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 24, 2015

Monday, December 21, 2015

Reading for Winter Break

Winter break can be a good time to catch on your reading. Assuming folks are too busy to read every post, I looked at my stats and have compiled a list of some of the most popular posts of 2014-2015.

Happy reading, everyone. And all the best wishes for the New Year!

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Revisiting Montana's Historic Landscape

As longtime readers will know, I'm a big proponent of students studying their own communities. (You can read more about why and how in this post I wrote in 2012).

Architectural historian Carroll Van West's blog, "Revisiting Montana's Historic Landscape," is a great resource for local study--particularly if you are interested in learning more about how your community's history is reflected in the built environment and involving students in learning about heritage preservation.

To find articles on your community in this blog, type your town's name into the search bar (top right).

You can find more ideas for local study by scrolling through past Teaching Montana History posts about local history projects. There you'll find resources and models for researching local brandspartnering with your local museum, participating in crowd sourcing projects like HistoryPin and What Was There and much more.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Not in Our Town

This weekend, 150 Billings residents rallied in a local park to show support for local Muslims, who have been receiving threats. (Article here.)

This act of solidarity reminded me of Billings' response to anti-Semitic violence in December 1993, when thousands of families posted pictures of menorahs in their window as a visible rejection of prejudice. The movement became known as Not in Our Town.

Facing History has created a reading and discussion questions about Not in Our Town.

Elementary students can learn about this history through the picture book The Christmas Menorahs. If your school library doesn't have this book, it should. More resources for teaching about Not in Our Town are here.

On an entirely different note, TPS-Barat is offering a free professional development workshop in January. From their website:

The virtual workshop will feature independent work at school/home, including work before the first of three one-hour synchronous sessions held Tuesdays January 5, 12, and 26 at 6:30 pm CST online. The workshop will be capped at 10 participants but must have no less than 5 to run it. 
Prior to each online session, participants will be asked to investigate resources on the Library of Congress and the TPS-Barat Primary Source Nexus and to prepare materials to share in the synchronous discussions. The online meetings are designed for participants to share their findings and experiences and receive advice, feedback, and additional information from the TPS-Barat master trainers as well as their cohort colleagues. 
Who: K-12 teachers; 5-10 participants 
What: Teaching with Primary Sources from the Library of Congress Level 1 
When: January 5, 12, 26, 2015; sign up by December 22 using an email address you will check during winter break 
Where: School, Home & Online
Why: Enhance your ability to find and access Library resources as well as create and implement primary source activities

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Interdisciplinary Unit: The 10,000 Year Significance of Bison

Project Archaeology recently featured the work of graduate student Mario Battaglia, who, in cooperation with educators and cultural experts on the Blackfeet reservation, recently published a new interdisciplinary, bison-themed curriculum designed for use in grades 6-9 science, social studies, and language arts classes.

According to Mario, "the curriculum examines the 10,000 year significance of bison to Native and, much later, non-Native peoples primarily within the state of Montana. In all, five interactive, hands-on, and student-driven units highlight bison’s integral role culturally, politically, socially, and ecologically both before and after Euroamerican contact. Throughout the curriculum sequence, students uncover bison’s dynamic and turbulent past, discover bison’s central placement within Native cultures, and are challenged to critically engage with the processes leading to the near-extinction of bison in the late 1800s. From this understanding, students are tasked with determining potential steps forward in bison restoration and management."

You can read more about the free curriculum on Project Archaeology's website or download the 5-unit curriculum and review it for yourself.

Monday, December 7, 2015

World War II Primary Sources on Montana Memory

It’s D-Day—so I thought I’d share a link to the Peggy Letters, one of my favorite collections on the Montana Memory Project, Montana's version of the Library of Congress's American Memory Project.

The Peggy Letters are “newsletters written by the Miles City branch of American Women’s Voluntary Services (AWVS) from late 1942 until early 1946. The newsletters were sent to every service man and woman from Miles City, Custer County, and neighboring areas for whom they had addresses to keep them abreast of events at home while they were serving in the military. The AWVS chose “Peggy” as a pseudonym: several AWVS women took turns writing the newsletters.” The collection has the newsletters—but also letters that “service men and women wrote back to ‘Peggy’.” 

P.S. Montana Memory is working hard to become more user friendly and has just posted a series of 2 to 5 minute instructional videos on everything from to view a document, how to use audio files, and how to create a PowerPoint to advance search techniques. In terms of finding material, I still find it easiest to go straight to collections I know about (which is why I am going to be featuring specific items and collections over the next few months). This is the second in the series. The first featured the hundreds of Evelyn Cameron and L. A. Huffman photos the Montana Historical Society Photo Archives recently added to the digital archives. If you have a favorite collection (or item) on Montana Memory, let me know and I’ll share it to the list. 

P.P.S.Our new lesson plan, Reader's Theater: Letters Home from Montanans at War, features excerpts of several World War II letters. It also includes links to the Montana Memory Project, including to a letter John Harrison wrote from Germany on May 14, 1945, informing his family of his brother Bob's death. 

