Sunday, February 14, 2016

It's Valentine's Day, so time to remember...the Saint Valentine's Day Massacre (1929)

The timing couldn't have been more fortuitous.  Today, 14 February, celebrated by many as Valentine's Day, is the anniversary of the 1929 Saint Valentine's Day Massacre.  And we'll be studying it (the massacre, not the love celebration) this week, in our unit on the 1920s.

This terrific short video (2:45) describes how gangland competition in Chicago led to the deaths of 7 of Al Capone's rivals.
Of course, this was the era of Prohibition.  Here's a good video (2:45) that gives context to the era of "the noble experiment" when the manufacture, distribution, and sale of alcoholic beverages was illegal in America.
To supplement and extend this activity with your students, use this fine primary source activity from the U.S. National Archives.  The materials include a useful introduction for teachers, the document themselves (including the Volstead Act that made violating the 18th Amendment a crime, and a hand-drawn picture of a still), and some creative ideas on how you can use these materials with your students.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Dred Scott: The best short video

An article by the American Bar Association's Journal concluded that the Supreme Court's 1857 Dred Scott decision (along with the 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson decision) was the worst decision ever by the Supreme Court.

What happened in Dred Scott, and why the decision made the Civil War inevitable, is explained in this exceptional short (6:09) video from the Minnesota Historical Society.
The video is superbly produced and offers expert commentary by legal historian Lea VanderVelde of the University of Iowa and Richard J. Josey, Jr., of the Minnesota Historical Society.  It summarizes Dred Scott's early life (born into slavery in Virginia; purchased in a Missouri slave auction; brought to Minnesota); the lawsuit he filed seeking freedom for him and his wife); and how, after eleven years of litigation, his case arrived at the Supreme Court.

The video explains Scott's argument that his residence in Minnesota meant that he was entitled to freedom under the terms of the Northwest Ordinance and Missouri Compromise.

Chief Justice Roger B. Taney's 7-2 two-part decision rejected Scott's claims.  In the first part, the Court ruled that Scott had no basis to bring his case because as a person descended from a slave, he was not and could never be a citizen of the United States.  In the second part, the Court went further, ruling that Congress never had the power to enact any laws restricting slavery, rendering all prior Congressional slavery compromises (like the Compromise of 1850 and Kansas-Nebraska Acts) unconstitutional.

Prof. VanderVelde gives a succinct explanation of the Court decision's impact: After Dred Scott, legislative compromise on slavery was no longer possible.  Instead, "There was no political future short of civil war."

To supplement and extend your lesson on this critical case, here are the best digital primary and secondary print resources to use with your students:
  • The Oyez Project from the IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law
  • These two links (here and here) from PBS discussing the decision
  • the Our Documents site from the National Archives
  • this Web Guide from the Library of Congress

Friday, February 12, 2016

Loving v. VA

Thanks to my former colleague, Janet Babic who found this great four minute on Loving v. VA.  

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

The New Hampshire Primary: In historical context

We teach history, so let's leave it to the Government teachers to discuss the meaning of tonight's New Hampshire primary with their students.  We can focus, instead, on the obvious history lesson relating to today's voting.

The New Hampshire primary has its own history.  Here are some terrific resources to share with your students to put the Granite State's first-in-the-nation primary into historical perspective.

This video (5:36) describes the history of the primary, from when it started in 1916, through 1952 (beginning of the "beauty pageant" election), to the present, and how and why it asserted its first-in-the-nation place on the electoral calendar.
This playlist from the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at Saint Anselm's College includes short contemporaneous videos describing ten key New Hampshire primary elections, from 1952 (with candidates like Taft and Eisenhower for the Republicans, and Truman and Kefauver for the Democrats) to John McCain in 2000.  This video (0:49) from that playlist shows Bill Clinton in 1992 declaring himself the "Comeback Kid."
This essay from the New Hampshire Almanac summarizes the key features of each primary from 1952 to 1996.

