Monday, September 12, 2016

Favorite Middle School Lessons

Last week I shared high school teachers' answers to the following prompt: “Describe (in brief) the best Montana history or IEFA lesson or project or resource your taught this year--the one you will make time for next year no matter what.” As promised, here are the answers we received from middle school teachers to the same question. [I've added a few comments and links in brackets--couldn't resist putting my oar in.] 

Mary Kinnett of Hobson wrote: “All students pick a famous Montana history person and write a report on them, then they do a Chatter Pic of them and hit the highlights of their lives.  After that, the students group up and put on a play depicting their character or do a monologue if they want to do a skit alone.  They really get into character and bring props and costumes.  They become the famous Montana people from our state's past." [Looking for sources for Montana biography projects? Here's a good starting place--although several people who answered the survey implored me to encourage the use of print resources and--especially--working with your school librarian on research project--so that's probably the best way to go about a project like this.]

Several teachers recommended OPI's Indian Education Division's Model Teaching Units, including Sweetgrass Basket (Tammy Dalling, Gardiner), Birchbark House (Traci Manseau, Deerfield School) and Counting Coup.

Ryan Antos, of St. Regis, wrote: “Students had to research then write a letter home from the perspective of a Native American student that had been taken away to a boarding school."

Several teachers highlighted chapters and activities from the Montana history textbook, Montana: Stories of the Land.

April Wuelfing, Sheridan, wrote: "My students loved chapter 8, "Livestock and the Open Range." With this, we did cowboy poetry, short-stories, created our own animal brands, and studied the effects of ranching in Montana in relationship to Native Americans. The kids loved how interactive this chapter was for our class! (Our school recently purchased a plasma cutter and we are hoping to turn the student's brand into real, novelty-sized brands!)"

Lauren McDonald, Whitehall, wrote: “To finish up Chapter 4 (Newcomers Explore the Region), I had my students create historical looking journals written from the perspective of someone on the journey with Lewis & Clark.  They created their own weathered looking paper as well as an authentic cover for it." Another teacher recommended visiting nearby Lewis and Clark sites after studying the Corps of Discovery. There are LOTS of these in Montana. 

Cindy Hatten of Colstrip wrote: “The Constitutional Convention lesson [Chapter 21: A People's Convention].  Kids these age need to who, how, and why we held the convention and the aspects of it that are still viable today.”

Sixth grade Plains teacher Lisa Brown wrote: “My partner teacher and I have our students make double ball sticks and double balls for our 6th Grade Camp Out. They learn to play the game during the camp out. We also invite my stepfather to our classroom to give a presentation on flintknapping, primitive weapons, tools, and the atlatl. Students are shown the science behind creating a spear point, and how to use the atlatl for throwing spears, and then the students get to throw spears at a target.”

Mary Koon of Joliet has her students “writing and illustrating Native American Ledger Books." [I don't know if she uses any of our material, but you can find great images, information, and a lesson on ledger art here.]

Danielle Parsons of Havre has her students do OPI’s Symbols of a Nation unit on tribal flags.

One teacher recommends the documentary about the Northern Cheyenne called "The Chief's Prophecy."

Librarian Norma Glock of Columbus wrote: “Some old photographs were found behind a file cabinet in the vault.  I had an octogenarian from the community come talk to the kids to identify people and hear stories about our school.  One picture was the 1915 championship girls basketball team.  Another was a band picture with names from 1941.  Others were championship teams from the 30's.  After our initial introduction to all the students, I asked if anyone wished to pursue metadata for other pictures.  Nine students were excited to keep going with this project.  There were interested in hearing stories about the people and the school from these time periods.  They were given time during library classes to pursue this project. We examined old yearbooks, used the Montana Memory project, and newspaper databases for this project.  Next year, I plan to do work on past community leaders if we do not find any more old photos to explore." 

An anonymous teacher gave a shout out to the lesson plan "Russell on Indians," part of our Montana's Charlie Russell packet, donated to every public K-12 library and available online here. {She must have meant it--she used three exclamation points!!!]

Michael Herdina (Gallatin Gateway) wrote: “The best lesson that I used this year was about how rivers, lakes, large streams and old Native American trading trails affected the settlement and the development of Montana. Why did this town survive while one 40 miles away faded away?”

Did we miss your favorite lesson? It's not too late--let me know what it is and I will share it with the group.

P.S. If you are teaching Montana history, we hope you'll join us for our first online PLC. We'll be the second Monday of every month, September-November and January-April at 4:00, starting September 12. You can also join us after the fact by watching the videos and participating in writing. You can find more information about the class here

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