Thursday, September 21, 2017

Can we find a teachable moment through the smoke?

If you are on Facebook, I bet your feed is filled with stories about the fires. Mine is.

These articles brought to mind a post I wrote awhile back about 
using disasters as a way to engage students in larger questions

It also made me wonder if this year’s fire season offers a “teachable moment.” If so, here are some resources for teaching about fire and fire history. Most are taken from the Montana: Stories of the Land Teachers Guide and Companion Website, Chapter 12. 
Interested in changes how fire policy has changed since 1910? We created this bibliography for National History Day students, but it’s a good starting point for any researcher.  Other interesting sources include:
Wildfires and the appropriate response to them are also at the center of policy debates. 
  • What should the government’s approach be toward fire protection in the Wildland-Urban Interface?
  • How do state and federal policies affect fires? (Recently, Senator Daines called for more logging to prevent fires and Senator Tester called for action to slow climate change.)
  • What are the budget implications of increasing forest fires and how should we pay for fire fighting?
Consider asking students to research and then write (and/or present) policy briefs to your local legislator and/or county commissioners on one of these issues. (Former middle school teacher Jim Schulz said having students present decision-makers with their research—and proposed solutions—to current problems was the all-time best activity he ever did with his students.)
If you do end up exploring fire in a meaningful way in your classroom, I'd love to learn what you did and how it went. And in the meantime, I'm sure you join me in wishing for snow.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Teachers' Choice: Favorite High School Lesson Plans

You've seen the elementary and middle school teachers' responses to the question, “Describe (in brief) the best Montana history or IEFA lesson or project or resource you taught this year--the one you will make time for next year no matter what.” As promised, here are the answers we received from high school teachers to the same question. [I've added links where I could find them and a few comments in brackets.] 

Janessa Parenteau in Froid taught Playing for the World: The 1904 Fort Shaw Indian Boarding School Girls Basketball Team. 

Jane Kolstad, a special education and alternative school teacher in Glasgow, recommends "Counting Coup:  Becoming a Crow Chief on the Reservation and Beyond, by Joe Medicine Crow. She wrote: "I supplement with the lessons from the OPI website.  I also like to do some lessons with the book:  Land of the Nakoda which is in reference to the Assiniboine Indians who are native to this area.  

Betty Bennett, who teaches English in Missoula, wrote, "I use several every year, but I am especially committed to using "Blood on the Marias" at the end of our unit on Fools Crow by James Welch.  It is also a great starting point for additional "history detective" work.  My students are much more interested in novels that are based on historical events."

Power teacher Shelly Vick wrote: "7 Essentials Understandings illustrated on tipis.  Didn't expect it to go well but the students loved it."

Jennifer Ogden, art teacher in Victor, used The Art of Storytelling: Plains Indian Perspectives (a unit on pictographic art).

One teacher wrote: "I took bits and pieces of Native American speeches and then had my students try and match them up with the time period and personality of who said them. It is a fun exercise for my students and it gets them talking about the personalities and culture of Native American society.

One teacher used our "Cavalry on the Frontier footlocker."  [Our footlockers, though designed for 4th grade, are often successfully adapted to high school. More information on the footlocker program here.]

Another teacher said, "The one the kids enjoyed the most was my flint and steel fire starting hands-on lesson."

A principal was proud of his teachers' collaborative project on Glacier National Park: "The English teacher and the art teacher took a field trip to Glacier National Park.  The art side of the project is ledger art and the English side was place-based learning with an emphasis on the Salish perspective." [A good related resource is our hands-on history footlocker--Land of Many Stories: The People and Histories of Glacier National ParkThough designed for fourth grade, it is easily adaptable to upper grades.]

And and another teacher wrote, "Lewis and Clark: Journals on the Yellowstone and visit to forts/confluence."

