Monday, December 5, 2016

Best of...Elementary Posts

Teaching Montana History began in 2008 as the Montana History and Heritage Education listserv. That's a long time ago--so as we approach the new year, I thought it would be fun to highlight some older posts, starting with ones about elementary resources (since I don't focus on K-5 classrooms enough.)

My Favorite Hanukkah Story and How to Teach It: In 1993, when members of a hate group threw a rock through a Billings Jewish family's window during Hanukkah, the community organized in opposition. Over 10,000 Billings residents displayed pictures of menorahs in their windows as an expression of solidarity with their Jewish neighbors. 

Teaching Montana History in Fourth Grade: In what is one of my most-read elementary posts, I provided notes toward a fourth grade curriculum. 

Two New Women's History Lesson Plans--Just in Time for Women's History Month and New Lesson Plan Investigates the Effects of Title IX: These provide links and descriptions to women's history related lesson plans geared toward grades 4-8 (and one for older students as well).

Using Primary Sources with Elementary Students includes information and links to lessons we've created for younger students, including K-3.

Speaking of elementary opportunities, I received an intriguing email recently from Kathleen Dent of Innovative Educational Consulting. She wrote: 

"We are coordinating a fun, free program for third-fifth grade classes. It is called the Montana History Mystery Quest and will encourage students to research a bit about their own community, make up fun clues, and then share information virtually with another class in the state. Teachers can register their class here." See the flier below for more information--and if you choose to participate, let me know how it goes.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Using Historic Newspapers to Increase Student Understanding of World War I

At MEA-MFT in October, my colleague Natasha Hollenbach offered a presentation on using digitized historic newspapers to conduct research on World War I. She graciously agreed to share some of that information to the list.

While she focused on World War I, you can adapt many of the skills and strategies to other events.  Also while primarily focused on history classes, several of these ideas could be used for English, debate, or civics classes. 

The Montana Historical Society currently has 536,000 pages of historical newspapers available online, either through Chronicling America and Montana Newspapers. This is less than 5 percent of our overall collection but still a useful resource for researchers and teachers. Here’s Natasha:

The front page of the September 27, 1918, issue of the Roundup Record is an excellent example of the types of World War I content found in newspapers.  Covering everything from the battles at the front, deaths and promotions of local soldiers, liberty loans, the influenza epidemic, various aspects of the draft, and even fluff stories (in this case a photo of a French soldier having his first American donut), newspapers like this one provide a wealth of information.

Often students complain that they don’t like history because to them it’s just memorizing dates, people, and events.  But that’s not history.  History is the personal stories of how individuals or communities created and dealt with events of their time.  Below are some sample searches and suggested techniques for moving students to a new understanding of history.

Immigrants and the War

For example, some textbook descriptions about US entry into World War I often include discussion of German (and other) immigrants’ opposition to US entry, and these often suggest that they were more loyal to their native country than to their adopted one.  In response, I recommend the article “Montana Boy to Fight His Father in the Trenches," Ronan Pioneer, September 14, 1917, p.4.

Have your students write a reaction.  How would it make them feel to realize that they would be fighting a war opposite their father, brother, cousins, and/or friends?  How would that affect their attitude on US entry?  What is the impact of the tension between personal loyalties and national allegiance? How does this article confirm or contradict textbook views of immigrants and the war? And why do they think the newspaper published this story? Solely as human interest? Or was there a political agenda?

Jeannette Rankin

One of Montana’s most famous World War I stories is Congresswoman Jeanette Rankin’s vote against the war. To find articles describing her vote, I limiting the date range of my search to April 6, 1917-April 13, 1917 (the week after her vote) and then searched Jeanette Rankin “as a phrase”.  I could have limited it to Montana also, but I was interested in national coverage of the event.
Below are links to a number of results.
  • Columbus Commercial (Mississippi), April 8, 1917, p, 2.
  • “2,000,000 Men in 2 Years.” Topeka State Journal, April 6, 1917, p, 1.
  • Ward County Independent (North Dakota), April 12, 1917, p, 2
  • “Most Dramatic Congress Scene in U.S. History.” Harrisburg Telegraph (Pennsylvania), April 6, 1917, p. 8.
  • “Woman Votes No.” Free Trader-Journal (Illinois), April 6, 1917, p. 3.
  • “By a Vote of Three Hundred Seventy-Three to Fifty The House Casts Lot With The Powers of the Entente”. Hawaiian Gazette, April 6, 1917, p. 1.
  • “Dramatic Scene.” Daily Gate City and Constitution-Democrat (Iowa), April 6, 1917, p. 1.

