A Note on Links: When reading back posts, please be aware that links have a short half-life. You can find working links to all of the MHS resources on our Educator Resources Page.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Montana History for Kindergarten

I recently received a request from a kindergarten teacher for ideas for incorporating Montana history in kindergarten. Do you have any resources that you particularly like? If so, I'd love to hear about them. Here is how I responded:

The fact is, we don’t have a ton of material designed specifically for kindergarten, or really K-3. However, other kindergarten teachers have had success adapting our hands-on history footlockers. The lesson plans are designed for fourth grade but the objects are great for all ages. Footlockers are available to Montana educators for two weeks at a time. No rental fee is charged for the use of footlockers. However, schools are responsible for the cost of shipping the footlocker to the next venue.

Many lower grade teachers particularly enjoy Montana Indian Stories Lit Kit - Immerses students in storytelling and the oral tradition with seven class sets of Montana Indian stories collected for the Indian Reading Series (1972) and reprinted by the Montana Historical Society Press. The lit kit includes animal puppets and User Guide. NOTE: Out of respect for the storytelling customs of many Montana Indian people, this kit is available for use in the winter months (November through March.)

The user guides for all the footlockers are online and contain lists of contents and historical narratives as well as lesson plans. 

We also have specific lesson plans for lower grades in our integrating art and history lesson plans. Your school library may have a copy of our Montana’s CharlieRussell packet and The Art of Storytelling packet. We are in the process of reprinting The Art of Storytelling packets and I can mail you one when they are ready (likely in late October) if you’d like. (Put your name on the list.)

OPI's Indian Education Division has a number of K-2 lesson plans listed by subject matter. Many of them are tied to anchor texts. Poking around, I was intrigued by "Rocks are Tools" under Science and Songs from the Indian Reading Series (which would be a great accompaniment to the Indian Stories Lit Kit), under Music.

Finally, here a couple of lesson plans developed by kindergarten teachers who took part in an NEH Landmarks workshop we held back in 2011. I thought they were ingenious.


Tuesday, September 11, 2018

New Lesson Plans for a New Year

Over the last couple of posts, I've reported on what your elementary, middle, and high school colleagues said were their favorite lessons and resources. The ones below weren't listed, but that's because they are brand spanking new!

For Grades 11-12 (especially government students): Montana Women's Legal History Lesson PlanIn this 1-2 period activity, students will examine sample Montana legislation from 1871 to 1991 that particularly affected women's lives to explore the impact laws have on the lives of ordinary people and why laws change.

For Grades 7-12: "Poems for Two Voices." This two- to three-day lesson uses the same documents featured in "Hearing Native Voices: Analyzing Differing Tribal Perspectives in the Oratory of Sitting Bull and Plenty Coups." After analyzing Plenty Coups' and Sitting Bull's rhetoric, student pairs will write a poem for two voices, comparing and contrasting the tribal leaders' perspectives, gaining a better understanding of Essential Understanding regarding Montana Indians #1: "There is great diversity among the twelve tribal nations of Montana in their languages, cultures, histories and governments."

For grades 4-8: Making an Atlatl provides detailed instructions on how students can make atlatls and darts while learning more about the physics behind this ancient technology and the tremendous skill it took to hunt large games in the pre-contact era. (We finished this last one in May of last year--but I'm guessing you didn't have a chance to try it so I'm touting it again.)

This isn't new either--but I just discovered the link to it has been broken for a LOONG time, so I have reposted Butte’s Industrial Landscape, a PowerPoint and script created by Fred Quivik, Professor Emeritus of History, at Michigan Technological University. Designed a as a presentation for teachers attending the NEH-funded workshop, "The Richest Hills: Mining in the Far West, 1860-1920," the PowerPoint examines industrial mining's social and environmental impacts. It is dense and rich--but has extremely useful material that I believe can be adapted for classroom use, particularly in the upper grades. (If you do use it, I'd love to know how.) 

And speaking of broken links: I'm begging you. If you find one, please let me know so I can fix it. I will be eternally grateful.