Several teachers mentioned topics they focused on (The link to resources are mine):

Last but not least, a teacher wrote that she does a "Sense of Place" unit. It reminded me of the work Montana Heritage Project teachers used to do. I am so glad this type of community studies continues, so I asked her for details. She wrote: 

Students need to have a solid, personal history foundation, before venturing out to impact the world. I have discovered that students know very little about their own family history, and or community present and past. My students know where to get the best $2 fries in town, but have no idea about the soaking pools, museum, Artist Society or local politics. They know nothing, or very little, about the rich history of the valley.
I start with some personal history, such as their first name. Why were they given that name? What does it mean? Are there others in the family with the same name? Learning about their last name also provides a plethora of family history.
Many of our rural kids have stories tied to their land. How long has it been in the family? Homesteaders or a recent purchase…has the land always raised cattle, pigs, wheat or barley? Is there a family cemetery? Where was the nearest school, store or post office. 
I like to have students research the various professions within the family tree. Again, this provides an interesting look at each student’s personal history.
A tour around town (ours is small) where students can discuss, list or write about any knowledge they have about the town, now and in the past. Once that is done I have them talk to family members and or community members to glean their information about town. Sometimes this turns into oral histories for the museum.
Do you have a favorite lesson or resource you'd like to share? It's not too late--let me know what it is and I will share it with the group. Among the suggestions for how to improve Teaching Montana History was to posts more about what teachers were doing (both successes and failures). So email me so we can make that happen! 

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Struggling Readers and Informational Text

We were lucky beyond measure to host a workshop with reading specialist and SKC professor Tammy Elser in June. It had an unwieldy title, "Struggling Readers and Content Area Textbooks: Making Montana: Stories of the Land Accessible to All," but many of the strategies Tammy featured were quick and easy to implement. In fact, several of our resources now incorporate them.

Tammy introduced us to "Takeaway" bookmarks--a tool for teaching students how to summarize (she said that the idea was inspired by SKC graduate Taylor Crawford). Modeled on the one Tammy created for Chapter 8 of Montana: Stories of the Land, we created “Takeaway” bookmarks for every chapter--and posted them on the Educator Resources pages of the Montana: Stories of the Land Companion Website. Before starting a chapter, print and cut out these bookmarks and distribute them to your students. Ask them to use the available space on the Takeaway to summarize the GIST of what they learn from reading each subsection of the chapter. Remind them that they don’t have much room, so they’ll need to think before they write down the most important idea they want to take away from the section. 

Write Your Way In/Write Your Way Out
While Tammy featured this strategy at the workshop, her friend Julie Saylor actually introduced me to it a few years ago. Julie worked with us to design the Original Governor's Mansion footlocker and used the strategy with great success in several lessons. The strategy is extremely simple to implement. Start with a question central to the lesson (if you are using Montana: Stories of the Land, you can modify one of the "Read to Find Out" statements.)

In the first lesson of the Original Governor's Mansion footlocker, Julie provided the following prompt: What was life like for Montana children in the years 1900–1920? Describe what you might know from stories and reading and what you imagine. What did their homes look like? What did their schools look like? Where (and what) did children play? What type of clothing did they wear? Don’t stop writing for five minutes! (Tammy suggests only writing for three minutes. Do what works for your class.)

After providing the prompt, let them know that they will be thinking hard and writing for five minutes nonstop, as soon as you say, “Go!” You will be using a timer and they must keep on going, not lifting their pencils until the five minutes are up. If they are stuck for what to write next, encourage them to write, “I am thinking!” until they think of more to say. Remind them they can use their imaginations! Create a sense of urgency! For this exercise, they should not be concerned with their spelling, etc. They should just think and pour out their thoughts on paper. When the timer goes off at the end of five minutes, tell students to draw a line where they stopped.

After completing the chapter, lesson or unit, have your students "Write their way out" on the same question, using the same method of non-stop writing (only three minutes this time around.) When we classroom tested this technique in Jodi Delaney's fourth-fifth grade class, she said that students who had struggled to write a sentence proudly filled a page. 

Tea Party
Perhaps some of you already use this powerful pre-reading strategy, which "allows students to predict what they think will happen in the text as they make inferences, see casual relationships, compare and contrast, practice sequencing, and draw on their prior experiences." If not, I recommend trying it.

