Wednesday, February 3, 2016

My New Imperialism Lesson and Materials

This week we're studying the period in U.S. History when America built a world empire.  I tell my students this is the clearest example yet of of how we can see aspects of modern-day America: a strong American economic, military, and diplomatic force around the world.
The caption reads: "Ten thousand miles from tip to tip."
One part of this unit is built around reading, discussing, and writing about primary sources that address different questions:
  1. Why did America seek to build a world empire?  To answer that question, my students read Albert Beveridge's speech, March of the Flag (1898).  That speech is rich in jingoism, as seen in these examples:
    • "Hawaii is ours; Porto (sic) Rico is to be ours; at the prayer of her people Cuba finally will be ours..."
    • "We can not retreat from any soil where Providence has unfurled our banner; it is ours to save that soil for liberty and civilization."
  2. What arguments were made by American opponents of the new imperialism?  Here we are reading the Platform of the American Anti-Imperialist League (1899).  That document is great for students because it is so direct and clear in its reasoning:
    • "We hold that the policy known as imperialism is hostile to liberty..."
    • "We earnestly condemn the policy of the present national administration in the Philippines."
    • "We propose to contribute to the defeat of any person or party that stands for the forcible subjugation of any people."
  3. What arguments were made by foreign opponents of the new imperialism?  Here we read the shorter still Manifesto of Philippine opposition leader Emilio Aguinaldo.
The second main part of this unit is built around the terrific diplomatic "Milestone" resources of the Office of the Historian at the U.S. Department of State.  This is a collection of essays written at an easily accessible level for motivated high-school students.
Here I gave my students twelve vocabulary terms (the complete list is below) and they used information from that site (click here and here) to create flash cards.  As a whole class, we will have a competition to see who has the deepest (and fastest) knowledge of American diplomatic history during the late Gilded Era.
List of Gilded Era Vocabulary: Chinese Exclusion Acts; Admiral Mahan; Hawaii; Yellow Journalism; Spanish-American War; Philippine-American War; Open Door notes; Platt Amendment; Roosevelt Corollary; Portsmouth Treaty; Dollar Diplomacy; Panama Canal

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Moments in Black History from the NY Times

The New York Times has a terrific spread of unpublished photographs of black leaders and entertainers. The paper plans to add photographs each day during February in honor of Black History Month.

Today's story includes unpublished photographs of MartinLuther King, Lena Horne, Malcolm X, and Adam Clayton Powell. Other images include the Prayer Pilgrimage for Freedom at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington on May 17, 1957, and images detailing the limits of integration.

The images are all black and white with rich detail and all come from the paper's archives. The Times will publish at least one each day during Black History Month.

And the stories behind the images add context that students will enjoy.

You can also sign up for updates.

PBS debuts episode on Garfield's assassination

The Gilded Era was a rough time for U.S. presidents.  There were two assassinations, two misfires (elections where the candidate winning the most popular votes nonetheless lost in the electoral college), and a farmers' revolt.  It was an era where Congress yielded the greatest power.

America's 20th president, James A. Garfield, was the second chief executive to be assassinated.
In a new feature in its American Experience series titled "Murder of a President" that premieres on Tuesday, 2 Feb., PBS tells the story of Garfield's rise to the White House, the assassin who shot him, and the unbelievably bizarre story of the medical care he received after being shot.  You can preview the first episode by clicking here.
The PBS website accompanying this series is filled with all the materials you would need to support a lesson on President Garfield with your students.  There are background articles that put Garfield's presidency in context, photographs, primary sources, and links to other resources.  My favorite linked resource is to the website (curated by the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law) that tells the story of the trial of Garfield's assassin.

The PBS video is based upon Candace Millard's Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President.  Millard discussed her book, and the circumstances of Garfield's assassination, in this interview.
This looks like a good watch.  The New York Times called the series "particularly engrossing."  The fact that its running now, while we are finishing our studies of the Gilded Age, make this series "particularly timely."

