Friday, April 7, 2017


One of the things I always stressed in facilitating history instruction involved teaching students to think about how history helps us understand why things are the way they are today, and how it can continue to shape the future.  I always enjoyed helping kids make those connections between a series of past events leading into present day.

Since moving into evaluation, I've been finding that evaluators call this process 'logic modeling' - basically the process of mapping out the different possibilities that might happen given the introduction of a certain program, service, etc.

Enter Loopy.  I first saw this from a tweet from Edublogs, via Larry Ferlazzo.  As an open-source platform (you can access the code in GitHub), it's free to use and allows students to generate their own 'logic models': mapping out how one event might lead to another.  This sample, for example, looks at automation and what some of the outcomes might be.  It's a basic model, but would be something students could use to generate ideas on any number of historical scenarios.

Looks like it's part of a larger collaborative called Explorable Explanations - something I'll be exploring over the weeks to come.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Loving v. Virginia

By now, I'm sure most are aware that the Loving story has been made into a movie.  This past weekend, it premiered at the Virginia Film Festival, and was featured in an article in our local paper.  For many of the students in localities around me, the incidents in this case took place in a neighboring county, making it a great way to introduce relevancy.  There are a number of great resources out there, some of which have been highlighted on this blog in the past.  If you are in a different part of the country, it might be worth looking into whether any similar cases went before courts in your area, and having a discussion comparing them.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

The Movement to End Child Labor in the U.S.

 Washington Post Article on the Movement to End Child Labor

The Movement to End Child Labor in the U.S.

While you probably haven't made it to the Progressive Movement yet, this set of pictures by Lewis Hine on child labor in the Washington Post looks like an interesting discussion piece and another great way to include primary documents in your classroom.  It might also be interesting to compare/contrast Hine's photography approach with Dorothea Lange and her pictures of migrant farmers during the Great Depression.  Some great discussion topics could stem from these pictures involving discussion on labor laws, childrens' rights, the role of the media in shaping public opinion - all of which would be great ways to tie in the past to the present.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Incorporating Geography and 

Economics in Your History Lessons

Washington Post Article on U.S. Foreign Assistance

I saw an article on in the Washington Post this week providing a set of cartograms highlighting the spending by the U.S. on foreign assistance.  I love incorporating cartograms periodically with my students; it's a great geography skill to review or teach, and it really allows them to visualize quantitative information in a different way.  This article also allows you to incorporate some discussion of macroeconomics principles.  There's definitely plenty of material for group discussions and debates.  

Friday, October 7, 2016

Storytelling and Politics

A few weeks ago, I finally sat down to watch the Sandra Bullock movie Our Brand is Crisis.  It would be great to incorporate portions of this movie into a discussion on campaigning, particularly given the current election cycle.  (Note: It has an R rating, so proceed according to your school policy.)

Then, a couple weeks ago, I saw this video in the New York Times, where a real life political strategist talks about the story lines that campaigns strive to create.  He definitely gives some of his own opinions in the piece, so I would talk to students about that before-hand, but it might be an interesting pairing with the Sandra Bullock movie and a discussion on this year's election.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Presentation Options

This is the first year in over ten years that I will not be in the classroom as fall gets ready to start.  I've taken a new position doing program evaluation in my district.  As such, I'm getting nostalgic for all the bulletin board creating, lesson planning and classroom set up this time of year always involves.

I still get to create presentations, however, and I have been looking for some new tools to shake things up a little bit.  Many of us know about Prezi, and this blog has also covered the potential available with PowToon, but I was looking for something that would take some PowerPoints and help step them up a few notches.

I found this blog post by a company focused on presentations that had a great listing of various alternatives, including the ones mentioned above.

A few I'm looking at for this school year include:




SlideDog basically allows you to use existing presentation pieces (PowerPoints, Prezis, PDF files, etc.) and create a play list with all of them into one large presentation, while emaze and Projeqt both allow you to import an existing PowerPoint and 'glam it up' or create a presentation from scratch.  SlideDog involves a download, while the other two are cloud based. All three have a free option, hence their initial appeal.