At the Struggling Readers workshop, Tammy gave us each an index card with a short section of text (in this case from the 1855 Hellgate Treaty, using part of a lesson created by Arlee teacher Shawn Orr). She didn't tell us anything about the text. Instead, she had us read our snippet to ourselves and write a very short summary of it (no more than 20 words--in a classroom, you might want to do this with partners). After we copied our  summary on the back of the card, we "tea partied." We walked around and shared our cards with other members of the class. We read our snippet and summary aloud to our partner (while they followed along silently). Then we listened while our partner did the same. By the end of the tea party, I'd read my part of the treaty 4 times, had mastered some difficult technical language, and had begun to put the pieces together by listening/reading other sections. We don't have any lessons that use this strategy yet, but you can bet we will soon.

I'm pleased to say that Tammy is planning on working with OPI to create an online HUB course based on the workshop she gave for us. I'll let you know when it goes live--likely sometime next spring.

Do you have a great reading strategy? Please email me: I'd love to learn about it.

Monday, September 11, 2017

More Eastern Montana Professional Development Opportunities

I'm delighted to announce that we are cosponsoring two workshops in Glendive in cooperation with the Prairie View Curriculum Consortium.

On Wednesday, September 27, 2017, from 10-3, award-winning educator Jim Schulz will lead a workshop for grades 4-7 educators: "Bringing History Alive." At this workshop, teachers will spend the morning exploring what life was like for Montana Indians during the pre- and early contact periods. The afternoon will showcase lesson plans from the hands-on history footlocker "Coming to Montana: Immigrants from Around the World."  Teachers will leave with interactive ready-to-go lessons they can immediately use in their classrooms.

Then, on Thursday, September 28, 10-3, Jim will will lead a workshop for grade 7-12 teachers: "Teaching Hard History." During this workshop, teachers will spend the morning looking at how war affected Montana and Montanans, using a readers’ theater script “Letters Home from Montanans at War” and introducing new resources the MT Historical Society has created for the World War I Centennial.  The afternoon will focus on Indian Education for All, showcasing lesson plans that use primary sources to investigate Montana’s Indian history.  Teachers will leave with interactive ready-to-go lessons they can immediately use in their classrooms.

Those of you who have attended Jim's "Crossing Discipline" workshops know what a great presenter he is. This is a chance to work with him and gain exposure to entirely different content.

Both workshops will be held at the PVSS Building, 30 Hwy. 200 S in Glendive. Participants will earn 5 renewal credits. Lunch will be provided (and it will be a working lunch).

To register for either (or both) workshops, email Kim Stanton with your name, school, grade level, cell phone--in case the workshop is cancelled--and the name of the session you are registering for.

On the way home from Glendive, Jim will be offering the tried and true "Crossing Disciplines: Social Studies, Art, and the Common Core" in Hardin on September 29, and Livingston on September 30. More details about those workshops here

For those of you in Western Montana, there's still time to register for the Montana History Conference, or at least the Thursday, September 21, Educator Workshop. Looking forward! It's going to be dynamite.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Teachers' Choice: Favorite Middle School Lessons

Last week I shared the answers that elementary teachers gave to the question “Describe (in brief) the best Montana history or IEFA lesson or project or resource your taught this year--the one you will make time for next year no matter what.” Today, I'll share middle school teachers' answers to the same question. I've added links to likely lesson plans and additional information in brackets. High school teachers' responses coming soon. 

Cindy Hatten. who teaches 6-8 grades Colstrip, shared three favorites: The Original Governor's Mansion footlocker,[scroll down for the link to the User Guide], The Railroads Transform Montana PowerPoint lesson plan, and the Women at Work lesson plan.

Jennifer Hall, who teaches 8th grade in Eureka, wrote: "Mapping MT: A-Z, Girl from the Gulches lessons, Charlie Russell on Indians and Gallery Walk and many more."

Laura Dukart, 8th grade MT history in Wibaux, also loves Mapping Montana: "Students "travel" to towns they select in alphabetical order, noting the mileage between each, and facts about each town."

Jennifer Graham, who teaches 7-12 history in Philipsburg, writes: "A field trip to the [Montana Historical Society] Museum. It is always worth it!!!  I love how it brings to life the textbook and everything we have talked about all year long."

Power teacher Shelly Vick wrote: "7 Essentials Understandings illustrated on tipis.  Didn't expect it to go well but the students loved it."

