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.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Top Ten Survey Results, Part 1

Thanks to all of you who took the time to take my “Top Ten Events in Montana History Survey.” I’ll report on the survey results in a future post, but thought I’d begin by sharing some of the comments I received, which were as interesting (I thought) as the survey results themselves.

Several people had suggestions for events that should have been on the survey, but weren’t.

The most common suggestion was Jeannette Rankin’s election to Congress/her vote against the wars/ and/or women’s suffrage. One commenter even scolded, “oh please, but you didn't put Jeanette Rankin in the top ten list???? No mention of when Women got "The Vote"? Who put the list together? I know you have Women working at the Historical Society.”

Others lobbied for the addition of these events: the creation of the federal forest system, creation of Glacier National Park; the transition from territory to state, anti-government events like the Freemen and the Unabomber, the arrival of people in what is now Montana (according to archaeological evidence this happened roughly 12, 000 years ago), the Mandate of Indian Ed for All, 1972. More than one person mentioned earthquakes, particularly the one that created Hebgen Lake.
Some thought the large forces of immigration, industrialization, and urbanization should have received more play:
  • “While it could be counted under ‘development of the copper industry,’ I'd add ‘mass immigration from all over the world,’ wrote one participant. 
  • Another wrote: “Industrialization and urbanization - admittedly a process not an event. Wasn't Montana and the West generally "urban" before it became "rural"? I rely on the work of Richard White and others as a warrant for that proposition. However, I find that, in the classroom, Montana and Western history generally is still taught within a progressive Turnerian framework: first, the Indians, then the trappers, then the miners, then the settlers, then the cities, then the industries etc., etc.”

Others wanted the survey to have been even more specific:
  • “I was thinking of an "event" as a single moment in time; these are more epochs or eras, covering a broader period of time. For example, the 1855 Hellgate Treaty is an "event" of great significance within the context of Indian wars and treaty-making, which is much broader. Fun, though!”
  • “I would have added the many ways Montana was involved in World War II - Hamilton, the Manhattan Project - the balloon bombs. As well as the role of Fort Harrison as the initial home of the Special Forces.”
One person argued for focusing more on ways Montanans have helped one another:  
  • “I wish there was more recognition (time for) toward Indian Agents who took time to assist those they were responsible for who were accepted into their roles – the Ronans for example. The influenza outbreak in 1918 and the pastors, doctors and neighbors who helped save members of their communities. The central theme I have always felt about Montana is that neighbors watch out for one another. Examples from our history are needed to help instill this in our future. I have more ideas but you asked for a simple answer so I will stop there.”

And some thought we should look at other large themes:
  • Native issues couched not in wars but in the transition from a nomadic life to boundaries - promises made, intent of governments
  • How a frontier state meshes with a highly industrial nation
  • How money comes into the state - what stays here, what leaves 
  • Electorally how a session every two years enables citizen government.

People who responded on our Facebook page tended to be more specific and/or more focused on the twentieth century than those who responded to the survey itself:
  • Flight of the Nez Perce through the Bitterroot Valley
  • Closing down the Anaconda Company
  • Electricity deregulation
  • Jeannette Rankin, first woman elected to Congress
  • The constitutional amendment that corporations are not people: Once again, Montana leads and with luck the rest of the nation will follow. 

Finally—lots of people found it hard to pick just ten events, and some of them wanted to explain their choices:
  • “Several events I have listed as ‘not top 10’ because I'd interweave my lessons to include them. I tried to pick the ‘Big Idea’ item as my Top 10 and the other topics/events would be under it. RE: Copper King War--this would be a side note to the larger story about copper production. Likewise gold discovery would probably begin the unit, but the big event would be copper and electrification. In that story would also focus on unions, the Progressive Era, and MT's importance in WWI.”
  •  “In my case (resource) I have fewer direct historical instruction moments, but when I do I lump more together - treaties/reservations, Lewis and Clark/fur trading, gold/Indian removal, for example.”
 More on the actual survey results in future posts.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Professional Development in Missoula, Helena, and Billings areas

The Helena College’s College Readiness Program is organizing an exciting professional development opportunity focused on improving literacy in social studies, science, and technical subjects (like health) and helping teachers integrate Common Core standards.

The program, designed for teacher teams (one English teacher and one subject matter teacher), will model strategies for implementing Common Core State Standards that are critical to college readiness:
  • Comprehend and analyze complex texts
  • Write arguments focused on discipline-specific content
  • Gather relevant information from multiple digital resources
  • Cite specific textual evidence to support claims
Workshop Details
Participants throughout the state may take an online course (Digital Research: Searching, Selecting, and Citing) to help students: gather relevant information from multiple digital sources; assess the strengths and limitations of each source; and follow a standard format for citation. This six-week course includes resources and videos that can be used in the classroom, as well as access to a college database.
Onsite workshops will be offered in Helena, Missoula, and Billings. Each regional site will offer a series of 3-4 onsite workshops in which teachers will learn and apply 1) deep reading strategies for complex texts; 2) strategies for teaching authentic writing in selected disciplines; and 3) discipline-specific scoring rubrics, tied to the Common Core State Standards, to analyze and discuss samples of students’ cross-curricular, research-based, writing.
Along with Tom Rust and Michael Scarlett (MSU-Billings/National History Day), and Kathy Holt (Coordinator of Clinical Practices, MSU-B), I’ll be involved in the Billings workshop, “Perspectives and Biases in Social Studies.” Other regional offerings will focus on science (Helena) and health (Missoula).
Title II: Improving Teacher Quality funds provide college credit, OPI Renewal Units, workshop expenses, including food and materials, at no cost to districts, and substitute teacher pay for up to 75 participants, statewide, for three days each.
Registration closes January 15. You can register and learn more here: http://www.mus.edu/writingproficiency/index.asp.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Announcing the Martha Plassman Prize and Generally Celebrating Chronicling America

As one of my colleagues is fond of saying, old newspapers are the closest thing we have to a time machine. That’s why Chronicling America—a national, ever-expanding newspaper digitization project—is one of my favorite resources.

Thus far, as part of this project, Montana has digitized selected ranges of nine different newspapers, with twenty-four more titles to come in over the course of the next year. See the list of titles here.

To encourage folks to discover this treasure trove, we created the Thinking like a Historian lesson plan, which outlines a way to engage students in in-depth research, but also offers options for shorter forays into the historic newspapers.

We’ve also included lessons using Chronicling America in the Girl from the Gulches Study Guide (see, particularly Lessons 5 and 7) that can be used as part of a unit on Mary Ronan or as stand-alone lessons.

That’s the old news. The NEW news is that we’ve just created the Martha Plassman Prize. This prize will award $500 and a certificate from the Montana Historical Society at the State National History Day competition to the student project that best uses Montana’s newspapers digitized on Chronicling America.

If you are participating in National History Day, please let your students know about this opportunity and encourage them to take advantage of it. Of course, we hope that students research a Montana history topic (see here for topic ideas), but that is NOT part of the prize consideration. To be eligible to win the Martha Plassman Prize, students researching a national topic can look in Montana newspapers to see how their topic was covered here at home.

if you aren’t participating in National History Day yet, there is still time. (Contact Tom Rust at trust@msubillings.edu for more information.) We’ll even be giving a training to help new teachers get started in Billings, February 6 and 7 as part of the Montana University Systems Professional Development Offering: Literacy for the Common Core.

P.S. You can find out more about Chronicling America and access additional links to Chronicling America teaching resources here and here.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

IEFA Resources

The Western Montana CSPD has a nice Indian Education For ALL Resources page. Among other useful links, it includes links to some of my favorite resources created by the Confederated Salish Kootenai Tribes: Fire on the Land and Explore the River.

Fire on the Land looks at how the Salish traditionally used fire, and the profound effects that their controlled burns and on plant an animal communities. It is a great antidote to the “virgin wilderness” idea that so many of us (including me) grew up with.

