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 29, 2016

These are a few of my favorite things

The last couple of weeks I've been publishing thematic lists of old blog posts that I thought might still be interesting to folks (one focused on elementary classrooms, and a second on teaching strategies.) Today I thought I'd turn from the blog to our Educator Resources page to feature a few of my favorite older, and sometimes overlooked, lessons and resources.

Montana Women at Work: Clothesline Timeline Lesson Plan (Designed for grades 4-12) This primary-source based lesson asks students to analyze historic photographs to draw conclusions about women and work from the 1870s through the 2010s. Students will discover that Montana women have always worked, but that discrimination, cultural expectations, and changing technology have influenced the types of work women undertook.

Resources for Montana History Research Projects: This information is not gathered neatly in one place--but we've created a number of lists of suggested topics--with links to more information--that would be useful for students conducting research projects
  • First is our list of Montana History Topics for National History Day. We revise this list each year to match the theme--but your students don't have to be working on NHD projects for this list to be useful. For each topic we include a list of a few primary and secondary sources (including internet sources) to get students started on their research. 
  • Resilience: Stories of Montana Indian Women is a booklet that the Montana Office of Public Instruction published as a PDF for download. It features profiles of Indian women, originally created for the Montana Historical Society's Women's History Matters Project. The short online essays on Women's History Matters provide another rich starting point--especially since each comes with a bibliography.

Girl from the Gulches: The Story of Mary Ronan Study Guide (Designed for students 6-10). This study guide includes lesson plans, vocabulary, chapter summaries and questions, alignment to the Common Core, and other information to facilitate classroom use of Girl from the Gulches: The Story of Mary Ronan, as told to Margaret Ronan, edited by Ellen Baumler. Set in the second half of the nineteenth century, this highly readable 222-page memoir 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. Book One, which provides a child’s-eye view of the mining frontier, is available to download as a PDF (Lexile Level 1180L). Classroom sets of Girl from the Gulches can be purchased from the Montana Historical Society Museum Store by calling toll free 1-800-243-9900. 

Reader's Theater: Letters Home from Montanans at War (Designed for 7th-12th). This three-to-five period unit asks students to work in groups to read and interpret letters written by soldiers at war, from the Civil War to the Operation Iraqi Freedom. After engaging in close reading and conducting research to interpret the letters, they will perform the letters as reader’s theater.

"Native American Trade Routes and the Barter Economy" includes two learning activities intended designed to complement Chapter 2 of the Montana: Stories of the Land textbook. Designed for use in grades seven through nine, Activity One, "Resources and Routes," focuses primarily on mapping pre-contact trade routes, with a special emphasis on Montana. Activity Two, "Trading Times," asks students to simulate the process through which various products from different regional tribes were bartered and disseminated to gain a better understanding of pre-contact barter economy and how it compares with the modern-day cash economy.
Hands-on History Footlockers: I've recently touted our new footlockers (like the Original Governor's Mansion or the redesigned Coming to Montana) but some of the older titles are great too. Two particular favorites of mine are Stones and Boneswhich explores the earliest evidence of Montana's human history; and  The Home Fires: Montana and World War II, which describes aspects of everyday life in Montana during the 1941-1945 war years. You can see the complete list of footlockers and find information on how to order them here

Monday, December 26, 2016

More reading for winter break

Thanks to a reader in Billings, I recently discovered two (new to me) websites. Neither have anything directly to do with Montana history but both are oh-so-cool.

The Disability History Museum: "The Disability History Museum's mission is to foster a deeper understanding about how changing cultural values, notions of identity, laws and policies have shaped and influenced the experience of people with disabilities, their families and their communities over time." This virtual museum includes a library with over 3,000 primary source documents and images; and a number of lesson plans. Other parts of the site (including online exhibits) are under development.

Emerging America offers lesson plans, primary source sets, online exhibits about western Massachusetts reform movements, and teaching strategies and tools to help special education students and English language learners learn through inquiry.

Looking for other online sources for history content and teaching material? Try Teachinghistory.org a site I've touted many times before. There is so much good information here--teaching strategies, website reviews, lesson plans and more. Created by the  Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media (CHNM), the site admirably achieves its "goal of placing history content, teaching strategies, current research and issues, community building, and easy access to resources at center stage."

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Reading for Winter Break/Funding Opportunities for Cultural Institutions

I've mentioned before how much I enjoy Glenn Wiebe's blog, History Tech. I especially appreciate his reports from national conferences. I've never had the opportunity to attend NCSS, for example--and I bet that's true for most of you, too. But you can travel along with Glenn, who gives great summaries of sessions, plus links to more information. It's genuinely reinvigorating.--just like conferences are supposed to be.

