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.

Monday, November 23, 2020

How has MHS impacted you and your classroom?

We are looking for stories about how the Montana Historical Society impacts communities across Montana, so I've created a brief survey. If you teach one of our lesson plans, use Montana: Stories of the Land or the footlockers, have implemented an idea you received one of our Professional Development offerings, or have appreciated the community we've tried to build with the Teaching Montana listserv, I hope you'll take a moment to tell us about it through this online survey. Your stories will help bring the statistics we collect to life and will be invaluable when we approach private foundations for funding or are asked to provide information to the Montana legislature.

Thank you!

P.S. Thanksgiving snuck up on me this year because COVID is keeping me at home and our celebration small (like just me and my spouse small.) But, here are past Thanksgiving posts,  with resources and ideas that extend beyond the holiday. (Quick tip: If you are ever looking for ideas linked to a specific holiday or around a specific topic, try the search bar on the right. It works like a charm.)  I'll close by saying that I am very thankful for all of Montana's hard-working educators who are doing their best to engage students even in these difficult times. Thanks for all you do. 

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Teaching Students to Ask Good Questions

 I just watched an amazing, FREE webinar called Make It Virtual; Take It Anywhere: Adapting the QFT to New Environments

I had forgotten how powerful QFT (short for Question Formulation Technique) is. 

For those of you who aren't familiar with it, here's a quick summary of the process (taken from Teaching Students to Ask Their Own Questions): 

Step 1: Teachers design a Question Focus (provide something for students to ask questions about.)

Step 2: Students produce questions according to these four rules:

  • ask as many questions as you can;
  • do not stop to discuss, judge, or answer any of the questions;
  • write down every question exactly as it was stated;
  • and change any statements into questions.

Step 3: Students improve their questions.

Step 4: Students prioritize their questions. (The teacher, with the lesson plan in mind, offers criteria or guidelines for the selection of priority questions.)

Step 5: Students and teachers decide on next steps.

Step 6: Students reflect on what they have learned. 

Sounds simple, right? That's because it is--but it is also very powerful. Students aren't typically taught how to ask questions, and many adults aren't very good at it either. And that's a problem--for democracy and for dealing with doctors or schools or really anyone in authority whose decision directly impacts one's life. 

Using QFT will make your students more engaged learners, which is enough for me. The Right Question Institute has even bigger goals, though. It "aims to make democracy work better by teaching a strategy that allows anyone, no matter their educational, income, or literacy level, to learn to ask better questions and participate more effectively in decisions that affect them."

This webinar was great because

  • It gave a quick intro to QFT
  • It asked participants to practice using the QFT to generate questions (I did It on a piece of paper even though there wasn't anyway to share), so we could see how powerful the technique was.
  • It showed how two teachers used the technique with their students and examples of student work (my favorite project was from an elementary class that was studying the Hoover Dam. It would take very little work to transfer it to the Fort Peck Dam.) 
  • It provided links to lots of additional resources.
  • It offered a way to make distance learning more interactive.
  • The tools they suggested will be useful for in-person/hybrid learning as well--especially if folks are socially distancing in the classroom because it allows/requires collaboration without breathing on each other. 
  • Anything that can help students learn how to ask questions is good! (I'm always surprised by how hard they find it.)

Am I gushing like a fangirl? That's because I am. Check out this training and all of the materials on https://rightquestion.org/

P.S. Do you use QFT in your classroom? If so, I'd love to hear from you!

P.P.S. It's not too late to join us for our online discussion/PD "Integrating Montana History into English Language Arts," TODAY, November 17, from 4:00 p.m.-5:00 p.m. Register here and I'll send you a link

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Go Interdisciplinary!

Witness to Wartime and Love Letters to the Collection

The Missoula Art Museum (MAM) is offering FREE online courses for middle and high school classes (and individuals.) The first is called "Museum as Megaphone: Witness to Wartime." Created in conjunction with the Historical Museum at Fort Missoula, it is based on MAM's current exhibit Witness to Wartime: The Painted Diary of Takaguchi Fujii. The course is rooted in the history of World War II and the experiences of Japanese and Japanese Americans incarcerated in the United States.

