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Posts tagged ‘lesson plans’

Tip of the Week: Black History Month 2015

Okay. I gotta be honest.

Much of what you are about to read is two years old. My thinking hasn’t changed much since February 2013 and well . . . I’m not sure I could write it a whole lot better anyway. So the message and much of the text is the same. The resources are updated.


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Selma: The Bridge to the Ballot – free video and teaching kit

I finally got the chance to see Selma over the weekend. And afterwards, I tweeted out that it’s a “must see.” Having had a chance to digest a bit and talk with others who’ve seen it, I’m still convinced. The movie does a great job of creating a sense of the period, the overt racism and violence, the need for supporting the right to vote, the courage of everyday individuals, and of the thought process behind events.

While some have questioned, perhaps rightfully so, the film’s depiction of President Johnson’s relationship with Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights movement, the message of Selma remains – that the quest for equality and dignity in the United States was difficult and dangerous. And that the work of ordinary folks such as John Lewis, Jimmie Lee Jackson, and Amelia Boynton Robinson still isn’t finished.

The question for many of us is how to best approach such a topic as part of our instructional design. Part of the answer to that question is the sweet – and free – resources over at Teaching Tolerance. Read more

TPS Journal: Hidden Jewel at the LOC

The Library of Congress has always been a go-to for social studies teachers. Lesson plans. Primary sources. Maps. Analysis worksheets. Social media tools. I’m sure it’s already in most of your teacher toolkits and you visit often.

But I’ve also discovered that many classroom teachers aren’t always aware of some of the other goodies buried on the LOC website.

One of my favorites is the TPS, Teaching with Primary Sources, section. And the best part of the TPS section is Read more

Holiday Goodie Rerun III: Hunger Games lesson plans, resources, and activities

I’m sure most of you are doing the same thing I’m doing right now. Spending time with family and friends, watching football, catching up on that book you’ve been dying to read, eating too much, and enjoying the occasional nap.

Between now and the first week in January, you’ll get a chance to re-read some of the top posts of 2014. I may decide to jump in with something current but if I don’t, enjoy this Holiday Goodie rerun.


October 9, 2013
Added a post highlighting 8 Hunger Games lessons and resources

March 26, 2012
I added a post concerning the Hunger Games serieswith links to lessons plans and more maps.

September 2, 2010
Original post focusing on geography


It’s coming. If you haven’t been paying attention and don’t know what I’m talking about, chat for a few minutes with some of your students. I’m guessing that they can help you out.

Yup. That’s right. The third and final movie version of the Hunger Games Trilogy (okay . . . just the first half of the third book. I hate when they do that.) opens November 21 and is already setting records for advanced ticket sales. And it’s likely that the movie will continue to set records after it opens.


Cause people love the book. Seriously love the book.

I became very aware of the power that Katniss and other Hunger Games characters have on people when my daughter and wife started reading the series four years ago. And the more I talked with them and as they shared more about the story, I began to realize the possibilities for integrating that story into social studies instruction.

Way back in September 2010, I wrote

I’ve heard from some that this sort of thing is too much like “entertaining” students. That we shouldn’t have to use pop culture to teach social studies. I disagree. I will use pretty much whatever it takes to engage kids in content. And if the relationship between Katniss, Peeta and Gale hooks students into a better understanding of civic and geographic concepts, we ought to be all over it.

I still believe that. The Hunger Games series gives us a wonderful hook for teasing out some amazing social studies themes and topics.

Hope. And courage. Loyalty and trust. Democracy. The power of the media. Control vs. freedom. The cost of war and violence.

There have been, and will continue to be, conversations about the violence in the series. Author Suzanne Collins shares her thoughts: Read more

History Labs – Creating academic discomfort in your students

Several years ago, during one of our four day summer Teaching American History seminars, 40 of my middle teachers had the opportunity to work with Bruce Lesh. Bruce was teaching high school history in Maryland and had just recently published his sweet book titled Why Won’t You Just Tell Us the Answer? Teaching Historical Thinking in Grades 7-12.

And we got the chance to pick his brain, try out his ideas, and adapt some of his lessons. There was tons of useful stuff but one of my biggest takeaways was that he called his lessons History Labs. As in, here’s a problem. Collect some evidence. Figure it out.

For most of the teachers in the group, this was something new. Common practice – encouraged by our state standards – was to lecture, provide some worksheets, and assign multiple choice tests. The concept of History Labs offered a different and more effective method of teaching and learning.

For me, it wasn’t a new idea. But I loved the name. It highlighted the fact that social studies and history need to be about inquiry and uncertainty. About what one teacher called “academic discomfort.”

More organizations and teachers are creating their own versions of History Labs. The Stanford History Education Group is perhaps the biggest name in the game right now. But it’s always nice to find new tools and examples.

During some teacher conversations in the last week or so, I ran across  Read more

Materials and resources for addressing Ferguson in your classroom

Several years ago, I wrote a quick post highlighting some of the problems that can happen when parents fail to talk about race and race relations with their kids. The post used research from a book called NutureShock: New Thinking About Children by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman and a Wired article by Jonathan Liu. In their book, Bronson and Merryman disprove many of our assumptions about how kids grow up thinking about race and race relations.

One of the the first statements that they make in a chapter concerning race:

It is tempting to believe that because their generation is so diverse, today’s children grow up knowing how to get along with people of every race. But numerous studies suggest that this is more of a fantasy than a fact.

According to Liu and the NutureShock research, here’s how to go about raising racist kids:

Step One: Don’t talk about race. Don’t point out skin color. Be “color blind.”

Step Two: Actually, that’s it. There is no Step Two.

Congratulations! Your children are well on their way to believing that <insert your own ethnicity here> is better than everybody else.

The chapter’s basic premise?

Many families (especially white families – the authors claim 75%) don’t talk about race in appropriate ways. When those conversations don’t happen, kids unknowingly grow up racist while denying that fact by claiming that they “don’t see color.”

It’s an interesting argument that seems to make a lot of sense.

So . . . we need to do a better job of discussing race and white privilege and opportunities and immigration and all sorts of stuff that makes us uncomfortable. Because it makes us better people and makes where we live better places.

But because talking about race and issues like Ferguson makes us uncomfortable, we will often not work very hard to make it happen in our classrooms. But there is lots of stuff out there to help specifically with the Ferguson issue.

Because we can’t not talk about it.


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