This short essay lists the five biggest moments in New Hampshire primary history:
  1. 1952: Truman loses to Kefauver, which forces Truman to drop his re-election bid.  Eisenhower, a candidate for just one month, defeats Taft.
  2. 1968: McCarthy's strong challenge to LBJ forces Johnson to drop his re-election bid.
  3. 1984: A surging Gary Hart defeats a heavily-favored Vice President Walter Mondale.
  4. 1992: Clinton survives disclosure of his infidelities and casts a second-place finish as a moral victory.
  5. 2008: Hillary Clinton stops (temporarily) Barack Obama's momentum after his surprise victory in the Iowa caucus.
Classroom Connection: Divide your class into groups, and have each group research one of the primary elections.  Have them present their primary to their classmates, then have the class vote to rank order the elections that they think had the most impact on the United States.  The teams scoring the highest in the ranking could get extra credit points for being the most persuasive.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

World War I: Materials and lesson ideas

We're studying World War I this week so this is how I'm organizing my lessons:

Overview and topics
I've prepared a lecture that I'll show my students with nearpod.  I really like nearpod because it converts my PowerPoint slides so that I can run the presentation with my iPad and it displays on their personal devices.  That way I turn their phone into a learning tool.  Nearpod also lets me embed formative assessments like multiple choice questions and drawings (they draw their responses on their screens) so I can see on the spot when I need to reteach.

After my overview, students will watch these three short videos that I will embed into edpuzzle.  Edpuzzle lets me select online videos, clip them (if necessary), add or modify a sound track if I want, then embed formative assessments.  Students watch the videos on their personal devices.  I like presenting videos this way because it draws the students in more if they are watching them on their own device.  (Try it just once and you will see that this is true.)

This video (2:11) discusses Germany's policy of unrestricted submarine warfare.
This video (4:11) discusses the Zimmermann Telegram.
In this video (2:25), Prof. Eric Foner discusses Wilsonian Democracy and the Versailles Treaty.
After I finish my overview and the students watch these short videos, my students will begin a research phase using materials I push out to them using Google Classroom.  The resources were designed to help them focus on these six topics:
  1. U.S. entry into World War I
  2. War mobilization
  3. African-Americans and Women during World War I
  4. The war economy
  5. Wartime propoganda
  6. The peace treaty (Treaty of Versailles)
The resources are from Teaching with Documents on the Zimmermann Telegram from the National Archives, the U.S. State Department's Office of the Historian, the African American Odyssey online exhibit from the Library of Congress, and these sites on propaganda from Stanford University and the School of Education of the University of North Carolina.

Engaging focus question
I try to choose one question per unit to bore down deeper and extend my students' understanding of the material we are discussing.  For this unit the focus question is: When is dissent a crime?

I will divide the class into four group and give each a set of essays discussing the Supreme Court's case in Schenck v. United States (1919).  In that case, the Supreme Court considered whether mailing anti-war circulars violated the 1917 Espionage Act.  After conducting their reading, we will hold a whole-class discussion about whether various modern acts of anti-war protest could be suppressed.

The selected resources are from the National Constitution Center, Texas State Bar, PBS, and American Bar Association.

Students will be assessed based on a multiple-choice quiz using quia.  Quia ($45/year) lets you create your own learning games and quizzes, and then deliver them on any device.

That means that I can deliver all aspects of the lesson -- lecture, research, videos, and assessments -- using my students' smartphones!

American immigration: The best interactive map

I recently found this map while reading this post by Meg Miller.  She described an amazing interactive map created by the University of Richmond's Digital Scholarship Lab.
As you drag the slider at the bottom of the map, advancing from 1850 to 2000, the map shows you the country of origin, number, and destination for the millions of immigrants who came to America.  As amazing and cool as that looks, you can also click on any American city, and a chart on the right will tell you the country of origin and number of immigrants living in that city.  For example, dragging the slider to 1910 and clicking on Humboldt, Nevada, shows that the greatest number of foreign born residents came from Spain (197), followed by Germany (186), Italy (171) and Ireland (112).

Classroom connection: Use a jigsaw activity.  Divide the class into two groups.  Group A focuses immigration before World War I, and Group B focuses on post-World War I immigration.  Have each group look for patterns (number of immigrants, where they originate, where they settle) in the nations they are investigating.

Teacher's Tool-Kit: Primary source materials for Black History Month

Black History Month is celebrated during the month of February.  Carter G. Woodson is credited with having called for the first celebration of a Black History Week in 1926.  Woodson's one week celebration was expanded to the full week of February in 1976.  You can read about Woodson, the "father of Black History," in this essay from the NAACP.
There is an overflowing basket of quality primary-source materials to share and study with your students that specifically address issues relevant to Black History Month.  Here is a partial list.
  • The Smithsonian Institution's Education Department has this set of materials as part of its Heritage Teaching Resources. 
  • The Library of Congress created this portal to resources from the National Archive, Smithsonian, National Endowment for the Humanities, and the National Park Service.  The exhibits and collections are well curated so that you can easily find materials dealing with subjects like Art and Design, Civil Rights, Culture and Folklife, Historic Places, Music and Performing Arts, and Slavery.   
  • The Library of Virginia also has this list of valuable African American History sites.  Featured sites on this list include links to an anthology of American slave narratives, fighting massive resistance, and strong African-American men and women in Virginia history.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

