Thursday, January 30, 2014

10+ Ways to Participate in Digital Learning Day on February 5, 2014!

By Nina Kendall

Digital Learning Day will soon be upon us. This event is a chance for us to renew our commitment to educating children in a technology rich environment. You can share your plans and show your commitment by taking the Digital Learning Day pledge. If you are still looking for a few options for your social studies classroom, check out our suggestions.

Freedom Summer: National Youth Summit

Join the conversation at the National Youth Summit on Freedom Summer at 12 pm EST on 2/5/2014.  This is a unique opportunity to use technology to discuss Freedom Summer and the meaning of citizenship with participants in the Civil Rights Movement, other students, and modern activists. Students can submit questions for the summit and hear the responses from those involved. They can gain a sense of common national concerns and the continuing importance of an active citizenry.


Tweet a question about George Washington to the Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington at Mount Vernon using the hashtag above and they will respond.

Take a Virtual Field Trip

Take a Virtual Tour of the White House or another landmark or museum. Visit our pinterest board for more options.

Created Equal

Learn more about the struggle for equality with Created Equal, a National Film Project Created by the National Endowment for the Humanities. Here you can stream an original film and get suggestions about how to incorporate this resource into class.

Go On Mission US

Play a game to explore events of the past. Go to Mission US and then you choose  a mission. You can fight in the Revolutionary War, travel toward freedom, or struggle with the coming railroad.  These free interactive games can be played online or on an ipad or android tablet.  Students can learn and have fun.

ReadWriteThink Printing Press

Use the ReadWriteThink Printing Press to have students create posters or  brochures that show what they have learned and can share with you electronically.

Explore Abraham Lincoln’s Crossroads

Use the flash-based exhibit at the National Constitution Center to explore the political decisions of Abraham Lincoln. Compare your decisions with this talking Lincoln and deeply examine his struggles.

A More Perfect Union

Learn about Japanese Internment and the struggle for Civil Rights at the Smithsonian’s A More Perfect Union Web exhibit. Here you can explore the crisis surrounding the constitutional conflict and citizens of Japanese descent with primary sources, text, and film.


            Use wordle to help students analyze a historic document for major themes and terms. Students simply cut and paste the text into the generator and generate a shape. The word size represents the frequency it is used. This can be the beginning of a conversation about issues of a period or lead to the development of found poetry.


            Use iCivics to engage student conversations about citizenship and government. Teachers can use their digital resources to teach a lesson or have students play an interactive game. In Do I have a Right?, students demonstrate their knowledge of the rights of citizens. In Supreme Decision, students explore how the Supreme Court works. In Branches of Power, students show what they understand about the government.

            Romare Bearden's Black Odyssey
            Visit this site to learn more about the life and works of Romare Bearden. There are audio tour apps of this traveling exhibit available on both iOS and android. There is also a collage creation app available for free on ipads that feature Bearden's backgrounds. Challenge your students to embrace Bearden's remix perspective to make art and craft new stories.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Preparing for the Freedom Summer: National Youth Summit

By Nina Kendall
Just over a week from now the National Museum of American History will host the National Youth Summit on Freedom Summer at 12 pm EST on 2/5/2014 This is an ongoing collaboration among the National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Affiliations, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and PBS's American Experience and the fourth in a series since 2010. Teachers can have their students participate from anywhere across the country. A simple registration is all that is requested. At this point more than 6,000 students are expected to participate.

This is a unique opportunity to use technology to discuss Freedom Summer and the meaning of citizenship with participants in the Civil Rights Movement, other students, and modern activists. Students can submit questions for the summit and hear the responses from those involved. They can gain a sense of common national concerns and the continuing importance of an active citizenry.

While exciting, the National Youth Summit can pose technological and planning challenges for schools. It will certainly pose some challenges in my school. In anticipation of these challenges, I attended the webinar hosted by Naomi Coquillon of the Smithsonian today on how to participate in the Freedom Summer: National Youth Summit. Ms. Coquillon offered advice on how to prepare for and participate in the summit that will help make it more meaningful in my school. The Smithsonian has compiled teacher resources for each phase of participation found here. The Conversation Kit provided would guide students and teachers through each part and help you become familiar with the moderators and participants. You can prepare for the Summit by reading about Freedom Summer or viewing a short clip of Diane Nash from a previous summit. Post-summit activities are provided as well including the option of using Pixton to create graphic novel style written works.

Advice about webcast participation was available as well. The webcast can be streamed live and will be archived as well. If you are lucky enough to be in a 1:1 environment students can participate from individual devices.  At my school we will be watching as a group via projector. It was recommended that at least one computer be available for interaction. Though questions can be submitted in advance and tweeted as well using the #freedomsummer. I will have a laptop set up for students to use and allow them to use their own personal devices if they have them.

I think this will be an exciting event for students and a chance for them to build a personal connection with history. I have my plans in the works. Hopefully this will help get you a step closer.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Reacting to Events Past and Present: An Activity Idea for the Classroom

By Nina Kendall

              History teachers work very hard to help students understand that events are experienced differently by different groups of people. An action that is success for one group may be bitter disappointment for another group. For students it can be a struggle to take a different perspective. Yet this skill is essential to broadening our understanding of the past.