Friday, January 29, 2016

Animated historical maps

Static maps are fine and we all use them, but there are two terrific sources of animated historical maps to show your students.

The difference between these maps and map videos is that the action all takes place on the map.  On an animated map, you see borders change, troops advance and retreat, and empires grow.

The biggest and best collection of animated maps I know is called The Map as History.  Their collection includes 250 animated maps, a number they assert is the largest on-line collection available.  The maps are divided into 16 collections, most of which are better for World History, but these collections would be excellent for US History teachers and students: The United States: a territorial history (with 21 animated maps), and The Cold War library (with 9 maps).  A new library about North American colonies currently has four maps but eight more are being developed.

The Map as History is a subscription service and the yearly fee for each series is about $12 a year for one collection, or around $55 for the entire series.  What is great, though, is that they allow you free access to some maps as samplers, such as this animated map (4:17) of Nouvelle-France (New France) and this animated map (4:12) of antebellum expansion.

My second favorite animated map collection is by Western Heritage Mapping.  These maps are all free, and they focus on military battles and wars.  For example, they have an animated map of the Battle of Antietam, and this one of the War of 1812.
Because they're so different, it's not a matter of choosing one over the other.  Both are very valuable additions to our teacher tool kits.

Space Shuttle Challenger Accident: A 30-year anniversary

Yesterday was the 30th anniversary of the explosion of the Space Shuttle Challenger.  Its destruction a little over a minute after liftoff resulted in the death of all seven members of Challenger's crew, and was followed by an intensive investigation into the disaster's causes.
Image result for challenger disaster new york times

This C-SPAN video (6:44) shows Challenger's liftoff and explosion, and President Reagan's address to the nation later that night.
In this memorable last sentence, President Reagan ended his short remarks by discussing the Challenger's crew:

We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them, this morning, as they prepared for their journey and waved goodbye and "slipped the surly bonds of earth" to "touch the face of God."

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Tonight's online trivia game: Engaging students over the snow days

I tried something new tonight.  We haven't had school since last Thursday and we're not having school tomorrow, all because of the blizzard.  I wanted to organize something teacher directed, but would be heavy on the engagement and light on the rigors of class.  So I set up a trivia game.
The game was called "Who's on Mount Rushmore?"  It was a series of questions about U.S. History and Geography I wrote several years ago as an after-the-AP-Exam activity for my students.  But I haven't used the questions much in recent years because we have had to pivot right from AP review to reviewing for our state end-of-course exams.

These questions were drafted with the mindset that they would never (or should never) be on one of our exams.  The answers are easy to look up, some they might actually know, they demonstrate no critical understanding, and honestly really don't matter.  That's why they're trivia!

Some of the questions tonight were--
  1. Who's on Mount Rushmore?
  2. Name the two signers of the Declaration of Independence who went on to be elected president.
  3. Name the two former presidents buried in Arlington National Cemetery.
  4. Name the last of the original 13 states to ratify the U.S. Constitution.
Answers: (1) Washington, Jefferson, TR, and Lincoln; (2) John Adams and TJ; (3) JFK and Taft; (4) Rhode Island.

We conducted the game in a classroom I set up in TodaysMeet.  I used Remind to notify my current students, and Twitter to invite all students past and present to participate.

I can state categorically that this was a lot of fun.  The participating students (okay, not a large number) were enthusiastic and eager to participate.  Their enthusiasm did not wane during the 45 minutes they want at it.  At the end, everyone was a winner.  I have gift cards from Starbucks and Dunkin' Donuts to hand out when we get back to school next week.  And they are already asking me when we will do this again...and we will!

How I keep my students informed about schedule changes when school is closed

We've missed lots of school because of the blizzard, which means that I've had to make changes to my schedule.  How do I inform my students of these changes?  It's easy if you use these tools.

My official class schedule is on Google Calendar.
I put a link to that calendar as a tab ("Assignment Calendar") on my class Blackboard page.