Happy lesson creating!

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

New Archive of 20th Century Resources

Here is a cool new online archive of 20th century resources surrounding Winston Churchill.

The archive includes primary sources such as images, cartoons, and documents.

One of the most interesting parts of the archives are the investigations of significant issues designed for high school students.

Find out what went wrong at Gallipoli or if Britain could have done more for the Jews during WWII. The website gives you an overview of each issue along with a chart of primary sources to help students come to a conclusion.

The database is divided into four themes:

  • Key developments in world history
  • Key development in modern British empire history
  • Anglo-American relations in the 20th century
  • Churchill: Discussion, debate, and controversy

  • Sunday, May 8, 2016

    Use Google Classroom as Discussion Board or Poll

    You can use Google Classroom as a discussion board. You can pose a question and students can respond and comment on each others.

    Here's how.

    Open Classroom and click the "plus" sign.

    Next, click "Question."
    Add your question. Mary Catherine Keating, a teacher at Chantilly High School who showed me this feature,  asked her students which cause of World War 1 was most important--alliances, militarism, imperialism, or nationalism.

    Once a student responds, then he or she can see other comments and responses. After a student submits the comment, you get an email notification of the post.

    You can also use Classroom to poll your students. Mary Catherine often uses this feature as a bell ringer.

    The process is similar to creating a discussion board
    • Go to the plus sign
    • Click create question
    • Hover over "Short Answer"

    • Click on Multiple Choice

    Add your question with choices. Once you add the questions, Classroom will tally the responses.  You can show the students the tally or hide it.

    You could use the polling feature as a bell ringer as Mary Catherine Keating sometimes does, or perhaps as an exit ticket.

    Here's a blog post from Google for Education about the polling feature.

    Saturday, April 30, 2016

    Intro to Birthplace of Student Civil Rights Movement

    Jeff Feinstein, who writes for this blog, recently took his US history students on a field trip to the birthplace of the civil rights movement--  a fascinating museum in Virginia called the Robert Russa Moton Museum.

    Few people know that Moton High School provided three-fourths of the plaintiffs in the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education school desegregation case.

    Feinstein says that one student thought that the field trip should be required because it was so moving.

    You can read Jeff's column about the trip here at PBS Education. The PBS NewsHour also mentioned the field trip toward the end of its Friday broadcast. You can can see it below. Just move to about minute 51.30.

    If you live in Virginia and teach US History,  you might also consider a field to this amazing museum.

    Tuesday, April 26, 2016

    Online AMA review session

    AMA stands for Ask Me Anything.  I've scheduled two AMA sessions for my students in advance of next Friday's APUS exam.

    Here's how it will work: First, I'll create a classroom in Today's Meet.
    Then I'll share the classroom code with my students via Remind.
    Today's Meet is a form of online open classroom.  Under the AMA format, I'll moderate the discussion, answering any questions that my students have.  I can also mix it up by asking other students to try to answer questions.  When (or if) things slow down, I'll have prepared review questions of my own to get the students active and engaged.

    Saturday, April 23, 2016

    I'm going to my first EdCamp today

    I'm going to my first EdCamp event today.
    EdCamp events are free, open-ended professional development get-togethers.  There are no formal presenters.  Participants come with ideas, interests, and a desire to collaborate.  Because I have all three I've been eager to attend since I registered many months ago.

    This YouTube video explains the format.  The link comes from Eileen Yaeger, a terrific ESOL teacher currently at Washington Mill Elementary in northern Virginia.
    What I'm really looking for at my inaugural EdCamp event is information about 1:1 implementation.  My principal tells us that we're moving to the 1:1 model in 2017-2018 and I want to learn about
    • What does 1:1 look like?
    • How do you prepare for it?
    • How to you roll it out?
    Interested in attending?  Here's the link to the EdCampNova website, and you can Twitter follow @EdCampNova and #EdCampNova.

