Wednesday, December 31, 2014

American History Review

While he breaks my ten minute rule for a video, Keith Hughes, does have a nice review for the American Revolution.  If your students prefer watching a video to reading, then this will be a help for you.  Alternatively, you could break it into parts as a way to start the unit and then do something more interactive in class.  

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Snag-It for Chrome & Google Drive

This is pretty cool.  I have used Snag-it at school for years, but it is almost a pain as I have to go find it most of the time on my tools and I much prefer to have apps added to Chrome.  Well now I am all set as Snag-it has a Chrome add on that adds each item into your Google Drive account.  It lets you take the entire screen, parts of it and even movies and then annotate them.  Above is a video explaining how to use it. To found about it from TechSmith on Twitter

Friday, December 26, 2014

More Ideas for Good Learning

This presentation adds to the posts I have done on the book, How We Learn.  It repeats the thought that we learn best when we have breaks.  Indeed the technique Barbara Oakley mentions is 25 minutes of focused attention (no texting, looking at unrelated Internet pages) and then taking a break of a few minutes.  This, she says will increase learning retention.  As for tests, she suggest studying many times with flash cards, multiple techniques, etc.  As she points out, would you sing a song once and think you learned it - of course not.  As for underlining parts of a book, she says the most innovative to learn from a book is to read, then look away and see what you can remember.  Also, assume just reading will help you learn.  Mastery comes from repetition and interacting with what ever you are learning. 

The Atlantic Slave Trade and Your Flipped Classroom

Here's an excellent TedEd talk on the slave trade and its impact on Africa. Thanks to F.C. Tymrak for tweeting the link.  This was posted on my World History Teachers' blog by George Coe.  If you are using it as part of a flipped class, I would suggest you ask some important questions as students watch such as: 1) where did the slaves in the Americas come from 2) what products did they grow in the Americas 3) how did slave trading change the culture of Western Africa.  In class you could have students draw the triangle of trade with the products and the areas of the world labeled on it.  You could also have the kids search for images of slaves on trade ships.  For a class/group discussion, you could ask the kids the short and long term effects of the slave trade on the US and the Caribbean.

By the way if you want to learn how to personalize your classroom for your students, of which flipping is an important component, you could join me for a two day in-service on the Mediterranean coast this July

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Learning Pod Needs Question Writers

Learning Pod has a tremendous number of resources including AP practice questions for your students.  But they are also a way for you to make extra money.  So if you go here you can apply to write questions for the AP content areas for social studies.  If you want to go to their site and see their resources, go here for Note Taking in a Flipped Classroom

Normally I ask my students to split their screen, but this relatively (it came out last April) new app called that does that for you, putting the video on the left and the notes on the right.  It is then synced with Google Drive so it automatically (if you approve it to do so) puts the notes in your Google  Drive folder.  You will also note that whenever you begin taking notes, it shows where you are in the video and if you click on that line of  the notes, it will take you back to the relevant place in the video.  

It is also available for Google Apps so your students can get it in the free or paid Google Drive.

Above is a video showing you how to use it.

Monday, December 15, 2014

WeVideo for Your Video Creations

My daughter is working with a friend of a class video for tomorrow. They took their video clips using my wife's smartphone and then uploaded them onto WeVideo and very easily combined their clips into one video. You can add music, words, images, fade in/out, cut items out, etc. It also is an app in Google Drive so you can then upload it straight into your account (to add it to Google Drive, go to "more" under docs, presentation, etc. and then it will always be on your drop down for programs with Google Drive.

Join Me in Spain for An In-Service

This July 12-13 I am teaching a two day institute on the Mediterranean Sea coat near Marbella in Spain (very near Gibraltar).  The course will be two full days in which where we will be designing lesson plans to personalize learning for your students.  This means we will learn how to create a flipped video and what to do in the classroom once that is done including giving immediate feedback as well as giving formative evaluations.  Finally we will expand your own school PLC to one online so that you can follow-up the session with more collaboration and ideas well after the institute is over.  If you are interested, please go here to sign up for the course.  There is a considerable discount if you sign up by the middle of February.  

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Education Week Post

Way back in August Larry Ferlazzo asked me to respond to one of his reader's queries which was posted today.  The post looks at "interactives"  which allow students to work in class on "problem sets" where the teacher can walk around the room and act as a facilitator rather than as a passive lecturer.   Interactives are which are explored in my upcoming book Deeper Learning Through Technology: Using the Cloud to Individualize Instruction.  The quote above is from the article but it really comes from a wonderful woman who taught my methods class back when I was learning to be a teacher.  While I have long since lost forgotten her name, the charge she gave us to keep up with student learning as it has evolved as not been forgotten by me in the twenty-five years since she said it to me.  