Explore the River is a “comprehensive multimedia education package that describes the characteristics and values of healthy aquatic and riparian ecosystems, the ecology and importance of bull trout, and the relationship between bull trout and the Salish and Pend d’Oreille people.”
Most of the components of both curriculum are available free of charge and may already be in your school library.

P.S. Friday is the last day to participate in our Top Ten Events in Montana History Survey—and possibly win a fabulous prize. Learn more here.

Monday, December 10, 2012

DocTeach and iPad Apps

Do you use iPads in your classroom? If so, Scobey teacher Bryan Pechtl recommends you check out Docs Teach, put out by the National Archives.

According to Bryan, it “has pre-made activities using primary sources from the Archives. Teachers can also create activities specifically for their classes at the Archives website, then distribute the activity code to students. If teachers don't have iPads, the website also lets teachers and students conduct the same activities on a standard PC, too.”

I’m old-school, so I had to check out Docs Teach via my PC. I found a Lewis and Clark exercise I liked and one on the impact of westward expansion on Indian tribes that I didn’t—because it seemed to me you could complete the exercise without actually examining any of the documents in detail.

I also discovered that DocsTeach has an entire section devoted to National History Day, including teaching activities relating to the NHD theme of “Turning Points.” It has also posted document collections around specific turning points, from the fall of the Berlin Wall and the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency to the Spanish-American War. (I can’t help but put in another plug for NHD. It’s a great program and there’s still time to involve your classes in this year’s contests. Learn more here.)

Anyone else have a favorite app to recommend? 

P.S. Don’t forget our Top Ten Events in Montana History challenge. Response has been so great, I’m adding a fourth prize—for the 75th person to complete the survey. The survey closes December 16.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Great Professional Development Opportunity for Western Montana Teachers

If you teach in western Montana:

Western Montana CSPD is joining up with the Library of Congress’s Teaching with Primary Sources program to offer a great looking professional development opportunity:  “Weaving the Common Core and Indian Education through Teaching Primary Sources Documents.”
Designed for middle and high school teachers, the course will combine face-to-face and online modules to focus on investigating and learning to use the resources available at the Library of Congress.

Participants will create and implement lesson plans and/ or other activities using Primary Source documents from the Library of Congress for use in their classrooms.

Deadline for applying has been extended until December 15.

Course Details- January through May 2013
  • Location:
    • First Session January 17 in Kalispell or January 18 in Missoula (your closest city)
    • March 8 & May 17 Salish Kootenai College, Pablo (transportation to Pablo provided)
  • Number of Seats Available: 40 from the region
  • Targeted subjects: English/ Language Arts or Social Studies, and Library Media Specialists
  • Grade levels: Middle & High School Educators (teams that include a Library Media Specialist will be given preference)  
  • Schools: Schools in Region 5 counties of Ravalli, Missoula, Mineral, Lake, Flathead, Sanders, or Lincoln
Project Objectives:
Teachers become familiar with the breadth and organization of the Library of Congress' digital primary sources, understand their value in instruction and create basic inquiry-based learning experiences.
  • Learn what primary sources are and understand their value in teaching
  • Review the Montana Common Core standards (including those reflecting IEFA) for their grade level and content area and identify where primary sources documents could be used.
  • Learn how to locate and navigate the Library of Congress Web site
  • Learn how to access, save and present primary sources from the Library of Congress' Web site
  • Gain a foundational understanding of effective instructional practices for teaching with primary sources
  • Create instructionally sound learning experiences that integrate primary sources from the Library of Congress
Credit: Participants will have the opportunity to earn OPI renewal credits or 2 semester University credits. (participants are responsible for $135 recording fee)
Stipend: Participants who complete the entire project will receive a $150 stipend.

P.S. There’s still time to take the Top Ten Events in Montana History Survey. 

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Top Ten Most Important Events in Montana History

And now for something completely different…

One of my favorite “End of Chapter” questions included in our textbook, Montana: Stories of the Land, asks students to “Create a list of the five things you think have had the greatest impact on life in Montana throughout human history.” I like it because it requires students to step back, think about what they’ve learned, and see the forest for the trees. (Does anyone ever assign this question? If so—I’d love to know how it works.)

I thought it would be fun to ask members of the Montana History and Heritage Education community a similar question.  Top five seemed too hard, though, so I’ve created a quick survey asking folks to identifying the TOP TEN most important (seminal, transformative, influential, significant, consequential) events in Montana history.

Take the survey here.

If you don’t take the question too seriously (and I hope you won’t), it shouldn’t take more than a few minutes to record your answers. This is really an “off the top of your head,” gut-feeling kind of survey. And it is very informal. If you end up picking a top 8 or top 12 instead of a top 10, no worries.

This very informal survey has four main purposes:

  1. I thought it might help those teaching Montana history step back a moment and consider how they are allocating their time. Are you spending the most time on the most important events? Or are you spending more time on less significant topics? And, if the latter, why? (There may be very good reasons to do so—but it is worth thinking about what your priorities are.)
  2. I am really curious to see what people think. Will we all have similar ideas? Or are there radical differences in how we perceive the history of our state? I’ll share the results in a future post.
  3. After I compile the answers, I’ll also take the top picks and feature teaching resources on those topics to make it easier to teach about what we (collectively) think is most important.
  4. It will be fun.
Need more incentive? I’m offering prizes to the third, tenth, and twenty-third person to answer the survey. So, what are you waiting for? Click through.
P.S. Did I mention that this survey shouldn’t take more than a few minutes to complete?

Addendum: I am no longer tabulating survey results, but taking the survey is still an instructive exercise. You can find out what I learned from the survey by reading these posts: Surprises. Survey Results, and Comments.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Gilder Lehrman Summer Institutes

I guess it’s never too early to think about summer. Last week, I sent out a post on the NEH Workshops for Teachers, including the one MHS is sponsoring, “The Richest Hills: Mining in the Far West, 1862-1920.” But NEH is not the only organization providing free, or practically free, summer professional development opportunities.

The Gilder Lerhman Institute of American History also offers weeklong teacher seminars for graduate credit. Their options are varied—from broad overviews (“A Visual Approach to Teaching American History” and “American Women from the Colonial to the Modern Era) to more focused seminars (“The American Civil War through Material Culture—K-8 Teachers Only” and “The Era of George Washington.”)

If I could sign up for one of these seminars, I’d choose “Native American History,” with Colin Calloway. I’m a great admirer of his work. He’s written an absurd number of books including One Vast Winter Count: The Native American West Before Lewis and Clark (University of Nebraska Press, 2003), and his essay, “Army Allies or Tribal Survival?: The ‘Other Indians’ in the 1876 Campaign,” is the most interesting essay I’ve ever read on the Great Sioux War. (You can find it in your library or via interlibrary loan because the Montana Historical Society Press included it in two separate anthologies: Legacy: New Perspectives on the Battle of the Little Bighorn (1996) and Montana Legacy: Essays on History, People, and Place (2002).)

Gilder Lehrman’s summer seminars are free, and Gilder Lehrman pays for room and board. However, it only reimburses teachers up to $400 for travel—probably not enough to get to where most of these institutes are held from Montana, but certainly a help.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

NEH Summer Workshops Announced--Including "The Richest Hills"

Next summer, the Montana Historical Society is once again offering an NEH  Landmarks of American History and Culture Workshops for School Teachers workshop: The Richest Hills: Mining in the Far West, 1862-1920.

Teachers (scholars, in NEH parlance) will travel to Montana  from across the country to spend a week visiting Bannack, Virginia City, Butte, and Helena to learn about  the mining West and ways to better teach with historic places and primary sources.  Instruction and materials are free and NEH provides a $1,200 stipend to help pay travel expenses, including hotel rooms, meals during the week, and travel to and from Helena.

“The Richest Hills” offered an amazing week of learning last time around (you can see the lesson plans scholars created from the experience here). We expect that this summer’s workshops will be even better.