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Evaluating Sources

I had the great pleasure of hearing Sam Wineburg, founder and Executive Director of the Stanford History Education Group (SHEG), speak last September. SHEG is responsible for "Beyond the Bubble," a site that suggests ways teachers can use primary resources to create innovative, easy-to-use assessments to "gauge historical thinking.”  SHEG is also the creator of the Reading like a Historian curriculum, "87 flexible lesson plans featuring documents from the Library of Congress." Here is a nice article about Reading Like a Historian (which, by the way, is now aligned to Common Core).

I'm a bit of a SHEG groupie, so you can imagine how excited I was to listen to Wineburg, who focused on the problem authenticating information.

The question: With so much information on the web, how do we decide what's reliable? It used to be, we would tell students to avoid ".com" sites, and trust ".org" or ".edu" sites. But almost anyone can establish an organization and claim a ".org" address (and many people with axes to grind do.) Equally, there are many ".com" sites with valuable information (this one, for example).

Instead of hard and fast rules, he suggests we teach our students to ask two questions:

1. Who is the site's author/owner?

Sometimes, the site makes it evident. If not, you can find out in two shakes by using entering the URL into the search bar at "WhoIs.Com".

That gets you a name, and possibly an institutional affiliation. How do professional fact-checkers (people who need to get information in a hurry) vet the expertise of a name they've found on "WhoIs.Com"? According to Wineburg, they search it on Wikipedia--the very site so many of us warn our students to stay away from. However, for something like this, it can be very useful.

2. Who are that author/site's friends?

As Wineburg pointed out, we're known by the people we associate with. Looking for information on the Holocaust? Probably don't want to trust a site whose primary "friends" are neo-Nazis and white supremacists. So--how do you find out a site's friends? You can enter a URL into the search box at http://www.alexa.com/ and it will show who links to that site. Handy!

According to Wineburg, "Reliable information is to civic well-being as clean air is to physical well-being." For this reason, he recommends teaching students that "Sponsored Content" is a fancy way to say "Advertisement" as well as the importance of "sourcing" (by which we mean considering WHO wrote a document, WHEN, Under WHAT CIRCUMSTANCES, and for WHAT PURPOSE) all material--both contemporary and historical.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Online Resources

Where do you get your ideas? I'm often asked. The answer: conversations with teachers, archivists, and fellow historians, other blogs/listservs, and even Facebook. But mostly other blogs.

Here are a few of my favorite blogs about teaching social studies--along with links to posts I found particularly useful.

Tarr's Toolbox is the creation of British history teacher Russell Tarr. It is full of good teaching ideas, like Designing a New Page for Your Textbook and Using Google Autocomplete to Formulate Research Questions.

Glenn Wiebe also sometimes writes for the blog "Doing Social Studies," a great blog maintained by the Kansas Councill for Social Studies, which is where I found this link to the "Six Cs Worksheet," developed by the History Project at the University of California. Irvine. This graphic organizer has students look at primary sources through the lens of the six C's: CONTENT (Main Idea: Describe in detail what you see), CITATION (Author/Creator/When was this created?), CONTEXT (What is going on in the world, the country, the region, or the locality when this was created?), CONNECTIONS (Prior Knowledge: Link the primary source to other things that you already know or have learned about), COMMUNICATION (Point-of-view or bias: Is this source reliable?), and CONCLUSIONS (How does the primary source contribute to our understanding of history?)

Glenn Wiebe, who works for the Educational Service and Staff Development Association of Central Kansas, is the man behind HistoryTech and a man after my own heart. I always read his posts with interest (and, in fact, quoted one at length in my last post). Another recent favorite is "Use Google Public Database Explorer. Your kids get smarter," a post about, well, Google Public Database Explorer. According to Wiebe, "Data Explorer uses a variety of data sets from places like the World Bank, the US Center for Disease Control, International Monetary Fund, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, and 130+ other organizations. The cool thing about the tool is how it allows you to quickly create visual representations and then make comparisons between different visualizations."  I was also very taken with this post of his on "Quick Writes to Assess Historical Thinking."

I've talked before about TPS Barat (see for example, here and here.) Recent favorite posts include "Today In History: Indian Citizenship Act," which provides links to Library of Congress resources relating to this 1924 law, granting official U.S. citizenship to all Native Americans born in the U.S.; and--although it has NOTHING to do with Montana history--"Literature Links: To Kill a Mockingbird," which offers LOC resources relating to this widely taught novel.

I find the Free Tech 4 Teachers blog less useful day to day, but every once in a while it offers a real gem, like this post on recording and mapping local history. Would someone PLEASE do this project and let me know how it goes?

Finally, Billings Ruth Ferris, who scours many blogs that I don't read often sends me great links. Just last week, she turned me on to Education Updates: Sharing Teaching and Learning Resources from the National Archives, when she shared their post "A Primary Source Transcription Mission!"  Last summer at teacher institutes, "educators hand-picked documents that they knew would make useful teaching tools." Now the archives is "inviting students, teachers, and learners of all ages to make these primary sources even more accessible by transcribing them." What a great way for students to practice their typing skills and make a genuine contribution to the study of history! Is this something your keyboarding or computer teacher would take on with a class? 