Before I had settled on Google Calendar I had tried to use the calendar on a previous version of Blackboard.  That Blackboard version was far inferior because it would not allow for events to have start times.  In appears that the newest version my district uses solves that problem, but for now I'm going to stick with Google Calendar.

When I need to make changes to our schedule I just make them in Google Calendar, and the changes appear for my students when they check the Assignment Calendar on Blackboard.

To inform my students about these changes I use these three tools:

1st: I post an Announcement in Blackboard that I have updated the Assignment Calendar.  Blackboard then gives me the option to email that Announcement immediately to my students.
2nd: I use Remind to send a text message alert about the changes.  I really like Remind because I can send the text immediately, or schedule it for a later time.  (This is especially good if I'm working at odd hours; I don't want their phone to beep or buzz too early or too late with a text from their teacher!)

3rd: I update the changes on the WhatsDue app.  WhatsDue creates a class calendar for my students that resides on the app on their devices.  Any change I make automatically generates a text alert to my students.  I like WhatsDue because students can use it to send themselves text reminders of upcoming due dates and deadlines.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Underground Railroad

Here is a new site on the Underground Railroad.  It has a timeline, overview, narratives and more. 

Roots of Liberty National Essay Contest

Roots of Liberty, an organization that promotes the study of the Federalist Papers, sponsors an essay competition for students.  Its prizes are generous: a total of over $15,000 to be shared among six students and six teachers.   The National Grand Prize Winner will receive $5,000 and a trip to Washington, D.C., for two people.  The winner's teacher will also receive a cash prize of $1,000.

This year's essay question:
To what extent, if any, is the federal government restricted by the powers enumerated under Article 1 of the Constitution of the United States in the regulation of ONE of the following: voting rights, marijuana, or the environment?
Submissions will be accepted until 15 April 2016.  Winners will be announced two weeks later on 1 May.

Don't...stop...thinking about using...presidential campaign songs: A terrific resource to use with landmark presidential elections

Which landmark presidential campaigns and elections do you emphasize with your students?  In the first half of the year, my list of course includes--

  • Election of 1800: Jefferson and Burr tie in the electoral college (leading to the 12th Amendment)
  • Election of 1824: The corrupt bargain (and first misfire: Andrew Jackson wins a popular and electoral majority, but is denied the White House)
  • Election of 1840: The log cabin campaign of William Henry Harrison
  • Election of 1860: Lincoln wins in a four-way race with less than 40% of the popular vote
  • Election of 1876: Voting irregularities in four states lead to the Electoral Commission and the Compromise of 1877 (Democrats deny victory to Democrat Samuel J. Tilden, who had won the popular vote, so that they could be "Redeemed" and regain control of the south).
There any any number of useful primary source sets of documents and images to show your students to study these campaigns and elections, but here is one set that was new to me.  The Constitution Center just blogged about presidential campaign songs.  As the author explains,
Music has been part of presidential campaigns since George Washington ran unopposed for the office.
The post then lists campaign songs from eleven landmark campaigns, beginning with Thomas Jefferson's "Jefferson and Liberty" (attacking Adams for supporting the Sedition Acts) and up to Fleetwood Mac's "Don't Stop Thinking About Tomorrow" supporting Bill Clinton in his 1992 campaign.

This source is terrific for two reasons.  First, it explains the context of the song and how it was used to support the candidate's central message.  Second, and best, it includes links to YouTube videos of recording artists performing each song.  For example, here Pete Seeger sings "Jefferson and Liberty":
And in this example Oscar Brand sings "I Like Ike":

It would be fun to play these songs and show these videos for our students as they enter class.  As a warm-up, you could show them the lyrics and ask them to speculate on what issues were of greatest concern to voters at the time.

PowToon webinar starts in 10 minutes!

Another snow closure today, so I'm taking another free PD webinar.  Today's session is on PowToon.  Click to register here.
Image result for powtoon
PowToon is a presentation software.  You use it to make presentations that are more engaging than simple graphic-based PowerPoints.  Here's a video tutorial (8:30) on making PowToon presentations.