Ask your students: Which articles do they find more convincing?  What details differ between articles?  What opinion on women’s suffrage do you think the newspaper supports and why?  How is the attitude towards the vote different than what students have been exposed to before this (contemporary coverage was generally much more negative than we view her vote today) and why is it different?

If you teach English/writing, perhaps you could use these articles to examine how word choice affects meaning and to illustrate different writing tones.  Several of these articles clearly came from the same source but have been slightly changed. How do those changes affect how the article’s tone?

Liberty Loans

The National History Day 2017 Themebook includes a list of ten strategies for using digitized newspapers, including two involving advertisements.  (For the full list, see pages 65.) Both work well for Liberty Loan advertisements.  To find these ads, set the date range for 1917-1919 and search liberty loan “as a phrase”.  Even limiting the search to Montana will return a lot of hits.  Looking through them, choose a few that are full page ads.  The liberty loan ads are both fascinating and slightly terrifying.  They have this overall feel that their motto is “give until it hurts … and then give more”.  

Consider paring one of the ads with the article that ran in the Columbia Falls Columbian, April 11, 1918.  The story, which talks about volunteers going house to house collecting money, includes this line: “while it has been estimated what each person should subscribe, there is nothing to prevent an over-subscription, neither will the party … be told what his allotment is, but he will be asked to subscribe for as much as he cares to, and if the sum does not equal the figure estimated to be his share, the matter will be taken up in a different way.” There are so many things you could talk about with this:  privacy, peer pressure, big data and how it’s used, and official intimidation/coercion to name a few.


Lastly, instead of having the newspapers as your focus, consider using them to supplement other materials.  If you haven’t looked at the Montana Sedition Project, you should. It documents the 79 Montanans convicted of sedition in 1918-19. Consider having your students conduct a simulation. Assign a different person to pairs of students (one to argue for convicting the person and the other to argue against).  Have them use the newspapers both to find out generally what was considered sedition and how it was discussed and to see if they can find information specifically about their person.  I did a quick search for the individuals listed on the Sedition Project’s “Selected Profiles” page and I found all but one of them (Janet Smith) in Montana Newspapers (which seemed to have better results than Chronicling America, but I recommend students checking both).  I found the coverage of Ben Kahn particularly compelling.  Compare how they describe what he said over these three articles.

Newspapers can be a fabulous resource for you and your students so I hoped I sparked some inspiration for how you can incorporate them into your classroom.  When you do, please let us know what you did and how it worked out.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Teaching Indian Literature and/or Literature about Indians

Should we teach fictional books about Indians by non-Indian authors? 

I believe that non-Indians can successfully write and teach about Indian history and culture. For example, there are many non-Indian historians I admire who specialize in Indian history (Frederick Hoxie comes to mind.) I know less about literature, but I'm sure there are non-Indian fiction writers who do a good job portraying tribal life. But I do think (in every case, but especially when we're talking about fictional representations) that it is important to find out what the people being represented have to say about those representations.

I would never tell you what you should or shouldn't use in your classrooms, but I do encourage you to do your research. For example, if you are considering teaching Naya Nuki, or Knots on a Counting Rope (two popular titles), you may want to read the following critiques before you make your decision:
You might not agree with these critics. Even other Indian literary critics may not agree with them. (As we know from EU2, "There is no generic American Indian," and that means there will be diverse opinions about all sorts of things, including literature.)

Or you may agree with them and decide for valid reasons to teach the books anyway (but in that case, I hope you integrate critical understandings into your teaching).

Or you may decide that they offer good reasons to choose a different book. Regardless, your decision will be a considered one.

If you are looking for alternatives (as well as information on books that the website American Indians in Children's Literature thinks you should avoid), you may want to read the post "I Is Not for Indian." 