 The second, called Love Letters to the Collection, focuses on artworks from MAM’s Contemporary American Indian Art Collection. The virtual course features in-depth biographies of artists, a history of the museum, artist statements, and more. Each piece on view has its own email address and participants are encouraged to write their own love letters as they virtually explore this exhibition. 

Both courses include an exhibition tour, learning resources, and a hands-on art-making activity and offer modules that can be completed as a class or individually. MAM is using a platform provided by Inspired Classroom. I looked them up on this database of companies that have contracts with Montana schools to protect student data and saw that Inspired Classroom has contracts with Bozeman and Hamilton Schools that your IT folks can use as a model. You can register for the course--and learn about other MAM Museum as Megaphone courses--here

Upcoming Professional Development

Don't forget! On November 17, from 4:00-5:00 p.m., we're hosting an online PD "Integrating Montana History into English Language Arts." One renewal credit will be available. Register (and provide feedback to help shape the session) here.

Interdisciplinary Resources from MHS

Want some plug-and-play interdisciplinary teaching resources? Check out MHS's Crossing Disciplines page, which features lesson plans that cross Montana history with math, visual art, theater, science, and ELA. 



Friday, November 6, 2020

Resources for Veterans Day

How are you recognizing Veterans Day? 

The National Museum of the American Indian is unveiling its National Native American Veterans Memorial on November 11 and will be opening its new exhibit, Why We Serve: Native Americans in the United States Armed Forces (you may have to scroll down to find the link to the exhibit.) Several Montana educators, along with educators from out of state, are working hard on lesson plans to accompany the new exhibit. I've heard they will start publishing their work in January. I can't wait!

Meanwhile, check out NMAI's lesson plan, Native Words, Native Warriors (about code talkers), as well as the OPI Remote Learning-Lessons and Unit: American Indians in the Military – A Warrior Spirit, which focuses on WWII Fort Peck Assiniboine and Sioux code talkers.

The Indian Education Division of OPI also has two relevant literature units (classroom sets for each featured book can be borrowed from OPI). The first is Counting Coup: Becoming a Crow Chief on the Reservation and Beyond, which is a brilliant and teachable memoir by Joseph Medicine Crow, which includes a discussion of his WWII military service (which is where he completed the deeds needed to become a war chief). The second is Code Talker: A Novel About the Navajo Marines of World War Two, by Joseph Bruchac. I haven't read this one, but I did get a thorough review of it from Bonner 6-8 grade ELA teacher McKenna Quinn. Here's what she said:

  • I think the book was too difficult for my 7th grade readers. The military vocabulary and incorporation of the Navajo language made it an intimidating read for them and hard to access for my striving readers. In the future, I plan to teach this novel with 8th graders rather than 7th graders. 
  • I found that keeping track of the various places and historical contexts was hard for students at points. 
  • I did a code cracking activity with students (I believe I got it from the OPI unit plan for this novel) that was super successful. I felt like it helped students connect with the Navajo language more.  
  • I taught this novel in November last year, and it was great being able to make connections to Veterans Day. Students (especially those from military families) could really connect with some of those lessons. 
  • I showed the PBS documentary "The Warrior Tradition" alongside the novel - I think students enjoyed the documentary and it was a great opportunity to showcase contemporary Native voices and their perspectives on military service. I think it was eye opening to students. 
  • It took us a LONG time to get through the book. In fact, we didn't finish it. The OPI unit plan I was using (while a really really great resource), almost felt like too much. I put pressure on myself to accomplish everything in the unit. Coupling that with the difficulty of the novel AND the fact that we had to read it ALL in class (I didn't have enough books for every kid to take home)  - it got to the point where I had to move on to my next unit.
  • So, next time I teach this I plan on doing it with 8th graders AND requesting a set of books from OPI so that some of the reading can be done outside of class. All in all, I would DEFINITELY recommend this novel to teachers.

Another great Veterans Day resource is Reader's Theater: Letters Home from Montanans at War. This is one of my favorite lesson plans from our vast collection because it has proved to be so powerful for students, by not just helping them learn about history but to help them realize that ordinary people shape history--and that, to quote one of Helena High School theater teacher Rob Holter's students,  "people just like me can make a difference in this world!" You can read more about this lesson plan here. 