P.S. Elementary teachers: We didn't forget about you this summer--we just haven't finished our assignment. Please be patient.

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Best of, High School Edition

Every spring, I ask folks to share their favorite Montana history of IEFA lesson, the one they would absolutely do again. Go here for the elementary and middle school teachers' responses.  Read on for the responses from high school teachers with some notes from me, in brackets.


I enjoyed the IEFA lesson "Where the Girl Saved Her Brother."  The review given by the students was mixed, but not because of the activity.  –Marietta Kuhl, Colstrip Mt.  American Indian Studies (9-12), Government (11), US History (12) [I'm guessing this is the lesson plan Marietta is referring to.]

I revisited my US Constitution/Hellgate Treaty/allotment lessons this year in English class and they were pretty good even without reading Wind from an Enemy Sky. I make sure I include those every year, with or without the anchor text. These can be found within this OPI Model Teaching UnitAnna Baldwin, Arlee HS 10th grade English

Several teachers championed the Montana and the Great War project  (including Beaverhead County high school teacher Kim Konen) and I am SO glad. These teachers took on a substantial commitment: to have their students conduct authentic research into how World War I affected people in their counties and then to share their findings. You can find the lesson plan here. You can read a summary of the project here.  You can see the kids' excellent work here.

I did a lesson referencing Indian Relocation and used contemporary artist George Longfish as the catalyst. His work is located in the permanent online collection at the Missoula Art Museum. Jennifer Ogden, Victor School, K-12 Art

Because of a IEFA class I took, I discovered ALL the IEFA resources already in our library! I will be using some of those next year. Shelly Willmore, Roy Public Schools, K-12

We begin with a short discussion of how street names commemorate important events/people. I then ask students to name streets around West High School in Billings (Custer, Howard, Miles, Broadwater, etc). Most express surprise about the number of military and financial men. The real lesson comes when I ask them to name important Native American figures/people (language is important here).  Most name Sacajawea; a few know Two Moons (a park) or Black Otter Trail and now Joe Medicine Crow (middle school).  They quite gleefully name Iroquois, Comanche, Kiowa, Apache and then tipi, tomahawk, and the ilk. As I, fortunately, deal with quite bright juniors; they realize at this point what they have done and how even in 2018 vestiges of white privilege still remain.  Many of them remember the rancor and animosity that the decision to name the middle school after Joe Medicine Crow name brought a few years ago.  I don't do any assessment; the stark realization fills that role for me.--Bruce Wendt, Billings West

Our Art teacher and English teacher collaborate to go to Glacier and learn about the historical signifigance to the CSKT tribes to the area and then create art work of the land, followed with writing about the art piece as it pertains to the CSKT tribes.--anonymous

And three more brief and anonymous but intriguing suggestions:


  • I have designed interactive maps to teach MT geography. 
  • Mountain man flint and steel fire starting... hands-on for kids.
  • Footlocker on Homesteaders [The Mystery of the Old Homestead] from Western Heritage Center
P.S. Don't forget: The deadline to apply for the Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation Scholarship to attend the Montana History Conference is September 9, 2018. Learn more about the September 27-29 Billings Conference and the scholarship information here.

Monday, September 3, 2018

Best of, Middle School Edition

Every spring, I ask folks to share their favorite Montana history of IEFA lesson, the one they would absolutely do again. Go here for the elementary school teachers' responses. Stay tuned for high school teachers' responses. Read on for the responses from middle school teachers with some notes from me, in brackets.


Polson Middle School social studies teacher Matthew Dalbey taught World War I. [I hope he used our WWI lesson plan and/or scavenger hunt and other online resources.] Amber Erickson, who teaches 6-8 history in Saco, also focused on the Great War in Montana, but Amber participated in an ambitious project that had students conducting and sharing original research on ways the war impacted the people of their own county. The lesson plan was written for high school students, but Amber's students did a brilliant job. Here is the website they created to share their research.

