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.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Montana History for Kindergarten

I recently received a request from a kindergarten teacher for ideas for incorporating Montana history in kindergarten. Do you have any resources that you particularly like? If so, I'd love to hear about them. Here is how I responded:

The fact is, we don’t have a ton of material designed specifically for kindergarten, or really K-3. However, other kindergarten teachers have had success adapting our hands-on history footlockers. The lesson plans are designed for fourth grade but the objects are great for all ages. Footlockers are available to Montana educators for two weeks at a time. No rental fee is charged for the use of footlockers. However, schools are responsible for the cost of shipping the footlocker to the next venue.

Many lower grade teachers particularly enjoy Montana Indian Stories Lit Kit - Immerses students in storytelling and the oral tradition with seven class sets of Montana Indian stories collected for the Indian Reading Series (1972) and reprinted by the Montana Historical Society Press. The lit kit includes animal puppets and User Guide. NOTE: Out of respect for the storytelling customs of many Montana Indian people, this kit is available for use in the winter months (November through March.)

The user guides for all the footlockers are online and contain lists of contents and historical narratives as well as lesson plans. 

We also have specific lesson plans for lower grades in our integrating art and history lesson plans. Your school library may have a copy of our Montana’s CharlieRussell packet and The Art of Storytelling packet. We are in the process of reprinting The Art of Storytelling packets and I can mail you one when they are ready (likely in late October) if you’d like. (Put your name on the list.)

OPI's Indian Education Division has a number of K-2 lesson plans listed by subject matter. Many of them are tied to anchor texts. Poking around, I was intrigued by "Rocks are Tools" under Science and Songs from the Indian Reading Series (which would be a great accompaniment to the Indian Stories Lit Kit), under Music.

Finally, here a couple of lesson plans developed by kindergarten teachers who took part in an NEH Landmarks workshop we held back in 2011. I thought they were ingenious.


Tuesday, September 11, 2018

New Lesson Plans for a New Year

Over the last couple of posts, I've reported on what your elementary, middle, and high school colleagues said were their favorite lessons and resources. The ones below weren't listed, but that's because they are brand spanking new!

For Grades 11-12 (especially government students): Montana Women's Legal History Lesson PlanIn this 1-2 period activity, students will examine sample Montana legislation from 1871 to 1991 that particularly affected women's lives to explore the impact laws have on the lives of ordinary people and why laws change.

For Grades 7-12: "Poems for Two Voices." This two- to three-day lesson uses the same documents featured in "Hearing Native Voices: Analyzing Differing Tribal Perspectives in the Oratory of Sitting Bull and Plenty Coups." After analyzing Plenty Coups' and Sitting Bull's rhetoric, student pairs will write a poem for two voices, comparing and contrasting the tribal leaders' perspectives, gaining a better understanding of Essential Understanding regarding Montana Indians #1: "There is great diversity among the twelve tribal nations of Montana in their languages, cultures, histories and governments."

For grades 4-8: Making an Atlatl provides detailed instructions on how students can make atlatls and darts while learning more about the physics behind this ancient technology and the tremendous skill it took to hunt large games in the pre-contact era. (We finished this last one in May of last year--but I'm guessing you didn't have a chance to try it so I'm touting it again.)

This isn't new either--but I just discovered the link to it has been broken for a LOONG time, so I have reposted Butte’s Industrial Landscape, a PowerPoint and script created by Fred Quivik, Professor Emeritus of History, at Michigan Technological University. Designed a as a presentation for teachers attending the NEH-funded workshop, "The Richest Hills: Mining in the Far West, 1860-1920," the PowerPoint examines industrial mining's social and environmental impacts. It is dense and rich--but has extremely useful material that I believe can be adapted for classroom use, particularly in the upper grades. (If you do use it, I'd love to know how.) 

And speaking of broken links: I'm begging you. If you find one, please let me know so I can fix it. I will be eternally grateful.

P.S. Elementary teachers: We didn't forget about you this summer--we just haven't finished our assignment. Please be patient.

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Best of, High School Edition

Every spring, I ask folks to share their favorite Montana history of IEFA lesson, the one they would absolutely do again. Go here for the elementary and middle school teachers' responses.  Read on for the responses from high school teachers with some notes from me, in brackets.


I enjoyed the IEFA lesson "Where the Girl Saved Her Brother."  The review given by the students was mixed, but not because of the activity.  –Marietta Kuhl, Colstrip Mt.  American Indian Studies (9-12), Government (11), US History (12) [I'm guessing this is the lesson plan Marietta is referring to.]

I revisited my US Constitution/Hellgate Treaty/allotment lessons this year in English class and they were pretty good even without reading Wind from an Enemy Sky. I make sure I include those every year, with or without the anchor text. These can be found within this OPI Model Teaching UnitAnna Baldwin, Arlee HS 10th grade English

Several teachers championed the Montana and the Great War project  (including Beaverhead County high school teacher Kim Konen) and I am SO glad. These teachers took on a substantial commitment: to have their students conduct authentic research into how World War I affected people in their counties and then to share their findings. You can find the lesson plan here. You can read a summary of the project here.  You can see the kids' excellent work here.

