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5 strategies for integrating primary source documents

When I firsted started teaching 8th grade American History, there was no access to primary sources. There weren’t any online archives. DocsTeach? Nope. Stanford History Education Group? Nope. Library of Congress? Nada.

I made due with whatever supplementary materials showed up with my textbook and the few Jackdaw kits that I was able to track down and order. But here’s the thing . . . even if I had somehow gotten access to primary source documents, I’m not sure what I would have done with them. Like most social studies teachers at the time (and more than just a few today), I really didn’t have a clue of how to use primary sources as part of the learning process.

Even worse, I wasn’t really sure why I should be using this sort of evidence. What was the point? Every kid had a textbook. I had a teacher’s version of the textbook. I could lecture. I was set.

But with the help of some amazing mentors, I began moving more towards the idea that kids need to be active users of evidence while solving problems. And there is now a clear shift in social studies and history instruction towards this idea of historical thinking, using evidence, and problem solving. More and more teachers are using primary sources as integral pieces of the learning process.

There has been a cool supply and demand process happening over the last few years. Teachers want and need more primary sources. The internet has made those sources more available and accessible. More availability and accessibility means more teachers are using those sources. More teachers used to this availability of sources demand even more sources.

But there will always be questions about how to best use primary sources. A recent article by Discovery Ed’s  does a nice job of highlighting five effective integration strategies. I’ve pasted a quick summary of Joe’s thinking but be sure to head over to Discovery Ed to get the full meal deal: Read more

Yom HaShoah: Holocaust Remembrance Day teaching resources

“When teacher Mary Beth Donovan prepared her students to read Anne Frank’s diary 10 years ago, she screened a selection of the famous newsreel clips shot during the liberation of Nazi camps in 1945. Astoundingly, after watching the films, some of Donovan’s students began referring to the genocide and Anne Frank as “fake” events that had not occurred.

Noting that most of her class listened to the conversation as ‘silent bystanders,’ Donovan knew she faced a challenge. The eighth grade teacher at the Tenney Grammar School in working class Methuen, north of Boston, recognized that students needed a connection between their own lives and Holocaust victims who appeared remote and irrelevant.”

This is not news to many of us. Mary Beth’s situation is not unique. I think we live in a world where many of our students either are not familiar with the Holocaust or have been exposed to revisionist and inaccurate versions.

That needs to change.

Part of what we can do is participate in the yearly Yom Hashoah observance. This day of remembering the Jewish Holocaust of the 1930s and 40s corresponds to the 27th day of Nisan on the Hebrew calendar. Days of Remembrance ceremonies are linked to the dates of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.

The list of resources below can help you plan activities and guide conversations among your students: Read more

Tip of the Week: Google Save is new tool for archiving sites / photos

I’m a huge Pocket user. I’m either saving to or reading from Pocket multiple times every day. It’s a tool I ran across several years ago and continue to love. It’s a read later / bookmarking app that lets me save online articles and sites for later access. I use it all. The. Time.

But I am also a huge lover of all things Google. So when I learned of a new Google Chrome extension called Save to Google, I had to give it a try. (Not familiar with Chrome extensions?) Save to Google lets you quickly save images and websites with a click of a button to a new Google tool called Google Save. You can then have access to these sites and images whenever or wherever you are.

And while Save to Google is unlikely to replace my Pocket crush anytime soon, it is something that might be very useful for you and your students right now. Especially if you’re working in a Google Apps for Education school, all of your kids already have Google accounts, and you’re all looking for an easy way to archive images and bookmark websites.

Think research and saving articles for later access. Think cross-device access to articles and photos. Think collecting and easily tagging images of Civil War battles or saving photos of the Dust Bowl for a group digital project. Think saving and sharing online primary sources and documents with students. Think simply a place for your kids to collect and organize all sorts of evidence for a research project.

So how does Google Save work? Read more

Use Timeline JS and Juxtapose for historical thinking awesomeness

Several weeks ago, I gushed about a new tool I had just run across called StoryMap JS. It seemed like an easy to use, nice to look at tool for creating interactive, multimedia historical accounts. Perfect for pushing out teacher created content to students and for pulling in student created content.

And guess what?

That’s right. KnightLabs at Northwestern University, the makers of StoryMap, have some other tools as well. They’ve created something called Read more

“Teaching History Beyond the Textbook” Yohuru Williams and investigative strategies

I had the chance to hear Dr. Yohuru Williams speak last Friday the National Council for History Education. He started by sharing three things:

  • the Civil Rights movement is more than 1954-1968
  • the Civil Rights movement is more than just the South
  • the Civil Rights movement is more than just securing political opportunities

He continued by using what he calls #BlackLivesMatter moments – events that shape the movement and impact all of us – to frame the conversation. Need an example or two? Jackie Robinson was court martialed in 1944 as a result of refusing to move to the back of a military post bus. Little Rock Nine member Melba Beals started 1958 by resolving to “Do my best to stay alive until May 29.” Jimmy Lee Jackson protecting his family in Selma. Triangle Shirtwaist factory fire. Love Canal. Flint Michigan.

Seriously powerful stuff.

And while I knew of Dr. WIlliams, I wasn’t that familiar with his background and books. So when a quick Google search turned up a book titled Teaching U.S. History Beyond the Textbook, of course I had to order it. Read more

Tip of the Week: Using beautiful data to create compelling questions

Gapminder is an organization promoting sustainable global development by encouraging the use and understanding of statistics and other information about social, economic and environmental development at local, national and global levels.

Basically it’s a tool you and kids can use to compare and contrast countries around the world. So . . . teaching geography, world history, economics, comparative government? GapMinder is a tool you and your kids need to be using.

At GapMinder, you can access a variety of tools, lesson plans, and videos that help students understand the world and can help you generate a wide range of problems for your kids to solve.

One example of a lesson plan that uses GapMinder data can help your kids to think about the gaps in the world today and challenge their preconceived ideas about how the contemporary world looks. The exercise can also be used to stimulate an interest in using statistics to understand the world.

How to use the activity: Read more

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