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Monday, November 25, 2013

Reading Strategies for Elementary Students

Elementary teachers: I was intrigued with the strategies explored in this video to get elementary students so they understand the main ideas of a text.

The first is to have them read to answer a focus question. I think this is tremendously important. Confession time here: I’m a professional historian and *my* mind wanders when I read history UNLESS I’m reading to find answers to specific questions.

The second was a strategy she calls “Keep it or Junk it,” a method that helps students identify key words and concepts in a text. Check out the video and let me know what you think.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving

I'm driving to Seattle next week to spend Thanksgiving with my brother and sister-in-law. Crossing icy mountain passes (McDonald, Lolo, Fourth of July, and the dreaded Snoquamie) is a memorable part of our family's Thanksgiving tradition. So are my sister-in-law's creamed onions, my cousin's delicious raspberry-cranberry relish, my nephew's artful apple pies, and the raucous game Scattegories we always play after dinner.

How do you and your students celebrate Thanksgiving? What do you remember of Thanksgivings from your childhood? How are Thanksgiving celebrations today similar to, and different from, the Thanksgivings of earlier times?

What has changed and what has remained the same is one of my favorite research questions. Answer this question by having your students interview elders about their Thanksgiving memories. MHS has a guide to using oral history in the classroom. It has great tips and training exercises that will be useful even if you don't choose to have your students conduct full-blown oral histories. I think an informal interview is more appropriate for this project, but all good interviews require scaffolding. Thus, I recommend brainstorming interview questions (and teaching them the difference between open-ended questions and closed "yes-no" questions) before sending them home to gather information.

Alternately, ask your students to look for answers in the historical newspapers on the Chronicling America site. To limit your search to Montana newspapers, select "Montana" from the list of states. Type the word "Thanksgiving" in the search box and see what comes up. After looking through a few articles, have your students to make a copy (or write down) something they found interesting (including the citation!). Share these items as a class and compare what you found to Thanksgiving today. A quick look at the historic newspapers had me thinking about Thanksgiving parades, shopping and what might politely be termed overindulgence. (You may want to assign students different pages from the search, so they all read different articles/advertisements).

Looking for a few good secondary stories about Thanksgivings past? Check out these from Ellen Baumler's Montana Moments blog: "Mining Camp Thanksgiving,"  "A Mild Thanksgiving in Wild Miles City, 1882," and "Thanksgiving Day Murder at Elkhorn."

Finally, check out this wonderful blog post, "Native American Perspectives on Thanksgiving," from our friends at Project Archaeology, which includes links to lesson plans, videos, and more.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Happy Geographic Awareness Week

This week is Geographic Awareness Week, so I thought I would post some information about digital map resources (thanks to MHS interpretive historian Ellen Baumler, colleague extraordinaire, for the list.)

Find maps from the Montana Historical Society Research Center and The University of Montana Mansfield Library in this collection, which includes everything from territorial maps to present day topographic maps.

After going to the map collection homepage, you'll need to search "Montana" to find these resources. My favorite maps in this collection are the early panoramic maps (also known as birds-eye views), which they have digitized for several Montana communities including Butte, Helena, Livingston, and Missoula.

You will find a wealth of material on this site, including Montana Maps (ready made maps on all sorts of topics, from elevation to weather to political divisions), the Digital Atlas of Montana (where you can request specific information), Montana GIS portal, Montana Cadastral Mapping (which includes information about current property ownership), the Natural Heritage Map Viewer and the Animal Field Guides (range and other well-organized information about Montana’s birds, mammals, and amphibians).

How do I love the, Sanborn Fire Insurance Company? Let me count the ways. “Founded in 1867 by D. A. Sanborn, the Sanborn Map Company was the primary American publisher of fire insurance maps for nearly 100 years.” Their maps “include information such as the outline of each building, the size, shape and construction materials, heights, and function of structures, location of windows and doors. The maps also give street names, street and sidewalk widths, property boundaries, building use, and house and block numbers.” These maps are available by subscription only, but the Montana Historical Society has paid for a subscription on behalf of all Montana residents. Feel free to email me for password to access this amazing resource.

Bakken Graphs and Maps

There are amazing map resources to learn more about the Bakken. The best way to find them is simply to type the phrase “Bakken maps” into your favorite search engine.

