Friday, October 28, 2011

Defining a Gentleman

At a book group meeting last year, we read the book Paul Revere's Ride. As a part of that meeting, we were handed out different pictures of paintings of revolution era figures. Two pictures in particular, Thomas Gage and Paul Revere demonstrated the differences in how Britain and the Colonies defined themselves, and defined what was proper. These artist's renderings give a small glimpse in the incompatibility between British and American leaders and their ideals.

My US History I class is now approaching the Revolutionary War unit, and with it the creation of an American identity. The following assignment was created for my May History Connected project and will be implemented in my classroom next week:

Assignment: Defining a Gentleman

The contrasts between mother country and colony continued to grow as the years passed. The British policy of Salutary Neglect allowed the colonies to take control of their own political and economic interests, and gave them a taste of independence. In this time, colonies like Massachusetts began to develop their own separate identities from the British and the British crown.

Sir Thomas Gage saw himself as a gentleman in a very traditional, old world sense. He came from wealth, went to the best military academies, and rose through the ranks to become a prominent British official serving as Governor of Massachusetts.

Paul Revere saw himself as a gentleman as well, but in a very different fashion. He was a hard working silversmith who came from a more modest source of family wealth, and worked tirelessly in his community to build his reputation as a leader in the Boston revolutionary movement. Two men, different goals, different worlds, different definitions of what it means to be a gentleman.

1. 1. Analyze the picture of Paul Revere. Explain how it lends a window into how he wanted to be portrayed. Factor in all aspects of the picture, including his clothes and his handling of his craftsmanship.

2. 2. Analyze the picture of Thomas Gage. Explain how it lends a window into how he wanted to be portrayed. Factor in all aspects of the picture, including his military uniform and the setting of the portrait.

3. 3. Compare and contrast the two portraits. How does it show the difference between the Revere’s and Gage’s definition as a gentleman? How does this illustrate the larger differences between Great Britain and the American colonies?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Local History Connections

We've all been there. Progress reports come out, a poor test grade is earned, or a student simply wants to increase their grade average. I regularly have students asking for extra credit and I'm not always comfortable coming up with appropriate assignments for this.

Over the summer I was inspired by the Primary Source local history presentation to solve this very problem. I've found that focusing on local history is the perfect solution to the extra credit issue. Using my class blog, I've launched the Dracut Memorial Project. This project (accessed at encourages students to see the memorials in our community that normally fade into the landscape. While only one student has participated in this, I anticipate the end of the first quarter will see an increase in participation. I'm excited to see how this works!

Media Role in American Wars

Welcome back everyone! Year 3 is on us, and I am very excited to engage ideas and materials with all of you once more.

In case you missed it, our 1st meeting this year focused on a lecture about media portrayals in the Vietnam War and the modern era. We discussed several prevailing thoughts about the role of the media in the war, and what effect it had. A few examples include:
1. Did negative press hurt morale and force a withdraw?
2. Is it ok to be critical of the war effort as a reporter in the field? Are there some things that the American people are better off not knowing?
3. Does reporter imbedding in military units ruin objectivity?

I applied this concepts to my Sociology class in a class discussion about values make up the American value system. I asked my class whether questioning the government could be considered patriotic, and whether protesting is an American value in the 21st century. The question resulted in a wide array of opinions, with both sides of the aisle being represented. Some people thought that the country was built on questioning authority, and others said that protests (like Occupy Wall Street) were irresponsible and un-American. Both sides agreed that 9/11 has affected an entire generation, creating much gray area on this topic.

Each student was given an assignment to go home and ponder the comparison between Vietnam protests, and the lack thereof for Iraq or Afghanistan. How has the media covered the war on terrorism? Why aren't people protesting another long and costly American War? Had the media become neutered with restrictions on access? Has the American public stopped asking important questions out of fear of terrorism? Why was Vietnam so much more profoundly opposed? Their ideas were crunched into talking points on index cards, and brought in for a robust class debate.

I was very impressed that the students came up with such strong opinions about how the media covers modern wars. Thanks to History Connected for the assist.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Three Great Book Excerpts for US History I

There is no doubt that my teaching has greatly benefited from being a participant in the TAH Grant. With five years under my belt, I have been able to acquire a plethora of materials, new skills and a deepened breadth of knowledge about American history.