    If you're in northern Virginia and would like to come, it will be held at Marshall High School in Falls Church from 8am to 1:30pm.  Click here to register.

    Friday, April 22, 2016

    Online Seminary

    Fairfax County, VA's high school social studies specialist, Craig Perrier, is hosting a webinar on Teaching U.S. History in a Global Context.  Craig is a dynamic speaker and very invested in the topic so it will prove to be a useful discussion.  If you are interested in it, one April 26th go at 8 pm Easter to this link.  

    Monday, April 18, 2016

    Quizlet ups its game

    Quizlet, the popular online review app, now has a live version for whole classroom use.  It's called Quizlet Live and you can learn about it here.

    It's team-based and competitive, which will certainly increase student engagement.  One feature I really liked: Just like the Chutes and Ladders review activity I did for my AP US History students and that I blogged about recently, Quizlet Live has a feature that resets student scores to zero if they get an incorrect answer.  That promotes reasoned deliberation before answering a question.  The game gives feedback to teachers that helps them identify the areas and topics that were most challenging to students, so that teachers can develop appropriate remediation strategies.

    You can get additional information about Quizlet Live by clicking here.

    Cool new exhibit on World War I at the Library of Congress

    How did American art influence World War I, and how did World War I influence American artists?  Those questions are addressed in a new exhibit opening in May at the Library of Congress.
    The exhibit, entitled "World War I: American Artists View the Great War," features numerous materials (like drawings, cartoons, posters, and photographs) from a wide variety of artists.  Some were sponsored by the government (like those created through the Committee on Public Information) while others were by private individuals with no government connection.

    Included in the collection will by work by James Montgomery Flagg (he of Uncle Sam fame).  (Will this particular image be in the exhibit?  We'll have to wait and see.)
    The Library promises that it will supplement its onsite exhibition in Washington, D.C., with education plans, public programs, and an online exhibit.  That online exhibit will be available once the physical exhibit space opens to the public on Sun., 7 May.  You can read the press release announcing the exhibit here.

    Sunday, April 17, 2016

    How we used EdTech in our APUS review

    The AP exam in U.S. History this year is during the morning session of Fri., 6 May, so it wasn't too early to plan our review activities.  Here's what my team did, and how we used technology to raise the level of engagement for our students.
    Our review is loosely based on the children's game "Chutes and Ladders."  (Teachers interested in remembering rules for the original Hasbro game can click here.)  To prepare our variation, we printed 43 pages of released questions from the New York State Regents Exam for United States History and Government and numbered every page in Sharpie from 1 to 43.  The pages were scattered throughout our library.

    (Why use review questions from a high school exam for our AP students?  We chose them because they addressed core topics and were written in a way that would allow the students to assess quickly whether they knew or forgot the material.)

    Students worked in pairs, and were assigned a starting station when they checked in.  The first pair was assigned to start at station 1, the second pair a station 4, etc., so that students would not bunch up.  The teams located their starting station, then answered each of the questions (usually 7-8) on their page.

    Here's where the EdTech kicked in.  Accompanying each question sheet was a separate sheet with a QR code with the correct answers.  (Students were told to make sure their smartphones had a QR code reader in advance.)
    This QR code, for example, gives the answers to Questions 22-29 for the June 2015 exam.  (Try it for yourself to see.)

    The students checked their answers once they had finished answering the questions.  They could advance to the next numbered station only if they got every question correct.  If they got even one question wrong they would have to return to their base station and start all over.

    This activity was tremendously successful.  Students were fully engaged throughout.  It allowed for movement, using their smartphones as a learning phone and not a distraction, and collaboration as they worked out the answers.  Best yet, students offered unsolicited praise both after it was over and the next day in class.