I did a lesson referencing Indian Relocation and used contemporary artist George Longfish as the catalyst. His work is located in the permanent online collection at the Missoula Art Museum. Jennifer Ogden, Victor School, K-12 Art

Because of a IEFA class I took, I discovered ALL the IEFA resources already in our library! I will be using some of those next year. Shelly Willmore, Roy Public Schools, K-12

We begin with a short discussion of how street names commemorate important events/people. I then ask students to name streets around West High School in Billings (Custer, Howard, Miles, Broadwater, etc). Most express surprise about the number of military and financial men. The real lesson comes when I ask them to name important Native American figures/people (language is important here).  Most name Sacajawea; a few know Two Moons (a park) or Black Otter Trail and now Joe Medicine Crow (middle school).  They quite gleefully name Iroquois, Comanche, Kiowa, Apache and then tipi, tomahawk, and the ilk. As I, fortunately, deal with quite bright juniors; they realize at this point what they have done and how even in 2018 vestiges of white privilege still remain.  Many of them remember the rancor and animosity that the decision to name the middle school after Joe Medicine Crow name brought a few years ago.  I don't do any assessment; the stark realization fills that role for me.--Bruce Wendt, Billings West

Our Art teacher and English teacher collaborate to go to Glacier and learn about the historical signifigance to the CSKT tribes to the area and then create art work of the land, followed with writing about the art piece as it pertains to the CSKT tribes.--anonymous

And three more brief and anonymous but intriguing suggestions:


  • I have designed interactive maps to teach MT geography. 
  • Mountain man flint and steel fire starting... hands-on for kids.
  • Footlocker on Homesteaders [The Mystery of the Old Homestead] from Western Heritage Center
P.S. Don't forget: The deadline to apply for the Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation Scholarship to attend the Montana History Conference is September 9, 2018. Learn more about the September 27-29 Billings Conference and the scholarship information here.

Monday, September 3, 2018

Best of, Middle School Edition

Every spring, I ask folks to share their favorite Montana history of IEFA lesson, the one they would absolutely do again. Go here for the elementary school teachers' responses. Stay tuned for high school teachers' responses. Read on for the responses from middle school teachers with some notes from me, in brackets.


Polson Middle School social studies teacher Matthew Dalbey taught World War I. [I hope he used our WWI lesson plan and/or scavenger hunt and other online resources.] Amber Erickson, who teaches 6-8 history in Saco, also focused on the Great War in Montana, but Amber participated in an ambitious project that had students conducting and sharing original research on ways the war impacted the people of their own county. The lesson plan was written for high school students, but Amber's students did a brilliant job. Here is the website they created to share their research.

Indian Literature Stories: my students loved the tales and comparing tribes.Shannon Baukol, Arrowhead School District, grades 6-8 [One source of relevant stories is the Indian Reading Series. Shannon may also use our Hands-on History footlocker, the Montana Indian Stories Lit Kit, which immerses students in storytelling and the oral tradition with seven class sets of Montana Indian stories collected for the Indian Reading Series. The lit kit includes animal puppets and User Guide. NOTE: Out of respect for the storytelling customs of many Montana Indian people, this kit will be made available for use in the winter months, November through March.]

Studying homesteading in Montana using a 1910 mail order catalogue to purchase items needed on the homestead, analyzing primary sources, going on a field trip to an original homestead and having students create presentations.—Chad Williams, Hamilton Middle School 7th grade Montana History [Our Hands-on History footlocker, Inside and Outside the Home: Homesteading in Montana 1900-1920, includes Sears, Roebuck catalogs and other primary sources and replica artifacts. Another teacher recommends the footlocker on homesteaders from Western Heritage Center, "History Mystery III: The Mystery of the Old Homestead."]

I had my students make postcards about either a town in Montana, or the history of the railroads in Montana, when we studied the railroad. Students researched the history and used those facts in their postcard. The postcards were then hung up in the school for other students to see.Cathleen Kuchera, Fair-Mont-Egan, 8th grade Montana History  


I did a homesteading day and the students had to create something just like homesteaders, we had a campfire and everything!  We had elk tenderloins, butter, cornbread, knitting and fire making.Jennifer Graham, Philipsburg


A winter count activity where each student drew a quilt square to represent an important event in their life using symbolism.Anonymous [For lesson plans and a PowerPoint on winter counts, see "The Art of Storytelling: Plains Indian Perspectives."]

I attended a professional development seminar at the historical society last summer that inspired me with several strategies for improving students' comprehension of complex reading passages.Zach Duval, Somers Middle School, 6-8 Language Arts [You can read more about some of these strategies here, and stay tuned: OPI has converted parts of it into an online course that will be posted soon on the Teacher Learning Hub.

6th Grade World Fair - students dress, become a person we have studied, and share the importance of why we study them in the modern era even though they lived in ancient times.Jessica Henigman, Cut Bank,  6th Grade ELA and 6th Social studies [Looking for Montana characters? Check out our Montana Biographies page.]

Charles Russell PowerPoint, Gallery Walk and Poems.Jennifer Hall, Eureka Middle School, 7th and 8th grades, U.S. History and Montana History [Find the Charlie Russell material Jennifer is referring to.] 

I recommend the IEFA lesson, "More Than Flutes and Drums."Anonymous

I taught a lesson that compared and contrasted Pocahontas. Students were placed into groups of 3 and assigned a historical figure to take guided notes on (Capt. John Smith, Pocahontas, and Chief Powhatan) throughout the Disney movie Pocahontas and a PBS NOVA Documentary, Pocahontas: Revealed. They were given the same set of questions for both videos and they were responsible for that figure the whole time. They were all tasked with identifying forms of technology, major crops, trade items, social structures, etc., and noting names, dates, and places of importance. After completion of both videos, they shared their findings with their group members and were then asked to write their own story about Pocahontas using the information they had learned. This was a creative writing story.Mitchell Wassam, Ronan Middle School, 6th grade Ancient Civilization and Geography.