Jennifer Ogden, K-12 art teacher in Victor, recommends "The Art of Storytelling." [We sent packets of this unit on pictographic art to every public school library and also put the material on our website for download.]

Sunny Real Bird, a Ronan 7th grade math teacher, recommends "traditional games." [Here's a Traditional Games Unit from OPI.]

Other teachers replied anonymously: 

 "FIRST-Teaching about Ledger Art and then making our own ledger art from ledger paper. SECOND-I will definitely check out the Lewis and Clark trunk again."

"Charlie Russell and VTS."

"The trial of Henry Plummer- students draw for prosecution or defense. We use multiple sources and put Mr. Plummer on Trial."

"Making parfleche bags."

"Lewis and Clark: Journals on the Yellowstone and visit to forts/confluence."

"Sense of Place lessons...learning about the community, (right now and in the past)."

Do you have a favorite lesson you'd like to share? It's not too late. Email me with details and I'll share it with the group. 

Monday, September 4, 2017

OPI Site Redesign

In my August 28 post, I put out a plea for folks to let me know when they found broken links on our site. That's still in effect, with one caveat.

The Montana Office of Public Instruction has just launched a redesigned website. This means that the links we have provided to OPI’s resources no longer work. We are working to fix them as quickly as we can. 

If you find a broken link to an OPI resource, for the short term, I recommend using the "search" function on their main web page as well as Montana Teach, where it looks as if many of the curriculum resources have been moved. I know they are still building the Montana Teach and Indian Education Division's pages and are adding additional resources every day.

The material OPI puts out is top notch--so the extra digging is worth it. My new favorite OPI resource is "Crossing Boundaries through Art: Seals of Montana Tribal Nations" (grades 3-5, grades 6-8, and grades 9-12). Give it a look--and please be patient as we clean up our site and lesson plans. 

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Teachers' Choice: Favorite Elementary Lessons

Every spring, I survey readers, both to get feedback on how to make Teaching Montana History better and to gather everyone’s favorite lessons so I can share them with the group. I love learning what has actually worked in the classroom—and being able to share teacher-approved lessons. So, without further ado, here are some of the answers elementary teachers gave to the question “Describe (in brief) the best Montana history or IEFA lesson or project or resource you taught this year--the one you will make time for next year no matter what.” Stay tuned for future posts featuring the answers from middle and high school teachers. [I've added some links, and a few comments in brackets--couldn't resist putting my oar in.] 

Justine Hurley, who teaches grades 3-5 in White Sulphur Springs, wrote: "This year I used the Montana Indian Stories Lit Kit.  The students really enjoyed the interactive puppetry that can go along with the stories.  We studied this footlocker after Christmas and it was very useful in getting the kids engaged after a long winter break!  Next year I intend to use the To Learn A New Way footlocker.  I will be creating in-depth social studies lessons and field trip based on this footlocker!" [Discover more about both of these footlockers by exploring the User Guides, posted on our Footlocker page.] 

Susan Seastrand, who teaches K-8 in a one-room school, used the Charlie Russell pictures that were part of our Montana's Charlie Russell packet. [We sent one to every public school library--but if you want one for your classroom, send us an email and we'll send you one while supplies last. You can also access all of the packet material (including the images, biographical PowerPoints, three hands-on art lessons, and five ELA/social studies lessons) on our website.]

Christine Ayers, a 3-5 teacher from Polson, wrote: "Honestly, there are so many! The ones that came to mind first, are the resources on Columbus Day and Thanksgiving. We have used those lessons as a base for so many discussions throughout the year. Just those two lessons have sparked in-depth, critical thoughts and debates for the entire year. Fourth graders getting a different perspective and developing empathy is something I will make time for every year, thanks to these lessons!" [Mike Jetty offered some great links on Thanksgiving in his guest post last year on Native American Heritage Month.]

April Wills, who teaches second grade in Bainville, wrote: "The best lesson I teach is Preserving Eastern Montana History with iMovie. Students research, develop questions and record information. When the whole project is done we create iMovies to preserve that knowledge and share with other students. Each year is different, this year we researched homesteads within 50 miles of our town. Students partnered up with high school students to complete their tasks, this also varies each year with the classes we join with depending on scheduling." 