Mastery Learning Discussion & Examples

I believe watching my own children grow has helped to make me a better teacher.  For example my son is a very good gamer, but he is also very good at failing.  By that I mean he is willing to fail as many times as it takes to master a game which leads to his mastering the material and then moving on to another one.  It strikes me that I need to emulate my son's learning with all of my classes.  By that I mean I have mostly flipped my classes and so have much more time to move around the classroom helping my students.  While we are on a unit I also allow students to correct work again and again and consequently have no late grades and have mostly moved beyond a textbook in three of my four content classes and have set up an individualized learning model (see my book about this).  So it strikes me that I need to fully move to a standards based learning model as the last part of my educational evolution.  So in that move, you are going to see lots of videos and examples of mastery learning as I teach myself and fumble through this process.

So above my musings is a video overview of how mastery learning works in any classroom.  It is a great overview to explain the process and even does something no one has ever done for me which is to define mastery learning.  Below this writing is a video my fellow blogger, Frank Franz, made for his back to school flip parent video.  Watch it closely as it has not only an explanation of flipped learning (which really is the bedrock of mastery learning), but also how he carries out mastery learning, both in terms of objectives, daily learning, grading and, finally showing mastery.  The key, as I am learning, is that if the child is motivated, he/she can redo anything and potentially show better mastery.  But this means that the child might have additional (to the videos) learning and therefore need more motivation.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Brinkley Ancillaries

Thanks to Craig Perrier, who is our county social studies specialist, for this tip.  Here is a great site for those of you using Brinkley's US textbook.  It has multiple choice quizzes, essay questions, primary sources. interactive maps and curriculum guides.  

Monday, December 8, 2014

Reading Like a Historian

One of the resources that I use frequently in my classroom is the Stanford History Education Group's Reading Like a Historian. Not only does it offer engaging lesson plan ideas but also a wealth of primary sources for each lesson, all with the goal of developing historical inquiry skills.

This week I will be using the Homestead Strike lesson plans to contrast the views of the strike with documents by Henry Frick and also Emma Goldman, a political activist of the period. Students become engrossed in the roles that they are assigned which springboards into a larger lesson on the legacy of Andrew Carnegie.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Google Classroom

If you have your students work in Google Drive, a new way to do it is through Google Classroom.  It allows you to see who has turned in what and when.  You do have to have a Google Apps for Education account as do your students.  The key to the video above is that you can see both the teacher and the students accounts side by side above. 

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Zaption to Personalize Your Flipped Videos

Thanks to Scott Nichols for this tip.  Zaption allows you to take any YouTube or Vimeo video, edit them, add questions, text and images and then share it with your students using a url.  It is also free! Below is a video explaining how to do it. 

Amazing AP US History Teacher Website

Rebecca Richardson has created a tremendous website which she uses with her students.  It has readings, lectures, PowerPoints, word walls, chapter summaries, writing activities and strategies to deal with the new APUSH exam.  

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Quizlet and Studying for Tests

Admittedly one needs to know a lot more than just vocabulary in economics, but it is certainly a place to start.  So one thing you can do is to have your students use Quizlet to see if they know all of their vocabulary.   Quizlet allows students to use traditional flash cards as well as a number of learning games.  You can even set it up for your class and each student can compete against one another.   Above is an example of the Age of Jackson.  You can choose to make the cards yourself, have your students do so or even just use someone else's as I have done here.  But if you go with the last choice, make sure you like each card.  Alternatively, if you set up an account, you could make a copy of someone else's cards and then make them exactly the way you want them.  

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Richard Frethorne Letter

One of the devices I like to use with US history students is primary documents as I find the liven up what is often a boring textbook.  One of my favorites is Richard Frethorne's letter to his parents as an indentured servant in Virginia in 1623.   He describes wanting to trade his arm for being back in England, but instead died a few months after he wrote the letter. 

Remind Your Students Using Texts

Today I found an article on the Washington Post that goes with along with what some of my students are doing for homework.  So, today I sent them the link to the article and was able to do it because all of my students voluntarily sign up for because they like the reminder.  You can send a simple text and even add an attachment and, if you want to, put it on Twitter as well.  Over the years I have used it I have become convinced that kids, more than not, don't do their homework because of poor planning or organization and Remind has helped immensely on this.  Above is a video explaining how to use it.  Of course the service is free and parents can sign up for it as well.  Finally it is also only a one way text. 

