Skip to content

Yes . . . your class does need a 12 x 8 foot map. (And online interactives)

Right after my two dream jobs of working at the Library of Congress and the Smithsonian Museum of American History, I’m planning to pop over to National Geographic for a few years. We’ve been connected at the hip since I was in 5th grade and first discovered their amazing graphics and maps.

So I’m sure they’d love to hire me to help out a bit around the office.

Until then, I’ll just be happy playing with some of their very cool toys. This includes, of course, their powerful MapMaker Interactive digital tool.

But it also includes their MapMaker Kits: 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

Tip of the Week: 13 history podcasts that you actually want to listen to

Maybe it’s just me. But I have a hard time listening to fiction audio books. It’s a little better with non-fiction but it’s gotten to the point that I don’t even try.

But listening to history podcasts? Absolutely, yes please.

If you haven’t noticed, there’s been an absolute podcast explosion in the last few years. And with that huge spike in available podcasts, it makes sense that there would be more history casts available. The problem, of course, is trying to figure out which podcasts you should spend your time listening to.

I’m here to help.

Today we’ve got 13 top-notch history and social studies related podcasts perfect for making you and your kids smarter. But realize that by top-notch, I mean podcasts that I enjoy – your mileage may vary. There should be  something here for just about everybody. Try them all and then head back to your favorites. Read more

Tip of the Week: Six Super Sweet Social Studies Strategies for Back to School

It’s been an awesome week! Jump started it on Monday working with a small group of middle school and elementary teachers in the great state of Arizona. And am bookending it today and tomorrow with the fantastic staff at Rockdale County schools outside Atlanta. It doesn’t get much better than working with social studies folks who are passionate about their work.

And the super crazy thing?

They all start with kids next Monday. Next. Monday. As in, four days from today. Seriously? I would be so freaked out – worried about all the different things that need to get down to kick off the school year. But both groups have jumped in with both feet – learning new things, sharing their ideas, playing with tech tools.

But it got me thinking. Maybe you’re in the same boat, ready to shove off with kids already next week. If you are, this post is probably a few days too late. But I’m hoping that for most of you, you’ve got at least one or two more weekends before your first student contact day.

To help energize your first awesome week with kids, here are six great ways to kick off the school year. Use what you can. Adapt what you can’t.

What not to do

But before we get too far along with what we know works, it’s probably a good idea to think about what doesn’t. I’ve mentioned Fourteen Things You Should Never Do on the First Day of School before but it’s still a great reminder of what it looks like when we’re doing it wrong. Mark Barnes suggest that your goal should be a very simple one during the first few days of school:

You have many days to assess students’ strengths and weaknesses. You have months to discuss high stakes testing and standards. You’ll spend weeks probing the textbook.

The first day of school should be dedicated to rapport-building and to joy.

Your goal should be that students go home that night and tell their parents: “I’m going to love history class because my teacher is awesome!”

So what should we be doing the first week?

Read more