What's your favorite education/history blog or website? Let me know and I'll share it.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Teaching with Historic Photos

Did you know? The Montana Historical Society has added 650 Evelyn Cameron and 577 L. A. Huffman photographs to the Montana Memory Project! This means you and your students can access amazing pictures documenting the eastern Montana, like this one taken by L. A. Huffman between 1910 and 1930 (MHS 981-836):

These photos join many other collections on Montana Memory, including 555 stereographs by N. A. Forsyth. taken from circa 1901 to circa 1911. mainly of Butte.

For ideas of how to use historic photographs (and for other sources of great images) check out some of these posts, including this one that describes the Crop It tool and this one that talks about using images to complement literature studies.

Looking for ready-made lessons? Check out  Picturing the Past: Understanding Cultural Change and Continuity among Montana's Indians through Historic Photographs, a two-day learning activity designed to complement Chapter 11 of the Montana: Stories of the Land textbook, and the Montana Women at Work: Clothesline Timeline Lesson Plan.  

And one more cool thing. Techies among you probably already know this, but I just found out that Google Images will search images. Go to Google Images. Click on the the camera icon, enter the photo URL or drag and drop and image from your hard drive (or phone) into the search box. Voila! (I learned this cool trick from Glennw at http://doingsocialstudies.com/. It is a great blog--worth checking out.) I'm imagining online scavenger hunts and other cool activities using unidentified photo sets to introduce a new unit. What are you imagining?

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Yes--Even More on Chronicling America

We've run three posts on Chronicling America over the last few weeks (you can find them here, here, and here)--four if you count the post about our new lesson plan, Hazel Hunkins, Billings Suffragist, which relies heavily on articles found in Chronicling America, Why? Because Chronicling America is that cool. I promise we'll move onto other sites and resources soon--but I did want to share some of the ideas teachers sent in about they've been using Chronicling America in the classroom.

Elementary teacher Debbie Crow, wrote: We used Chronicling America and the Silver State Post Archives "to research our little town of Garrison from 1860 to 2015. We made a huge timeline that we placed in our hallway. We have a spaghetti dinner this Friday night when we will show the community."

Dale Alger, the librarian in Roundup, shares articles he's found on the local radio station, KLMB 88.1 FM (available on the internet at fm88roundup.com). (Could your students do this, either for your local radio station or your local newspaper? When she taught English in Chester, Renee Rasmussen used to assign her students the task of finding a “This Week in History” article from the newspaper archives, and getting it to the local paper, which published it as a weekly feature (sponsored, if I remember, by area businesses). I believe each student or pair of students signed up at the beginning of the year to be responsible for a specific week, and they missed their deadline at their peril.)

I also wanted to share a great portal to lesson plans and tutorials that just came to my attention: NDNP (National Digital Newspaper Project) Extras. NDNP Extras has links to helpful tips for searching, webinars and podcasts, and vetted lesson plans--including, as of two weeks ago, Hazel Hunkins! They also link to a nifty page Montana's NDNP staff has created: Extra! Montana News, 1864-1922. The page has interesting Montana topics, from Anti-Chinese Discrimination to the Extermination of Wolves, each with links to Montana newspaper articles, to help you answer the question "How did Montana papers cover the news while it was happening?"

Finally, I wanted to alert ambitious high school teachers of the Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers Data Challenge. The challenge: to "create a web-based tool, data visualization, or other creative use of the information found in the Chronicling America historic newspaper database."
NEH invites members of the public to produce creative web-based projects demonstrating the potential for using the data found in the Chronicling America website, available at http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov.  ...
What are we looking for?  NEH encourages contestants to develop data visualizations, web-based tools, or other innovative and interesting web-based projects using the open data found in Chronicling America.  ... Entries should uncover trends, display insights, explore a theme, or tell a story.
The Library of Congress has developed a user-friendly Application Program Interface (API), which can be used to explore the data contained in Chronicling America in many ways.  You can learn more about the API at http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/about/api.  Entrants must use this API to access the data, but are welcome to use existing software or tools to create their projects.
Submissions are due between October 28, 2015 and June 15, 2016, and the NEH is awarding prizes (possibly up to three separate K-12 Student Prizes of $1,000 each.)  Read more here.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Celebrating Indian Education for All

Did you see the article in the fall issue of Teaching Tolerance that touts Montana's commitment to Indian Education for All? 

After reading it and feeling proud of our state, I realized it had been a while since I had posted specifically about IEFA. To paraphrase, the price of progress is eternal vigilance. 

In no particular order, here are some interesting IEFA-related materials/opportunities I've seen lately.

Humanities Montana has some great IEFA-related Speaker in the Schools programs. At no cost to your school, you could bring to your classroom Richard Ellis (author and retired history professor) to talk about "The Changing Image of American Indians in Film," Director MusEco Media and Education Project and elementary teacher Scott Prinzing  to talk about "American Indian Music: Even More Than Drums and Flutes," or historian and folklorist Nicholas Vrooman to talk about "The M├ętis in Montana History," among others.