We encourage applications from Montana teachers—but you should know that the application process is very competitive (we had 300 applicants for 80 slots last time). Additionally, NEH requires that equal access be given to applicants coming from out of state and encourages projects to consider geographic diversity as part of their selection process. The good news is that there are LOTS of really cool, free offerings this summer in addition to “The Richest Hills.”

Through various NEH summer programs for teachers, you can spend a week in Jackson, Mississippi, studying the Civil Rights movement, four weeks in Berlin, Germany, and Prague, Czech Republic, studying the 1989 peaceful revolutions, five weeks in Siena, Italy, studying Dante, three weeks in Monterey, California, studying John Steinbeck, or two weeks in Hamilton, New York, studying abolitionism and the underground railroad, among many other options. A full list of summer 2013 courses is available here.

Please help us spread the word about “The Richest Hills” and take a look at all the other NEH workshops available.

Applications are due March 4.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Primary Source Nexus

Primary Source Nexus is a blog that focuses on teaching with primary sources—especially resources from the Library of Congress’s American Memory Project.

For the most part, it is probably most useful for folks teaching American history (rather than local history/Montana history). Its website has three main sections:
  • Primary Source Picks.  Recent “picks” have included antislavery and women rights activist Sojourner Truth, actress Lillian Russell, and the Civil War Battle of Chattanooga.
  • Tech Tips & Tutorials.  This section is my favorite: it includes entries as varied as tips on oral history tips for students and Civil War era photographic techniques, including how photographers faked photos long before photoshop.
  • Teaching and Learning. This section offers sample project ideas and connected primary sources. I confess that most of these did not excite me—I’d be really interested to hear about it if you find one that works well in your classroom since I’m always looking for good models to copy.
One entry under Teaching and Learning I did find of particular interest was “Connecting to the Common Core: Analyzing Primary Source Images.” This post looks at how “the skills required to extract information from visual content are similar to those required to extract information from text.” It also argues that  “practicing these skills using primary source images provides students with a great scaffolded learning opportunity.” My favorite part is the table that “shows how the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) Reading Anchor Standards map to primary source image analysis skills.”

As an aside, I wonder a little if I’ve become too Common Core obsessed.  (Please do let me know if you find the information I’m providing on Common Core useful and relevant or if you’d rather I write about something else for a while.) I think the reason I’m so interested is because these standards do seem to get at much of what we really want students to be doing—especially when they work with primary sources, be they text or images. For example:
  • Determining what the text/image says explicitly and making logical inferences from it
  • Citing specific evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text/image.
  • Assessing how point of view or purpose shapes content and style
  • Analyzing how two or more texts/images address similar themes or topics in order to build knowledge or to compare the approaches creators take.
More detail on this at Primary Source Nexus—and much else besides. Happy hunting.

P.S. Interested in reading even more on teaching with primary sources? Check out one of these earlier posts: “Teaching with Primary Sources,” “More on Teaching with Primary Sources,” or “National Archives Resources for Teaching with Primary Sources.” Or scroll down the blog until you see the heading “Labels” on the right hand side of the page, and click on the label “teaching with primary sources” for a list of all the relevant posted articles. 

Monday, November 19, 2012

Historical Fiction

I’m headed out of town for Thanksgiving, so I’m going to let Teachinghistory.org do the heavy lifting for me today on the listserv. Here’s a post from their page, which talks about how to find historical fiction to complement your history curriculum.

Have a great Thanksgiving everyone—and if you are traveling, travel safely.

p.s. Here’s a link to a short post I wrote last year at about this time with interesting links to resources for teaching about Thanksgiving.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

New resources for Teaching about/with Ledger Art and Winter Counts

We’re proud as punch of our new curriculum: “The Art of Storytelling: Plains Indian Perspectives.” It is based on the museum exhibit of the same name, which features the Montana Historical Society’s rich collection of Indian art. (That exhibit closes the Saturday after Thanksgiving. If you are in Helena in the next week, it is a must-see.)

In cooperation with the Indian Education Division of the Montana Office of Public Instruction, and art educators Marina Weatherly and Jon Bercier, MHS created curriculum packets, which include
  • Prints of selected images from the exhibit
  • PowerPoints and scripts
  • Standards-based lessons designed for K-3, 4-6, and 7-12
  • Sample pages from actual ledger books, to copy and use as canvases
  • Background information for teachers.
And the folder containing all this great material can be unfolded to become a poster for display.
These packets were sent to all Montana public school libraries in October 2012, so check your library. Not only did we send this curriculum to Montana public schools, but we’ve posted it online.
Here’s what I especially love about this curriculum:
  • It includes lessons geared toward all grades, including K-3 (sometimes our elementary teachers get left out)
  • It is keyed to the Art Standards as well as to the Essential Understandings
  • The art lessons include history and reading as well as art
  • The lessons are both detailed and flexible—and, especially the K-6 lessons, provide multiple options for teachers
  • The PowerPoints can stand alone as their own 50-minute lesson (to be used in social studies classes)—or to complement the larger art curriculum
  • The images are stunning.
Please check out the website and the hard copy in your library and let us know what you think. Any feedback would be very welcome (especially after you’ve used it in the classroom). We will apply your advice to our next endeavor. 
P.S. While supplies last, you can request your personal packet by emailing dmitchell@mt.gov.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Chronicling America, Read All About It

It’s been a while since I’ve talked up one of my all-time favorite sites: Chronicling AmericaChronicling America is a national, ever-expanding newspaper digitization project spearheaded by the Library of Congress and National Endowment for the Humanities.  According to “Edsitement,” the NEH’s teaching portal:
Chronicling America is a boon for teaching primary source research skills such as gathering and evaluating information, analysis, comparison and contrast, critical thinking, and the use of technology.
Through Chronicling America you can view newspaper pages from 1836 to 1922 from Arizona, the District of Columbia, California, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and West Virginia. As the project is ongoing, the greatest concentration of material that is currently available online is from 1900-1922, but Chronicling America is continuously expanding the date range and states of the newspapers in its collection.
As one of the participating states, Montana had a committee of historians help prioritize which papers and date ranges to digitize. You can find the list here.
The digitization project is great in itself. Even better is the outpouring of lesson plans for using the resource. Edsitement has descriptions and links to featured lesson plans, which include looks at women’s suffrage, immigration, the 1918 flu epidemic, famous authors like Walt Whitman and Jack London, and much more.
Montana’s contribution to Chronicling America lesson plans includes “Thinking  like a Historian: Using Digital Newspapers in the Classroom,” which asks students to explore daily life in Virginia City during the gold rush before the coming of the railroad, using the following essential questions: “How has life changed and how has it remained the same? How does transportation affect daily life? What would it have been like to live in Vir¬ginia City during the gold rush?”

If you don’t have time for a big project, consider printing out a few pages from one of the digitized newspapers that matches your larger unit (make sure to include pages with advertisements). Then have students explore the paper by playing a game of “Newspaper Bingo,” or going on a newspaper scavenger hunt. Follow the game with a discussion about what surprised, intrigued, or confused students about the newspapers themselves—and what questions they raised about life in the past. (Sample bingo cards and instructions are available through the “Thinking Like a Historian” lesson plan.

Three additional Chronicling America lesson plans are included in the new study guide for Girl from the Gulches: The Story of Mary Ronan. Two of them can be adapted to use without reading the anchor text and can easily be adapted to other time periods. “What Can You Buy? What Could Mary Buy?” has students looking at advertisements today and in the 1860s, and choosing presents for themselves and their family. The second, “Found Poetry,” asks students to create a found poem, based on an article from the Montana Post.

p.s. For those of you who have students participating in National History Day, NEH is offering a prize this year “for students who incorporate research using Chronicling America.”  (More on NHD here.) Chronicling America’s list of recommended topics (fascinating reading in itself) would be a great place to browse for National History Day topics, or research projects more generally.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Resources for studying the Homestead Act, including American Indian Perspectives, and a Plug for National History Day

I’ve been thinking a lot about homesteading lately, because we had a great meeting last week with teachers participating in this year’s Big Read reading My Antonia—a homesteading classic.
Julie Saylor, over at the Indian Education Division of the Office of Public Instruction, just shared with me an informational bulletin they put together: 150TH ANNIVERSARY OF HOMESTEAD ACT - AMERICAN INDIAN PERSPECTIVES. It lists some good resources for incorporating Indian perspectives into your study of homesteading.