In this blog, I’d like to share how I use three books that we read in our book groups. Although I use a great deal of excerpts from readings which I obtained from the grant, the three highlighted today are standards that I use every year.

The first excerpt that I assign is from Founding Myths, Stories That Hide Our Patriotic Past by Ray Raphael. “The Shot Heard ‘Round the World: Lexington and Concord”, which is the title of chapter 4, works well to teach about the many rebellious actions the colonists in Massachusetts engaged in before the events of Lexington and Concord. Raphael includes statistics regarding the cost and volume of arms and powder the colonist accumulated prior to 1775. Additionally, he offers a superior explanation of how the British government was systematically ejected from western Massachusetts in 1774.

After we finish the Revolutionary War, I assign the first chapter; “The Call for Convention” from A Brilliant Solution, Inventing the American Constitution by Carol Berkin. Without a doubt, Berkin writes a very clear and easy to understand explanation of the Articles of Confederation and the reasons why this first constitution fell short of expectation for many. Being much more pleasurable to read than a text book, Berkin writes with a narrative style and offers interesting details about the process of throwing out the Articles and constructing the Constitution.

The third selection that my students receive regularly is from The Approaching Fury by Stephen B. Oates. I excerpted from the chapter titled “Crosswinds:, pp. 97 to 185. In Oates’ book, he takes on the personality of famous antebellum characters and has put together monologues which reflect their personalities and views before the Civil War. The characters in this selection include Frederick Douglass, John C. Calhoun, George Fitzhugh, Abraham Lincoln, Harriett Beecher Stow, Stephen Douglas and John Brown. By reading the monologues of these historical characters, the students get an incite into their personalities and are exposed
to the issues of the period as seen by each of these Americans.

Textbooks are a necessary part of learning US history, but by offering well written and researched writings by talented authors, our students can access historical issues in depth.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Gearing Up For Year Three!

In preparation for year three of History Connected, year two's participants gathered together on October 4th for a night of sharing, listening and learning.

We had the pleasure of sitting in on an eye opening lecture from Professor Rick Bayles, an ex-war time correspondent and current BU professor. Upon learning of his first have accounts on battle field correspondence I immediately went back to my lesson plans on the Vietnam War and added in the newly acquired information.

During our sharing conference our group shared lesson plans on the Home Front during the Civil War, Japanese Interment, the American Revolution and Paul Revere. All of the projects incorporated aspects of year two's focus on War, Society, State Citizenship.

With only one week to go, I am eagerly awaiting the start of year three and the theme of American Encounters: U.S. History in a Global Context and hope to take away as much as I did during year two.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

National History Day and History Connected

My high school is an avid supporter and participant of National History Day. Over the years, our students have grown from hating this program to truly appreciating the skills it teaches and the products they are able to produce. We have sent students to Nationals in Maryland but have yet to be successful there. The experience though has been once in a life time for our students.

This years theme is Revolution, Reaction and Reform.

As my students begin the process of picking topics I find my self drawn to previously discussed History Connected topics. Already, I have mentioned the Bread and Roses Strike, the Roberts v. City of Boston case, the abolitionist movement and role of the media during war time (as discussed during our sharing conference).

I'm excited to be to able to put my History Connected experience to use with a wide range of students and outside of the classroom. I only hope that they become as interested in these topics that I am.

Friday, October 7, 2011

What do Paul Revere, The Civil War, September 11, the film “Glory”, World War II homefront and Haverhill’s War Memorials have in common? These were the lesson topics discussed at the curriculum sharing portion of our wrap-up day On October 4. Teachers are using diverse strategies: poetry, Prezi, podcasts, and cooperative learning activities such as ‘fishbowl’, and tableaux. Combining these strategies with the rich ‘out of the box’ content we learn makes for engaging lessons that students can grab on to. Even though as teachers we present every day, it can be daunting for us to present to our peers. As these lessons were presented however, the colleagues were very open and positive about commenting on how they could apply aspects of these lessons in their own classes and encouraging further exploration about the topics. Presenters were very generous in sharing ideas, insights and materials with others. The curriculum sharing was such a wonderful culmination of year two…….

