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Posts from the ‘gilder lehrman’ Category

So you need a compelling question? How about a couple hundred?

For whatever reason, I’ve gotten into a ton of conversations lately around the topic of compelling questions. Some of the conversations have focused on the creation of quality sample questions as part of the ongoing revision of our current state standards. There’s been discussions with schools and individual teachers as they continue to develop quality curriculum designs and instructional units.

And while there always will be – and should be – conversations about the differences between compelling, driving, essential, and supporting questions, the point remains the same. If we’re going to help our kids become knowledgable, engaged, and active citizens, they need to be solving problems and addressing questions. So quality questions of all kinds are something we need to be incorporating into our unit and lesson designs.

But what can they look like? Read more

History, Art, and Archives of the House of Representatives (and the Senate)

I’m a member of a semi-active Facebook group that was started several years ago following the final session of the Century of Progress TAH project. The group was an attempt by project participants to stay somewhat connected and supported after three years of working together.

We were able to develop a face-to-face PLC that meets four times a year and the Facebook group continues to act as a sort of digital conversation space. Most of us aren’t super active, simply lurking around and picking up the helpful tidbits posted by the few truly active members of the group.

One of those truly active members is Nathan McAlister, middle school teacher at Royal Valley MS. The 2010 Gilder Lehrman History Teacher of the Year, Nathan is one of those seriously gifted individuals, perfectly tuned to be a great middle school social studies teacher. And not only is he a great classroom teacher and GLI Master Teacher, he’s connected to both the state and national Councils for History Education and seems to know everybody in the social studies / history universe.

He’s one of the reasons I lurk on the Facebook. He’s got awesome teaching tips and resources to share. And last week, he did it again.

The History, Art, and Archives of the US House of Representatives.

Who knew? Read more

Jill Weber and historical thinking bootcamp

Jill Weber gets it. She’s a middle school teacher honing her craft in Cheney, Kansas and she is rocking it.

Finding the balance between foundational content and process. Problems to solve. Evidence to analyze. No obvious answers. Academic discomfort. Groups to work in. Hands on. Physical movement. Obvious passion for the subject.

She’s one of those teachers that I would have wanted for my own kids to have when they were in middle school. And I’ve had the opportunity to work with her for almost six years.

She jumped in feet first to our second Teaching American History project back in 2010 and then transitioned into the ESSDACK social studies PLC. She was awarded the Kansas Council for the Social Studies 2016 secondary mini-grant and is the 2016 Gilder Lehrman Kansas History Teacher of the Year. And she shares a ton of her stuff on A View of the Web.

One of her recent posts caught my eye and asked if I could re-post it here. I love her idea of starting off the school year with a historical thinking bootcamp. She wants her middle schoolers to understand what they’re getting into and spends six days training her kids in the basics of thinking and reading like historians.

This is the sort of thing that I think all good social studies teachers are doing but I like that Jill has been very intentional about planning for this type of learning to happen. And while her focus is on middle school and Kansas / US history, this is stuff that all of us need to be doing.

So use what you can and adapt where needed but put these ideas into practice.

(Update: I’ve added these great ideas of Jill to my August 4, 2017 post titled 7 great social studies ideas for back to school.)

Read more

10 things you probably don’t know about Abraham Lincoln

It’s February 12. And we all know what that means.

“Time to go buy Valentine candy?”

Uh . . . no.

It’s Abraham Lincoln’s birthdate. Everyone knows this. Well, maybe not everyone. But for me, Lincoln’s birthday has always been one of the highlights of the year. Seriously. For as long as I can remember, February 12 has been a big day for me.

Lincoln has always been my favorite president. I can remember doing research, if you can call looking at his picture in the L volume of World Book Encyclopedia research, in first grade. And my appreciation for him has only grown since elementary school.

I grew up with the traditional rags to riches story of a self-made man, growing up in the wilds of the American west and becoming president. But he’s become much more complex as I’ve had the chance to spend time with him. Perhaps one of the most powerful professional learning experiences I have ever had was spending a week at Gettysburg College with historian Gabor Boritt.

Lincoln is more than just a tall guy with a really good media team. More than a guy who walked three miles in the rain to return six cents in change and who split wood to make fences.

So today . . . ten things you probably didn’t know about Abraham Lincoln. Read more

46 free history lessons aligned to Common Core

Free. Aligned to reading, writing, and communicating skills. Written by Gilder Lehrman teachers of the year so you know they’re quality.

What’s not to like?

Gilder Lehrman always has good stuff. If you haven’t already created a free teacher’s account over there, you really need to get on it. The list below is just a sample of the 46 lessons and units you can get on their Teaching Literacy Through History page: Read more

Tip of the Week – Gilder Lehrman Teacher of the Year

I think the Gilder Lehrman folks do a great job of pushing the idea that it is possible, and important, to teach American History well. I especially like the work they are doing to support their annual Gilder Lehrman History Teacher of the Year program.

And it’s not just because last year’s state winner from Kansas, Nathan McAlister from Mayetta, went on to win the honor of National History Teacher of the Year. And it has nothing to do with the fact that he won $11,000 and a whole boatload of teaching materials. Or that Nathan, two of his students and their parents got an all-expenses paid trip to Washington, DC to accept the award from former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Conner. Or that he got a personal tour of the Supreme Court building and a special meeting with Justice O’Connor.

Or even that Nathan brought me back hand-picked souvenirs from DC and his tour.


I like the History Teacher of the Year program because it gives us a chance to highlight and encourage those people who do a great job of teaching American history. And now I like it even more.

Gilder Lehrman has changed the way that they start the selection process by allowing anyone to nominate teachers for the award. Yeah, I know! Anybody can nominate a great history teacher! Parents, friends, colleagues, supervisors. The retired lady from down the street who volunteers on Tuesday to help make copies. You can all do it. So . . . get on it.

This year, the award focuses on K-6 teachers. (Elementary and secondary teachers alternate years.)


  • A full-time elementary school teacher of grades K-6 who teaches social studies where there is a major focus on American history (including state and local history).
  • At least three years of classroom experience in teaching social studies with a focus on American history.
  • Evidence of creativity and imagination in the classroom that addresses literacy and content beyond state standards.
  • Close attention to primary documents, artifacts, historic sites, and other primary materials of history, including oral history.
  • Thoughtful assessment of student achievement and progress.

Nomination Process:

Nominations for the National History Teacher of the Year can be made by a student, parent, colleague, supervisor (including department head, principal, superintendent, curriculum director), or other education professional familiar with the teacher’s work.  State winners receive $1,000 and an archive of books and other resources for their school. Each winner is honored in a ceremony in his or her home state.

To nominate a teacher and learn more about the award, visit or contact the Gilder Lehrman National History Teacher of the Year coordinator at or 646-366-9666.

You can also contact your own state coordinator or contact me with questions.

The nomination deadline is February 1 so get on it.

(Be sure to forward this on to tons of people. The more great teachers we find, the better!)

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