Other resources for studying  (and teaching) homesteading can be found on the Montana: Stories of the Land Companion Website, particularly on the student and educator resources pages for Chapter 13.

We also created a couple of bibliographies for student research projects—one on homesteading and one on allotment and the opening of Indian land to homesteaders. We created them for National History Day students, but they are good for anyone doing a research project.

Speaking of National History Day—it is NOT too late to join the fun. See this post from a few weeks ago for more information and then contact Tom Rust (trust@msubillings.edu for assistance).

NHD is contest based—though you can use the curriculum without sending students to any contests. This year, regional contests will be held in Lolo and Billings and the state contest will be held in Billings—and Humanities Montana said that it would look favorably on requests from schools to help pay costs associated with getting students to these contests. (More on information visit http://www.humanitiesmontana.org/grants/apply/index.php --then click on Grant Guidelines, and then look for the instructions for Opportunity Grants, which is the type of grant for which you’ll want to apply.) 

At the Montana Historical Society, we think the best NHD topics are local topics.
  • Local and state topics offer unique opportunities for original research.
  • Students researching local and state topics sometimes make genuine contributions to history through their work (because they break new ground).
  • It is often easier to find primary sources for local and state topics.
  • Local topics can offer the opportunity to learn more about things that matter deeply to a student’s own life or community.
That’s why we created our Montana history bibliographies, with wide-ranging topics, including Montana women’s suffrage, the free speech movement, the creation of the Rocky Boy Reservation, and the construction of Libby Dam. Of course, there are many other Montana history topics that relate to this year’s theme, “Turning Points: People, Places, Events.” And, as an incentive for students to choose a Montana history topic, we will once again offer a prize for the best entry on a Montana History topic in both the junior and senior divisions at the state contest.

Monday, November 5, 2012

The November 1 Billings Gazette published an article on this year’s wild fires, stating that they were the worst since 1910. We came out of the fire season relatively unscathed in Helena—but I’m sure many of you are still dealing with the fallout. My thoughts are with your communities.

The Billings Gazette article 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 last 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.
  • Tales of the 1910 Fire is an exhibit, including a first-hand account of the fires by a forest ranger, created by Archives & Special Collections, Maureen and Mike Mansfield Library.
  • The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes' "Fire of the Land" website is a great resource in itself and includes links to many additional resources.
  • The US Forest Service has gathered information on the history of smoke jumping.
  • The Great 1910 Fire is a website that has transcribed newspaper articles, lists of fire victims and photographs.
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:
As I’m sure you know—probably better than I—one of the reasons fire-fighting is so expensive today is the “Wildland Urban Interface” (in other words, people have increasingly built homes in the woods.) When homes are threatened, the state and federal government pull out the stops to protect them. What should the government’s approach toward fire protection be in the Wildland-Urban Interface? This has been a hot button issue in past years, and will likely continue to be debated.  Consider asking students to research and then write (and/or present) policy briefs to your local legislator and/or county commissioners. (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.)
Looking for sources? There are some links on the topic in the Chapter 12 End-of-Chapter Material Answer Key for Montana: Stories of the Land. (By the way, these answer keys are a gold mine of information on a large number of topics since, whenever we suggested a research project, we provided research leads in the answer keys. You’ll need a user name and password to access them (request the username and password here). Even though it was written in 2008, a good starting point for research is “Home Development on Fire-prone Lands West-wide Summary.”  A Google search for “Wildland Urban interface fire” uncovers many other sources.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Speakers in the Schools

Interested in bringing knowledgeable guest speakers into your classroom at no cost to your school?

Humanities Montana's Speakers in the Schools offers over 70 programs on topics like history, Native American culture, literature, and civics. Humanities Montana speakers are scholars and recognized experts in their fields.

You can apply for a program funded by Humanities Montana using their easy online application.
How To Apply
  1. First, browse the catalog to find a speaker of interest.
  2. Contact the speaker directly to see if he or she is available. You should do this at least four weeks in advance of the proposed date.
  3. Fill out the online application. Humanities Montana youth programs are free.
  4. Keep a record of the names, hours, and value of volunteer time. This information is required in the online final report due two weeks after your program occurs.
  5. Wait for Humanities Montana's acknowledgement of support, usually about a week after we receive your application. Funding is limited and not all requests are approved.
I don’t know all of their speakers, but I can vouch for ones I’ve heard, including my office mate Ellen Baumler (Chinese in Montana: Our Forgotten Pioneers, How We Miss Them: Ghostly Gatherings from the Treasure State, and Profiles of African American Montanans) and  storyteller Tom Satterly (Butte, the Cosmopolitan City of Montana!) There are lots of other exciting looking offerings as well. So check out the catalog.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Reader Responses: More on Timelines, National History Day, and Common Core

I love this blog because of the connections it has given me with amazing teachers across the state and I’m always excited when I get responses to a post.

I received three emails about the post on National History Day and Common Core standards. The first was from Lynde Roberts, whose daughter Abigail participated in National History Day last year as an 8th grader as part on her social studies classwork for Lewis and Clark Middle School in Billings. Abigail won the state competition  and represented Montana at the National History Day Competition in Washington D.C.  Lynde said she would be willing to talk to anyone who has questions about the experience.  “It was great and Abigail grew so much with her confidence and public speaking ability.  She was the winner of the Salute to Freedom award and we will be going to New Orleans in January to celebrate the opening of the WWII museum there.” Email mkohl@mt.gov for contact information.

The second was from Billings high school history teacher Bruce Wendt (and the 2012 Gilder Lehrman Montana state National History Teacher of the Year—Congratulations, Bruce!) He pointed out that social studies will soon have its own Common Core standards. Draft text is being unveiled at the National Council of Social Studies annual conference in Seattle, November 16-18. By the way, the program for that conference looks amazing. Just wishing I could attend.

Finally, Ruth Ferris wrote to let me know that the Library of Congress has unveiled a “massive common core resource center” and shared a link from Edudemic.com that describes the new resource in glowing terms.

 There was also great response to the timeline post. Thanks so much to all of you who took time to respond. Of the twenty-three people who completed the short survey, 18 said that they *would* like a Montana history timeline to hang on their classroom wall. But the teachers who emailed me directly put in strong plugs for student created timelines.  Two correspondents had additional timeline resources to recommend and one had a very interesting approach to teaching with timelines. Their comments are below.

Bryan Pechtl, Scobey Schools, wrote: “I think timelines are a great teaching tool, but I like having my students create them.  If something is just hanging on a wall, they will look at it, but they don't have any reason to really know or understand the material.  By creating the timelines in class, students get involved in deciding the most important events to include and defend why they picked those events.  It can be surprising to see why students pick something that I might not have chosen.  Students also benefit by gaining a deeper understanding of what they are studying because they are forced to research their topics in-depth.  Finally, students generally seem to have fun making them, and they can be a fun break from the routine that we all fall into from time to time.”

Billings high school teacher Bruce Wendt echoes the importance of having students create timelines: “To me this is the type of active history that the kids should do, not the teacher.  They learn by doing the activity, not passively looking at a series of dates and putting those on a worksheet.  I would encourage students to not only mark dates of events, but also significance and other higher order thinking skills.”

Julie Saylor at the Indian Education Division of the Office of Public Instruction pointed out that Montana Tribal Histories: Educators Resource Guide, which was donated to all public school libraries and is available online, includes some timeline activities (see Chapter 10, p. 160). In addition, the author, Julie Cajune, created tribal history timelines for each Montana reservation.