Other Tools and Resources

 

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Cultural Bias Is Everywhere--Including Our Libraries

In response to my recent post, "Poetry and Prose for Native American Heritage Month," Broadwater Elementary School Librarian Marla Unruh shared some interesting thoughts about how librarians catalog and organize Indian-related material. She particularly noted how traditional cataloging choices can marginalize Indian material and, especially, relegate native peoples to the past rather than recognizing them as active, culturally and politically, in the present.

She wrote:
While searching for a Dewey Decimal classification for Birthright: Born to Poetry – A Collection of Montana Indian Poetry, I came across an article titled “Classification, Bias, and American Indian Materials,” by Holly Tomren. She asserts that both the Dewey Decimal and the Library of Congress classification systems do not have adequate categories for Indian literature, marginalizing basic Native concepts by using outdated terms and relegating Indian works to the past, placing them on the history shelves.
As I look our school district catalog, I find the overwhelming preponderance of books and resources in 970.004, the history section reserved for all things Native American.
I decided to put Birthright into our poetry section rather than segregating it from other poetry.
This is something I had never thought about and so I am especially appreciative to Marla for writing. How is the Birthright collection cataloged in your school library? Where do you think it should be?

Monday, November 11, 2013

Remembering Veterans

In response to my Veterans Day post last week, Jim Konen from Butte shared this poem written by seventh grader Mackenzie Vogt. The poem is tribute to her grandfather, James Miller, a Korean War veteran and a retired Montana educator who taught in Drummond and Butte.

It may be too late to fit this in—but I just learned about another cool crowdsourcing project—this one to do with collecting WWII veterans’ stories. The Trust for the National Mall has created a “Stories of Courage” contest. It’s asking folks to share and vote for stories from WWII veterans and Americans on the home front through its Facebook page. Contest ends November 30, 2013.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Poetry and Prose for Native American Heritage Month

Part of me resists the idea of Native American Heritage Month (or African American History Month and Women's History Month) since I believe these topics should be explored all year long. That said, I'll take what I can get and since November is designated Native American Heritage Month, I thought it might be useful to provide a few links--to use this month or any time at all.

National Museum of the American Indian is posting a poem a day on its Facebook page in honor of Native American Heritage Month.

For a great collection of poems by Montana Indian poetsalong with well-thought-out teaching resourcessee OPI's Indian Education Division's (relatively new) book, Birthright: Born to PoetryA Collection of Montana Indian Poetry. OPI posted the entire book online as a PDF for download and sent copies to public school libraries. They also filmed and posted the poets reading their poems, which I loved, because I much prefer hearing poems to reading them.

More interested in prose than poetry? An interview with Darrin Old Coyote, Crow tribal chairman, is a recent installment in the National Museum of the American Indian's "Meet Native America" series.

In the "oldie-but-goodie" category, Montanatribes.org is a great resource. A collaborative project of the Office of Public Instruction and the  University of Montana's Regional Learning Project, this digital archive contains short video clips of tribal cultural and historical experts speaking on a variety of topics.

The Montana Historical Society has created a number of IEFA lessons that focus on topics from pre-contact trade to resource extraction on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation. Explore these and other resources on the Indian Education for All Lessons page of our website.

Other IEFA worksheets, lessons, and documents can be found on our Montana: Stories of the Land Companion Website. Chapters 2 (Pre-contact), 3 (Horse Era)7 (Treaty Period) and 11 (Early Reservation Era) focus entirely on Montana Indian history but Indian history is woven throughout so almost every chapter has activity suggestions in the end of chapter material, links to resources, or worksheets designed to deepen students' understandings of Montana Indians (see for example this worksheet from the railroad chapter). 
 
Finally, here's a link to OPI's Indian Education Division's newsletter from last November, that includes an annotated list of resources for teaching about Thanksgiving in ways that include American Indian perspectives.

What's your favorite IEFA resource?

p.s. Looking for still more inspiration? Click on the IEFA label to see past blog posts, including this one, this one, and this one.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Veterans Day

Next Monday is Veteran's Day, so I thought I would preview some good resource material.

In honor of Veterans Day a few years ago, the National Museum of the American Indian ran a story about Joe Medicine Crow and his service in World War II--including video.

Here are some other Veterans Day resources--including letters from Montana soldiers.

p.s. Missoula middle school teacher Karin Flint responded to my last post about brands to remind me of a wonderful (my word, not hers) brand lesson she, Linda Giammona-Eggers, and Wilma Tabaracci wrote for Grant-Kohrs Ranch. It is one of the many resources featured on the educator resources page for Montana: Stories of the Land Chapter 8, "Livestock and the Open Range, 1850 - 1887."