Two different teachers anonymously recommended doing a unit using Tim Tingle's How I Became A Ghost: A Choctaw Trail of Tears Story. Tim Tingle is an enrolled member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma; OPI's Indian Education Division has created a model literacy lesson plan for his book Walking the Choctaw Road. 

Analyzing Points of View: Chief Rosebud Remembers Lewis and Clark.Tammy Dalling, 7th grade Gardiner Montana history [This is a lesson plan created by the good folks at OPI's Indian Education Division.]

Foods Indigenous to North America. We are currently engrossed in this lesson, and will be throughout the remainder of the quarter.  I have changed and adapted this each quarter that I have gardening class, to fit the knowledge and understanding levels of the students I have at that time.  Also, I have started to adapt the fictional novels into a seasonal round, to help students visualize what is happening, and at what time of the year in the Hatchet book series, and now in the My Side of the Mountain series- the kids are LOVING it!!!Anonymous

I used Newsela articles a lot this year for media classes.  This one about Frazer, Montana, fits in nicely with the Fort Shaw Indian Girls' Basketball Team.  Could lead to further study of the history of basketball teams in Montana.Norma Glock, Columbus Middle School, Grades 6-8, Media/Literacy Skills [Newsela is a site that offers nonfiction text at multiple reading levels. More here.]

The students' favorite lesson is the Boarding School. I show the segment from Into the West DVD.  I show this after we study Chapter 11 Early Reservation Years.Debbie Paisley, Montana History, West Yellowstone

P.S. Don't forget: The deadline to apply for the Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation Scholarship to attend the Montana History Conference is September 9, 2018. Learn more about the September 27-29 Billings Conference and the scholarship information here.



Thursday, August 30, 2018

Best of, Elementary Edition

Every spring, I ask folks to share their favorite Montana history of IEFA lesson, the one they would absolutely do again. Here are the responses from elementary teachers with some notes from me, in brackets.
  • Blackfeet Research Project:  Students research a cultural aspect about the Blackfeet Tribe.  They need 2 resources, 6 main facts and citing sources, a photograph and then they write a summary about what they learned.  They display their information on a poster board.-- Sara White, Shelby, grade 3
  • Reserving the footlocker from the Montana Historical Society entitled Montana Indian Story Lit Kit is a highlight in my classroom every year.  The students are intrigued by the stories and the anticipation of having to wait for winter to come to get the trunk is exciting for the students.  Most of the stories are at the third grade readability level and the others make for a great class read aloud. [You can see the footlocker user guide here. You can reserve it here.]
  • We got the Montana place names trunk and it was SO GOOD! It engaged my fourth graders for three class periods, learning all about Montana and the history of all the little towns using the A-Z road trip lesson.—Christine Ayers, Linderman Elementary, Grade 4 [Find the lesson plan here. Reserve the footlocker here.]
  • Rewriting the state song or other song.  Making new lyrics to go with an event in MT history. This is an adaptation to the state song lesson I previewed for you. –Jackie McCann, Florence Elementary, Grade 4 [We created this lesson plan as part of our revision of our State Symbols footlocker, which will be ready to circulate very soon. Stay tuned for more on this! Meanwhile, here's a link to information on how to write songs with your students for the non-musical that we borrowed heavily from in creating the lesson plan.] 
  • The Art of Storytelling, Barb Sackman, Terry Schools, Grade 1 [Several people talked about doing activities from The Art of Storytelling: Plains Indian Perspectives. That curriculum is available online, but we also donated packets with beautiful art prints to every public school library in Montana. And, I'm pleased to announce that we are reprinting the packet. Stay tuned for information on how to get a copy for your classroom!] 
  • Montana's Charlie Russell [This is another packet of beautiful prints and interesting K-12 ELA, Social Studies, and Art lesson plans that we created and distributed to every public school library in the state and to many individual teachers. If your library doesn't have a copy, you can still access the material online.
  • My MT history project in conjunction with the Montana's State Symbols footlocker and the Crow Astronomy Trunk, which I ordered through Chief Plenty Coups State Park. The engagement factor greatly increase with both trunks. Students loved getting to hold items we can’t find in our area and see real and realistic models of our state symbols. The Crow Astronomy trunk items also allowed me to have the perfect setting to talk about astronomy!—April Wills, Bainville School, Grade 2 [I've talked to April and she has her students complete an amazing local history project with their high school buddies. She's happy to share more information on how she does that.]
  • We did state history this year. While we didn’t get actual footlockers, we did some of the activities from them that are available online and my 4th grader LOVED the state symbols activities. She also really loved the “design your own winter count” activity.—Homeschool parent, Grade 4 [All of our hands-on history footlockers have User Guides that are chock full with lesson plans and other resources, many of which can be done without ordering the footlockers. You can download the user guides here.]
  • Because of an IEFA class I took, I discovered ALL the IEFA resources already in our library! I will be using some of those next year. Shelly Willmore, Roy Public Schools [OPI has donated SO MUCH GREAT MATERIAL to schools! Follow Shelly's lead and check out your library's collection. Also check out the Indian Education division's web site for online lesson plans and resources.]
  • I used the state newspaper link so kids could read about past events in Montana and the country. I also will continue to use the A-Z towns as it is so fun for kids to discover their state. [I LOVE historic newspapers! Here are some hints on how to use them in your classroom.]
Stay tuned for middle school and high school teachers' recommendations.

