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 2, 2021

Discover the Montana Memory Project

join Jennifer Birnel, head of the Montana Memory Project on December 8 from 4 p.m.-5 p.m. to tour of the Montana Memory Project's new platform and learn searching tips. 

Register here before December 7 to receive a link to the Zoom meeting. 

Participants are eligible for one OPI Renewal Unit.

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

More Resources for Teaching about Thanksgiving

 Merrick Parnell, who teaches high school social studies in Whitehall, wrote to say that he really appreciated my Thanksgiving post, and planned to use some of the highlighted resources. I'm pretty sure it was the link to OPI Indian Education Specialist Mike Jetty's 2019 guest post on Indian Perspectives on Thanksgiving that Merrick particularly appreciated because he went on to say that he lectured on the first Thanksgiving with a focus on the Wampanoag people and that he students learned a lot. He also graciously shared some of the teaching resources he used for this lesson, particularly podcasts and other audio. I'm sharing his list (along with his notes), below. I'm excited to listen to some of these podcasts myself! Maybe during my Thanksgiving morning walk. 

Mr. Parnell's Thanksgiving Resources--Podcasts and Audio 

I like to use this podcast for my students at the high school level. While listening, I have the students take notes or draw a visual representation of what’s being discussed in the show.

This is a great podcast on the tradition of the turkey from the Native perspective. 

I use this 5-minute news clip for current events all throughout the year.  Its great to bring awareness to news and issues that it covers. 

Thanks for sharing, Merrick! 


Monday, November 22, 2021


What traditional foods will you feature on your Thanksgiving table? And how traditional are they, really? 

  • I found this quote from the 1867 Virginia City Montana Post about Thanksgiving foods for comparison: "To-day the gallinacious fowls, and cranberry sauce; pone, pumpkin pie and dough-nuts, fruits, nuts, and cider will be eaten."--The Montana post. [volume], November 30, 1867
  • An ad in the 1880 Fort Benton River Press promises that "'The Eataphone' will help us out on Thanksgiving day with oysters in every style." (Bonus points for anyone who can tell me what an Eataphone is!)

One of my favorite guiding questions is "What's changed and what's remained the same?"

How does your celebration compare to the Thanksgivings described in these two Thanksgiving poems published in 1880 in the Fort Benton River Press?

In Town and Out

To-morrow, all over this glorious nation

The old and the young, and of every station

Vide the President's proclamation

Will hold their Thanksgiving celebration.

The church bells will ring on the clear, cold air,

And call on God's people to meet Him there; 

In country and city, in hamlet and town; 

From highland and lowland, from mountains and down; 

With thankful hearts, in praise and prayer, 

For his protection and thoughtful care.

And the gay bells will jingle,

The sleighs glide along,

And the young voices mingle

In jest and in song; 

As over the pure and the glistening snow,

Light-hearted and gay, in their cutters they go--

But the printer will miss it all.



Oh, no.

Guess not.

Sleigh rides.


Roast turkeys.

Tom and Jerry.

Peach and honey.

The light fantastic.

Some of it in ours.

--Fort Benton River Press, November 24, 1880

This Thanksgiving week, I also want to draw your attention to this 2019 guest post from Indian Education Specialist Mike Jettywhich shares both his perspective on the holiday and many useful links. It's still relevant, and (even more surprising) all the links still work! 

I also want to point teachers to Story Corps' Great Thanksgiving Listen, which "encourages young people—and people of all ages—to create an oral history of our times by recording an interview with an elder, mentor, friend, or someone they admire."

Whether you celebrate, commemorate, or mourn; eat oyster stew, turducken, or tofurkey; take time off or--like our Fort Benton printer--work the holiday, I wish all the best for you and yours, this week and every day. 



Monday, November 15, 2021

Engagement Strategies

 We had a great online professional development last week, with teachers coming together to share their favorite engagement techniques. Here are a few ideas that came out of the session. 

Silent discussion: If you have middle school students who are hesitant to participate in discussions because they are anxious about what their peers will think, try a silent discussion. The teacher who presented this idea said she puts questions on big poster boards around the room. Students circulate, answering the questions on sticky notes. She then puts students into groups and gives each group one of the poster boards and asks them to organize and synthesize the answers on the sticky notes and then report out. 

Character Day: First day of the unit is Character Day. Characters can be people or items—in the Africa unit, salt is a character. Each student chooses a different character—they must do a little research on their character, then when the character comes up, the student shares their research. 

Inquiry: Have student questions that guide your unit of study using the Right Question Institute's Question Formulation Technique. There is LOTS of free information on the Right Question Institute's website (though you have to register to access it). And they'll be offering a free training for 12 renewal units next spring (you can sign up for the waitlist here.)  

Primary Sources: Maps, historic photographs, objects... This is obviously a favorite of mine. 

Participants also pointed to ideas shared on the website Ditch That Textbook and in the book Teach Like a Pirate. They also talked about games they play with students ("Would you rather" and "Four Corners"), asking students to tweet as characters, rewriting the Declaration of Independence as a break-up message, and more.  

Thanks to all the creative teachers who participated in the session! I learned a lot. 


Thursday, November 11, 2021

Primary Sources are grrrrrreat!