Teaching Montana History is written by Martha Kohl, Outreach and Interpretation Historian at the Montana Historical Society.


Tuesday, November 3, 2020

Teaching with Primary Sources and Integrating History and ELA

Integrating History and ELA

If you are interested in using history to illuminate literature, or literature to illuminate history, I hope you'll join us for our upcoming PD, "Integrating Montana History into English Language Arts," on November 17, from 4:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. One OPI Renewal unit will be available to attendees. And to help me prepare for the session, let me know: what novels do you teach that you'd like to relate to Montana history? 

This is the third in a series of online professional developments, which are designed to provide an opportunity for teachers to share their best ideas with one another.  

Teaching with Primary Sources

There was good conversation and useful material shared in the second of the series, "Primary Sources for Teaching Montana History," so much so that I thought I'd share some of my notes below.  

Two truths and a lie is a technique Red Lodge teacher Steven Morris (middle school social studies) sometimes uses as a bell ringer about whatever subject matter he's presenting. He presents two true statements and one lie and asks students to figure out which is which. Students love it, and we talked about how that could be used with primary sources. I immediately thought about how Phil Leonardi used to ask his students to fact check homesteading promotional brochures. (Although many of those brochures were created by the railroads, my favorite is actually the delusional booklet printed by the Ryegate Weekly Reporter, which boasted that the area's annual rainfall was 22 inches.)   

Missoula teacher Betty Bennett (high school English) uses conflicting newspaper accounts/editorials about the Marias Massacre from Montana newspapers and eastern newspapers to look at differences of reporting. You can find an excerpt of “Sheridan and the Indians,” Journal of the Anti-Slavery Society [from the New York Evening Post], March 19, 1870 (which thinks the massacre was an outrage) and an excerpt from H. N. McGuire, "The Happy Result of Col. Baker’s Piegan Campaign," The Pick and Plow (Bozeman, Montana), July 29, 1870, 2 (which supports Baker's actions) in our lesson plan "Blood on the Marias: Understanding Different Points of View Related to the Baker Massacre of 1870."

Billings elementary librarian Ruth Ferris taught us how to do a picture reveal using Google slides (with students asking yes or no questions in order to reveal a photograph). She also talked about using a dice game to have students answer questions about a source. (For example: if you roll 1, you have to write down when it was created.) You can find her instructions here.  

Everyone was very excited about Lewistown middle school teacher Noah Vallincourt's use of primary sources and role playing to teach about immigration and Ellis Island. (He assigns students characters and uses photos and other material to simulate coming arriving on Ellis Island, and trying to pass through the medical exam. 

Billings middle school librarian Kathi Hoyt shared several techniques. My favorite were playing "I Spy" in a complicated image and character annotation

  • Find a historical photograph of a person or event and make a copy for each student
  • Have students collect information about the person (or event)
  • Have students annotate around and/or on the photograph to share the information they collected.

On the left is an example Kathi shared with us and uses as a model for students. It was created by Crow artist Wendy Red Star on a photo of Chief Plenty Coups in the Library of Congress Collection. (You can see and learn more of Red Star's work here.)    

I shared our new Annotated Resource Sets and narrated PowerPoints of primary sources, as well as resources available via the Montana Memory Project's Educational Resources page (did you know that in addition to online exhibits on Indian leaders and boarding schools, they also had PowerPoints of pictures from every Montana tribe)?

We all agreed that when it came to primary sources, it was important to curate the sources and that oftentimes less was more.

 If this were minutes from a turn-of-the-century woman's club meeting, I'd end with "delicious refreshments were served," but alas, it was a virtual gathering. Until we can actually meet again in person, I look forward to reconvening on Zoom on November 17. See you there?

P.S. Have you voted yet? If not, head to the polls. They are open until 8:00 p.m. Find your polling place here. 

Thursday, October 29, 2020

Nerd out with me?

Usually my emails have a theme, but not this week--or rather, the theme is "cool stuff I want to share."