P.S. Don't forget: The deadline to apply for the Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation Scholarship to attend the Montana History Conference is September 9, 2018. Learn more about the September 27-29 Billings Conference and the scholarship information here.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

2018-2019: Here We Come!

Welcome back! Or if you are new to Teaching Montana History, welcome. I hope everyone had a good summer. The first posts of the school year are always business, so let's get started.

Help This Community Grow

If you have colleagues you think would enjoy this listserv, please let them know how to subscribe!


Montana History Conference Scholarships

Don’t forget: We have travel scholarships available to teachers wishing to attend the 45th Annual Montana History Conference (held this year in Billings) September 27-29. Scholarship applications are due by 11:59 p.m. September 9, 2017. Awards will be announced the following week.

You can find the conference program and the scholarship application information here. If you can't attend the entire conference, consider just joining us for the Thursday educator workshop ($25, lunch included, 6 OPI Renewal Units.)

For Students with Learning Disabilities

Did you know? Montana: Stories of the Land is available as an audiobook for students with learning disabilities through Learning Ally.

Montana: Stories of the Land Companion Website and the MHS Educator Resources Page  

I hope most of you are already using the Montana history and Indian Education for All resources posted on our sites. If so, would you help us out? Please email mkohl@mt.gov if you find any broken links or other problems in the PDFs or on the site. We can usually fix things quickly—but only if we know about them. We moved our the textbook companion website to a new address over the summer (http://mhs.mt.gov/education/StoriesOfTheLand), which will be better in the long run. BUT it may cause problems in the short run. We worked hard to make sure all the links still work, but I'm sure we missed some. So, I’m begging you. See something? Say something.

If you haven't checked out the lesson plans on these sites, I hope you will do that now. And don't forget about our online professional development opportunities--for which you can earn OPI Renewal units.

Two years ago we surveyed teachers using the book Montana: Stories of the Land. Here’s a post about what we found, including helpful hints for teachers using the resource for the first time. And stay tuned for upcoming posts, which will feature your colleagues' favorite lessons and resources for teaching Montana history or Indian Education for All.

Conference on Crow Treaties

If you can get to southeastern Montana on September 14 and/or September 15, the upcoming symposium "Treaties that Live: Sesquicentennial of Crow (Apsaalooke) Indian Treaties of 1868 at Fort Laramie, Wyoming and Fort Hawley, Montana" at Crow Agency looks fascinating. OPI Renewal units will be available. If you can't attend, check out the documents, photographs, and map the organizers have gathered for their website. 

Monday, June 4, 2018

See you next fall if not before....

This blog is going on hiatus for summer break--unless something time sensitive comes along that is so good I can't bear not to share it.

If you are changing schools, please subscribe using your new address! We'd hate to lose touch.

If your travels bring you to Helena this summer, please stop in and say "hello." And of course, don't hesitate to contact me if I can help you as you prepare for your classes next fall: mkohl@mt.gov.

Do know that there's still time to complete our annual survey and to share your favorite lesson. (Need more incentive? I'm adding a prize for the 60th respondent.)

Whether through the survey, an email, or if your vacation takes you through Helena, I look forward to hearing from you.

P.S. Missing the blog already? Browse back posts. Use the labels on the right-hand side to browse general areas (IEFA) or the search bar to search by keywords (primary sources). And if you have time this summer, take our online class, Montana History in 9 Easy Lessons, and earn from one to nine renewal units, depending on the number of sessions you complete.


Tuesday, May 29, 2018

High School Students' Authentic Research Contributions

For the centennial of the U.S. entry into World War I, we created a website, "Montana and the Great War," with lesson plans, Story Maps, bibliographies, oral history excerpts and more. 

We also worked with several teachers, who led their students in documenting the war's effect on their home communities using the Local Experiences of World War I Lesson Plan. After the students completed their research, they (or their teacher) built a website (most used the free Weebly platform, and we linked to their project on the County Projects page of our WWW website.

I was extremely impressed with what the students created--and their teachers were thrilled with the level of student engagement in the project: "they were truly acting like researchers and they loved it!" wrote Bigfork teacher Cynthia Wilondek.

Most teachers chose to do this with a high school class--but teachers in Savage, Montana, worked with their middle school students!

The centennial continues through November 2018, and I'm happy to add new student projects even after that if you'd like to try this lesson. But making the decision to have students conduct new research and share their findings can be done on any topic with a local component, and building a website is a great way to share student work. 

If you teach high school (or even middle school), I hope you'll check out the amazing work of students did last year on WWI, and then think about how to incorporate public history research into your history classes.

P.S. For more recent history, consider an oral history project--we've got tools to help!


Thursday, May 24, 2018

You can help...

If you value the Teaching Montana History blog, I hope you'll consider supporting our work by becoming a member of the Montana Historical Society.

When you join the Montana Historical Society you express your commitment to preserving and sharing the Treasure State's remarkable cultural heritage and become an advocate for Montana's irreplaceable past.