                For teachers, the development of a lesson that helps students do this and is easy to assess is a challenge. One of my favorite activities for perspective taking is called What were they thinking?.  In this activity, students examine an event or speech and then imagine how a group or person would react to the event. They imagine and create the facial expression of a person after this event and write first person expressions of reactions to these events. Creating these faces and writing the “I” statements are an engaging and relatable activity for students. After a decade or more of reality television, students understand that people are going to show their feelings in words and actions. They have certainly discussed what someone was thinking after a major event in their lives or on television.

                I do this activity with high school students after studying the French and Indian War and the Treaty of Paris, 1763. Students choose to express the reaction of the Native Americans, Colonists, or the British. I provide a blank face upon which they draw the facial expression and write “I” statements to express the point of view they choose. This is a great writing and historical thinking activity. My students are focused and thoughtful in their interpretation of the events.

                While I do this with events in the past every year, it is an activity that can be used with current events. Students can read the speeches like the State of the Union delivered tonight and think about how different groups might react. You can ask students to choose from a short list of groups and identify how they would feel about the issues discussed. They would create a face that expressed the reaction of their group and write “I” statements  reacting to the speech  including a specific number of quotes. Here is an example of how to structure the task.

Task: Read the State of the Union address and show how one of the groups below would react to the speech. You should show their reaction on the face provided and write at least 5 “I” statements that explain their reaction and what they were thinking.  You must include at least 2 quotes from the speech.

Groups: Women, Small Business Owner,  Immigrant, Teacher, Democrat, Republican, Elected Official

Saturday, January 4, 2014

5 Places to Visit when Looking for Primary Source Lesson Plans

By Nina Kendall

As a Social Studies teacher, I love incorporating primary sources in the classroom. I have spent many an hour searching the websites of the National Archives and Library of Congress for materials to use in the classroom. I openly maintain that a good source will increase the appeal of history for everyone. I share this love with my students.
Here are several websites that offer Social Studies teachers lesson plans and resources for class that incorporate primary sources.
Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History
Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History is working to improve history education.  The Institute has developed a wide array of programs to improve history education in America’s classroom. Their website has thousands of primary sources and lesson plans aligned to Common Core and influenced by quality historical scholarship. Teachers need to register to access the wide variety of resources. Schools can also apply to be affiliates which offer a greater range of educational benefits.

Library of Congress
The Library of Congress has organized it sources into collections and developed lesson plans for use in the classroom. Teachers can find lesson plans or primary sources set for use developed around topics frequently taught. The Library of Congress has also developed a number of methods to use analyze the spectrum of primary sources.
America in Class
America in Class is a collection primary and secondary resource and lessons for history and literature teachers. This site was developed by then National Humanities Center and is organized by theme. It is designed to promote the analytical skills describe in the Common Core Curriculum.
Edsitement is supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities. It has a searchable database of lesson plans that use primary sources. These lesson plans are developed largely by teachers and frequently of graphic organizers to use with the documents.  Edsitement’s search tool allows you to select to subject for your lesson plan and the grade level. It has also earmarked some lesson plans as suitable for an AP US History Class.

Docs Teach
Docs Teach is the website developed by the National Archives and Record Administration (NARA) that gives you access to a variety of primary sources and lesson plans that can be used online or in your classroom. The tools at Docs Teach can also be used to develop online lessons by teachers. This site also has materials for National History Day research.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Important Place and Spaces in American History: Ellis Island

By Nina Kendall

Ellis Island has a prominent place in American history.  It has come to represent the common experience of migration that all Americans share. 12 million immigrants passed through Ellis Island. It was an active immigration station on the East Coast from 1892 to 1954.  This station was the first stop in America for many immigrants on their way to a new life. Many Americans can trace their families to an immigrant who passed through Ellis Island. Today we study Ellis Island for its historical importance. Its practices reflect the morals and view of Americans in this 50 year period.

There are a great number of resources that help teachers teach about Ellis Island. Here are a few selected resources we recommend.
  • Ellis Island is an immigration station turned National Monument and museum that has great resources for teachers. Knowledgeable and friendly Rangers will visit students in New York City and video conference with classrooms around the country. They also have a curated set of primary sources available for use in the classroom that will help your students relate to the experience of immigrants.

  •  Scholastic will help you take different approach to studying Ellis Island. You can take an electronic tour of Ellis Island or take the class on a virtual field trip.

  • The Eastside Tenement Museum has an online game, From Ellis Island to Orchard Street with Victoria Confino, that students can enjoy. In this activity, each student assumes the role of an immigrant who packs their bags and moves from Europe through Ellis Island to a Tenement in New York. This allows students to have the experience of immigration whether in a real or virtual classroom.

 Many teachers choose to run a simulation of Ellis Island. This can be a meaningful approach to teaching this topic. I run a simulation with my high school students that they really enjoy. Here are a few primary sources I use to help create the experience for my students.

This is a short Edison clip from 1903 that show a ship arriving at Ellis Island and immigrants disembarking at Ellis Island. It is an interesting moving text that opens a variety of avenues for questioning.

This collection of images portrays the steps an immigrant took through Ellis Island including inspection. These photographs help make the experiences of immigrants relatable to students. With modern day measures by Homeland Security, students of this generation have a frame of reference for inspection stations. It will provide an opportunity to discuss why these things are happening.