MSU education professor Mike Scarlett recommended another online timeline tool: “One website I share in class for making timelines is  http://www.tiki-toki.com.  It is free—at least the basic version is—and pretty easy to use.”

Missoula teacher Gary Stein talked about what he’s trying to teach when he teaches with timelines. He particularly focuses on the bias and perspective of the timeline maker, who gets to decide which events are included and which ones are left out. His full comment is here: “As a history teacher and citizen, I’m no longer shocked or surprised that many (most?) fellow citizens cannot sequence events in American history, much less put them on an accurate timeline. I think in part this is because many adults have rejected their schooldays history lessons for being irrelevant; after all, does knowing when the Constitution was ratified, or was Custer wiped out before or after the Nez Perce War, really matter in our daily lives? Probably not, and I say this as a person who believes that this information is critically  important in our lives. So, for over 20 years, while I’ve provided and helped students create timelines and chronologies, I have tried to focus on the value and application of the timeline. Why is it important to know when things happened? And who gets to make the timeline, and what is their bias, what does the “timeline maker” want people to know/learn? Simply, yes, I do use the timeline provided by mt.gov, as well as multiple timelines, (some of which I’ve created), to get students to focus on bias and perspective. In other words, what is left off a timeline is sometimes more important than what is included.”

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Common Core and National History Day

If you teach 6-12th grade ...

As you look to realign your curriculum to meet Common Core, I'd encourage you to take another look at National History Day.

What is National History Day? NHD is a project based curriculum that has students grade 6-12 investigate a historical topic related to the annual theme, by conducting primary and secondary research. After they have worked to analyzed and interpret your sources, and have drawn a conclusion about the significance of their topics, students will then be able to present their work in one of five ways: as a paper, an exhibit, a performance, a documentary, or a web site.

You can use the NHD curriculum without having students participate in the NHD contests--but for many students the contest motivates them to do their best work. At the regional contests in Missoula (sometime in March or early April, Date to be announced) and Billings (March 30), and at the state contest in Billings in April, students may submit their work, where it will be judged by professional educators and historians. Winners at the state NHD contest, are eligible to attend the Kenneth E. Behring National History Day Contest at the University of Maryland at College Park in June. This is where the best National History Day projects from across the United States, American Samoa, Guam, International Schools and Department of Defense Schools in Europe all meet and compete.

So, how does this relate to Common Core? The New Common Core standards emphasize teaching historical practice (for example, analyzing primary sources, comparing multiple sources, using evidence to support claims), reading informational texts (including both primary and secondary sources), conducting research, and presenting well-reasoned evidence-based arguments. And guess what? This is exactly what a well-run National History Day program will require of students. (Curious? Check out this link on how NHD curriculum aligns with the common core).

Want to know more? In Montana, NHD is spearheaded by MSU-Billings. Their website has many valuable resources for both teachers and students--including information on how to fit NHD into your curriculum, suggestions for topics related to world or national history, research assistance, and more.
Want to talk with someone before getting involved? Either Ben Nordlund or Tom Rust (406) 247-5785) would be happy to provide additional more information.

P.S. Every year National History Day frames students' research within a historical theme. Chosen for the broad application to world, national or state history, the theme helps students push past the antiquated view of history as mere facts and dates and drill down into historical content to develop perspective and understanding. This year's theme is "Turning Points: People, Ideas, Events." The Montana Historical Society has posted bibliographies relating to some of the major turning points in Montana history as a starting point for student research.  

Monday, October 22, 2012


I received a request last spring for a Montana history timeline to hang on the wall based on the timelines we print at the beginning of each chapter of MONTANA: STORIES OF THE LAND. I don't want to invest in this project unless I know it would be widely useful. We have many projects to choose from--so we want to make sure we invest our resources wisely by focusing on producing material that teachers actually want. So, I have a favor. Would you let me know if you think this is a worthwhile product by answering a quick, three question survey? Link to the survey is here.

I wonder if having your class create a timeline might be better than a preprinted one. On Teachinghistory.org, I found this link describing how one teacher uses her low-tech, class-constructed timeline.

High School teacher Joe Jelen, also writing on Teachinghistory.org, suggested having students create digital timelines and provides links to various programs. Joe links to a Free Technology Tools for Teachers post that reviews several different timeline programs, including Timeglider, which was highly recommended at a conference I recently attended as a FREE program in which to create your own timelines.

And just out of curiosity—does anyone ever have students refer to our online timeline?

Do you have any good tips to share on using or creating timelines?

Monday, October 15, 2012

Girl from the Gulches: A New Teaching Resource

I have long loved the book Girl from the Gulches: The Story of Mary Ronan, published by the Montana Historical Society Press and edited by my colleague Ellen Baumler.

Set in the second half of the nineteenth century, this highly readable 222-page reminiscence details Mary Sheehan Ronan’s journey across the Great Plains, her childhood on the Colorado and Montana mining frontiers, her ascent to young womanhood in Southern California, her return to Montana as a young bride, and her life on the Flathead Indian Reservation as the wife of an Indian agent.
We’ve seen parts of the book used successfully in upper elementary and high school classrooms and have long wanted to promote its use in schools. So we asked Missoula High School English teacher Cheryl Hughes and Billings elementary school librarian Ruth Ferris to help us create a study guide for the book.

They did amazing work. Designed for grades 6-10 (but adaptable to other grades), this study guide includes lesson plans, vocabulary, chapter summaries and questions, alignment to the Common Core, and other information to facilitate teaching Girl from the Gulches. We have posted it as a PDF on our website.

In addition, we’ve also posted a PDF of the first 71 pages of the reminiscence (in which Mary remembers the 1860s in Virginia City and Helena). You are welcome to download and duplicate it for classroom use. Copies of the entire book are available at local bookstores or through our museum store (1-800-243-9900).

I hope you enjoy Mary Ronan’s story as much as I have. If you do end up teaching the book and/or using lessons from the study guide in your classroom, drop me a line. I’d love to know how it went.

Happy reading.

Friday, October 12, 2012

More on Columbus

Ginny Weeks from Blackfoot Community College was kind enough to respond with her own recommendation for teaching about Columbus. She writes, "Morning Girl by Michael Dorris, is a good book which I have read to classes on Columbus Day.  It's very well written, easy to read aloud, and appropriate for children, but it works for all ages.  Here's link to information about it."

On another note entirely, it is only a week until MEA. We hope to see you at one of our sessions (more details here) or at our booth. Free prizes (while they last) for folks who stop by the booth and tell us they read this blog.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Museum School Partnerships

We at the Montana Historical Society are proud as punch. Last Friday, the American Association for State and Local History recognized Best Practices in Museum Education: Museums and Schools as Co-Educators with a Leadership in History Award of Merit.

Cosponsored by the Montana Historical Society and the Montana Office of Public Instruction’s Indian Education Division, this innovative project targeted six Montana communities: Choteau, Columbus, Cut Bank, Great Falls, Hardin, and Livingston. The goal was to foster partnerships between local historical societies/museums, schools, and content experts in order to
  1. Engage students in community study; 
  2. Encourage student participation in presenting and preserving the past;
  3. Create new partnership models that offered genuine, intergenerational, heritage education opportunities;
  4. Better incorporate Montana’s Native American history and culture into both museum interpretation and school classrooms;
  5. Provide museums and schools a platform for gaining access to tribal perspectives on local history and developing partnerships with local tribal representatives;
  6. Facilitate authentic, respectful interactions between students at on-reservation schools and off-reservation schools; and
  7. Reach parents and other family members of participating students, thus expanding the audience for local history.
The program was designed to offer flexibility, so that each museum-school partnership could tailor its project to its own community while meeting project goals. Achievements included student-written publications on local history topics (Great Falls, Columbus, Hardin). Direct classroom exchanges between on- and off-reservation schools contributed markedly to breaking through lingering prejudices (Livingston, Choteau). One historical society (Cut Bank) reported an increase in the number Blackfeet visitors—evidence of the project’s success in building bridges.
Ultimately, all the projects emphasized collaboration—between schools and museums, students and adults, Indians and non-Indians—which created conditions for large social impact. There is lots to love about this project, but among my favorite things was the opportunities it provided for students to create work for authentic audiences—by conducting research that was shared with the public in published booklets or museum exhibits, for example. 

