was an interesting side trip as a part of the larger Wiebe family Civil War Battlefield Extravaganza. Inspired by Tony Horowitz’s book Confederates in the Attic, three of us spent ten days last month exploring multiple sites, battlefields, and that one cemetery with the arm.

It’s was awesome.

As a self-described history nerd, what better way to spend part of May tramping around places like Gettysburg, Antietam, Chancellorsville, Harpers Ferry, and Corydon, Indiana? I’ve got pictures. Lots and lots of pictures.

But how about four things I learned instead? Read more

Re-mastered The Civil War is going live

Most of us who channel surf – you know who you are – have a list. On that list is what some have called Shawshank movies. Named for The Shawshank Redemption, a Shawshank movie is any video that is so good that if encountered during surfing, it must be viewed to the end.

The Civil War by Ken Burns is that sort of video event. So good that if encountered by any self-respecting social studies teacher, it must be watched until the final minute. Forty million people watched the nine-part series when it first aired on PBS in 1990 and the Ken Burns love helped spark a Civil War craze. Millions purchased VHS copies of the series and the spin-off book. The film also made a star of Ken Burns.

The Civil War will be rebroadcast over five consecutive nights this week. The broadcast, which coincides with the 25th anniversary of the series’ initial broadcast in September 1990, will present for the first time a newly restored, high-definition version. This is also the first time the film will be seen with the same fidelity and framing as the negative that Burns and his co-cinematographers Allen Moore and Buddy Squires shot more than 25 years ago.

So. Read more

Tip of the Week: 40 maps that explain just about everything

It’s actually 149 maps. But I figured that was just a bit of overkill in the title. To be completely transparent, it’s really five different articles about five different topics that all focus on very cool and interesting maps to tell a story.

So you can pick and choose.

Middle school US history teacher? There’s a little bit of the Civil War in there. High school world history? Yup. We’ve got some WWI and WWII. Ancient? Rome and Middle East, covered.

But . . . I can hear a few of you now.

Glenn. I know you love a good map. But what can I, a classroom teacher, do with that many maps? How can these be incorporated into my instruction? And somehow make it about historical thinking?

Well . . . first of all, we’ve already decided that 149 is a big number so don’t use all of the maps. Pick and choose the ones that best fit your specific end in mind and content. And second, remember that one of the best ways to engage the brain and to hook students on content is to create an intriguing problem. Look for a map or two or three that creates a sense of “academic discomfort” – something that doesn’t seem to make sense. Or maybe combine a few maps together to create a narrative that can lead kids in a certain direction.

We’ve used Google aerial photos to hook world history kids before. We can use a similar strategy with middle school US.

So how about this? Read more

Academic discomfort and the problem with history classes

More than several years ago, I asked my daughter, a fourth grader at the time, to work her way through the very cool Plimoth Plantation’s You Are the Historian simulation. It’s a wonderful online tool that asks kids to answer a very simple question – what really happened at the first Thanksgiving. Using evidence and video clips from experts, elementary students develop a thesis and create a final product that addresses the problem.

And I wanted a product review from a true end user. Used to these sort of requests from her history nerd father, Erin plunged in. During the in-depth debriefing over milk and cookies, I asked her a variety of questions about her experience. Much of the conversation is now forgotten but I still remember what she said when I asked her to tell me one thing that she would share with her teacher the next day.

The past is what really happened. And history is what we say happened.

I couldn’t have been prouder.

Of course, Read more

Ripped Apart: A Civil War Mystery

The Smithsonian has always been one of my favorite museum / museums. I suppose a person could add up how many museums, exhibits, and collections they have but who has that kind of time?

There is just so much you can interact with onsite but they also have an incredible online presence. And now, via a handy email from the iTunes people, I just found out that they’ve entered the mobile app world.

The iTunes App Ripped Apart: A Civil War Mystery is their latest cool tool. From the app description:

Ever wondered what it’s like to work at the Smithsonian? With the sudden and curious departure of her last intern, Museum Curator Isabella Wagner needs your help solving a mystery dating back to the Civil War. Could there be ghosts trapped in the basement of the National Museum of American History? Read more