Every spring, I survey readers, both to get feedback on how to make Teaching Montana History better and to gather everyone’s favorite lessons so I can share them with the group. I love learning what has actually worked in the classroom—and being able to share teacher-approved lessons. So, without further ado, here are some of the answers elementary teachers gave to the question “Describe (in brief) the best Montana history or IEFA lesson or project or resource you taught this year--the one you will make time for next year no matter what.” Stay tuned for future posts featuring the answers from middle and high school teachers. [I've added some links, and a few comments in brackets--couldn't resist putting my oar in.]
Justine Hurley, who teaches grades 3-5 in White Sulphur Springs, wrote: "This year I used the Montana Indian Stories Lit Kit. The students really enjoyed the interactive puppetry that can go along with the stories. We studied this footlocker after Christmas and it was very useful in getting the kids engaged after a long winter break! Next year I intend to use the To Learn A New Way footlocker. I will be creating in-depth social studies lessons and field trip based on this footlocker!" [Discover more about both of these footlockers by exploring the User Guides, posted on our Footlocker page.]
Susan Seastrand, who teaches K-8 in a one-room school, used the Charlie Russell pictures that were part of our Montana's Charlie Russell packet. [We sent one to every public school library--but if you want one for your classroom, send us an email and we'll send you one while supplies last. You can also access all of the packet material (including the images, biographical PowerPoints, three hands-on art lessons, and five ELA/social studies lessons) on our website.]
Christine Ayers, a 3-5 teacher from Polson, wrote: "Honestly, there are so many! The ones that came to mind first, are the resources on Columbus Day and Thanksgiving. We have used those lessons as a base for so many discussions throughout the year. Just those two lessons have sparked in-depth, critical thoughts and debates for the entire year. Fourth graders getting a different perspective and developing empathy is something I will make time for every year, thanks to these lessons!" [Mike Jetty offered some great links on Thanksgiving in his guest post last year on Native American Heritage Month.]
April Wills, who teaches second grade in Bainville, wrote: "The best lesson I teach is Preserving Eastern Montana History with iMovie. Students research, develop questions and record information. When the whole project is done we create iMovies to preserve that knowledge and share with other students. Each year is different, this year we researched homesteads within 50 miles of our town. Students partnered up with high school students to complete their tasks, this also varies each year with the classes we join with depending on scheduling."
Shannon Baukol, who teaches 3-6 in Pray, wrote: "The best history lesson I have taught this year is a map layering activity with Montana reservations and tribal affiliations, tied in with a Literary Study on tribes outside of Montana." [She may have used some of the maps available through OPI's Indian Education Division, particularly this one of territories in 1855 and this one showing reservations today. If you are interested in providing a visual on Indian land loss, you may also want to check out this amazing 17-second animation that shows Indian land loss using the chronological collection of land cession maps by Sam B. Hillard, of Louisiana State University, which was published in 1972 in the Annals of the Association of American Geographers. Maps looking at land loss due to allotment are also extremely informative. You can download a map set focused on the Flathead Reservation here.]
Whitefish Technology teacher Michael Carmichael also understands the power of maps. Each year he works with his third graders to create animations of shrinking tribal land. Last year, I was so intrigued I asked him to share details. He wrote: "Students were given different animation project choices including one about Montana Reservations. The students’ task was to show how traditional tribal areas changed and shrank with the introduction of reservations. Students needed to select three tribes to animate the boundary changes. This lesson activated prior classroom knowledge and utilized free online animation program that was age appropriate and allowed students multiple ways to create their animated infographic. Students accessed traditional tribal territory maps and modern Reservation maps to use as their background before using the drawing and painting tools to create the visual of the shrinking reservations. Animate is free and easy to use on all platforms via the web. Some of the map resources students utilized are:
Bill Moe, Libby 3-5 teacher, loved Mapping Montana A-Z. He declared it "great fun." [Another teacher said her 4th-grade students got frustrated with the exercise and recommended shortening it by placing students in groups and dividing up the alphabet (so one group mapped A-F, another G-L, etc.). She's now teaching 8th grade and says those students love the lesson plan as is.]
Another teacher also recommended map resources: "I liked the presentation Ruth Ferris gave us using old and new state maps with tribal names. It was interesting to see how Montana has changed over time using maps." [I asked Ruth, and she thought the maps she presented came from MontanaTribes.org.]
A 3-8 art teacher had his students make parfleche bags.
A 3-5 teacher has embraced combining history and language arts. For example, she read Hattie Big Sky as a read aloud. [I just read this book this summer--what a great tie-in to so many topics in Montana history, including the effects World War I.]
One 3-5 teacher wrote: "I have used women in Montana History information with my students in reading and language arts." [We've gathered our resources on Montana women's history here. Lesson plans particularly appropriate for elementary are .]
Angela Archuleta, a librarian in Lewistown, wrote: "I did a primary resource session from Glacier National Park. I would like to conduct some of the RAFT exercises in Google Classroom." [I don't know if she used it, but we have a footlocker focused on Glacier that offers a number of primary sources. You can review the user guide here and learn about how to order here. More information on RAFT here and here.]
One K-5 librarian wrote: "I began the 4th graders on Yellowstone Kelly and the newspapers from long ago. I'd like to go deeper into Boot Hill Cemetery and Yellowstone Kelly. One "teachable moment" occurred when one of my students asked who Charlie Russell was. It allowed me to open up the kit we all received about him and talk to the students about his impact on Montana and Western Art."
A K-5 library teacher recommended using the historical newspapers now available online. [Here are some tips.]
A 3-5 teacher recommended playing Indian games. [Here's a Traditional Games Unit from OPI.]
A few of you listed field trips as the best thing you did:
- "We took a school field trip to the Lewis and Clark Interactive Museum in Great Falls that was wonderful." (Grades K-2)
- "We took the class on a field trip to the BigHorn Battlefield. Before leaving we used many resources from the MT Historical Society emails I received over the course of the year. Most recently we used the piece about History and location of MT tribes for our research projects." (Grades 3-5)