“Finding Authentic Audiences for Student Work” is the title of the presentation I’ll be giving Thursday, October  18, 1:00 p.m.-1:50 p.m., and Friday, October 19, 8:00 a.m.- 8:50 a.m., at MEA in Billings, where I’ll talk about this IEFA program and other model projects I’ve come across over the last 15 years.

I’m always looking for new examples. If you have a project where students conducted historical research for reasons besides a grade and for an audience beyond their teacher, drop me an email (mkohl@mt.gov). I love learning about new projects and would welcome the opportunity to to include information about yours in my talk.

p.s. For more on Museum-School partnerships, see this post on a Malta Museum-School partnership project and this post I wrote back in January 2012, soliciting examples for the first draft of a talk on this topic, which I gave at the Museums Association in Montana's annual meeting last April.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Teaching about Columbus

Columbus Day is Monday, October 8. A U.S. national holiday since 1937, Columbus Day—and Columbus’s legacy—has become increasingly controversial in recent years. (Full disclosure: I fall firmly into the anti-Columbus camp. When my fourth grader had to write a report on Columbus, I helped her supplement the biography she checked out of the school library with some internet research, and she ended up putting him on trial. At the same time, I will very much enjoy the day off work.)

Regardless of how you feel about Columbus, there is no doubt that 1492 was world-changing, for both sides of the Atlantic.

Teachinghistory.org is my go-to site for American history resources, lessons, and critical thinking techniques. (If you don’t subscribe to their e-newsletter, you are missing out.) Their blog post, “Teaching about Columbus Day: Mythbusters,” provides great background, information about resources (including relevant historical fiction), and links to lesson plans and online material.
Among their links is one to the Library of Congress online exhibit, “1492: An Ongoing Voyage.” This exhibit “describes both pre- and post-contact America, as well as the Mediterranean world at the same time.”

Teachinghistory.org does not link to the flippant, fast-paced (almost frenetic), and sometimes juvenile “Crash Courses in World History: The Columbian Exchange,” but I’m going to. This informative 12-minute summary of the book, The Columbian Exchange by Alfred Crosby, is designed to appeal to high school students (if mentioning syphilis in high school is allowable. Is it?) I am a little hesitant to recommend the video because its goofy tone cannot do justice to the devastation the video describes (I keep trying to imagine the creators making a similar video on the Holocaust, but can’t do it.) At the same time, the video makes important material accessible, and, well, interesting to learn about. So, watch it for yourself and pass your own judgment. Then drop me a line and let me know how, if at all, you teach about Columbus Day—and Columbus—in your classroom.

p.s. Are holidays important to your teaching? Here are links to last year’s posts for Veterans Day and Thanksgiving.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Are You Going to MEA or MCEL? We Are.

We made it through a very exciting Montana History Conference and are now busy preparing for the next round of fall workshops. The Montana Historical Society will have a very large presence (nine distinct sessions with three encore performances) at the MEA Educators Conference in Billings this year (October 18-19).

And, for the first time, we’ll have a booth and be giving a presentation at MCEL (Montana Conference of Educational Leadership)—also in Billings.

If you are going to MEA, we hope we’ll see you at one or more of our sessions, all at Skyview High School:

“Labor History in the Class: A Montana Perspective,” MHS Senior Archivist Rich Aarstad
Grade Level:  8-12
Thursday, 9:00 AM- 9:50 AM, SHS 145
This sectional will explore the history of the U.S. labor movement through key Montana events associated with organized labor through the use of primary sources held in the Montana Historical Society archives collections.

“Finding Authentic Audiences for Student Work,” MHS Historical Specialist Martha Kohl
Grade Level:  6-12
Thursday, 1:00 PM-1:50 PM, SHS 237 and Friday, 8:00 AM- 8:50 AM, SHS 202
Museum-school partnerships, Veterans Day programs, web-based publishing, and participation in “crowd-sourcing” projects all offer students opportunities to engage in “authentic” work for “authentic” audiences while engaging in original research, improving writing, and connecting to their communities. Learn how to create successful projects that motivate students and improve learning outcomes.

“Thinking Like a Historian: Using Digital Newspapers,” Washington Elementary School Librarian Ruth Ferris, author of an MHS Lesson Plan on using digital newspapers in the classroom
Grade Level:  4-12
Thursday, 1:00 PM-1:50 PM, SHS 113 and Friday, 9:00 AM-9:50 AM, SHS 114
Join me for a cup of java and a morning newspaper. Did I mention it will be dated 1864-1869? Enter a digital portal to Montana's gold rush era. Learn how to use this treasure in your classroom. Notebooks and laptops are optional but not required. Door prizes.

“Toys: More than Just Fun!” MHS Reference Librarian Zoe Ann Stoltz
Grade Level: K-12
Thursday, 2:00 PM-2:50 PM, SHS 237 and Friday, 11:00 AM-11:50 AM, SHS 237
Museums are filled with artifacts that teach us about previous lives and cultures. Did you know that our toys are artifacts? Toys not only teach us about history, they also teach us about our current culture. Learn how you can teach with toys. Let's play!

“Tools and Techniques for Teaching with Maps,” MHS Program Specialist Deb Mitchell
Grade Level:  4-8
Thursday, 3:00 PM-3:50 PM, SHS 237
Discover interactive lessons that connect geography to history while teaching students map reading skills, how to analyze primary sources, and how maps reflect the context in which they were created. And find out about the treasure trove of historic Montana maps now available online.

“Historical Anniversaries as Teachable Moments,” MHS Government Records Archivist Jeff Malcomson
Grade Level:  6-12
Thursday, 3:00 PM-3:50 PM, SHS 147
By explaining the importance of historical anniversaries related to the Homestead Act and county centennials in Montana, this workshop will demonstrate the usefulness of focusing class projects on state and local history. Information provided can be used to build projects or lesson plans around important events in your local communities.

“Connecting Montana to the Civil War,” MHS Senior Archivist Rich Aarstad
Grade Level:  8-12
Friday, 9:00 AM-9:50 AM, SHS 147
Connecting Montana to the Civil War introduces educators to the sectional politics that divided the nation to events occurring in Montana politics during its territorial period (1864-1889) using documents found in the collections of the Montana Historical Society.

“Teaching History with Primary Sources,” MHS Government Records Archivist Jeff Malcomson
Grade Level:  6-12
Friday, 10:00 AM-11:50 AM, SHS 147
Through a survey of Web resources and interactive exercises, this workshop will explain how to make use of historical documents, photographs, and other media in history lessons. Learn various methods for teaching with primary sources in history, how to engage your students using historical materials, and meet common core standards.

“Play with the Past: Montana History K-6 Resources,” MHS Program Specialist Deb Mitchell
Grade Level:  K-6
Friday, 11:00 AM-11:50 AM, SHS 235
Discover free, standards-based, interactive resources to help you make Montana's rich and diverse history, from 12,000 years ago to the present, real and exciting for your elementary students. Resources created by the Montana Historical Society include hands-on history footlockers and IEFA lesson plans.

If you’ll be at MCEL, visit our booth on Thursday. And on Friday, come here me speak on “History Resources for Improving Reading Comprehension and Meeting Common Core Standards,” at the Holiday Inn Grand Montana Hotel/Parlor 1009, 9:40 AM-10:20 AM.

Even if you can’t make it to one of our sessions, we hope you’ll stop by our booth and say hello. Special prizes for those of you who tell us you read this blog (while supplies last.)