Indian Literature Stories: my students loved the tales and comparing tribes.Shannon Baukol, Arrowhead School District, grades 6-8 [One source of relevant stories is the Indian Reading Series. Shannon may also use our Hands-on History footlocker, the Montana Indian Stories Lit Kit, which immerses students in storytelling and the oral tradition with seven class sets of Montana Indian stories collected for the Indian Reading Series. The lit kit includes animal puppets and User Guide. NOTE: Out of respect for the storytelling customs of many Montana Indian people, this kit will be made available for use in the winter months, November through March.]

Studying homesteading in Montana using a 1910 mail order catalogue to purchase items needed on the homestead, analyzing primary sources, going on a field trip to an original homestead and having students create presentations.—Chad Williams, Hamilton Middle School 7th grade Montana History [Our Hands-on History footlocker, Inside and Outside the Home: Homesteading in Montana 1900-1920, includes Sears, Roebuck catalogs and other primary sources and replica artifacts. Another teacher recommends the footlocker on homesteaders from Western Heritage Center, "History Mystery III: The Mystery of the Old Homestead."]

I had my students make postcards about either a town in Montana, or the history of the railroads in Montana, when we studied the railroad. Students researched the history and used those facts in their postcard. The postcards were then hung up in the school for other students to see.Cathleen Kuchera, Fair-Mont-Egan, 8th grade Montana History  


I did a homesteading day and the students had to create something just like homesteaders, we had a campfire and everything!  We had elk tenderloins, butter, cornbread, knitting and fire making.Jennifer Graham, Philipsburg


A winter count activity where each student drew a quilt square to represent an important event in their life using symbolism.Anonymous [For lesson plans and a PowerPoint on winter counts, see "The Art of Storytelling: Plains Indian Perspectives."]

I attended a professional development seminar at the historical society last summer that inspired me with several strategies for improving students' comprehension of complex reading passages.Zach Duval, Somers Middle School, 6-8 Language Arts [You can read more about some of these strategies here, and stay tuned: OPI has converted parts of it into an online course that will be posted soon on the Teacher Learning Hub.

6th Grade World Fair - students dress, become a person we have studied, and share the importance of why we study them in the modern era even though they lived in ancient times.Jessica Henigman, Cut Bank,  6th Grade ELA and 6th Social studies [Looking for Montana characters? Check out our Montana Biographies page.]

Charles Russell PowerPoint, Gallery Walk and Poems.Jennifer Hall, Eureka Middle School, 7th and 8th grades, U.S. History and Montana History [Find the Charlie Russell material Jennifer is referring to.] 

I recommend the IEFA lesson, "More Than Flutes and Drums."Anonymous

I taught a lesson that compared and contrasted Pocahontas. Students were placed into groups of 3 and assigned a historical figure to take guided notes on (Capt. John Smith, Pocahontas, and Chief Powhatan) throughout the Disney movie Pocahontas and a PBS NOVA Documentary, Pocahontas: Revealed. They were given the same set of questions for both videos and they were responsible for that figure the whole time. They were all tasked with identifying forms of technology, major crops, trade items, social structures, etc., and noting names, dates, and places of importance. After completion of both videos, they shared their findings with their group members and were then asked to write their own story about Pocahontas using the information they had learned. This was a creative writing story.Mitchell Wassam, Ronan Middle School, 6th grade Ancient Civilization and Geography.

Two different teachers anonymously recommended doing a unit using Tim Tingle's How I Became A Ghost: A Choctaw Trail of Tears Story. Tim Tingle is an enrolled member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma; OPI's Indian Education Division has created a model literacy lesson plan for his book Walking the Choctaw Road. 

Analyzing Points of View: Chief Rosebud Remembers Lewis and Clark.Tammy Dalling, 7th grade Gardiner Montana history [This is a lesson plan created by the good folks at OPI's Indian Education Division.]