To find vetted titles, I'd also recommend looking at OPI's IEFA Language Arts and Literature Model Teaching Units. Many of the units are posted separately by grade level. Also available are two volumes of elementary model lessons. Elementary Level Volume One includes units for The Little Duck Sikihpsis, Good Luck Cat, Jingle Dancer, The Moccasins, and Red Parka Mary. Elementary Level Volume Two includes units for Where Did You Get Your Moccasins, The Gift of the Bitterroot, Beaver Steals Fire: A Salish Coyote Story, and The War Shirt. Other model lessons posted on the site include at the elementary and middle school level, ones for

and at the high school level
Do you have a favorite title from this list? I confess to having read very few of them. I've got a lot of catch-up reading to do!

P.S. For more advice on what to look for when choosing materials about Indians, OPI Indian Education specialist Mike Jetty recommends this OPI resource for evaluating curriculum materials: Evaluating American Indian Materials and Resources for the Classroom.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Writing Prompts

Over the last few weeks, I've been responding to comments and suggestions teachers sent my way during our annual year-end survey. See earlier posts on this here and here.

One request seemed to merit its own post. The teacher wrote: "I could always use more writing prompts or ways of getting my students to do more reflecting/research on what we are learning/discussing in class."

If you are teaching Montana history and are looking for writing prompts, check out the "Critical Thinking" and "Past to Present" questions at the end of each chapter. Here are a few samples from Chapter 3, "From Dog Days to Horse Warriors":

  • What are the main reasons for dividing the history of the Americas into Pre-contact and Post-contact Periods? 
  • What are some of the pros and cons of the introduction of guns and horses to the Plains? 
  • The horse and gun radically changed life for the people of Montana. What changes, if any, have occurred in our society with equal impact? How has our society adapted to these changes? 

And here are a few from Chapter 22, "Living in a New Montana":

  • The present circumstances in Libby and at the Berkeley Pit represent the worst side of mining. Yet the industries there employed many people for a long time and added greatly to Montana’s economy. Is the present cost worth the past benefits? Why or why not?
  • Create a list of the five things you think have had the greatest impact on life in Montana throughout human history. Explain your choices.

For every chapter in the textbook, I hope at least one question in the end-of-chapter material resonates with you and your students and makes a good writing prompt. If not--we did something wrong.

A more general strategy to generate good discussion and reflection comes from retired Simms teacher Dottie Susag. She calls it DICE (an acronym that makes it easy to remember) and we used it in our Montana Mosaic discussion guides, among other places. I think these questions are great for engaging students’ critical thinking skills and eliciting their emotional responses:

  • What Disturbed you? 
  • What Interested you? 
  • What Confused you? 
  • What Enlightened you? 
Do you have other go-to prompts? Feel free to share

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Guest Post from Indian Education Specialist Mike Jetty

Anpetu Wasteyedo (it’s a good day).

Happy Native American Heritage Month!  I extend to you greetings from the OPI Indian Education Division.  I am writing to share some ideas and resources for teaching about American Indians and am also promoting some of our latest Indian Education for All materials.

If you are curious about when and why November was designated as Native American Heritage Month check out the following links.  National American Indian Heritage Month had its origins in 1986 when Congress passed Pub. L. 99-471 which authorized and requested the President to proclaim the week of November 23-30, 1986 as “American Indian Week.”  But a resource from the Library of Congress shows that efforts started back as early as 1915.

Are you looking for some curriculum resources but don’t know where to start?  I would start by going to our Indian Education website and checking out the various resources for different grade levels and content areas.  

Here’s a teachable moment: all across the U.S. we teach about Thanksgiving so why not use materials that give a more inclusive look at this event.  We have a lesson based upon the book, 1621 A New Look at Thanksgiving, the lesson includes links to these excellent resources.

This on‐line article from James Loewen highlights some of the common misconceptions associated with Thanksgiving. It is highly recommended this be read before you teach the lesson.

National Museum of the American Indian also has resources for teaching about Thanksgiving. Their website has teaching materials that offer rich Native perspectives on the history and contemporary life of many different Native tribes. 

Visit this link for ideas and activities for teaching about Thanksgiving. The article has background information and links to other resources that look at Thanksgiving from American Indian perspectives. 