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Ideas and Resources Gleaned from the Montana History Conference Teacher Workshop

We wrapped up a successful educator workshop and history conference last week (thanks to all who came)! Among the highlights of the workshop for me were presentations by Anna Baldwin and Shawn Orr (Arlee) and Phil Leonardi (Corvallis).

Anna (who teaches high school) and Shawn (who teaches elementary) talked about allotment and shared techniques for getting students to look at this difficult issue. These techniques included “jigsawing,” a “tea party,” and using a “four-square.”  Shawn has a lesson plan that spells out jigsawing in more detail, as well as links to full text of the Flathead Allotment Act, the document we analyzed as a group.

For the “tea party”—we each received a snippet of the act that opened the Flathead Reservation to homesteading and then we walked around the room sharing our snippets while trying to figure out what the document was. It was a great exercise to pique our curiosity. Anna led us in using a four square, a simple graphic organizer that asked us to analyze documents and reflect on how each piece of new evidence changed our thinking on a topic. The Educator’s Study Guide for the film Inside Anna’s Classroom, which Anna made with the Center for American Indian Policy and Applied Research, has detailed descriptions of the foursquare (pp. 4-5) and tea party (p. 12). That study guide should be posted at caipar.org soon--or email me at mkohl@mt.gov and I'll send you a copy.

High School teacher Phil Leonardi introduced us to many resources for researching homesteaders and understanding homestead life. These included Percy Wollaston’s reminiscence, Homesteading, Evelyn Cameron photographs, promotional brochures, and the PBS reality t.v. show, Frontier House. He also shared some of the projects he conducts with his students—finding falsehoods in promotional brochures, writing postcards home illustrated by Cameron photos, using Google Earth to “locate” an ideal homestead, and researching an individual homesteader’s experiences. Then he turned us loose to explore the tools historians (and his students) use: Montana Memory site, BLM GLO Records, and Ancestry.com. Phil’s exercises are on his classroom homepage; some of the resources he mentioned in his talk are gathered here.

There’s no duplicating the amazing enthusiasm and expertise these presenters shared at the workshop in an email--but the resources are worth sharing regardless, especially since we’re commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Homestead Act this year.

Are you doing anything special in your classroom around the anniversary?

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Tools for Teaching with Historic Photographs

A few weeks back, I wrote a post about using primary sources in the classroom in which I asked readers how (and why) they used primary sources in the classroom (and what some of the difficulties were).

Fourth grade Frenchtown teacher Kathy Gaul responded: “I think for those of us that teach lower than middle school grades, it is quite a challenge.  Many primary source documents are too wordy and complicated for our kids.  I have found photos to be the most engaging primary source for my 4th graders.  Even when I am super excited about something, telling them ‘This is the actual whatever!!’, they aren’t that impressed. I don’t think they have lived long enough to have much of a perspective on history.”

I’m always glad to hear what resonates with students. So in honor of Kathy’s email, I’d like to share with you two new tools I’ve discovered for teaching with historic photographs.

  • Crop It. Crop It is a four-step hands-on learning routine where teachers pose questions and students use paper cropping tools to deeply explore a visual primary source.
  • Primary Source Thinking Triangle Activity. According to the creator, “This activity requires students to use higher level thinking skills as they interact with a primary source image. The thinking triangle also gives students practice in the visual equivalent of Common Core State Standards (CCSS) reading anchor standard 2.” I was incredibly taken by this simple tool for pushing students to look deeply at images and the Thinking Triangle is a new contender for my favorite primary source analysis tool. (If one of you would volunteer to try it with your class and let me know how it goes, I’d be VERY appreciative.)
Want to incorporate more historical photographs into your lesson plans? You may also find these earlier posts of use:
Library of Congress also offers an online training module on analyzing historic prints and photographs. You can earn 1 OPI renewal unit on completion of the module. Find the link on our Online Professional Development page. 

Monday, September 17, 2012

Favorite Lesson Plans/Resources High School

Last spring, I asked your colleagues: “Describe (in brief) the best Montana history or IEFA lesson, project, or resource your taught this year--the one you will make time for next year no matter what.”

Here are the answers from high school teachers:

“National History Day was great. Most students really enjoyed it.” Anonymous. Find more about National History Day here.

"I don't know if it is ‘best’ but students enjoy putting Slade on trial. We read Dimsdale's chapter and Twain's version.  He is found guilty perhaps 50% of the time.  If students do it right, we have a decent discussion of life in the 1860s.  We then discuss the sources (did the authors have motives) and then examine the textbook (Montana: A History of Two Centuries).  On what sources did the textbook writers rely?  Does that make a difference?" Bruce Wendt, Billings

"The Surrounded, by D’Arcy McNickle; Playing for the World: The 1904 Fort Shaw Indian Boarding School Girls Basketball Team." Kathryn Holt, Havre [OPI has a model unit on the Playing for the World DVD.]

“I used Playing for the World (PBS) to compare and contrast life at the boarding schools when reading the novel When the Legends Die by Hal Borland.” Anonymous

“I use the teaching trunks throughout the year.  I also use parts of the IEFA teaching model for the book Killing Custer, by James Welch.” Michele McGuigan, Thompson Falls

"Presenting a video regarding a Navajo rug and its authentication process.  The lesson discusses the taboos that were crossed when the rug was originally crafted in the early 1900s. This leads into a discussion and a journal entry or CRT style essay. What concerns should the owner address?  Compare the rug to the video of the Chief's blanket. How are they similar (beyond their colors and designs)?  How are they different?  Which video provided information that you found most interesting and why?
Navajo Rug Link
Chief's Blanket Link
This was an activity that I was assigned through an NAS online course at MSU last fall."  Kathleen Hughes, Dodson Public Schools, Resource Setting

“Crow Culture through storytelling and drumming. We read three chapters of Parading through History: The Making of the Crow Nation in America, 1805-1935 by Frederick Hoxie. In the chapters we discovered our history and culture through the Crow who lived in this place.” Bill Shannon, Livingston [Editorial comment: Hoxie's book is great scholarship, and I'm very glad to see it being used in high school.]

“Plant pages listing medicinal uses of native plants. Cooking with native plants. Applying lessons of yesterday with those of today." Nancy Scott, Northern Cheyenne Tribal Schools

“I used the Library of Congress FSA photos depicting discrimination to introduce awareness to students of blatant anti-Indian sentiments and to compare that segregation to other racial discrimination in the U.S.  I created an activity for analyzing the pictures to prepare for a unit using To Kill a Mockingbird.” Tom Thackery, Roundup

“In my Montana History class, students read the Lewis and Clark journals and then they read writings from various Indian perspectives about L&C. They created a movie of their own interpretation with digital podcasts and their own photographs—hard to describe but met the criteria for IEFA, definitely.” Anna Baldwin, Arlee, 9-12

"I really liked the notice of the Bakken article in the Helena paper. A compare/contrast with Butte history is engaging. Custer Battlefield Lessons-Multiple Perspectives [There are several lesson plans that do this including this one from Gilder Lehrman and this one from OPI." Joe Kusak, Bozeman High School, 11th grade

“Using the Eloise Cobell case as the central example students explore the Dawes Act, the pros and cons, and how it still has an effect on us today.” Gary Carmichael, Whitefish, 11th grade

"I found Shawn Orr's lesson on the Hellgate Treaty of 1855 very valuable. Using the Socratic Circle approach to group learning lent itself to great analysis and discussion.” Patrice Schwenk, Missoula, 9-12
"I taught the ‘Blood on the Marias’ lesson plan. I also required my students to write 4-5 page, MLA-style papers with at least three citations per page and at least eight sources total answering one of two questions about the Baker Massacre: ‘Why did Baker attack Heavy Runner's band?’ or ‘How did attitudes to the event change over time and how did geography and ethnicity influence perspective?’ (Because we live in Helena, I required my students to do research at the Montana Historical Society Research Center.) I will definitely do this lesson again. And, I discovered that our principal Greg Upham is a direct descendant of Chief Heavy Runner—so he came and talked to the class, which was an amazing connection!" Jill Van Alstyne, Helena

And that’s it for recommendations from your fellows--unless I get new recommendations from some of you (nudge, nudge).

