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Thursday, October 12, 2017

World War I and Other Veterans Day Resources


Veterans Day is less than a month away. This year we are in the midst of commemorating the 100th anniversary of World War I, which led to the holiday's creation, so I wanted to share both some general resources and WWI specific resources for you to consider using in your classes this year.

Montana and the Great War is a website that we created to provide resources for teaching about this complicated period in history.

The website includes 
  • Story Mapsinteractive maps featuring images and events from across the state, exploring different ways the war—and its aftermath—affected Montanans. (The Story Maps are divided into three main sections: Over Here, Over There, and Home Again. Each section includes an introduction and at least one map featuring specific stories. Also available are a demographic map--in the Over Here section--and a map showing county enlistment numbers--in the Over There section.)
  • Books and Articles: a list of published works that explore Montana during World War I—including links to full text of many of those resources.
  • Voices: short oral history clips featuring Montanans’ memories of life during World War I—overseas and at home.
  • Information on Archival Material and Digitized Newspapers available for students conducting more in-depth research projects.  
  • And, of course, teaching resources.
What are those teaching resources, you ask? 

Montana and the Great War Scavenger Hunt offers a fun way to engage students in an exploration of the Montana and the Great War Story Maps.   
Montana and the "Great War" Lesson Plan (Designed for 5-8, but adaptable to high school). After exploring the Story Maps to learn more about individuals' experiences during World War I, students will write a short piece of historical fiction (a letter or journal entry) from the perspective of a Montanan--on the home front or serving in the armed forces--during the period.
Local Experiences of World War I Lesson Plan (High school). Students will conduct and share original research on ways the war impacted the people of their own county. The Montana Historical Society will include a link to their project on its Montana and the Great War website. 
I'm excited about all of these lesson plans, but particularly excited about the more in-depth high school lesson that engages students in community study for an authentic audience. (Longtime readers will know this is a passion of mine. See, for example, this article from March 2012, this one from March 2014, this one from April 2015, and this one from March 2016.) 
Several teachers have taken up the challenge of examining their county's WWI history and Phil Leonardi, who helped create and test the lesson plan, had his class complete the assignment last spring. You can see their work here. 

There are SO MANY national resources that have been created for the centennial, that I'll just mention a few: 

The National Archives has launched a WWI Research Portal as has the Library of Congress. My favorite LOC collection is the WWI sheet music collection, both because the cover art is incredible (and sometimes disturbing) and because Billings school librarian Ruth Ferris told me about a Sheet Music Scanner app, which lets you hear historic sheet music. And, of course, you can also listen to some of original recordings on the National Jukebox. (Here, for example, is Nora Bayes' recording of "Over There.")

Other Veterans Day Resources Beyond World War I, among my MHS favorite lesson plans is "Readers Theater: Letters from Home." Learn more about it here and watch Helena High theater teacher Rob Holter's students perform it here. (In what hardly ever happens, students responded to the lesson exactly as I hoped they would. According to Rob, when he introduced the lesson, many of the students asked: "why anyone would save old letters by ordinary Montanans"? During the Q and A, after their performance, many of these same students vowed to write letters in order to provide personal reflections to posterity. And they were saying things like, "ordinary people make history." In addition, Rob told me that one of his struggling students responded to the letters with dawning recognition: "people just like me can make a difference in this world!" In my wildest dreams, I could not have imagined any lesson we produced would have such an impact.)

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