Ancient Earth Globe is an online, interactive map that you can use to find out what any area of the world might have looked like at a given point in prehistoric times! Type in a town name to find the names of fossils that have been found nearby. Then click on the name for more information about that particular type of dinosaur. (I typed in Ryegate, because why not?) and followed the trail to this page on the Tatenectes

 In summer 2020, Montana The Magazine of Western History put together a digital issue called "African Americans in Montana and the West." It complements our larger web-based Montana's African American Heritage Resources project, which among its many resources includes three lesson plans. Because Black history matters. 

The Historical Museum at Fort Missoula created an online exhibit "Montana Votes! Voting and Suffrage in Montana." H/T Dylan Huisken (Bonner Schools) 

Studying the fur trade? Check out this lesson plan, and especially these videos from the Fort Union Trading Post:

*This is The Trade House video mentioned in the lesson plan (but the link to it is broken in the lesson plan document). 

Responding to the post "Indian Education Resources, mostly for middle and high school classes," which mentioned an article that Wyohistory.org published on tribal hunting rights, editor Tom Rea pointed out that there is lots more Native history on their site, some of which are aimed at classrooms. He particularly pointed to page "Indigenous People in Wyoming and the West".

Have you come across any material worth sharing? Drop me a line!

Thursday, October 22, 2020

More Great ideas from Colleagues

Last week I shared some teacher recommendations--of IEFA books they've used and loved and an adaptation to one of our lesson plans, Montana Place Names, A-Z, for online learning. I'm pleased to say that post inspired more teachers to write in and share lesson plans that have worked for them.

Tracing the Old North Trail

Jim Martin, from Missoula Public Schools, wrote: "In response to teaching Montana Place Names, A-Z, I use Highway maps to trace the Old North Trail. Our 6th grade curriculum is teaching ancient civilizations (not Americas) so I built Migration to the Americas into our lessons. I have built a Google Earth presentation and as we travel the Old North Trail we find locations along the way, starting at Carway, Alberta, then hitting places like First Peoples Buffalo Jump by Ulm, Tower Rock by Craig, Madison Buffalo Jump, Obsidian Cliffs in Yellowstone plus rivers and other natural features that would provide resources or obstacles. We then exit the state through the Madison valley. We also notice how some of our modern highways follow the same route that’s been traveled for 10,000 years.

"The Walter McClintock story of a Blackfeet family traveling the route, presumably to Mexico, is fascinating to the kids, who are amazed at how interconnected First Nations were." [Jim shares parts of chapter 33]. 

Homesteading Lesson Plan

April Wills, who teaches in Bainville, created an online unit for her fifth graders on homesteading:

  1. We started with viewing the Museum of the Rockies Homesteading in Montana virtual field trip. [If the MOR material isn't available, you might want to show part of the 27-minute video Sun River Homestead.]
  2. Students then had to read the three articles from Montanakids.com on Homesteading.
  3. After they read those articles and took notes, they had to do a retelling for each article in Seesaw- Basic understandings: (3 things you learned, your opinion of the article, the main idea of each article and three details that from the text that support the main idea).
  4. They created a "storyboard" where they picked any person that they wanted to pretend to be from this era of living and made 5 sketches of what life would have been like. (So if they were a railroad worker, banker, blacksmith etc.) The images they sketched should make the viewer know what their job/ life was like. They also had to come up with a description of the photo.

Finally they used the Ditch That Textbook: Google Template to create a Instagram style story- where they could either find photos & videos from various online resources, or make their own and create an Instagram spread of life in the Homesteading era of Montana. They were encouraged to use dates, specific vocabulary and to be creative with their comments for each photo. These turned out AMAZING!

I've linked the resources below. I am not sure if MOR will release the recording of their conversations from Monday but they were really good too! 

More Book Suggestions

Pat Bauerle, Bozeman, wrote in to say that "There, There is a title worthy of reading with older grade levels (content). The situational stories of multiple characters as they focus on getting to a certain pow-wow is revealing."

In the Teaching Montana History Facebook group, Kathi Hoyt, Billings middle school librarian, shared this list, created by the Billings Public Library, of Indigenous People Inclusive Literature. Lots of great looking picture books and chapter books too!