Reservation Ambassadors, a student club at Arlee High School that meets with or Skypes with students in other areas in an effort to break down stereotypes, has a Facebook page on which hey posted a link to this thought-provoking poem, "Sure You Can Ask Me a Personal Question," by Diane Burns. It is one of the texts they've used to "to launch discussion and encourage frank conversations about stereotypes and reservation life." (You can ask them to meet with your class by emailing club co-advisor Anna Baldwin at abaldwin@arleeschools.org.)   

Indian Country Today recently ran this article in anticipation of Thanksgiving: "Beyond the So-Called First Thanksgiving: Five Children's Books That Set the Record Straight."  

"Goodbye Pocahontas: Photos Reveal Today’s True Native Americans" is an article that features the photography of Matika Wilbur, a high school teacher who, "Weary of stereotypical representations of Native Americans, ... is determined to photograph every federally-recognized Native American tribe in the country."

That article reminded me of the work of Crow photographer Adam Sings in Timber, whose images of every day Crow life was featured in the New York Times. Typically, as the Times reporter notes, "America has only two frames through which to view its native culture: ceremony and pageantry or poverty and addiction." But--as Sings in Timber's photos show, "there is so much more...."

I'm reminded by all the sources above how important it is not to relegate American Indians to the past but to emphasize that Indian people and Indian tribes remain an important part of our present.

I'm quite proud of our IEFA lesson plans, but because we are a historical society, most of them deal with ... well, history, and mostly with pre-World War II history. (Two exceptions are Ordinary People Do Extraordinary Things! Connecting Biography to Larger Social Themes Lesson Plan and "Mining Sacred Ground: Environment, Culture, and Economic Development on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation.") So I'm asking you: What are your favorite lesson plans that focus on post-World War II (or better yet contemporary) Indian life and tribal issues? 

Interested in reading more about IEFA? Check out these past blog posts.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Looking for More Inspiration?

A subscriber recently wrote me to ask for suggestions of history-related sites/history education related sites.

Natasha and I have already told you about Chronicling America. Here are some others:

Teachinghistory.org bills itself as "A single destination for K-12 American history content, teaching methods, and current research." It has quick links for elementary, middle, and high school teachers, lesson plan and website reviews, and suggestions for best practices. 

Stanford History Education Group is changing the way history is taught with its "Beyond the Bubble" assessments of historical thinking and its "Reading Like a Historian" American and World history document-based lesson plans, now aligned to the Common Core.

A site I've recently discovered (and only because Ruth Ferris used it as a model for our newest 8-12 lesson plan, "Hazel Hunkins, Billings Suffragist) is History Labs.History Labs offers model lesson plan and a template to build your own lesson plan, one which asks an “overarching question,” builds background knowledge, and has students conduct source work in order to present and support their interpretations. Pretty spiff!

And, of course, there's our own website, Montana Historical Society Educator Resources. We've reorganized the page recently. In addition to multi-faceted resources like the Montana: Stories of the Land textbook, the Hand's-on History Footlockers, or Montana Mosaic: 20th Century People and Events, we've divided our lesson plans into the following categories: 

  • Indian Education for All Lesson Plans  The Montana Historical Society has produced a number of lesson plans to help your students grasp the Essential Understandings regarding Montana Indians while learning more about specific Montana history topics.
  • Integrating Art and History  Discover lesson plans on Charlie Russell, Montana's Cowboy Artist; Plains Indian pictographic art; and Plateau Indian beaded bags.
  • Teaching with Primary Sources  Discover the many lesson plans the Montana Historical Society has created that provide students an opportunity to analyze primary source material, including artwork, photographs, letters, diary entries, historic newspapers, and more.
  • Mining History Lesson Plans and Resources  Discover a wide array of resources for studying mining history, including a study guide to accompany the reminiscence, Girl from the Gulches: The Story of Mary Ronan, and a lesson plan to help students explore historic digitized newspapers.
  • Teaching with Biographies  Find links to online biographies as well as lesson plans that ask students to investigate remarkable Montanans. 
  • Women's History Resources and Lesson Plans Discover an abundance of material on Montana's women's history, including fascinating stories, intriguing photographs, and detailed lesson plans.
  • Civics and Geography Looking for a lesson that explains the electoral process, provides an example of how laws affect individuals' lives, or introduces your students to Montana geography while improving their map reading skills? Find them here. 
If there are other categories you think would be useful (for example, Teaching with Images), let me know and I'll see what I can do. And send me a link to your favorite history/teaching site and I'll include it in a future post.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Chronicling America and Lesson Plans

It's Natasha again, with another installment on Chronicling America (see my earlier post here).

Two weeks ago I directed you to the EDSITEment website, which has lots of lesson plans divided by subject and age, as well as lesson plans focusing specifically on Chronicling America resources. However for this post, I’d like to highlight a lesson plan that I heard about at the NDNP conference.  The presenter was a 9th grade social studies teacher from North Carolina. 

The lesson concept was simple. She took a description of an event from the textbook, and then she found several newspaper articles from across the country that described the event from different perspectives.  