P.S. September 28 is the deadline for applications to participate in this year’s Big Read for My Antonia and Girl from the Gulches. Details here.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Favorite Resources/Lesson Plans for Middle School

Last spring, I asked your colleagues: ““Describe (in brief) the best Montana history or IEFA lesson, project, or resource your taught this year--the one you will make time for next year no matter what.”
Here are the answers from middle school teachers.

"I taught a get-to-know you lesson in September using Winter Counts that went well. As a school, three other teachers and I collaborated to bring a group of students to SKC for some lessons created by future educators enrolled in classes there. I hope to do both again next year." Anonymous

“I had the best time with my kids this year handing out a Montana map and having them explore it.  They asked lots of questions and it turned into a quiz to see how many towns I could locate when they asked me the name of them.  There were 3 towns I couldn't do - Olive, and two others down there in SE MT.  This turned into a great game of stump the teacher and I also found out how many kids had connections across the state with historical family information.” Anonymous

“Alzada to Zortman [Mapping Montana: A-Z] was a really useful tool. It was a good way to start the school year and get familiar with our great state!” Tedi Bishop, Dutton/Brady, 6-8

The best Montana history project I taught was the Project Archaeology Shelter unit. It covered so many aspects of history/MT history and was a lot of fun.” Pam Carey, Three Forks

"My favorite MT history lesson is my ‘Famous Montana Person Portrayals.’ The students research and dress up as a famous person in MT history, and present this as if they are actually that person.” Anonymous

“My favorite IEFA lesson/unit was about ‘the true story of the first Thanksgiving.’  I did this unit with the middle school English teacher, and we used the book 1621: A New Look at Thanksgiving.  This was an excellent lesson and the kids were engaged and enjoyed it." Anonymous

“The best Montana history lesson I taught this year was based around Montana’s mining history. Students also were able to visit Butte and make radio commercials for the World Museum of Mining.” Anonymous, 6th grade

“A high school English teacher and I cooperated on teaching a unit about code talkers as a literacy/history lesson for 7th graders. One highlight of the unit was when we invited in a WWII vet who told us about his experiences in the Pacific and was familiar with the Navaho code talkers.” Norma Glock, Columbus Middle School librarian.

After reading chapter 7 of Montana: Stories of the Land, I asked students to create a picture with these instructions: “Choose one tribe for this project. Create a picture expressing how your tribe handled the continuous invasion of the Euro-American. Use traditional style of Indian art. (Art examples in this chapter.)" Anonymous

“I did a GPS/Google Earth tipi ring project recently, in which the students located and marked the tipi rings from various farms in the area and put them onto Google Earth. They had a BLAST!” Brian Petchl, Scobey, 7th grade (Stay tuned for separate post on this that includes Brian’s tips for making this successful.)

P.S. Not specific to teaching Montana history but highly relevant for middle school teachers: I recently read two posts by middle school teacher Shannon Carey about strategies for teaching history that I really liked. The first is about the importance of teaching academic vocabulary. The second is about tools for getting students to practice talking about history using academic language. She teaches English language learners—but I thought her ideas were relevant to all middle school students. What do you think?

Monday, September 10, 2012

After Using the Primary Source Analysis Tool: What's Next?

I spend a lot of time encouraging teachers to use primary sources in their classrooms. See for example this post, this post, and several others tagged “teaching with primary sources.”

I’m still a true believer. But I’m starting to have some questions.
  •  Will an out-of-context exposure to a primary source stick with students?
  • Will it teach them much of anything about history and the historical process?
  • Will it engage them in higher level thinking and cause them to wrestle with perspective and point of view?
  • Will it create empathy for the people who came before them, or make them fall in love with studying the past?
Not necessarily—and that’s a problem. Sometimes I think that those of us who work in museums and archives are too quick to believe that the issue is ACCESS. We think that if students just had access to primary sources, they’d fall in love with studying history, just as we have. But it isn’t magic and simple exposure isn’t enough. (Probably those of you who work in classrooms are slapping your foreheads in mock surprise, saying “what else is new?” If so, please bear with me—we all have our blind spots.)

So, what are best practices for teaching with primary sources? Ideally, primary-source based lessons will stick with the students. Through them, students will learn about history and the historical process. They will engage in higher level thinking. They will wrestle with issues of perspective. They will gain empathy and they will fall in love with studying the past.

How do we get there?

The Library of Congress’s Teaching with Primary Sources blog has some useful suggestions in a post, “Primary Source Analysis Tool: What’s Next? Further Investigation.” The post is short and thought provoking—definitely worth reading.

I’d also be interested in hearing how YOU do it. Are your goals for using primary sources the same as the ones I listed above or are they different? And, either way, how do you use primary sources in your classroom to reach your larger educational goals?

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Favorite Elementary Lessons and Resources

Last spring (before the listserv went on hiatus) I sent out a survey that included this question: “Describe (in brief) the best Montana history or IEFA lesson, project, or resource your taught this year--the one you will make time for next year no matter what.”

Thanks to all who responded! Listservers shared a lot of good ideas, which I will divide up into a couple of posts, by grade level. So, without further ado, some of your fellow teachers’ favorite elementary lessons/resources:

“We did Mapping Montana A-Z this year. The kids were so thrilled taking their road trip across the state.  They were amazed at some of the names they found—even though some of the towns were just down the road from us.  It is a keeper!” Kristin Hopkins, Bozeman, 4th grade

Tammy Elser’s unit on Jim Thorpe (Joseph Bruchac’s Jim Thorpe: Bright Path) using the Jack Gladstone song “Bright Path.” Anonymous [This lesson is available online and was donated to public school libraries.]

“I loved using the OPI IEFA Blackfeet star/creation lesson with my 4th graders.  We turned off the lights and let them spread out on the floor and view the DVD like the night sky.  They loved it.” Cindy Gavin, Big Timber [Both the Blackfeet Star Stories and Crow Star Stories were donated to public school libraries. They are also available online:
Boarding school trunk from MHS [‘To Learn a New Way.’ Order here. View the Teacher’s Guide, including lesson plans here.] I also use my own trunks to teach each reservation.” Andree Anderberg, Helena, K-5 librarian

“I teach a lesson that integrates traditional Crow designs into geometry. After learning the different designs used by the Crow in their beadwork, students look at examples of various Crow beadwork to identify geometric shapes.  Students then create their own design following the traditional Crow designs.  This lesson teaches about geometric shapes, symmetry, and Crow culture.” Anonymous

“I most definitely will let my students research a Montana topic of their choice. They research  their topic and then make travel brochures on their topic. They present these in a ‘walking museum’.” Genelle Hocevar, Great Falls, grades 3-5

“I like interaction and hands-on learning within the fifth grade classroom, so we made parfleche bags to hold all the Montana History materials we made. It was a great extension for the IEFA lessons as well. I have already been doing this project each year but will most definitely continue it.  The kids love making them, and I like the way everything is neatly kept tucked inside.” Bonnie Boggs, Miles City, 5th grade

“The lesson I taught about the effect of boarding school mandates on Montana tribes was very effective. I read excerpts from picture books and biographies about the boarding school experience. Then I had the students visualize someone coming into their own home, pulling them out, telling their parents that the children must attend school far away from home and that they wouldn't see their children again for many months or years. Next, I had the children write about how they thought it might feel. Then we discussed the experiences of what happened after children arrived at the schools, again reading excerpts from books. I asked them to think of any experiences that they'd had in their own lives that were akin to what happened to those children. I think they all realized that what happened to those kids was so horrible that we hopefully wouldn't experience much that was comparable.” Anonymous, 5th grade

It’s not too late to share what you’ve learned. If you have a favorite resource/lesson, send it in by emailing mkohl@mt.gov.