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Thank you, George Takei, for reminding us. The Bill of Rights should not be taken lightly.

Yesterday at the final keynote of the 2020 NCSS national conference, author and actor George Takei shared his experience growing up in what he called an American concentration camp. As a five year old, he and his parents were forced into several different camps during World War II simply because their racial ethnicity.

As he shared his experiences and connected them to contemporary issues such as #BLM and Muslim bans, I flashed back to an earlier History Tech post highlighting the 75th anniversary of Executive Order 9066, FDR’s executive order legalizing the internment of thousands of American citizens like five year old George.

Takei’s session was a good reminder about the power of the Bill of Rights and what can happen when we ignore its principles. As you continue to plan your instruction the rest of the year, don’t shy away from telling the story of America even when it makes you uncomfortable. One way to do that? Lean into using primary sources like Takei’s personal story that document the topic.

Takei shared a bit about his recent graphic memoir titled They Called Us Enemies. It’s a perfect (and powerful) way to begin a conversation around Executive Order 9066. Use the available teaching resources and discussion guides to hook your kids and get them asking the right sorts of questions.

Another way? Use photographs, like the ones taken by Dorothea Lange. Read more

History books make the best gifts. Some resources to kickstart your shopping list

We all know that the best holiday gifts are books. And the best books are history books.

Perhaps you need some gift ideas for a friend or loved one. Perhaps you need to make a few oh so gentle reminders to those buying your gifts.

Ah, heck. Feel free to buy these for yourself. After the fall you’ve probably had, you deserve something nice. (And don’t forget to buy local!) No matter why you’re looking for a book, the lists below have got you covered.

Where should you start?

Read more

I’m still loving hexagonal thinking. And so should you.

I can’t remember where I first learned about hexagons in the classrooms. But I’ve loved them ever since I started exploring the idea. If you’re already using hexagons, good on you. You are excused. (Though feel free to hang around for a quick refresher and maybe a couple of new tools.)

If you’re not quite sure what I’m talking about, you’re in the right place.

Using hexagonal thinking in the social studies classroom is a way for students to think about and understand connections between ideas, people, places, dates, events – basically all the stuff we’re asking our kids to mess with while they’re in our classrooms. Hexagons are a perfect tool or creating intentional conversations between students and content. They give you a great tool to encourage deep and critical thinking about the foundational knowledge that make up the discipline.

Why are they perfect?

A hexagon can connect with six other hexagons. And those six can connect with even more. So when you put a bunch of ideas or events, people or places on a bunch of hexagons and pass them out to different groups of kids, every conversation and every set of connections will be different, even though the decks of hexagons they received are all the same. The discussions that develop will go in all sorts of directions, with kids asking questions and justifying their connections with evidence. And this works in all the social studies disciplines.

The basic idea? Read more

Throwback Thursday: TPS Inquiry Kits should be on your Faves list

Inquiry is one of the biggest buzz words in the social studies world. And it should be. Having kids use evidence to solve problems is a great way to build foundational knowledge while encouraging critical thinking skills. About I year ago, I ran across a great resource designed specifically to help teachers use and develop there own inquiry based lessons.

So today it’s Throwback Thursday.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Hypothetical.

You’re looking to create an Inquiry Design Model lesson and need some resources. Maybe you and your kids are getting ready to start a problem-based project. Perhaps you need some really good thinking or writing prompts. Or four or five engaging primary sources to add to your instructional unit.

Where do you go to find what you’re looking for? What’s your go to?

The Library of Congress, National Archives, and SHEG are my top three. But I’ve got a new favorite.

Developed by the folks at Maryland Public Television, the Maryland Department of Education, and the Maryland Humanities Council with funding from the Library of Congress Teaching with Primary Sources program, the recently created Social Studies Inquiry Kits give you access to great questions and powerful primary sources.

Each kit contains three guiding questions, five primary sources, and one secondary source. The Inquiry Kits are designed specifically to help as you plan your instruction. We know that it can be hard to work with primary sources in many of our classrooms. Sources are often not accessible, because of illegible text, high reading level, or simply a lack of interest on the part of students.

So how can Inquiry Kits help? Read more

You need to be using the Smithsonian History Explorer. Seriously.

I thought I knew the Smithsonian History Explorer. I’ve been using it and recommending it for years. But I was wrong. I don’t know the Smithsonian History Explorer.

Not like I should know it. Cause they’ve changed and updated it.

So if you teach US history (or even world), you seriously need to head over and do some poking around. The staff from the Smithsonian  Museum of American History has added so many new resources, lessons, activities, and themes, I guarantee you’ll walk away with all sorts of stuff you can incorporate into your instruction tomorrow.

Start by using the Read more