She divides her class into groups. Each group gets the textbook description and one of the newspaper articles.  Then each group discusses how the textbook differs from the article, including questions like 

  • What information is missing from the textbook entry? 
  • Do you think the textbook account should be re-written? Why or why not? If so, how would you change the textbook?
After group discussion, the whole class comes together to share their conclusions. This is also an opportunity to discuss why there are often radically different accounts of the same event, which leads to a discussion about bias and attitudes.

We went through this activity ourselves with an entry on the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire. The four articles (available here) were wildly different. One focused on the legal implications, a second on a resolution by the Women’s Trade Union League, a third on the lack of safety preparation, and a fourth on the most sensationalist details. In spite of being right after lunch, it was a really engaging activity which generated really interesting discussions.

This lesson plan could easily be changed to any event using the Montana: Stories of the Land.  As an example, Chapter 16 – Montana and World War I, 1914-1918 describes Jeannette Rankin’s vote against the US entering WWI. 

Most of Rankin’s friends supported the war, including her brother, Wellington, who was her closest advisor. Feminists wanted her to show that women could be as tough as men. Yet Rankin had run for Congress because she believed that if women gained political power, they would stop wars. She did not want to be the first woman in American history to vote for war.
When her turn came, Rankin stood up. “I want to stand by my country but I cannot vote for war,” she said. Only a few other members of Congress shared her view, and the resolution to enter World War I passed overwhelmingly.
As you can imagine there is a lot of national coverage of this vote. I did a fairly quick search on Chronicling America searching "Jeannette Rankin" as a phrase with "war" and "vote" as further search terms.  From the results, I’ve chosen a few to show the range of coverage. Some articles, describe her as "trembling, obviously badly frightened, and with a sob in her voice" or "Her evident grief and the signs of a mental struggle, brought cheers from warrior and pacifist alike". Some newspapers say very little about her in their coverage of the vote, while others focus on how Jeannette's vote will impact the suffrage movement. One of my favorite responses to the vote is a letter to the editor entitled "Good for Miss Rankin!".  In it, the writer although disagreeing with Jeannette’s position has an interesting view of how her vote disproves the anti-suffrage supporters’ views on how politics will change women.  Lastly, here is an article from the Daily Missoulian, which could be used to compare to the textbook description of Montanans' reactions.  

In an example of how looking at newspapers leads to additional ideas, I found an article from France reprinted in two different newspapers under different titles: France Chivalrously Excuses Miss Rankin and France Applauds Jeannette. It might be interesting to give some students one and some the other, have them discuss their article in a small group before bringing them all together to discuss how the headline influenced their interpretation. 

I had a lot of fun putting this together, and I hope you and your students find it a useful activity--or food for thought as you develop your own activities using ChronAm.

P.S. [Martha chiming in] A shortcut for finding multiple newspaper articles on specific Montana history topics is to visit Extra! Montana News, 1864-1922.This page has a selection of interesting topics, from Anti-Chinese DiscriminationBison Hunting and Extermination, and Barbed Wire to Extermination of Wolves, the Great Fire of 1910, and Statehood, Under each topics there are a list of newspaper articles, so you can see how the press reported on these events and issues at the time they occurred along with suggested search terms for more information. This makes it a great for resource for a teacher trying to recreate the exercise Natasha outlines above--but also a great resource for student research projects, including for National History Day!

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Veteran's Day Is Coming

I'm hoping 7-12 grade teachers have taken a look at our new Reader's Theater lesson plan, "Letters from Home: Montanans at War." (If not, do not click through NOW to read more about this lesson here or download it here.) I can't wait to get some feedback from classes using this!

But what do we have for teachers in younger grades?

Consider introducing your students to Minnie Spotted Wolf, one of the first Native American women to join the Marines. Spotted Wolf served during WWII as a heavy equipment driver. Ruth Ferris of the Billings School District just shared with me a remarkable, and surprisingly respectful comic about Spotted Wolf. Called "One Little Indian," it was published in the October 1944 issue of Calling All Girls. The cartoon celebrates Minnie Spotted Wolf's decision to enlist while recalling her early years growing up on a ranch near Heart Butte on the Blackfeet reservation. You can download the comic and learn more about Minnie Spotted Wolf in the links above or by watching this one and a half minute video, produced by the Department of Defense.

Looking for other resources? Check out our footlocker: The Home Fires: World War II. The user guide is online and, like all of our footlocker user guides, it has materials that can be used without ordering the traveling trunk. (And consider bringing the traveling trunk into your classroom later this year.)

P.S. Ruth Ferris told me that she'll be leading a free workshop on Montana Warriors on Saturday, February 27, 2016, from 9-4 at MSU-B in Billings. At this workshop, she will share resources for teaching about Minnie Spotted Wolf, Joe Medicine Crow, and Louis Charlo (all of whom served during WWII). But don't wait that long to introduce yourself and your students to Spotted Wolf's story.

Monday, November 2, 2015

The Great Thanksgiving Listen

One of my new favorite blogs, Doing Social Studies, turned me on to the fact that StoryCorps is hosting "The Great Thanksgiving Listen."

