We all love iCivics. And why not? Tons of useful tools. Simulations. Games. Lots of teaching materials. Oh, yeah. And it’s all free.
If you’re not super familiar with iCivics, it’s good to know why it exists.
“iCivics exists to engage students in meaningful civic learning. We provide teachers with well-written, inventive, and free resources that enhance their practice and inspire their classrooms.”
Simple. Accurate. But not very specific. So what does iCivics have that can help you this spring and next fall? Here are just a few of my favorite tools designed specifically to help with teaching the upcoming election.
In less than a year, all eyes will be on the Capitol steps for the next Presidential Inauguration. It’s going to be a busy year on the political front, and in your classroom. You can help your students become more knowledgeable about the U.S. election system with two of iCivics’ most popular games:
- Win the White House
- Cast Your Vote
Several days ago, a group of us got together to do some Inquiry Design Model creation. And one of our conversations focused on the interactions between indigenous people and European colonists during the early years of the United States. That led to further discussions around Columbus Day vs. Indigenous Peoples’ Day.
As part of that conversation, I asked teachers to read a couple of different articles focusing on primary sources and thinking about the voices that may be missing from the stories those sources are telling. The first article, Teaching Hard History With Primary Sources, is from Teaching Tolerance and provides resources for including voices of enslaved persons in American history.
The second was published just a few weeks ago at Education Week. Titled How Do We Teach With Primary Sources When So Many Voices Are Missing?, the article highlights the difficulty in telling a complete story when Native American voices can be hard to find. Bottom line? We need to train both ourselves and our students to look beyond what the easy to find sources are telling us. It’s what Sam Wineburg called “reading the silences.”
Finding these missing voices is important for a lot of reasons. But one particular quote in the EdWeek article stood out for me: Read more
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
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
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
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:
- 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!