If you teach geography, world cultures, or history, I encourage you to schedule a quick trip over winter break as an armchair traveler by finding time to read Glenn's reports from NCSS--or, as he calls it, History Nerdfest 2016. You'll be glad you did.

On an entirely different note: I just learned about two grant opportunities for cultural institutions. If you have connections, please pass these along to your local library and/or museum.

  • World War I in America: "Beginning Fall 2016, stipends of $1200–$1800 are available to all public, academic, and community college libraries, museums and historical societies, and nonprofit community organizations for public programming exploring the First World War and its resonances today. Presented by Library of America with support from the NEH, World War I and America is a two-year initiative that aims to bring veterans and their families together with the general public to explore the continuing relevance of the war by reading, discussing, and sharing insights into the writings of Americans who experienced it firsthand."
  • Creating Humanities Communities:  "The goal of these grants is to make connections between organizations that will foster community cohesion on a local or regional level. Applicants may define community in a variety of ways (by focusing, for example, on a place such as a village or town, or on a common interest or a common theme), and the programs that the cooperating institutions carry out together must aim to enhance the importance of the humanities in people’s lives." And NEH is especially looking for applications from Montana, from rural areas, and that include Native American organizations and communities as lead applicants and project partners. 

Monday, December 19, 2016

Best of ... Teaching Strategies

Teaching Montana History began in 2008 as the Montana History and Heritage Education listserv and has been published as a blog since 2011. That's a long time--so as we approach the new year, I thought it would be fun to highlight some older posts. Earlier I highlighted posts on elementary resources. Today the focus is teaching strategies.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Followup to Teaching Indian Literature and/or Literature about Indians

My post "Teaching Indian Literature and/or Literature about Indians" drew a lot of excellent feedback. 

Retired teacher (and one of the upcoming recipients of the 2017 Governor's Humanities Awards) Dottie Susag reminde me of another great resource on literature by and about Native Americans, Roots and Branches: a Resource of Native American Literatures, Themes, Lessons, and Bibliographies, which Dottie wrote for National Council of Teachers of English, which published it in 1998. She particularly recommends the following chapters: 

  • Chapter 1:  "Themes, Rationales, and Subthemes," which compares/contrasts the way popular non-native authors deal with young-adult conflicts with a few native authors who deal with similar themes and topics;  
  • Chapter 3: Secondary Level Units, Activities, and Lessons, especially the 6-Day Unit "Bias and Stereotype in Literature about Native Americans" (72-77), and 
  • Chapter 7: Non-Native Authors and Their Stories about Native Americans (213-237)
By the way, you can bring Dottie to your class to work with students on "Critical Literacy with text by and about American Indians" for FREE through Humanities Montana's Speakers in the Schools program. I've attended workshops Dottie has given for teachers and I always walk away having learned something new.

Missoula high school teacher Betty Bennett chimed in with specific book recommendations, writing
I love Fools Crow, by James Welch.  It opens the door to a rich history of treatment of Native Tribes in Montana.  There are great units from the OPI site and I have found some great references that fill out the topic.  I find that many of my students get more involved in the books is they know it is based on real events.
(In addition to the OPI unit, written, incidentally by Dottie Susag, teachers may wish to consider to complement their study of Fools Crow with a lesson plan on the Baker Massacre, created for us by Bozeman teacher Derek Strahn.) Betty continued: 
I also really like Who Will Tell my Brother?  By Marlene Carvell.  She uses the same poetic narrative in a journal format.  It deals with school mascots which I think is a very timely topic."
(Carvell’s sons, like Evan and his brother in the book, have a white mother and their father is a member of the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe. Carvell’s books are well regarded by American Indian reviewers for their authentic portrayals of Indians.)

For her part, Susan Seastrand, who teaches at the Ayers Colony School, recommends the book Two Old Women, for which Velma Wallis created a teaching unit for OPI. Susan writes: Every time I have to do something that I think is hard, or it's too cold, or I just want to complain about, I think of those two old women and what they had to endure.  I realize I have nothing to complain about." A lesson we could all to take to heart.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Become an Ambassador of Natural History and Conservation

The National Museum of Forest Service History is looking for K-12 educators in all areas of study to become Ambassadors of Natural History and Conservation. They are building an incredible facility in Missoula, Montana and need teachers to help them build a strong, viable education department.

To this end, they are hosting an inaugural conference May 9-11, 2017 at Mountain Sky Guest Ranch/American Explorers Basecamp in Emigrant, MT, (35 minutes from Yellowstone National Park). Participants will also attend follow up meeting (date to be determined by participants).