I'll be learning about how to make more advanced PowToons soon!

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

An easy project that requires deep understanding

The best projects require higher-level thinking skills to complete.  Here's one that would be easy to assign, easy for the students to create, and would require them to demonstrate a deep understanding of the content.

The idea for this project was inspired by this tweet ( from Matt Baker (@usefulcharts).  Matt tweeted this chart earlier today, what he described as "[t]he 5-second version of the #civilwar."
Embedded image permalink
I loved it!  Slavery (as shown by the person with a shackled leg) existed in the north but abolitionists (the thumbs-down icon) opposed it.  Slavery existed in the south where it was overwhelmingly supported (as shown by the thumbs-up icon).  That conflict resulted in a war (represented by the fist, lightning, fire, and two other icons) between the Union (the flag on the top) against the Confederacy (represented by the Confederate flag).  That itself resulted in the deaths of many Americans (represented by the crosses over the casket shapes) and, ultimately, to the abolition of slavery (shown by the unlocked ball and chain).

The key here, of course, is that the graphic contains absolutely no words!  That way, all the meaning and understanding is in the students' heads.  That's why I love this; to decode the images the student has to demonstrate clear understanding of the topic.

Here are some options on how you could assign a project like this to your students:

1. Show your students a graphic like this and ask them to describe it in a paragraph.  Have them describe each image in the graphic, explain what the image likely means, and then connect the images into a narrative.  (It should look something like the paragraph I wrote above.)  Each student response should have a title summarizing the graphic's main idea.

2. Show your students this graphic, but use it as an exemplar.  Then ask them to create their own graphic relevant to the unit you're currently studying.  For my students, because we're discussing Progressive Reform, I could ask them to make a graphic that shows how Progressive Era writers influenced reform on the state and local level, and how that reform ultimately influenced the presidencies of Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and then Woodrow Wilson.

3. On the day your student-created graphics were turned in, shuffle them and hand them out to your students.  Ask them to write a paragraph that explains the classmates' graphic.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

My New eLearning Blog

I am stuck at home with two feet of snow, but thankful that I can still do my job as I have recently changed from a classroom teacher and chair to the eLearning Coordinator of our 4000 student, 53 course strong Online Campus.

To that end I have, as you might have noticed found some other to help continue my other blogs and have continued adding posts myself to them.  But my new site - "eLearning Blog" is where I am putting anything related to learning online.  You can also receive the posts using Google+ and/or following me on Twitter.  Recent posts have included

Friday, January 22, 2016

Abraham Lincoln: His Pre-Presidential Years

I just found this terrific set of materials on Abraham Lincoln's Illinois years (1830-1861) curated by Northern Illinois University's library.  It's called Lincoln/Net.
The site has information on Lincoln and the Black Hawk and Mexican-American Wars, the Lincoln-Douglas Debates of 1858, and a really cool feature on campaigning generally during the antebellum era.  It also has a long list of videos you could show your students, with lectures from scholars like Eric Foner and Edward Ayers.

Maybe the best feature on the site is its list of 15 lesson plans.  They relate specifically to Abraham Lincoln (like the two lessons on the Lincoln-Douglas debates) as well as topics about the antebellum era (like the ones on Cherokee Removal and the Dred Scott decision).

School's closed, but I'm still meeting with my students (virtually)

Our school district outside Washington, D.C., closed yesterday and is closed today, in advance of the approaching (predicted) blizzard.  But I still wanted to keep in touch with my students.  So I made arrangements to meet them in a virtual classroom.

I created a virtual classroom for today's lesson in TodaysMeet, then I alerted my students that it was open for them by sending them a Remind text notification.  Here's a video (4:11) on how to use TodaysMeet.

I announced this as an AMA (Ask Me Anything) session.  Students are invited to ask me anything about our class, what we're studying, or other related/relevant topics.  I'm looking forward to this!