As a subscriber to Teaching Montana History, you already know about the lesson plans we publish, the educational workshops we offer, and our hands-on footlocker program, award-winning textbook, and free tours for school groups.  You probably also know about our many efforts to share our content statewide through online exhibits, the digitized newspaper project, and other digital initiatives


Join today and become part of the team that shapes Montana’s future by preserving its past. Among the Montana Historical Society's accomplishments: 
  • Highlighting historical and artistic treasures at Montana's Museum,
  • Preserving one-of-a-kind documents in our Research Center,
  • Working with communities around the state to protect historic sites,
  • Digitizing collections to make them accessible to researchers worldwide, and 
  • Publishing books and the award-winning journal, Montana The Magazine of Western History.
We appreciate our members! And to express it, we offer a number of member benefits, including
  • Unlimited free admission to Montana's Museum and Original Governor's Mansion.
  • One-year subscription to Montana The Magazine of Western History mailed to your home
  • 15% discount on most items from the Museum Store.
  • Two complimentary research requests at the Research Center every year.
  • An annual MHS Calendar.
  • Discounts at Time Travelers museums nationwide.
  • Invitations to special events.
  • Subscription to our quarterly newsletter, the Society Star.
  • Recognition in the magazine.
All but $35 of your membership is tax deductible.

Please join us! Become a member today! 

 P.S. Finally, please don't forget to take a short online survey and maybe be a winner (prizes to the fifteenth, thirty-first, forty-second person to complete this survey.)

Monday, May 21, 2018

Looking forward to the Fall: The Montana History Conference

Save the Date! The Montana Historical Society is putting together an amazing program for the 45th Annual Montana History Conference, "Rimrocks, Rivers, and Rolling Plains: History from the Yellowstone Valley." The conference will be held in Billings, September 27-29, 2018. Renewal units will be available for both the Thursday educator workshop and all conference sessions. (Check here in June for more details.) We hope you’ll consider attending!

As in past years, we will be offering travel scholarships for both teachers and students.

About the scholarships: Funded by the Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation, the scholarships will consist of full conference registration plus a $275 travel/expense reimbursement. All teachers and students in Montana’s high schools, colleges, and universities are eligible to apply (residents of Billings and the vicinity are eligible for the conference registration scholarship but not the travel reimbursement).

Teacher recipients must attend the entire conference, including Thursday’s Educators Workshop and the Saturday sessions. Student recipients must commit to attending all day Friday and Saturday, including a Saturday tour.

Preference will be given to

  • Teachers and students from Montana’s tribal colleges;
  • Teachers and students from Montana’s on-reservation high schools;
  • Teachers and students from Montana’s community colleges and four-year universities;
  • Teachers and students from Montana’s small, rural, under-served communities.
Applications are due by 11:59 p.m. September 9, 2018.  Awards will be announced the following week.

Applying for a scholarship is quick and easy. Apply online.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Exciting Professional Development Opportunity This June in Lewistown

The Montana Center for Inclusive Education is sponsoring a Teaching with Primary Sources workshop June 11-12, 2018, 9:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m.

A $100 travel stipend will be available for all participants, who will also earn 12 renewal units.
Register here.

Here's the description, taken from their brochure:

Immerse yourself in the rich history of your local area. You are invited to participate in a professional development opportunity through the Library of Congress. This professional development will provide “hands-on” exploration of the Library of Congress and Montana using local resources.

This two-day workshop is designed for those individuals who have participated in the TPS programs since the start of the school year, and for those who would like to learn about using primary sources in the classroom. Participants will learn how to navigate the Library of Congress and develop student engagement, and learning strategies for using primary sources to engage students.

Workshop Highlights:

  • Inquiry Kits for Social Studies
  • How to mine the TPS Network
  • Pairing Picture Books and Primary Sources
  • Chronicling America
  • Library of Congress Labs
  • Citizen U
  • Eagle Eye Citizen
  • TPS Connect

One of the goals is to build community and develop a statewide network. With that in mind, there will be time for sharing and working on primary sources to be used in the classroom. Something for everyone!

The workshop will be held at the Central Montana Education Center,  MSU Northern Lewistown.

Register here or contact John Keener, MRESA3 Project Coordinator, for more information: john.keener@msubillings.edu or 406-657-1743.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Making Atlatls

We have a new lesson plan, written by Jim Schulz, on Making Atlatls and darts from wooden dowels, duct tape, finishing nails, and scrap wood (or 2x4s). Want a hands-on exciting way to end your school year? Consider working with students to build this modern version of an ancient hunting tool--and then practice throwing at a target.

Jim, who many of you know through his educator workshops, is a master at having students learn through doing--and combining science (in this case the physics of fulcrums) with history. 

He also understands the value of having students DO things. 


This is the second lesson Jim's created for us. Years ago, he wrote up "Motherlode Gold Mining," which was what he called his "no fail" lesson--one that worked for over 22 years, with all types of students. The lesson plan involved science (students learned about the density of minerals), math *students had to create a budget to purchase their stake), and history (they learned about the importance of merchants in a mining town and the fact that very few placer miners struck it rich). And it was fun. Students got to actually pan for "gold" using plastic stream tables, metal pie plates, screens, and sand salted with gold-painted lead shot. (You can find the lesson plan on page 32 of the Gold, Silver and Coal--Oh My! Hands-on History Footlocker User Guide.


Panning for gold might be another great activity on a warm spring day!

P.S. Please don't forget to take a short online survey and maybe be a winner (prizes to the fifteenth, thirty-first, forty-second person to complete this survey.)

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Take Our Survey--and Maybe Win a Prize

Tomorrow is the last day of school for Reed Point. Congratulations, Reed Point teachers and students. You made it!