Monday, November 24, 2014

How the Government Impacts US History on Thanksgiving

I have put this on my blog before and will show it to my students on Wednesday and it is so perfect in describing the interplay between government and US history.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Friday, November 21, 2014

History vs. Andrew Jackson

Here's great five-minute Ted talk about Andrew Jackson and his place in history.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

How to Teach Writing with the Help of Technology

Ironically, at the same time one of my classes is starting to write a research paper, I received an email from Robert Morris asking if he could write a post for my blog.  His write-up is so useful I am putting it up in its entirety.   At the top of this post I am also including a video I made last year on the mechanics of writing an essay such as what is a thesis, topic sentence(s), outline sentence(s), etc.

How to Teach Writing with the Help of Technology
If you are constantly frustrated by your students’ inability to understand what you expect from academic assignments, maybe it’s time to turn to technology tools. Teaching students how to write is one of the greatest challenges that professors face. No matter how hard they try to explain different writing techniques and help their students go through the different stages of essay writing, the results are hardly satisfactory.
Every teacher knows that some of the most important aspects of successful academic writing are organization, research, proofreading and editing, but they cannot motivate students to put enough effort in all stages of the project. The following tools will help both you and your students deal with the challenge more easily.

Tools to use during the research stage

This is the part when your students need the most help. If you want to be satisfied with the content they submit, you need to teach them how to do a proper research. Suggest these tools to help your students go through this stage:
Instead of forcing them to spend several days in the library locating proper sources for a research paper, you should suggest this online tool to your students. This is an online library that offers an immense choice of relevant research information.           
You don’t consider Google to be the right destination for finding reliable sources, but your students keep using it. Google Scholar is the compromise – it provides them with a research environment they are used to, but leads to reliable sources that can be used as a foundation for academic projects.
At this website, you can find top-quality eBooks that you can suggest as referencing sources. You can research the online library and tell your students to discuss particular books, but you can also inspire them to conduct the research individually or in teams.

Best proofreading and editing tools

Teachers are really frustrated when their students submit draft version of their papers. Instead of repeating the same things about the importance of proofreading and editing, you should suggest the following tools that will lead to practical results:
If you notice that some of your students need serious assistance during the writing and editing stage, you should suggest them to hire professional writers and editors at this website. A single investment can result with an extraordinary improvement in their research, writing and editing skills, since the students get to learn through collaborating with real experts at this website.
Although this is a basic checker that cannot lead to flawless papers, it will still help your students avoid some embarrassing mistakes. The engine corrects the most common errors in academic writing, so you can suggest it as the right tool to use when your students’ papers need a quick fix.

Plagiarism detection tools

The process of teaching your students how to write involves the issue of plagiarism. They clearly use resources to support the discussion, so the content can easily end up being too similar to something that has already been written before. These are the plagiarism detection tools you should suggest:
This simple engine detects the parts of the paper that have been plagiarized from online resources. When your students see the highlighted content, they will know which parts need to be referenced or improved with their own comments.
This website combines three useful tools: grammar check, plagiarism detection, and writing suggestions.

You can also rely on these plagiarism detection engines in order to make sure that the content your students submit is unique. When they start combining them with the research and editing tools we listed above, they will soon start completing better academic content and making you a happier teacher.    

Help with the Common Core

One of the weaknesses I have noticed that seems to be ever increasing is the ability for students to read at a higher level. The Common Core challenges students to do just that and, if I'm being honest, intimidates me a bit.

In looking to update my lessons on the Industrial Age I stumbled across The information and lessons that this site has is extremely helpful and I found a lesson that breaks down Andrew Carnegie's "Gospel of Wealth" through a close reading assignment. Yesterday in class I started the lesson and it went very well.

If you're struggling with how to integrate the Common Core Standards in your classrooms, it's worth a look.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Contextualizing US History

As most people who follow this blog know I have been working for a while with a group in Palo Alto, CA with the goal of contextualizing learning.  Our first "domain" has been to do this with US history and actually some of the readers from this blog have been helping to write the material.  So far we have done all of US history through the Civil War which means that we have about 200 "nodes" of information.

A node is a entity that would be studied such as Andrew Jackson, or the spoils system or the Trail of Tears.  For each we have a 150 word description, a map, a timeline location, cause/effect and other nodes that are related.  We call our site "ContextU" and do so because we believe that the more one contextualizes learning the better learning retention will be.  So below are the four sub-domains of learning (and the Gilded Age will be out in mid December.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Flipping with John Green

If you are a middle school teacher (two of my own children are seventh graders) you know that John Green is one of the most prolific early teenager authors.  But he also has a prolific flipped video series with his brother, that are extremely well produced and packed with lots of facts.  If anything, they have too many and move a bit too quickly.   But here are forty-eight US history videos that are either a good intro (think about the main points that I blogged about a few days ago) or a review.  

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Learning Pod Student Review System

My two AP classes each have two exams that they will have to take in May which prompted one student to ask me the other day how we would review for both AP exams.  Well the answer, if you read my post below on How We Learn is to go back frequently, but not every day and review old material.