And now: Looking forward to Year Three…

A full day at The MFA’s New American Wing..The JFK Library!!! Wow Kara-- you have outdone yourself. Look at this season’s offerings. The idea of History Connected is brought to a whole new level.

Introduction: American Encounters: US History in Global Context
“Submitted to a Candid World:” The Declaration of Independence in a Global Context
American Art and History in an International Context at the Art of the Americas Wing, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Antebellum American Religion and Reform in an International Context
Transnational Migration since the Late-Nineteenth Century
Presenting History: Using Weebly to Create Student and Teacher Websites
“The Wilsonian Moment:” Woodrow Wilson’s Post-World War I Diplomacy on the World Stage
“Bringing the Foundation of Freedom:" The Global Influence of U.S. Foreign Policy in the 1960s

The idea of History Connected is brought to a whole new level. Religion, the world scene, art, politics, JFK, migration- topics that all social studies teachers will be able to use creatively in their classes. My high school students tend to become more engaged in lesons when there is a relevant theme. The U.S. on the world scene has never been more relevant than now.

Let us then... carry on !

Thursday, October 6, 2011

A Current Events Blog

I was inspired this summer during the Primary Source Institute by Mary and the blog she set up for her US History II class. This is my first year teaching American Civics and Government and I quickly learned that my most of my students have no idea what is going on with issues in our government. I decided that I want my students to be reading current events on a regular basis so I set up a current events blog. Each week every student has to find a current event article related to the American government. They must post a summary and opinion on the isssue discussed in the article. After the initial posting is done, each student must read another classmate's post and make a thoughtful comment about it. Sometimes I give the students a specific topic for the current event, but most of the time the topic is their choice. I like to see what topics they are drawn to and what their thoughts are on the issue. When I see that students are writing about the same issues, I will bring the topics up for a brief discussion in class. I can also determine which issues need some clarification. I am interested to see how their comments will evolve throughout the school year as they learn more about the American government.

I have been so pleased with the current events blog that I have started using blogging in my US History I class as well. I give them a higher order critical thinking question and the students must post a response. For example, I gave them a scenario about being a poor, low class citizen in England who has been given the opportunity to go to America. Would he/she take it? All the students post their decisions and their reasons why.

EDMODO has been a great tool for my foray into blogging. Each class gets assigned a code so this means I can set up separate blogs for all my classes. The students can only see what their classmates have written and it is easy for me to keep track of each student's contributions.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Teaching with a Theme

For the past two years I have been inspired to bring as much as possible of my professional development endeavors into the classroom. This task has been daunting at times since I feel that just about everything I learn about, I could find a use for in my class. The challenge comes with fitting it all in and deciding what to actually use and what to cut out. To help with this dilemma, I decided to add a “theme” each year to my U.S. History II course. These themes come from the professional development programs I have been apart of. So far, it has worked out well. I share my “theme” for the year with my students on the first day of school, in conjunction with going over the requirements for our department-wide focus for U.S. History II, the Sophomore Research Paper. At Wilmington High School, all students have to write a historical research paper using primary sources. We provide students with the same guidelines and rubrics and get them started during term one and finish up term three. Therefore, it made the most sense for me to have students connect the paper topics to this theme I would be integrating into our class throughout the year.

For the 2010/2011 school year, my theme came from a NEH Landmarks of American workshop I attended in Cleveland, MS at Delta State University entitled “The Most Southern Place on Earth.” This was the most valuable professional development experience of my career! I gained an unbelievable amount of resources that I was excited to share with my students. At the top are some pictures from a display case I created from all of the materials.

My students used many of these sources in their research papers. This workshop is being offered this year, so I encourage you to apply. You can find more information here: I highly recommend it! I started that school year introducing the theme of “Southern Culture” into my course. We aead and had a jigsaw discussion from a chapter of James. C. Cobb’s The Most Southern Place on Earth and all students’ research papers had to connect to southern culture in some way. I honestly believe that in addition to learning the state frameworks, my students walked away with a strong understanding of southern culture and its impact on historical events in the U.S.