Open to everyone, The Great Thanksgiving Listen is a national assignment to engage people of all ages in the act of listening. The pilot project is specially designed for students ages 13 and over and as part of a social studies, history, civics, government, journalism, or political science class, or as an extracurricular activity. All that is needed to participate is a smartphone and the StoryCorps mobile app.

StoryCorps has been around for awhile--perhaps you've heard clips of interviews on public radio. Their mission is "is to provide people of all backgrounds and beliefs with the opportunity to record, share and preserve the stories of our lives.We do this to remind one another of our shared humanity, to strengthen and build the connections between people, to teach the value of listening, and to weave into the fabric of our culture the understanding that everyone’s story matters."

What’s cool about the Great Thanksgiving Listen?
  • It encourages intergenerational communication.
  • Conducting interviews will allow students to understand differences in historical and contemporary perspectives—and to examine one of my favorite essential questions: “What’s changed and what’s remained the same.”
  • Participants will be able to upload their recordings to the StoryCorps archive at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress.
  • “In one holiday weekend we will capture an entire generation of American lives and experiences.”

If you haven't heard of StoryCorps, do yourself a favor and check out your website. If you teach students ages 13 and above, and are interested in having them participate in the "Great Thanksgiving Listen," check out #theGreatListen 2015 website to download the Free Teacher Toolkit.

Note: StoryCorps recommends introducing the project at least two weeks prior to Thanksgiving—so now’s the time.

P.S. A number of oral historians I know are ambivalent about StoryCorps or at least want to make clear that StoryCorps interviews are NOT oral history. If you are interested in conducting an oral history project with their students, a good place to start is with the Oral History in the Classroom primer. We’re working on creating an oral history footlocker—which will include digital recorders and lesson plans. Stay tuned.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Hazel Hunkins, Billing Suffragist, a Primary Source Investigation

I am delighted to announce our newest lesson plan: Hazel Hunkins, Billing Suffragist, a Primary Source Investigation.

Created by Billings school librarian Ruth Ferris with partial funding through the National Endowment for the Humanities' National Digital Newspaper Project, this primary-source based lesson plan challenges students to analyze and contextualize historical evidence; consider how authorship, intention, and context affect meaning; and construct an argument about the contributions of Billings, Montana, high school graduate Hazel Hunkins to the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment.

Why do I love this lesson?

1. It gives Montana students a model civic engagement. Jeannette Rankin, Rosa Parks: these activists seem unapproachable. We place them on a pedestal and know we can never make a difference like they did. But Hazel Hunkins? She graduated from Billings High School in 1908 (and we have her yearbook photo to prove it). She worries that her mom disapproves of her picketing the White House. She desperately misses her cat. In other words, Hazel Hunkins is a normal person, who chose to do something extraordinary.

2. It introduces students to a wide range of sources: secondary sources, excerpts from a memoir, photographs, telegrams, newspaper articles and editorials, cartoons, a response to charges, and personal letters. That's how we find out what Hazel's thinking and feeling: from the very personal letters she wrote to her mother back in Billings that are reprinted as part of the lesson plan.

3. This diverse source set also shows us that history is messy. Looking back, women's suffrage seems inevitable and the White House pickets seem noble--but not everyone saw them that way at the time. Even suffragists disagreed as to which tactics would advance the cause most quickly.

4. And interpreting history is messy too. Textbooks smooth out the stories they tell, but piecing together that story is hard work. Because people have different perspectives and purposes for recording information, accounts of events sometimes diverge. It's not always easy to figure out what happened and why.

5. The lesson plan is thoughtfully designed. Ruth modeled the lesson on the UMBC's History Labs. As their website explains, "History Labs are research and investigative learning experiences that provide teachers with the necessary information, resources, and procedures to teach a full range of historical thinking skills by taking students through a process that is methodologically similar to that employed by historians."

6. Because students are "actively investigating the past, rather than passively memorizing ready-made facts or accounts assembled by others," they will "strengthen their critical reading and writing skills, and improve their ability to handle and retain vital content information. They also develop a sense of control and ownership of the knowledge they assemble that fosters genuine and lasting interest in the subject."

7. It's a civics lesson as well as a history lesson. We haven't done enough for our government teachers. This starts to fill that gap--and I would especially like to hear from any government teacher who chooses to use this in his or her class.

8. It's adaptable. It might seem daunting at 89 pages--but the lesson is designed so that groups of students work with different sets of documents--and most of those pages are document reprints. In addition, teachers short on time can just use Part 1 of the Lesson Plan (though it would be a shame to miss out on all the great sources that we've included in Part 2.)

9. It's tremendously interesting! The lesson opens with a parody of Lady Gaga's "Bad Romance" music video, "Bad Romance: Woman's Suffrage." Need I say more?

If you teach 8-12 grade history or government, I hope you'll check the lesson out. It is now online but we're thinking of printing some copies if there's interest. If you'd like a printed copy, let me know (and make sure to include your snail mail address!)