As yet another school year winds to a close, I’d appreciate getting your feedback. I’d also like to gather information on what has worked for you in the classroom, so I can share it with other teachers next year.

Would you be willing to take a short online survey? If so, click here.

Need a little incentive? I’m offering prizes to the fifteenth, thirty-first, forty-second person to complete this survey.

P.S. Don't be confused. The survey refers to the listserv because the way the information on this blog is delivered to most people, but the Montana History and Heritage Education Listserv is the same as the Teaching Montana History Blog.

P.P.S. I'll continue posting for a little while now since most of us still have more school ahead of us--but wanted to get the survey out in order to reach everyone.

Monday, May 7, 2018

Apply for IEFA Grants. Plus Supaman.

Our friends at OPI are offering grants to fund excellent IEFA activities. From their press release:

  • Have a great Indian Education for All project you’ve been dreaming of, and wondering how to fund your idea? 
  • Know your school could benefit from school-wide PIR on Indian Ed, and with funding you could organize an exciting event? 

The K-12 IEFA 2018-2019 Grant will open soon! Please contact Mike Jetty 406-444-0720 or Jennifer Stadum 406-444-0725 to discuss your idea and receive the link for the application. The application deadline is June 20 but all applicants must first speak with OPI Indian Education before they submit an application.

Grant awards are available in a range of approximately $1,000-$12,000 for each project, depending upon the scope of the proposal. There will be a limited number of grants awarded. Priority points will be awarded for proposals containing activities that occur throughout the school year, schoolwide or district-wide professional development that includes school and/or district administrators, and a timeline reflecting pre-planning and organization efforts.
 efforts.

And speaking of IEFA: Check out this interview with the National Museum of the American Indian by Montana's own indigenous hip hop artist Supaman. (The best part, in my opinion? The links to two of Supaman's music videos, "Why" and "Prayer Loop Song.")

Thursday, May 3, 2018

What's Old Is New Again

Montana history has been jumping out at me from today's headlines. I'm seeing ties to the past just about everywhere I look these days.

Here are a few contemporary topics with historical resonances for those interested in teaching "the past as prologue."

1. County Splitting
"Blackfeet Legislator Proposes Creating new Montana County," ran in the May 23, 2018, Missoulian. Frustrated by the lack of services on the reservation during this winter's severe snowstorms,  Representative George Kipp III has asked for a feasibility study to look "at the costs of creating and running" a new county, carved out of Pondera and Glacier Counties, which has the same boundaries as the Blackfeet Reservation.

Here's how we wrote about the county busting craze of the 1910s, when almost half of our 56 counties were created in chapter 15 of Montana: Stories of the Land:
"One Progressive idea changed the map of Montana by splitting big eastern counties into smaller ones. As the homesteaders peopled more of Montana, they wanted to be more involved in local politics, so they wanted their county seats closer. And eastern farmers knew that having more, smaller counties would give them a stronger voice in the state legislature because each county had one state senator. (This changed in the 1960s.)  
"In 1915 the Montana legislature passed a law allowing people to redraw their county lines by submitting a petition to the state. In the next few years, Montana’s 27 counties split into 56 smaller counties. Splitting up counties was called “county-busting.” 
"Many small counties in eastern Montana struggle today with the aftereffects of the Progressive Era county-busting craze. Of the 56 counties in the state, 22 have fewer than 5,000 people. Thirteen counties have fewer than 2,000 people; Petroleum County has only 474. Nearly every legislature since 1936 has considered consolidating (combining several into one) some of these counties, but these measures have failed because citizens want to keep their county seats."
And here's an article Dave Walter wrote about county splitting: "County Busting: Colorful Memories and an Economic Legacy," Montana Magazine, 78 (July-Aug., 1986).

2. Disaster and Disaster Response

"Montana's Hi-Line underwater and in a state of emergency," read the April 18, 2018, Great Falls Tribune headline. In an April post, I pointed out that the Tribune had gathered its articles about the 1964 flood in one place, provided a link to an article on the 1964 flood on the Blackfeet Reservation, and referred readers to an old post I wrote about teaching about disasters. More recently I came across the site SixtyFourFlood.Com, which includes videotaped oral histories of the flood as well as links to relevant documents and archival collections. 

3. Tribal Nationhood
"Trump challenges Native Americans’ historical standing" was published in Politico on April 22, 2018.  (For those interested in bias in media--which should be all of us--note that, according to Media Bias/Fact Check, Politico is left of center in political orientation but its factual reporting is rated "high.")

Although the immediate issue is whether tribal recipients of Medicaid should be subject to work requirements, the larger issue is whether Native Americans should be considered racial or ethnic designation or whether American Indians are members of sovereign tribal nations to which the U.S. government has treaty obligations. Articles in both Mvskoke Media (the newspaper of the Muscogee/Creek Nation) and Indian Country Today (both of which approach politics from tribal perspectives) expanded on Politico's reporting with added emphasis on the topic of sovereignty.

There are also three cases before the Supreme Court this spring that will affect current interpretations of sovereignty and treaty rights, including Washington v U.S., which I touched on in this April post.