Finally, here are a few newer IEFA lessons that you should check out.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Feedback, Feedback, We Love Feedback--Part 2

A few posts ago, I responded to questions we received as part of our annual year-end survey.  Below are more of your comments--and my responses, divided into categories (in bold).

Hands-on History Footlockers: Readers reported problems with scheduling and costs--and a desire to know more about the footlockers.
  • While we don't charge a rental fee, we do ask schools to pay to ship footlockers to the next venue. This averages about $40. Some districts save money by scheduling back-to-back reservations--so several teachers in the district can use the same trunk while the district or school pays only one shipping fee. For smaller districts, this takes more coordination, but if you know of a teacher in an adjacent district who is also interested in using the footlockers, consider combining your reservations, so you can drive the footlocker from one place to another and then split the actual shipping costs. You might also be able to work with your curriculum consortium to help facilitate this type of coordination.
  • All of the footlocker user guides are online. That means you can download and preview the lessons. Many of the lessons can be taught without ordering the footlockers, including one of my favorite lesson plans "Muffin Mining Reclamation" (see Lesson 4 in the "Gold, Silver, and Coal, Oh My" Footlocker.) As we revamp the footlockers, we are also posting PowerPoints will all the images we use in the lessons online, providing another good source for historical images. In addition we are noting in the Table of Contents which lesson plans can be done without ordering the footlockers. For examples of this, see "Coming to Montana: Immigrants from around the World" and our newest offering: "The Original Governor's Mansion: Home to the Stewart Family in Turbulent Times."
Remember the libraries! Several librarians wrote in to ask that we encourage classroom teachers (and their students) to use their school libraries--and the expertise of their school librarians: 
"We are 'blending' with technology, but still need lessons that remind us to  include the traditional texts - magazine references - non electric tools."
"If some can be something directed to the library it would be great. I have found that students (when I was in regular ed) do not even know the history of the area around them let alone the state, but I would love to do more in the library with it."
All I can say in response to these comments is YES. I believe that all students (4-12, anyway) should conduct research projects and that librarians are great resources! One program that almost demands that students work with their school or community library is National History Day. (BTW: If you are a 6-12 teacher and are looking for a good way to meet Common Core standards and engage students in independent research, I strongly recommend you look at the National History Day program, discussed in more detail here.)

Finally, I received this note about the first Feedback post from Denise Rutledge from the Montana School for the Deaf and the Blind: "I'm glad you mentioned Learning Ally in your email. I work with students who are blind and visually impaired, and Learning Ally is a wonderful tool for those with vision needs to listen to their material. It is also great for those who are below grade level in reading, may have dyslexia, or overall just fatigue while reading. Another great resource for any other students across the state with students with visual impairments, is BookShare. It is a free service for those with documented visual impairments, in which they can access digital downloads of many books. BookShare includes far more textbooks than Learning Ally (and also has our Montanan... book). Books can be accessed on computers, or they can be downloaded to apps like Read2Go.  The Read2Go app allows my students to increase their font size, alter their contrasts, listen to it in auditory, or pair their iPads with a refreshable braille display to read the text of Montana: Stories of the Land in a braille format. Thanks again for mentioning our special learners and how to adapt curriculum to meet their needs!"

I love having your questions and concerns guide this list, so if there are any other topics I haven't addressed, or concerns you have, please drop me a line.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

The Dakota Access Pipeline: A Teachable Moment?

It's Native American Heritage Month and protests continue on the Standing Rock Reservation over the Dakota Access Pipeline, so I thought I'd share some teaching resources on the topic.

In September, National Geographic Education published a blog entry, "Dakota Access Pipeline: What You Need to Know."

The Choices Program, non-profit organization based at Brown University, has a lesson plan focused on youth activism and the DAPL. (Although it does link to a CNN article, most of the sources in this lesson focus on the perspectives of native youth who oppose the pipeline project.)

The Seattle Times has gathered links of sources and background, including the tribe's website on pipeline, the developer's website on the pipeline, curriculum on the North Dakota’s curriculum for high school students on the Standing Rock Tribe and its history.

Do you use current events like the DAPL protests to engage students in serious study? Let me know how.