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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

9 Social Studies Resources for the End of School

For many of you, the count may already be down to single digits. May and June aren’t the easiest months of the year and I know that you’re hacking your way through the next few weeks, trying to stay on top of stuff. But it doesn’t have to be painful. These resources can help.

Start with this End of the Year Top 10 from @gingerlewman:

Highlights?

  • Breathe
  • Highlight your wins and wishes
  • Thank others
  • Don’t worry so much about grading

Then browse through this quick list of lessons and activities that might make your life a little easier:

And don’t forget the seriously important evaluations from students asking about our teaching practice. You probably already have an instrument that you use to get student feedback but in case you need something, bounce over to this earlier History Tech post for some suggestions.

Have fun the last few weeks – you can do this!

My 10 fave historical movies that every social studies teacher needs to see

I started off by thinking that it would be easy to knock out a quick piece on my top ten favorite history movies. But that idea lasted about a minute. There are so many movies that I’ve enjoyed. And as Amazon, Netflix, and every other online and cable channel are pumping out movies left and right, it’s hard to keep up.

So . . . I decided to make a couple of lists: My top ten faves. Other great movies that aren’t the top seeds. And a list of movies about teachers and schools because . . . well, I enjoyed them.

And since these are my lists and we know that it’s all about me, there isn’t any real criteria for inclusion. Some would be good for instructional purposes. Some not. Some are more historically accurate than others. Others are “based on actual events.”

The only sorta, kinda rule is if the movie appears while I’m channel surfing, it wins control of the remote and must be watched through to the end credits.

So . . . my favorites in no particular order: Read more

Need a handy assessment tool? Make a pie.

I had such a good time today. Any time I get the chance to spend time with a bunch of other social studies teachers, not much can ruin the day. Seriously . . . a whole day talking, sharing, playing with, and exploring the best social studies tools, resources, and strategies?

And during our time together we messed around with a tool that I had almost forgotten about. The Pie Chart.

The Pie Chart is a powerful graphic organizer / writing scaffold / assessment tool / Swiss army knife. It does it all and is drop dead simple. I first learned about the Pie almost a decade ago from social studies super star Nathan McAlister.

Nate was part of our Teaching American History grant as the summer seminar master teacher and used the Pie Chart as a hook activity to kick start a conversation about the causes of the Civil War.

Steps he took: Read more

Clark Griswold would have loved Google My Maps. So will your kids

I spent the morning at Slate Creek Elementary in Newton, observing just a few of the cool things going on there. Lots of PBL. Lots of inquiry. Lots of great student questions.

And one of my favorite hook activities ever.

Tenae Alfaro, Slate Creek principal, is planning a summer trip and so she asked fourth grade kids to do some in-depth research and plan a trip for her. Now . . . I’m not sure she’s actually going go take the trip kids come up with. But what a cool essential and authentic question to ask nine year olds.:

Where should I go on my summer vacation?

So there’s a crowd of fourth grade kids over in Newton doing research on states and monuments and museums and all the kinds of things you might typically do on a cross-country family trip. And one of the tools that would be ideal as part of that final product is Google My Maps.

I’m still surprised by the number of teachers who aren’t aware of this piece of Google’s G Suite. If you’re still not sure what it is, think Google Docs in map form. My Maps supports collaborative editing and sharing, it’s easy to use, and it integrates with all the other G Suite apps. It’s a great tool for helping kids see connections between events, people, and place.

And for the kids over at Slate Creek (or your students,) it’s a perfect way to create rich, deep, and multi-layered visual representations of trips. So use it for planning a principal’s summer trip, as a Google Lit Trip that highlights events and travel in fictional stories, or to chronicle actual trips and events such as Lewis & Clarks Corps of Discovery.

What are some other reasons why I love My Maps so much?

Read more