Foods Indigenous to North America. We are currently engrossed in this lesson, and will be throughout the remainder of the quarter.  I have changed and adapted this each quarter that I have gardening class, to fit the knowledge and understanding levels of the students I have at that time.  Also, I have started to adapt the fictional novels into a seasonal round, to help students visualize what is happening, and at what time of the year in the Hatchet book series, and now in the My Side of the Mountain series- the kids are LOVING it!!!Anonymous

I used Newsela articles a lot this year for media classes.  This one about Frazer, Montana, fits in nicely with the Fort Shaw Indian Girls' Basketball Team.  Could lead to further study of the history of basketball teams in Montana.Norma Glock, Columbus Middle School, Grades 6-8, Media/Literacy Skills [Newsela is a site that offers nonfiction text at multiple reading levels. More here.]

The students' favorite lesson is the Boarding School. I show the segment from Into the West DVD.  I show this after we study Chapter 11 Early Reservation Years.Debbie Paisley, Montana History, West Yellowstone

P.S. Don't forget: The deadline to apply for the Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation Scholarship to attend the Montana History Conference is September 9, 2018. Learn more about the September 27-29 Billings Conference and the scholarship information here.



Thursday, August 30, 2018

Best of, Elementary Edition

Every spring, I ask folks to share their favorite Montana history of IEFA lesson, the one they would absolutely do again. Here are the responses from elementary teachers with some notes from me, in brackets.
  • Blackfeet Research Project:  Students research a cultural aspect about the Blackfeet Tribe.  They need 2 resources, 6 main facts and citing sources, a photograph and then they write a summary about what they learned.  They display their information on a poster board.-- Sara White, Shelby, grade 3
  • Reserving the footlocker from the Montana Historical Society entitled Montana Indian Story Lit Kit is a highlight in my classroom every year.  The students are intrigued by the stories and the anticipation of having to wait for winter to come to get the trunk is exciting for the students.  Most of the stories are at the third grade readability level and the others make for a great class read aloud. [You can see the footlocker user guide here. You can reserve it here.]
  • We got the Montana place names trunk and it was SO GOOD! It engaged my fourth graders for three class periods, learning all about Montana and the history of all the little towns using the A-Z road trip lesson.—Christine Ayers, Linderman Elementary, Grade 4 [Find the lesson plan here. Reserve the footlocker here.]
  • Rewriting the state song or other song.  Making new lyrics to go with an event in MT history. This is an adaptation to the state song lesson I previewed for you. –Jackie McCann, Florence Elementary, Grade 4 [We created this lesson plan as part of our revision of our State Symbols footlocker, which will be ready to circulate very soon. Stay tuned for more on this! Meanwhile, here's a link to information on how to write songs with your students for the non-musical that we borrowed heavily from in creating the lesson plan.] 
  • The Art of Storytelling, Barb Sackman, Terry Schools, Grade 1 [Several people talked about doing activities from The Art of Storytelling: Plains Indian Perspectives. That curriculum is available online, but we also donated packets with beautiful art prints to every public school library in Montana. And, I'm pleased to announce that we are reprinting the packet. Stay tuned for information on how to get a copy for your classroom!] 
  • Montana's Charlie Russell [This is another packet of beautiful prints and interesting K-12 ELA, Social Studies, and Art lesson plans that we created and distributed to every public school library in the state and to many individual teachers. If your library doesn't have a copy, you can still access the material online.
  • My MT history project in conjunction with the Montana's State Symbols footlocker and the Crow Astronomy Trunk, which I ordered through Chief Plenty Coups State Park. The engagement factor greatly increase with both trunks. Students loved getting to hold items we can’t find in our area and see real and realistic models of our state symbols. The Crow Astronomy trunk items also allowed me to have the perfect setting to talk about astronomy!—April Wills, Bainville School, Grade 2 [I've talked to April and she has her students complete an amazing local history project with their high school buddies. She's happy to share more information on how she does that.]
  • We did state history this year. While we didn’t get actual footlockers, we did some of the activities from them that are available online and my 4th grader LOVED the state symbols activities. She also really loved the “design your own winter count” activity.—Homeschool parent, Grade 4 [All of our hands-on history footlockers have User Guides that are chock full with lesson plans and other resources, many of which can be done without ordering the footlockers. You can download the user guides here.]
  • Because of an IEFA class I took, I discovered ALL the IEFA resources already in our library! I will be using some of those next year. Shelly Willmore, Roy Public Schools [OPI has donated SO MUCH GREAT MATERIAL to schools! Follow Shelly's lead and check out your library's collection. Also check out the Indian Education division's web site for online lesson plans and resources.]
  • I used the state newspaper link so kids could read about past events in Montana and the country. I also will continue to use the A-Z towns as it is so fun for kids to discover their state. [I LOVE historic newspapers! Here are some hints on how to use them in your classroom.]
Stay tuned for middle school and high school teachers' recommendations.