My New Imperialism Lesson and Materials

This week we're studying the period in U.S. History when America built a world empire.  I tell my students this is the clearest example yet of of how we can see aspects of modern-day America: a strong American economic, military, and diplomatic force around the world.
The caption reads: "Ten thousand miles from tip to tip."
One part of this unit is built around reading, discussing, and writing about primary sources that address different questions:
  1. Why did America seek to build a world empire?  To answer that question, my students read Albert Beveridge's speech, March of the Flag (1898).  That speech is rich in jingoism, as seen in these examples:
    • "Hawaii is ours; Porto (sic) Rico is to be ours; at the prayer of her people Cuba finally will be ours..."
    • "We can not retreat from any soil where Providence has unfurled our banner; it is ours to save that soil for liberty and civilization."
  2. What arguments were made by American opponents of the new imperialism?  Here we are reading the Platform of the American Anti-Imperialist League (1899).  That document is great for students because it is so direct and clear in its reasoning:
    • "We hold that the policy known as imperialism is hostile to liberty..."
    • "We earnestly condemn the policy of the present national administration in the Philippines."
    • "We propose to contribute to the defeat of any person or party that stands for the forcible subjugation of any people."
  3. What arguments were made by foreign opponents of the new imperialism?  Here we read the shorter still Manifesto of Philippine opposition leader Emilio Aguinaldo.
The second main part of this unit is built around the terrific diplomatic "Milestone" resources of the Office of the Historian at the U.S. Department of State.  This is a collection of essays written at an easily accessible level for motivated high-school students.
Here I gave my students twelve vocabulary terms (the complete list is below) and they used information from that site (click here and here) to create flash cards.  As a whole class, we will have a competition to see who has the deepest (and fastest) knowledge of American diplomatic history during the late Gilded Era.
List of Gilded Era Vocabulary: Chinese Exclusion Acts; Admiral Mahan; Hawaii; Yellow Journalism; Spanish-American War; Philippine-American War; Open Door notes; Platt Amendment; Roosevelt Corollary; Portsmouth Treaty; Dollar Diplomacy; Panama Canal

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Moments in Black History from the NY Times

The New York Times has a terrific spread of unpublished photographs of black leaders and entertainers. The paper plans to add photographs each day during February in honor of Black History Month.

Today's story includes unpublished photographs of MartinLuther King, Lena Horne, Malcolm X, and Adam Clayton Powell. Other images include the Prayer Pilgrimage for Freedom at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington on May 17, 1957, and images detailing the limits of integration.

The images are all black and white with rich detail and all come from the paper's archives. The Times will publish at least one each day during Black History Month.

And the stories behind the images add context that students will enjoy.

You can also sign up for updates.

PBS debuts episode on Garfield's assassination

The Gilded Era was a rough time for U.S. presidents.  There were two assassinations, two misfires (elections where the candidate winning the most popular votes nonetheless lost in the electoral college), and a farmers' revolt.  It was an era where Congress yielded the greatest power.

America's 20th president, James A. Garfield, was the second chief executive to be assassinated.
In a new feature in its American Experience series titled "Murder of a President" that premieres on Tuesday, 2 Feb., PBS tells the story of Garfield's rise to the White House, the assassin who shot him, and the unbelievably bizarre story of the medical care he received after being shot.  You can preview the first episode by clicking here.
The PBS website accompanying this series is filled with all the materials you would need to support a lesson on President Garfield with your students.  There are background articles that put Garfield's presidency in context, photographs, primary sources, and links to other resources.  My favorite linked resource is to the website (curated by the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law) that tells the story of the trial of Garfield's assassin.

The PBS video is based upon Candace Millard's Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President.  Millard discussed her book, and the circumstances of Garfield's assassination, in this interview.
This looks like a good watch.  The New York Times called the series "particularly engrossing."  The fact that its running now, while we are finishing our studies of the Gilded Age, make this series "particularly timely."

Friday, January 29, 2016

Animated historical maps

Static maps are fine and we all use them, but there are two terrific sources of animated historical maps to show your students.

The difference between these maps and map videos is that the action all takes place on the map.  On an animated map, you see borders change, troops advance and retreat, and empires grow.

The biggest and best collection of animated maps I know is called The Map as History.  Their collection includes 250 animated maps, a number they assert is the largest on-line collection available.  The maps are divided into 16 collections, most of which are better for World History, but these collections would be excellent for US History teachers and students: The United States: a territorial history (with 21 animated maps), and The Cold War library (with 9 maps).  A new library about North American colonies currently has four maps but eight more are being developed.

