Friday, May 18, 2012

Using the History Connected Wiki

Most of the participants of History Connected are saddened at the thought of the end of TAH grants. We who have experienced it understand its true value. Part of the grant's mission for this year is to keep it going- making it sustainable. How can we impart the scope of the programming to others?

 Delving in to the website is one way to begin a conversation about TAH. It is highly organized, user-friendly, and rich with resources. Starting with the School Day Seminar tab- we can show others that by clicking on the title- frameworks and other standards come up. As many departments are now working hard to align the Common Core, these standards can be of great help. The topics can really help teachers as they try to work out narrowing down topics and deciding which angles to use as they teach. There are many readings and other resources that can be used by all. When teachers are evaluating the content as well as the strategies, they can see the outstanding credentials of all the presenters and their materials.

 The tab by the History Book Group works in much the same way. Many social studies teachers are avid readers and could use the site as a recommended reading list- and get several ideas for using the books in their classes. The topic range is vast- yet sticks to the global theme of the year. All levels of U.S. history can use items from this list. There are also primary sources, strategies and assignments that many could adapt to their classes. '

Technology and General Web Resources is a tab that is way more powerful than its name implies. There are websites that can be used by teachers with very formal teaching styles as well as those who are more flexible. Creativity, audio, video, content, student engagement, classwork, homework, projects etc. can all be addressed by using the resources here. Teachers as well as students will find these resources helpful. 

Most teachers will find lesson plans by our own colleagues under the Lesson Plan tab. There is a wide range of topics, teaching styles, differentiated lessons, and grade levels addressed here. The lesson plans meet strict criteria and include frameworks and other standards, essential questions, and day be day instructions. They are designed to be picked up and used by any teacher. I suggest all take a peek and uncover some jewels!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Wrapping up another school year with History Connected

As the school year winds down and many of us are putting the finishing touches on our school year projects I find myself thinking back at the themes presented this year.

Above all else, this year's History Connected focused on the U.S. and the World. How actions, events, and movements within the United States impacted countries and peoples around the world. Examples can be seen in the influence of the Declaration of Independence on revolutionary nations such as Haiti, the significance of the League of Nations in a post war world and the rising stream of immigration that took place in this country starting in the mid-1800's and continuing into this new century.

I always find it exciting and eye-opening when my students learn something they did not know. Guiding them through the interwoven history of America and the world always seems to produce interesting responses.

I will never forget the conversation that I was having with my AP US History students during their lesson on the Vietnam War. During my lecture I repeated an interesting story told to History Connected during our school day seminar on the League of Nations. It seemed that Vietnamese and future Communist leader, Ho Chi Minh, had approached President Wilson during the Paris Peace Conference. Minh was hoping to discuss self-determination with a focus on the French colony of Indochina. Wilson never met with Minh but one can only imagine how history might be different today if they did meet. My students gasped and asked question after question about their failed meeting. Telling this unknown story brought my lecture to another level and kept my students thinking.

Sadly, as this is the last year of History Connected. I hope that I am able to use all of my learned knowledge with all of my future students.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

I want to share a differentiated teaching strategy called "Six Thinking Hats." It's a great strategy to invigorate classroom discussions and expand/deepen student ideas while providing structure and guidance. "Six Thinking Hats" is a group discussion strategy that provides a variety of ways for students to participate in a discussion. The strategy establishes six different perspectives from which to break down and analyze an essential or thematic question, problem, or issue. It asks students to think about a problem with a specific "thinking hat" on, going along with the age-old expression, "put on your thinking hat." The strategy was developed by Dr. Edward deBono, guru of creative thinking. and is widely used around the world in educational and corporate settings.                                                                                        

I first used the strategy at a History Connected book discussion group. We used it to discuss whether or not the character in a historical fiction had achieved "the American dream." After reading a short background of the American dream, to give us a common reference point, we proceeded to talk about what the novel's main character would think of the American dream. The six hats strategy provided a specific, guiding format  while prompting us to think of different perspectives. The picture below does a great job representing the depth of thinking that the strategy encourages.

The basic directions for using this strategy would be to pick a reading, issue, idea or problem that you want your students to explore. Arrange small groups of 3-4 students. Explain the expression of "thinking hat" and then read through each of the hats with the students to introduce them to the perspectives they will use to discover all aspects of an issue. Students then approach the same question six times using each "hat." 

Here is a link to a pdf that describes each hat and provides examples for each hat:

I've thought about using the Six Thinking Hats strategy to guide class discussions on Woodrow Wilson's Peace Without Victory Speech, President Kennedy's Inaugural Address, and any other documents that have wide-reaching effects. 

Monday, May 7, 2012

Student Created Weeblys

This year I decided to have my ninth grade history students examine the reform movements of the antebellum period by creating a weebly. Each group was assigned one reform movement and was required to find essentially the who, what, where, when and why of the movement. The groups could choose from Education Reform, Prison Reform, Mental Health Reform, Temperance and Women's Education Reform. The students were presented with the task below:

To create a website that answers the following question:

Was the nineteenth century reform movement assigned to you successful?

Your must address the following information:
• Explain the problem your movement is addressing
• Significant people involved in the movement and his/her contributions
• Methods used by the movement to get their message out – How did the movement go about fixing the problem?
• Outcome – Was the movement effective? Did it fix the problem? This will be an opinion supported by information that you discovered.

In addition to the students' research into their issue they had to find at least one primary source and images and charts to use in the weebly.

Students were not intimidated by the prospect of developing a weebly. I felt like the research and the bibliography was more of a challenge for them. Many students had used weebly before and had relatively few issues with putting the information into the weebly. The requirements for the weebly were as follows:
  • Have a title for your website that demonstrates your topic and would capture a person’s attention.
  • The names of the group members need to be on the page.
  • Visuals - You have charts, pictures, artwork, etc. that are relevant to your topic.
  • There are captions or brief explanations for ALL visuals.
  • Have well defined categories of information
  • All the required information is thoroughly addressed in the website.
  • The website is organized and easy to navigate.
  • There is an explanation of your primary source and a link to the website where it is located.
  • You have a bibliography on the website. This includes websites for the visuals.
  • All information and captions are grammatically correct and there are not any spelling errors.
  • Yu must remain ON TASK during class time.
  • All information must be IN YOUR OWN WORDS. Any cutting/pasting from the internet, magazine, encyclopedia, books, etc. will result in a 0. Changing one or two words from the source does not constitute the writing as being in your own words.
The only major problems the students ran into was putting the images into the weebly at school. There must be something with my school's firewall that made downloading pictures virtually impossible. Luckily students did not experience the same problems at home and were able to get the pictures in there.

Some examples of my students' work can be found at the links below:

For next year I plan on altering the assignment so that the weebly would be written as if one of the reformers of the time period was creating the site. By having students put themselves into someone else's shoes they may understand better the passion these reformers felt for these causes.