P.S. Don't forget: The deadline to apply for the Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation Scholarship to attend the Montana History Conference is September 9, 2018. Learn more about the September 27-29 Billings Conference and the scholarship information here.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

2018-2019: Here We Come!

Welcome back! Or if you are new to Teaching Montana History, welcome. I hope everyone had a good summer. The first posts of the school year are always business, so let's get started.

Help This Community Grow

If you have colleagues you think would enjoy this listserv, please let them know how to subscribe!


Montana History Conference Scholarships

Don’t forget: We have travel scholarships available to teachers wishing to attend the 45th Annual Montana History Conference (held this year in Billings) September 27-29. Scholarship applications are due by 11:59 p.m. September 9, 2017. Awards will be announced the following week.

You can find the conference program and the scholarship application information here. If you can't attend the entire conference, consider just joining us for the Thursday educator workshop ($25, lunch included, 6 OPI Renewal Units.)

For Students with Learning Disabilities

Did you know? Montana: Stories of the Land is available as an audiobook for students with learning disabilities through Learning Ally.

Montana: Stories of the Land Companion Website and the MHS Educator Resources Page  

I hope most of you are already using the Montana history and Indian Education for All resources posted on our sites. If so, would you help us out? Please email mkohl@mt.gov if you find any broken links or other problems in the PDFs or on the site. We can usually fix things quickly—but only if we know about them. We moved our the textbook companion website to a new address over the summer (http://mhs.mt.gov/education/StoriesOfTheLand), which will be better in the long run. BUT it may cause problems in the short run. We worked hard to make sure all the links still work, but I'm sure we missed some. So, I’m begging you. See something? Say something.

If you haven't checked out the lesson plans on these sites, I hope you will do that now. And don't forget about our online professional development opportunities--for which you can earn OPI Renewal units.

Two years ago we surveyed teachers using the book Montana: Stories of the Land. Here’s a post about what we found, including helpful hints for teachers using the resource for the first time. And stay tuned for upcoming posts, which will feature your colleagues' favorite lessons and resources for teaching Montana history or Indian Education for All.

Conference on Crow Treaties

If you can get to southeastern Montana on September 14 and/or September 15, the upcoming symposium "Treaties that Live: Sesquicentennial of Crow (Apsaalooke) Indian Treaties of 1868 at Fort Laramie, Wyoming and Fort Hawley, Montana" at Crow Agency looks fascinating. OPI Renewal units will be available. If you can't attend, check out the documents, photographs, and map the organizers have gathered for their website. 

Monday, June 4, 2018

See you next fall if not before....

This blog is going on hiatus for summer break--unless something time sensitive comes along that is so good I can't bear not to share it.

If you are changing schools, please subscribe using your new address! We'd hate to lose touch.

If your travels bring you to Helena this summer, please stop in and say "hello." And of course, don't hesitate to contact me if I can help you as you prepare for your classes next fall: mkohl@mt.gov.

Do know that there's still time to complete our annual survey and to share your favorite lesson. (Need more incentive? I'm adding a prize for the 60th respondent.)

Whether through the survey, an email, or if your vacation takes you through Helena, I look forward to hearing from you.

P.S. Missing the blog already? Browse back posts. Use the labels on the right-hand side to browse general areas (IEFA) or the search bar to search by keywords (primary sources). And if you have time this summer, take our online class, Montana History in 9 Easy Lessons, and earn from one to nine renewal units, depending on the number of sessions you complete.