Conference Collaborators will be attending educators, the National Museum of Forest Service History in Missoula, Montana and Teaching Primary Sources: The Library of Congress. Why participate? As a teacher, this conference will allow you to  

  • Create activities and or lesson plans that will make your classroom instruction come alive in the areas of History, Science, Conservation, Literature, Math, Art, and even Technology.
  • Learn how to access, assess and accumulate materials from the databases of both National Museum Forest Service and the Library of Congress.
  • Earn PIR credit hours and while enjoying this state-of-the-art facility where together we can greet Spring in a whole new fashion. Design your classroom studies before you leave for summer.!
  • Have an incredible opportunity to become involved in helping build the education division of the NATIONAL MUSEUM FOR FOREST SERVICE HISTORY. YOU can
    • Be in on the ground floor of an exciting opportunity.
    • Meet and collaborate with educators from Montana as well as across the U.S. as well as staff from the Library of Congress: Teaching with Primary Sources and The National Museum of Forest Service History.
    • Build a model Lesson Plan based on direct instruction from Library of Congress-Teaching Primary Sources facilitator.(Denver based).
    • Recreate, plan and dream high on a mountainside overlooking the edge of Yellowstone National Park- additional ways to deliver more exciting, innovative and memorable lessons to your students.
How can you participate? Apply to become an ambassador for the NMFSH. Applications are due Feburary 1, 2017.

If you are selected, you will earn credits and extra stipend to cover your travel and incidental meal expenses. Additionally, all lodging and meals are covered on site at the Basecamp in May 2017.

If you are chosen, you will have an opportunity to

Return completed applications to
Cheryl Hughes
Education Coordinator
National Museum of Forest Service History
PO BOX 2772
Missoula, Montana. 59806

Thursday, December 8, 2016

PowerPoint Lesson Plans

We created our first PowerPoint-based lesson plan in 2010. That particular lesson plan, "Railroads Transform Montana," emphasizes how trains affected the social, economic, and physical landscape of Montana. The delivery method is a scripted PowerPoint, essentially providing you the expertise to become your own guest speaker. 

Since 2010 we've added a number of these PowerPoint Lesson plans to our offerings. Some of them are written to be interactive (see, for example, the lesson on the "Yanktonai Dakota (Sioux) Winter Count.")  Others offer information in a more traditional lecture format (see, for example, "Sun Dance in Silver Bow: Urban Indian Poverty in the Shadow of the Richest Hill on Earth". Several of them were created as part of larger units (see, for example, Montana’s Twentieth-Century Immigrants: Mexicans, Hutterites, and Hmong (designed for use with the Coming to Montana: Immigrants from around the World Footlocker). All of them (I believe) deserve wider use.

That's why we've created a new page on our website, PowerPoint Lesson Plans, to make it easier to find these PowerPoints and incorporate them into your curriculum. I hope you find them useful. Feedback welcome. 

Monday, December 5, 2016

Best of...Elementary Posts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Using Historic Newspapers to Increase Student Understanding of World War I

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

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

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

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

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

Immigrants and the War

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

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

Jeannette Rankin

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

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

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

Liberty Loans

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

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


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

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

Monday, November 28, 2016

Teaching Indian Literature and/or Literature about Indians

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 21, 2016

Writing Prompts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Guest Post from Indian Education Specialist Mike Jetty

Anpetu Wasteyedo (it’s a good day).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 14, 2016

Feedback, Feedback, We Love Feedback--Part 2

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 10, 2016

The Dakota Access Pipeline: A Teachable Moment?

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 7, 2016

Teaching Montana History Online PLC

A few posts ago, I shared information about a new primary source analysis tool I discovered: Evidence Analysis Window Frames. This was old news to those of you who are participating in the Teaching Montana History Online  PLC, since I discussed these and other free tools teachers can use to improve their students' research, analysis, and close reading skills during our October meeting.
We're producing the Online PLC in cooperation with our friends over at OPI, so to view the course curriculum, or participate, you'll need to register at the Teacher Learning Hub--but that is quick, painless and free. 
We meet on the second Monday of the month from 4:00 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. but you can watch the recorded videos and participate in the discussion forums at any time. For each time you participate by attending the live session or watching the video, and completing the required activities, OPI will provide you with one renewal unit.   
At September's meeting, we focused on the big picture--what content we wanted students to take away from their Montana history class. Since we spent most of that meeting writing and commenting on a Google Doc, I don't think the video is worth watching. But the Google Doc discussion and the entries in the post-discussion forum are definitely worth reading. For example, Hot Springs teacher Robin Miller shared sources I'd never seen, including  fur trader Robert Campbell's 1830 description of the role of dogs in an Assiniboine camp. 
October's meeting focused on the SKILLS we wanted students to learn. This time, I asked participants to answer the "write your way in" question ("What skills do you want your students to gain from this course?") in advance and then spent most of the meeting sharing tools that matched their goals (including the Evidence Analysis Window Frames as well as many free tools and methods.) The recording of the October meeting is rich in ideas, and the place I'd start if I were joining the course.
At our November 14 meeting, we'll focus on reading strategies. Some middle school teachers have told me that some of their students find the Montana: Stories of the Land textbook too hard--but others have reported great success using the textbook. I'm hoping those participating will share the reading strategies they use to make the textbook accessible and Christy Mock-Sturtz, OPI's English Language Arts/Literacy Specialist and former sixth grade teacher, will also be on hand to share her favorite strategies.  
Even if you can't join us live on November 14, if you have questions about (or suggestions for) ways to help students use the Montana: Stories of the Land textbook, I hope you'll take five minutes to let us know how you use the textbook in your class and what reading strategies (if any) you use to help students get the information they need, by recording your response in our class Google Doc. Christy will use your comments to shape her presentation.