Monday, October 26, 2015

Resources to Help You Use Chronicling America

Last week I raved about Chronicling America. This week, I'm turning Teaching Montana History over to Natasha Hollenbach, the Montana Digital Newspaper Project Assistant at the Montana Historical Society, for more on Chronicling America (or ChronAm, as she calls it). Here's Natasha:

Last month I attended the annual National Digital Newspaper Program conference in Washington DC, hosted by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Library of Congress.  On the second day, we three presenters talked about how Chronicling America is used for education.  The first showed off the EDSITEment website which is a product of the National Endowment for the Humanities. It is a vast site. There are 
lesson plans focusing specifically on Chronicling America resources, as well as many other online humanities resources (Picturing America, for example). I strongly encourage you to check it out. 

Both EdSITEMENT and the Vermont Digital Newspaper Project have video tutorials about using, searching and saving/printing on ChronAm. The Vermont site also has a For Educators section under Resources, Much of their information is going to be useful to you, even though they highlight Vermont content. For example, among their lesson plans and activities are:

One presenter, who works at a community college in Arkansas, completely changed my approach to ChronAm. If you’ve seen the map below of states participating in ChronAm, you’ll know that there are no Arkansas newspapers. However, she still uses ChronAm in her course on Arkansas history because major state events make national news. Such a simple concept, but I was always so focused on the Montana newspapers, that it really never occurred to me that I should be encouraging people to search other states’ content.

States in green have content in Chronicling America

Afterwards, I realized that I had just encountered a student doing this over the summer.  She came into the Research Center library and told us that she was researching the national coverage of the Marias Massacre. She had already been on ChronAm and had found lots of articles, but none from Montana. Obviously something was wrong with that, so first I checked to make sure we had digitized newspapers from that year.  (Montana newspapers cover 1864-1922 in just over 250,000 pages from 79 titles, so there are gaps depending on where and when your event happened.  Click here for a map showing Montana digitized newspapers available through ChronAm and other sites.)  

I did find relevant papers available so I did some investigation and realized that the reason she wasn’t finding anything was that the Montana papers don’t call it a massacre.  I found alternate search terms for her and left her to continue her research.  
Sometimes doing history research requires adjusting your conception of the event and sometimes it helps to think in broader terms about your sources. I'll leave you with that idea. If you do have your students research in ChronAm, and they can't find anything on their topic, make sure you talk with them about search terms. How has our vocabulary and what we call events changed over time? (Hint: World War I wasn't called World War I until long after it was over.) Ohio History Connection also has a video on this very topic that might also be worth sharing with your students!

Happy searching!

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Chronicling America: One of the Coolest, Most Underused Resources Out There

I had a great time visiting with the teachers who stopped by our booth at the MEA-MFT conference. Many were absolutely amazed by the digitized newspapers available through Chronicling America, a searchable newspaper database produced by the National Digital Newspaper Program, a partnership between the Library of Congress and the National Endowment for the Humanities. Although I've been singing Chronicling America's praises since 2012, enough teachers hadn't heard of it (and enough new material is available through it) that I've decided CA will be the focus of the next few posts. 

Chronicling America now has over 10,000,000 digitized newspaper pages from 40 states, including pages from 79 different titles in Montana:

Glasgow Courier (1915-22) * Neihart Herald (1891-1900) * Anaconda Standard (1889-99) * Great Falls Leader (1888-89) * New Age (1902-03) * Benton Record (1875-84) * Great Falls Tribune (1885-96, 1919-22) * New North-West (1869-97) * Billings Gazette (1899-1909) * Harlowton News (1909-14) * Philipsburg Mail (1887-1901) * Billings Herald (1882-85) * Havre Herald (1904-08) * Producers News (1918-22) * Bozeman Avant Courier (1871-79) * Helena Herald (1872-83) * Ravalli Republican (1894-98) * Bozeman Chronicle (1883-88) * Helena Independent (1889-94) * Red Lodge Picket (1889-1902) Judith Gap Journal (1909-13) * River Press (1880-88, 1902-14) * The Powder River County Examiner & the Broadus Independent (1919-22) * Kalispell Bee (1900-03) * Rocky Mountain Husbandman (1875-84) * Butte Daily Bulletin (1919-20) * Libby Herald (1911-13) * Ronan Pioneer (1911-17) * Butte Inter Mountain (1899-1903) * Livingston Enterprise (1884-92) * Rosebud County News (1901-06) * Butte Miner (1879-89) * Madisonian (1895-96) * Roundup Record (1908-13) * Colored Citizen (1894) * Malta Enterprise (1908-16) * Suffrage Daily News (1914) * Cut Bank Pioneer Press (1911-17) * Mineral Argus (1883-86) * Sun River Sun (1884-85)Dillon Tribune (1881-87) * Missoulian (1909-14, 1917-18) * Whitefish Pilot (1908-12) * Dupuyer Acantha (1894-1901) * Montana News (1904-12) * Wibaux Pioneer (1907-14) Ekalaka Eagle (1909-16) * Montana Nonpartisan (1918-19) * Yellowstone Journal (1882-94) * Fergus County Argus (1886-1906) * Montana Plaindealer (1906-11) * Yellowstone Monitor (1908-15) * Fergus County Democrat (1904-16) * Montana Post (1864-69) * Western News (1900-10) ... with Helena Herald (1884-1889) and Butte Daily Post (1917) coming soon!