 Over the ten plus years I've been writing Teaching Montana History and putting my stuff up on my blog, I've written 91 posts on teaching with primary sources. And I figure it's time for post 92. That's how much I love primary sources. 

The Montana Memory Project is the go-to place for finding primary sources relating to Montana history. It recently moved to a new platform, with, I'm told, better functionality. Jennifer Birnel, head of the Montana Memory Project is going to join us on December 8 from 4 p.m.-5 p.m. to offer a tour of the new platform and searching tips. Register here before December 7 to receive a link to the Zoom meeting. 

Looking for tips about how to use primary sources in your classroom. Check out this the Digital Library of America's 10 Ways to Use the Primary Source Sets in Your Classroom. Then spend some time surfing the DPLA's collection, which is remarkably broad. 

The National Archives explains why using primary sources is so powerful in History in the Raw. The National Archives also has some great activities on DocsTeach, including this one that starts with an anti-Chinese boycott poster from Butte. 

EIU Teaching with Primary Sources also talks about the "why" (exposing students to multiple perspectives; helping them develop critical thinking skills and empathy for the human condition; and helping students understand that all history is local) as well as offering tips on how to choose and cite primary sources.  

Of course, the mother ship for primary sources is the Library of Congress. I recommend looking first at the Library of Congress Primary Source Sets.  

I also love, love, love digitized newspapers--you can find many on Chronicling America, a Library of Congress site, and even more from Montana on MontanaNewspapers.Org. 

Finally, William Madison Randall Library also lists several online repositories--you'll need to scroll to the bottom of the page.  

 Happy surfing!

Monday, November 8, 2021

Two Unrelated Notes

Bear River Massacre

Bannack Park Ranger John Phillips responded to last week's post about the Bear River Massacre, saying that he has been discussing the Bear River Massacre in tours at Bannack for years in his attempt to incorporate elements of IEFA at Bannack State Park. That's really cool and just one more reason to book a tour of Bannack State Parks, which is one of the coolest historical sites in Montana that's open to the public.

Browning Public Schools BNAS District Instructional Coach wrote to share that "the Blackfeet Tribe also refers to the Baker Massacre of 1870 as the Bear River massacre. The massacre in 1870 happened on the Marias River which the Blackfeet had called Bear River before it was renamed.
Just thought I would share that with you in case some get confused about the name especially up in the Northcentral part of Montana." We gathered material on that massacre, including a scholarly article and discussion questions (for high school) and a primary-source based lesson plan (for middle and high school) here. 

Upcoming Professional Development

Please join us this Wednesday, November 10, from 4-5 p.m. for our online PD Hooks! where teachers share their best strategies for engaging students in the study of history.  Last year’s session on Hooks was the overwhelming crowd favorite, so we thought we’d do it again. Register here before November 9 to receive a link to the Zoom meeting.

Monday, November 1, 2021

November Commemorations

I think every day should be Veteran's Day and Mother's Day, and every month should be Native American Heritage Month, or Women's History Month, or Black History Month. That's the excuse I use when I let a special commemoration slip by--which is often. But Tom Rea at WyoHistory.org is more on top of it. (I bet if he's married he never forgets his wedding anniversary! Unlike me.) 

Native American Heritage Month

Tom wrote a good post for Native American Heritage Month (November) highlighting the Indigenous People in Wyoming and the West, created by the Wyoming State Historical Society after its legislature passed its version of IEFA in 2017. Tom explains:  

With the help of scholars, tribal elders and educators on the Wind River Reservation we began adding to our content about American Indians, and educators on the reservation helped us develop classroom toolkits of Wyoming history. 

The articles on tribal history—currently there are 22 of them—can be viewed by clicking on the “Indigenous People in Wyoming and the West” tab at the top of every page. The toolkits can be viewed by clicking on the “Education” tab. There you will find links to lesson plans for students and teachers—digital toolkits of Wyoming History, we call them. 

State lines are, relatively speaking, recent political conventions imposed on an ancient landscape. We don't think of the Western Shoshones and the Nez Perce as Montana tribes because they don't have reservations here, but historically they hunted and harvested and traded in Montana (as well as Idaho). And of course the Crows, Cheyennes, and Lakotas all have deep connection to Wyoming. 

All this to say: Check out some of the resources on Indigenous People in Wyoming and the West to find lesson plans and learn about topics ranging from The Medicine Wheel/Medicine Mountain National Historic Landmark to Father DeSmet's map and the 1851 Fort Laramie Treaty. 

Veteran's Day

And while we are commemorating special days, I wanted to point out a lesson that is not only my all-time Veteran's Day related lesson but one of my favorite lessons of all time: Reader’s Theater: Letters Home from Montanans at War. I've written at length about Letters Home before, so I'll just say, if you teach English, history, or theater to grades 8-12, you should do yourself a favor and make time for this lesson, which asks students to read, interpret, and perform letters written by soldiers who served in conflicts from the Civil War to Operation Iraqi Freedom.

P.S. Don't forget our November 10 PD from 4:00-5:00 p.m.: Hooks! Attend to learn and share strategies for hooking students' interest and to earn one OPI Renewal Unit. 

Teaching Montana History is written by Martha Kohl, Outreach and Interpretation Historian at the Montana Historical Society.