This online course is an experiment, and we're shaping it as we go. So if you have suggestions for how to make it more useful, always feel free to email me.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

National History Day: Taking a Stand in History

As regular readers know, I'm a fan of National History Daya 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 present their work in one of five ways: as a paper, an exhibit, a performance, a documentary, or a web site.  

I like National History Day because I think it provides a good way for teachers to get their students thinking (and writing) like historians. (It's also a great way to meet both Montana State Social Studies and Common Core standards.)

The program is also flexible. Want students to write papers? Limit their presentation option. Want students to focus on a certain era or geographic location? You can add that requirement. The only thing that may feel constraining is the theme. But do not fear. Themes are chosen for the broad application to world, national, or state history and its relevance to ancient history or to the more recent past.  The intentional selection of the theme for NHD is to provide an opportunity for students to push past the antiquated view of history as mere facts and dates and drill down into historical content to develop perspective and understanding. The NHD theme provides a focused way to increase students’ historical understanding by developing a lens to read history, an organizational structure that helps students place information in the correct context and finally, the ability to see connections over time. It does all this while barely limiting the topics students can address. (You can see a broad list of sample topics here.)

The 2016-17 theme is "Taking a Stand in History." Every year, NHD puts out a theme book to help students think about the theme. Although the contest allows topics from any place and time in history, we like to encourage students to think local--so we've pulled together a list of potential Montana topics, along with starting points for research. We've included bibliographies for well-known topics, like the Montana women's suffrage movement, and for lesser known topics, like the 1909 Missoula free speech fight; for nineteenth-century topics, like the Salish's attempts to retain the Bitterroot, and twentieth-century topics, like World War II conscientious objectors and the people who stood up to hate crimes in Billings in 1993. These preliminary bibliographies are great tools for any student conducting a Montana history project--whether or not they are participating in National History Day.

This year, the Montana Council for History and Civics Education is sponsoring National History Day in Montana, including two regional contests (in Missoula, February 27, and in Billings, date TBA) and a statewide contest in Bozeman on April 8.

The Montana Historical Society is sponsoring two prizes at the state contest:
  • The Martha Plassmann Prize to one outstanding National History Day project that utilizes the digitized newspapers available on the Library of Congress web site Chronicling America. The $500 prize is awarded to a project that best demonstrates a clear understanding and use of newspapers as a primary source. 
  •  The Dave Walter Travel Scholarship from the James H. Bradley Trust. This $1,000 scholarship will be awarded to the creator or creators of a Montana history project that is eligible to advance to the national contest. The project MUST be about a Montana history topic and the scholarship money must be used to pay for expenses relating to travel to Washington, D.C. 
If you want more information about National History Day, please contact the Montana coordinator, Michael Herdina.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Two Lessons on Voting and Civic Engagement

Since election day is fast approaching, I thought I'd feature two lesson plans that have to do with voting, both created by Billings school librarian Ruth Ferris.

The first is Hazel Hunkins: Billings Suffragist (designed for grades 7 -12). I already bragged about this lesson earlier this year so I'll be brief: "the 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." It is primary-source rich and reinforces National Woman's Party leader Alice Paul's view of social change. Paul wrote: "I always feel....the movement is a sort of mosaic. Each of us puts in one little stone, and then you get a great mosaic at the end." Hazel Hunkins certainly added her little stone to the great mosaic. (We have free hard copies of this lesson available while supplies last. Email MHSEducation@mt.gov to request your copy.)

The second lesson is Montana’s State Flower: A Lesson in Civic Engagement (designed for 4-7). This seven-period unit asks students to organize an election for class flower, engaging them in the electoral process. The lesson integrates science and history while providing students an opportunity to develop research skills, explore historical newspapers and practice such Common Core skills as close reading of complex texts and persuasive writing.

Interestingly, Ruth reports that her students did NOT select the bitterroot as their choice for state flower. We surmised that had eastern Montana been as developed as western Montana in 1894, voters would have chosen a different flower as our state symbol.

And speaking of civics, I'd be remiss if I didn't encourage all of you to VOTE. "Of the people, for the people, by the people" only works if we the people participate.