This year my theme is War and Society, which was inspired from the History Connected Primary Source Summer 2011 course. So far, all students have picked a research paper topic that connects to the theme. Next we are going to have a jigsaw discussion on an excerpt from Richard E. Rubenstein’s Reasons to Kill: Why Americans Choose War. This will provide us with a framework to discuss American Wars as we analyze Rubenstein’s key rationales for war presented in his first chapter. I am also going to implement the projects I created from History Connected as well as materials from book groups, day and summer seminars. I hope this year will be as successful as last year and that I my students will learn more about the thematic concept of the impact on war on society!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Empowering Students In the "Choice" for War

Through a series of five lessons titled, Mobilizing the Hearts and Minds of the American Public in WWI, students are asked to consider through primary source analysis and debate how the government, most often represented by the President and Congress, shape public opinion, and, by extension, the responsibility of the public to embrace their democratic responsibility of participation. I wanted to share a few activities that are a part of this series.

First, as a starting point to the series, I felt it important to remind students of the basics, to start at the foundation of the US government and country, the US Constitution. In this first activity, students are asked to recall what the Constitution says about war, what power and authority do government officials actually have? In a twist on the traditional KWL chart, I ask students to brainstorm what they know or think they know on what the Constitution says about war AND what they think the Constitution should say about war. Students are then asked to skim through the Constitution, correcting or affirming what they knew or thought they knew. By giving students the opportunity to brainstorm what the Constitution should say about war, you provide an opportunity for debate, evaluation, and exploration. Debrief as a whole class, reflecting on what surprised them, hypothesizing reasons for what the Constitution says and omits about war, and critiquing and evaluating the effectiveness of “direction” it provides. As a homework assignment, I ask students to brainstorm an amendment they feel will address, clarify, protect a value that has been left vulnerable by absence or lack of clarity.

At the end of this series of five lessons, in which students have read presidential and congressional speeches, supporting and opposing war, and analyzing propaganda posters, students are asked to participate as members of a democratic nation. Students are required to reflect and apply the concepts they’ve discussed as a class and write a letter to their state’s senator or representative. They must find out who their representative is, his/her address, and their position on the war in Afghanistan. Students’ letters must introduce themselves, state their opinion on the US’s involvement in Afghanistan, defend their opinion with two or three reasons (reasons that were discussed throughout the lessons), and end with a strong and persuasive conclusion.

I accessed Wilson’s address to Congress asking for war, Senator LaFollette’s “It has no popular support,” speech, and the North American Review’s, “War is a blessing, not a curse,” article from History Matters, American Social History Productions, Inc. []. To see more of these lessons, check back to the History Connected website! []

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Thinking about the summer...

As usual I am amazed at how we all sat in the classroom and got the same training this summer, yet the projects are incredibly varied. This is a reflection not only on our own personalities and priorities, but on the needs and interests of our students.

My own project attempts to connect U.S. History to Child Psychology by examining how children remember war. Students will use their own memories as well as quotes from children as far back as the civil war to gather information. They will showcase their learning by performing a voicethread.

Quotes from participants on their projects:

“I worked on a film study focusing on the segment The Homefront from ABC's news The Century, America's Time with Peter Jennings.” MC

“It will provide students with the historical context necessary to understand how the Civil War ended, and the important role that Haverhill citizens played in it. The inspiration for this unit came from the discussion of The Republic of Suffering” EB

“My project is called "How We Remember: Local Historical Monuments." Students look at a Google Earth tour of local memorials. They learn to look for symbolism and use the "Artifact Analysis" worksheet from the National Archives. Later, they create an original local monument to honor the anniversary of the 9 11 2001 terrorist attacks using what they have learned.” AJ

“My project has the students analyzing two documents, Lincoln's letter to Horace Greeley and the Emancipation Proclamation. They do so in hopes of getting a better understanding of Lincoln's feelings toward slavery as president and personally.” CC

While we know that text books are a valuable resource, real teaching tools are all around us, as is evidence of history. Books, monuments, documentaries and primary documents are brought to life for students as they go through the activities. Depth of understanding and the realization that these things really do matter to us increase as students use critical thinking skills such as analysis, comparison and evaluation in such inviting ways.

Thanks to Primary Source and History Connected in allowing us to explore these issues!