The Map as History is a subscription service and the yearly fee for each series is about $12 a year for one collection, or around $55 for the entire series.  What is great, though, is that they allow you free access to some maps as samplers, such as this animated map (4:17) of Nouvelle-France (New France) and this animated map (4:12) of antebellum expansion.

My second favorite animated map collection is by Western Heritage Mapping.  These maps are all free, and they focus on military battles and wars.  For example, they have an animated map of the Battle of Antietam, and this one of the War of 1812.
Because they're so different, it's not a matter of choosing one over the other.  Both are very valuable additions to our teacher tool kits.

Space Shuttle Challenger Accident: A 30-year anniversary

Yesterday was the 30th anniversary of the explosion of the Space Shuttle Challenger.  Its destruction a little over a minute after liftoff resulted in the death of all seven members of Challenger's crew, and was followed by an intensive investigation into the disaster's causes.
Image result for challenger disaster new york times

This C-SPAN video (6:44) shows Challenger's liftoff and explosion, and President Reagan's address to the nation later that night.
In this memorable last sentence, President Reagan ended his short remarks by discussing the Challenger's crew:

We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them, this morning, as they prepared for their journey and waved goodbye and "slipped the surly bonds of earth" to "touch the face of God."

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Tonight's online trivia game: Engaging students over the snow days

I tried something new tonight.  We haven't had school since last Thursday and we're not having school tomorrow, all because of the blizzard.  I wanted to organize something teacher directed, but would be heavy on the engagement and light on the rigors of class.  So I set up a trivia game.
The game was called "Who's on Mount Rushmore?"  It was a series of questions about U.S. History and Geography I wrote several years ago as an after-the-AP-Exam activity for my students.  But I haven't used the questions much in recent years because we have had to pivot right from AP review to reviewing for our state end-of-course exams.

These questions were drafted with the mindset that they would never (or should never) be on one of our exams.  The answers are easy to look up, some they might actually know, they demonstrate no critical understanding, and honestly really don't matter.  That's why they're trivia!

Some of the questions tonight were--
  1. Who's on Mount Rushmore?
  2. Name the two signers of the Declaration of Independence who went on to be elected president.
  3. Name the two former presidents buried in Arlington National Cemetery.
  4. Name the last of the original 13 states to ratify the U.S. Constitution.
Answers: (1) Washington, Jefferson, TR, and Lincoln; (2) John Adams and TJ; (3) JFK and Taft; (4) Rhode Island.

We conducted the game in a classroom I set up in TodaysMeet.  I used Remind to notify my current students, and Twitter to invite all students past and present to participate.

I can state categorically that this was a lot of fun.  The participating students (okay, not a large number) were enthusiastic and eager to participate.  Their enthusiasm did not wane during the 45 minutes they want at it.  At the end, everyone was a winner.  I have gift cards from Starbucks and Dunkin' Donuts to hand out when we get back to school next week.  And they are already asking me when we will do this again...and we will!

How I keep my students informed about schedule changes when school is closed

We've missed lots of school because of the blizzard, which means that I've had to make changes to my schedule.  How do I inform my students of these changes?  It's easy if you use these tools.

My official class schedule is on Google Calendar.
I put a link to that calendar as a tab ("Assignment Calendar") on my class Blackboard page.

Before I had settled on Google Calendar I had tried to use the calendar on a previous version of Blackboard.  That Blackboard version was far inferior because it would not allow for events to have start times.  In appears that the newest version my district uses solves that problem, but for now I'm going to stick with Google Calendar.

When I need to make changes to our schedule I just make them in Google Calendar, and the changes appear for my students when they check the Assignment Calendar on Blackboard.

To inform my students about these changes I use these three tools:

1st: I post an Announcement in Blackboard that I have updated the Assignment Calendar.  Blackboard then gives me the option to email that Announcement immediately to my students.
2nd: I use Remind to send a text message alert about the changes.  I really like Remind because I can send the text immediately, or schedule it for a later time.  (This is especially good if I'm working at odd hours; I don't want their phone to beep or buzz too early or too late with a text from their teacher!)

3rd: I update the changes on the WhatsDue app.  WhatsDue creates a class calendar for my students that resides on the app on their devices.  Any change I make automatically generates a text alert to my students.  I like WhatsDue because students can use it to send themselves text reminders of upcoming due dates and deadlines.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Underground Railroad

Here is a new site on the Underground Railroad.  It has a timeline, overview, narratives and more.