These current news stories reminded me of these excerpts from Chapter 20 and Chapter 22 of Montana: Stories of the Land, talking about shifts in federal Indian policy:
"Throughout U.S. history the government has shifted between two completely different policies toward American Indians. One acknowledges Indian tribes as sovereign (independent and self-governing) nations inhabiting their own lands. Under this approach the U.S. government made treaties (agreements between governments) with Indian tribes (see Chapter 7).
"The other approach, which is quite the opposite, sees American Indians as an ethnic group within the U.S. population. Under this approach the government periodically has tried to dissolve Indian tribes and to assimilate (absorb) Indian people into mainstream society. The Dawes Act of 1887 was one example of this policy (see Chapter 11).
"In the 1930s the government returned some powers of self-government to tribes and tried to encourage tribal cultures to strengthen (see Chapter 18). In 1953 the government changed its policy again. Congress decided to end, or terminate, its special relationship with some Indian tribes. The government called this policy termination (the end of something). The government selected specific tribes to terminate. The plan was to withdraw federal support from these tribes, abolish their tribal governments, sell off tribal lands, and end all treaty rights (tribal rights established by treaty). ...
"In 1975 Congress enacted the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act. After 22 years under the termination policy (see Chapter 20), America’s Indian people gained back some of their sovereign powers. With the Self-Determination Act, American Indian tribes gained the right to govern tribal affairs on their reservations (land that tribes reserved for their own use through treaties). Self-determination means that Indian tribes and the federal government more often deal with one another on a government-to-government basis, as they did when the United States was formed." 
It also made me think of Essential Understandings Regarding Montana Indians #5: "There were many federal policies put into place throughout American history that have affected Indian people and still shape who they are today. Many of these policies conflicted with one another." Are we heading into a new federal Indian policy era?

One of my favorite "Enduring Questions" is "What has changed and what's remained the same?" A second might be, "What, if anything, can we learn from past attempts to wrestle with issues similar to the ones we face today?"

Monday, April 30, 2018

Opening Up the Textbook

Last week I wrote about using primary sources for focus activities. Especially in middle school and high school, primary sources can also help in opening up the textbook. According to TeachingHistory.org, "Opening Up the Textbook, developed at Stanford University, is one method of using the textbook to help students learn how to think historically and read critically."

Opening Up the Textbook moves the textbook from its position as the one true story about the past to one historical account among many. Intended to help students slow down, read closely, and critically evaluate their textbook, this is not a strategy that fits well with reading lengthy textbook passages or chapters.

TeachingHistory.org lists six ways to Open up the Textbook. The two that work best with primary sources are
  • "Direct Challenge: Using primary documents to challenge textbook facts or interpretation" and 
  • "Vivification: Breathing life into a text that only mentions, or omits."
The other suggestions are
  • "Comparison: Comparing two textbook accounts—e.g. U.S. to non-U.S, old to new."
  • "Narrativization: Where does a textbook begin to tell the story, where does it end it?"
  • "Articulating Silences: Who is left out of the textbook's narrative? Try bringing in voices of the silenced or moving issues of narrative choice to the surface." 
  • "Close Reading: Careful, attentive focus on word choice, including adjectives, titles, and the like."
Opening Up the Textbook teaches students to question what they read and that "an authoritative tone ... does not necessarily convey the full or exclusive story." It asks them to compare and integrate multiple historical accounts (CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.9) and to consider sources' perspective and purpose (CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.6). 

Have you tried it? What sources did you use/topic did you address? And how'd it go? (I'd love to know!)


Thursday, April 26, 2018

Primary Sources: Perfect for Focus Activities

I've written about teaching with primary sources before, for example in this 2012 article cleverly named "Teaching with Primary Sources," and in this post, which recognizes that exposure to primary sources is not enough. But I believe the topic bears revisiting.

Primary sources can help promote empathy, curiosity, and engagement; make students feel like “real historians”; provide an opportunity to practice close reading (images are great for this!); and teach students how to evaluate the evidence and the quality of a source.

With so many sources now available, through the Library of Congress, National Archives, Montana Memory, and other websites, finding primary sources is no longer the main barrier to integrating them into the classroom. The barrier is figuring out how to use them effectively.

One of the easiest ways to effectively integrate primary sources into your classroom is to use them for focus activities--to introduce a unit or refocus students' attention at a midpoint.

For focus activities, I especially like primary sources that

There are lots of different focus activity techniques:
  • Visual Thinking StrategiesCrop It and Zoom-In (for images)
  • Class or pair/share discussion based on one or two well-crafted questions, especially after giving students a few minutes to "write their way in" (3 minutes of non-stop writing to get thoughts down on paper--without worrying about spelling, punctuation, etc.)
  • After reviewing source, have small groups of students generate a list of questions about the upcoming topic of instruction. 
Do you have a favorite strategy for working with primary sources that I've missed or a favorite primary source that you use with your class? Share it with me and I'll share it out.

P.S. The deadline to apply to become a Middle School Montana History Teacher Leader is fast approaching. If this interests you, make sure to submit your application before April 30. If you have questions about the program, don't hesitate to contact me.




Monday, April 23, 2018

Virtual Field Trips

Last week's post focused on field trips and how to integrate them into your curriculum. But what if you can't travel?

A quick internet search for "virtual field trips" brings up a dozen lists of "best virtual field trips." Here's one from my go-to blogger Glenn Wiebe. 

And, closer to home, for teachers unable to bring their students to Helena, we've been creating ways to bring Helena to you (some higher tech than others.)

Ellen Baumler just finished a virtual tour of Helena's Pioneer Cabin, "What Would You Bring?" Emigrant Families on Montana's Gold Rush Frontier (grades 3-8). The site is curated by the Montana Heritage Commission and Ellen took the tour she gives of the cabin and transformed it into a PowerPoint with a script that teachers can use in the classroom. We supplemented it with introductory exercise, post-tour discussion questions, and standards alignment and added it to our growing collection of PowerPoint Lesson Plans. It's really quite wonderful. I encourage you to check it out.