Of special note are the more than a dozen marvelous pictorial editions that the newspaper staffs typically spent a year preparing, for example, the Livingston Enterprise's Souvenir edition, published January 1, 1900.

People of all ages LOVE exploring historic newspapers, which are the closest thing to a time machine we have. Here are a few simple ideas to get your students started:
  • Do you do Newspapers in Education? How about comparing today's paper with a historic newspaper from the same date--and maybe even from your town?  
  • Go shopping. "What can I buy now/What could I buy then" is a great quick starting point for exploring a different period of history.
  • Play "newspaper bingo." This is another way to explore the social world of the era you are studying (Sample bingo cards and instructions are available here.) 
  • Research specific, high-interest events referenced in your textbook or literature study (e.g., the sinking of the Titanic.)
  • Investigate holidays. Can you find stories about Veteran's Day, Thanksgiving, or Valentine's Day?

How are YOU using Chronicling America in your classroom? Let me know and I'll include it in a future post.

p.s. For those looking for more guidance, the Library of Congress is hosting a free online conference, "Unlocking the Power of Primary Sources," October 27-28, 2:00 p.m.- 6:00 p.m. MST. You can register for individual sessions, including "Teaching with Historical Newspapers," 4-4:50 MST, on October 28. Honestly, the entire schedule looks great, so check it out

Monday, October 19, 2015

Montana The Magazine of Western History: A Great Source for Informational Text

Looking for high-quality informational text to supplement your textbooks? Or good sources for your students to use in research papers?

Montana The Magazine of Western History has over 60 years of articles, and many of your libraries have been longtime subscribers to the magazine.

The Montana History Society has updated the free online index for “Montana The Magazine of Western History.” The searchable index can be used to find articles, topics, and authors in 1951-2012 back issues.   

Over 130 women's history related-articles originally published in the magazine have been made available via Women's History Matters, the Montana Historical Society's 2014 suffrage centennial project.

PDFs of articles in the following theme issues (plus discussion questions) are available through the MHS website:
Speaking of research papers, we've posted preliminary bibliographies for possible Montana history research projects here. (We created these for National History Day, but they are useful for any student research project.)

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Montana's Charlie Russell Packets: Now Available at a Montana K-12 Public School Library Near You

After the MHS Press published Montana's Charlie Russell: Art in the Collection of the Montana Historical Society, we decided to build on its success to create a curriculum packet to help teachers bring Russell’s artwork to the classroom. 
Modeled after our hugely successful packet, The Art of Storytelling: Plains Indian Perspectives, the Montana's Charlie Russell curriculum packet includes fifteen prints of selected paintings, letters, and sculptures, eight classroom-tested lesson plans, and three PowerPoints. We mailed these packets to all Montana public school libraries in early October--so check your school library. We're bringing 100 packets to the MEA-MFT convention--so stop by our booth to pick up your personal copy, while supplies last. Aren't attending MEA-MFT? While supplies last, you can also request a classroom copy of the packet by emailing mhseducation@mt.gov
We've also posted all of the material in the packets on our website:


  • Montana’s Charlie Russell (elementary), a biographical PowerPoint with a script (targeted to elementary students) that provides an overview of Russell’s life and work
  • Montana’s Charlie Russell (upper grades), a biographical PowerPoint with a script (targeted to middle and high school students) that provides an overview of Russell’s life and work 
  • PowerPoint of the Russell images provided in the packet plus a bonus image, Lewis and Clark Meeting Indians at Ross’ Hole. to project for class discussion 

Lesson Plans 

Three hands-on art lessons: 
  • “Watercolors of the Big Sky” (grades 3–5) uses Russell’s art to help students explore the compositional elements of foreground, middle ground, and background before having them create landscape paintings inspired by nature, using watercolor techniques. 
  • “Illustrating a la Charlie Russell” (grades 6–12) asks students to explore how Russell used washes of watercolor and ink techniques to create shadow and depth in his illustrations. Students will then choose an animal to illustrate using these techniques. The illustrations can be paired with a poem, short story, or letter they have written. 
  • “Figures in Motion” (grades 7–12) guides students in an exploration of movement. Using Charlie Russell’s paintings and sculptures as inspiration, students will create their own three-dimensional sculptures, translating movement from line drawings to wire armatures to simulated bronze works. 
Five lesson plans that engage students in critically examining Russell’s paintings as they practice Common Core skills: 
  • “The Rest of the Story” (grades 3–7) engages students in an analysis of several pieces of Russell art before asking them to choose one to use as inspiration to write a story. 
  • “Living with Animals” (grades 4–7) examines the way humans’ relationship to the natural world has changed over time, while using Russell’s art to explore the importance of animals to Russell and the people he painted. 
  • “Russell on Indians” (grades 7–12) explores the topic of stereotypes, especially about Indians. After class discussion, students will examine several Russell paintings during a “gallery walk” to explore how the artist did and did not reinforce Indian stereotypes. 

Additional Material

I hope you'll check out the material online, check out the packet from your K-12 library, and share the material with your students. And, as always, let us know what you think!