Shannon Baukol, who teaches 3-6 in Pray, wrote: "The best history  lesson I have taught this year is a map layering activity with Montana reservations and tribal affiliations, tied in with a Literary Study on tribes outside of Montana." [She may have used some of the maps available through OPI's Indian Education Division, particularly this one of territories in 1855 and this one showing reservations today. If you are interested in providing a visual on Indian land loss, you may also want to check out this amazing 17-second animation that shows Indian land loss using the chronological collection of land cession maps by Sam B. Hillard, of Louisiana State University, which was published in 1972 in the Annals of the Association of American Geographers. Maps looking at land loss due to allotment are also extremely informative. You can download a map set focused on the Flathead Reservation here.]

Whitefish Technology teacher Michael Carmichael also understands the power of maps. Each year he works with his third graders to create animations of shrinking tribal land. Last year, I was so intrigued I asked him to share details. He wrote: "Students were given different animation project choices including one about  Montana Reservations. The students’ task was to show how traditional tribal areas changed and shrank with the introduction of reservations. Students needed to select three tribes to animate the boundary changes. This lesson activated prior classroom knowledge and utilized free online animation program that was age appropriate and allowed students multiple ways to create their animated infographic. Students accessed traditional tribal territory maps and modern Reservation maps to use as their background before using the drawing and painting tools to create the visual of the shrinking reservations. Animate is free and easy to use on all platforms via the web. Some of the map resources students utilized are:
They also used the  student safe search resource “Bing in the Classroom.”(Free for Schools)."

Bill Moe, Libby 3-5 teacher, loved Mapping Montana A-Z. He declared it "great fun." [Another teacher said her 4th-grade students got frustrated with the exercise and recommended shortening it by placing students in groups and dividing up the alphabet (so one group mapped A-F, another G-L, etc.). She's now teaching 8th grade and says those students love the lesson plan as is.]  

Another teacher also recommended map resources: "I liked the presentation Ruth Ferris gave us using old and new state maps with tribal names. It was interesting to see how Montana has changed over time using maps." [I asked Ruth, and she thought the maps she presented came from MontanaTribes.org.]

A 3-8 art teacher had his students make parfleche bags. 

A 3-5 teacher has embraced combining history and language arts. For example, she read Hattie Big Sky as a read aloud. [I just read this book this summer--what a great tie-in to so many topics in Montana history, including the effects World War I.]

One 3-5 teacher wrote: "I have used women in Montana History information with my students in reading and language arts." [We've gathered our resources on Montana women's history here. Lesson plans particularly appropriate for elementary are Women and Sports: Tracking Change Over Time, Montana Women at Work: Clothesline Timeline, and Biographical Poems Celebrating Amazing Montana Women.] 

Angela Archuleta, a librarian in Lewistown, wrote: "I did a primary resource session from Glacier National Park. I would like to conduct some of the  RAFT exercises in Google Classroom." [I don't know if she used it, but we have a footlocker focused on Glacier that offers a number of primary sources. You can review the user guide here and learn about how to order here. More information on RAFT here and here.]

One K-5 librarian wrote: "I began the 4th graders on Yellowstone Kelly and the newspapers from long ago. I'd like to go deeper into Boot Hill Cemetery and Yellowstone Kelly. One "teachable moment" occurred when one of my students asked who Charlie Russell was. It allowed me to open up the kit we all received about him and talk to the students about his impact on Montana and Western Art." 

A K-5 library teacher recommended using the historical newspapers now available online. [Here are some tips.]

A 3-5 teacher recommended playing Indian games. [Here's a Traditional Games Unit from OPI.]

A few of you listed field trips as the best thing you did: 
  • "We took a school field trip to the Lewis and Clark Interactive Museum in Great Falls that was wonderful." (Grades K-2)
  • "We took the class on a field trip to the BigHorn Battlefield. Before leaving we used many resources from the MT Historical Society emails I received over the course of the year. Most recently we used the piece about History and location of MT tribes for our research projects." (Grades 3-5)
Do you have a favorite lesson you'd like to share? If so, email me with details and I'll share it with the group.