Laura Ferguson created a "virtual tour" (again based on a PowerPoint and script--though with interactive elements written in) of our exhibit Neither Empty Nor Unknown: Montana at the Time of Lewis and Clark. It's part of the larger Neither Empty nor Unknown: Montana at the Time of Lewis and Clark Lesson Plan. Turn to Appendix 4 (page 36) for instructions on how to modify the lesson without visiting the museum.     

This spring we are again offering special tours of the Mackay Gallery of Russell Art, given by "Nancy Russell (Charlie's wife and business manager) as portrayed by first person interpreter Mary Jane Bradbury. But even if you can't get to Helena, you can watch Mary Jane Bradbury touring the gallery as Nancy Russell on YouTube.

You can virtually explore the Montana State Capitol and the Original Governor's Mansion (OGM) on Google Maps. Neither have scripts, but for the Capitol, there's a static web exhibit featuring the art and history (just waiting for someone to design a web quest--those are still a thing, right?) And for the OGM, there's a scavenger hunt we developed for use with the virtual tour as part of the Original Governor's Mansion footlocker. (See pages 47-48 of the OGM foootlocker User Guide.)  Tour guide extraordinaire Bobi Harris is also working with colleagues to create a video tour of the Original Governor's Mansion. We'll add a link to it as soon as it's done.

Of course, computer tours are never as good as the real thing. To schedule actual tours of Montana's Museum at the Montana Historical Society or the Original Governor's Mansion, contact us at (406) 444-4794 or by email bharris2@mt.gov.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Field Trips: More than a Day Out

Field trip season is upon us. To facilitate getting your students out of the classroom, Nick Zarnowski (who's working for us this spring) created a series of maps showing possible Montana history field trips across the state. One of the maps shows all of the field trip sites, the others are organized to show how the sites align with chapters of our textbook, Montana: Stories of the Land.

I've written before about ways to make field trips more than a fun day off school and continue to be inspired by Smithsonian's research-based best practices for a meaningful field trip, which include clarifying the learning objectives of the visit, linking the visit to curriculum, and providing structure to the visit while also allowing time for free exploration. 

Nick had a great suggestion to fulfil the latter goal: before and after concept mapping. Have students draw a concept map showing what they know about the topic they will be learning more about on the field trip before you go and then again after you return home. It's an easy way to see what they learned and what points you want to reteach or reemphasize in the classroom.  


Nick also created a scavenger hunt to be used for visits to our special exhibit, "Times of Trouble, Times of Change: Montana and the Great War," so if you are planning a trip to MHS, consider adding this temporary exhibit to your agenda. Pre and post-tour activities for this centennial installation include reading Chapter 16 of the textbook Montana: Stories of the Land, "Montana and World War I"; having students explore the "Montana and the Great War Story Map," possibly using the story map Scavenger Hunt; or having students complete the Montana and the Great War Lesson Plan, which asks students, after studying the period, to  write a journal entry or a letter from the perspective of someone living in Montana (or serving in the armed forces) during the war.

Here are a few other pre and post field trip ideas for sites curated by the Montana Historical Society, including our museum.

Touring Montana State Capitol?

Watch the first 10:55 of “When Copper Was King” (part of Montana Mosaic), which focuses specifically on the Copper King’s 1894 Capital Fight between Helena and Anaconda. The video begins with students giving their best answer to the following focus question, which relates to Segment 1: “Why is Helena our state capital?” I recommend asking your students the same question before viewing the episode. (You can find the teacher guide/discussion questions here.

Touring the Original Governor’s Mansion?

The mansion is interpreted around Gov. Stewart’s tenure (1913-21), which encompasses the years of World War I and, during the WWI centennial, it is being interpreted in the WWI context through a tour called "Doing Our Bit: Montana’s Home Front during the Great War." To prepare for that tour, consider having students explore the Montana and the Great War Story Map, which looks at the war's effects on Montanans, using this scavenger hunt and/or this lesson plan. And/or have them read Chapter 16 of Montana: Stories of the Land. (The PDF is available online).   

Even more valuable would be to introduce the mansion and the era using the hands-on history footlocker, Original Governor’s Mansion: Home to the Stewart Family in Turbulent Times, 1913-1921. Remember that even if you can't bring the physical footlocker to your classroom, you can still make use of the lesson plans, informational text (aimed at a fourth-grade level), and PowerPoints with historic images. (And have your younger students make calling cards to bring with them on their field trip. (See Lesson 4B in the Original Governor's Mansion footlocker user guide.) 

Touring Neither Empty Nor Unknown: Montana at the Time of Lewis and Clark?

Preview the story-telling tour and download pre- and post-tour lessons and discussion questions.

Touring the Mackay Gallery of C. M. Russell Art?

Integrate the field trip into your curriculum with Montana's Charlie Russell, which offers biographical PowerPoints, hands-on art lessons, and ELA and social studies lessons.

And speaking of the Mackay Gallery: We once again have special tours available this spring, led by Nancy Russell herself (as portrayed by Mary Jane Bradbury.) In this living history tour, Nancy shares first-hand stories about her life with Charlie and the integral role she played in creating his remarkable legacy. The tour has gotten rave reviews, so make sure to ask for it if you are interested in Russell.