One way to do this is to let your students use Learning Pod which allows students to take review questions on any AP exam that are preparing for without having to even login.  However if the students want to login then they will receive an explanation for their incorrect questions.  

Teachers can also create "pods" of their own tests that they have created which they can make available for anyone or just for their own students.  There are also different ways (url, Tweets), etc that teachers can use to share a pod with students.

If you want to easily see all the AP offering questions, go here or to the logo on the right of the page any time you want.  

Monday, November 10, 2014

The Gold Rush

When you get to the American gold rush, the video above as well as this link from the History Channel on its history will be an immense help for you and your students.  

How We Learn

As I have noted before, it is not often that I push something that costs money, but at Frank Franz' suggestion I read How We Learn, by Benedict Carey.  Here are some of the highlights in Scientific American.  The upshot is that the author contends with quantitative backing:

  • that studying day after day is not good that we should have a day or two off after studying the first time and that there will be surprisingly more retention when one tests on the third day after studying than on the day you studied
  • that studying on multiple days, not in succession increases long term retention
  • that brief study breaks to do things totally unrelated such as checking text messages, as long as not done every few minutes help the brain make connections
  • that going back to earlier material all year again helps the learning process
  • that having students think and not just listen and write makes the long term learning better

Sunday, November 9, 2014

How to Write the New APUSH Free Response Questions

Last year I created a video for my government students on how to write an essay and was surprised by how much it helped them - without me - while they were at home.   Of course after four years of flipping I shouldn't be surprised by the strength of flipping.

At any rate above is a video from this summer on how to write the DBQ for AP US history.  The key, of course, is to remind your students that they are writing an essay with both facts they know and ones they get from the documents.  Kids like to say "According to Doc 1" as opposed to putting the name in parentheses (as in (Doc 1) and using the information in a sentence.

Below are two videos on how to write the other two.  All come from Jocz Productions.  

Internet Access for All Students?!

Each year I teach two AP classes, 2 standard ones and one online.  So of my roughly 150 students, about 5-6 start the year without a laptop and all are in my two standard classes.  What is different this year is that all but one has some Internet connection be it via a smartphone or a laptop.  So all students can watch flip videos and see links to items online so the "worst case" is that they have to write their answers on paper - which, yes, even for me works.  But there are still things that just cannot be done on a smartphone.

But a few years ago a girl in one of my classes came in beaming one day and said because of my class her mother had bought her a laptop.  When I asked if this was a bad thing (ie did I pressure her in some way) she said no and that her mother had no idea schools used laptops that much.  Well now I find a time outside of class to talk to all my non connected students and always mention Chromebooks saying that it is what I bought my own children ($250 for 11" and $300 for 14").  Kids today do not need Microsoft Windows and for that matter Microsoft now has OneDrive which allows you to do most of what you do in Word, but online.  So as it has been in the past three years, three kids have come to me so far to tell me that they now have laptops and two more are getting theirs soon.  Not only that but parents have even thanked me for suggesting it.

For me it boils down to this.  I know that students will need online capabilities when they enter the workplace and by not asking, I am helping to foster a situation where my students are far behind most of their peers.  I also stay after school 90 minutes each day and help kids learn how to be connected - as well as how to do their work.   To get to the point, not asking a student is worse than asking so see if you can't get more of your students connected. 

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Fall of the Berlin Wall Anniversary

Sunday marks the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. AP News has a great site about the fall with interesting  images and original news stories.

The Washington Post has "stunning" before and after pictures, along with a crossword puzzle testing your knowledge of the Berlin Wall.

Below, NBC News shows 8000 lighted balloons along nine mile length of the wall. And below that is a BBC clip clip explaining the rise and fall of the wall in 60 seconds.

Jimmy Fallon and the Gadsden Purchase

I just noticed that the video on my previous posts had been disabled.  When you get to the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo and the Gadsden Purchase, the kids will really enjoy this clip from Jimmy Fallon. 

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Women in the Civil War

If you look at many state exams women are overlooked in wars, but if you want to make sure you do a good job of teaching about them, this is a great site that you can use with your students to see what kinds of occupations they filled during the American Civil War. 

Howjsay to Pronounce Words

A number of my students are either currently ESOL students or were in the program in the last year or two.  So one of the resources we use is where you can input a word and it says it for you.  The other day for example, we were looking at Japan and submitted the word archipelago.  It also links the word to a Google search so you can find out more about what you are trying to pronounce.  

Monday, October 27, 2014

History of Halloween

The video above is great as it touches the potato famine and ancient Irish history connecting it to All Hallow's Eve and even looks at the origins of trick or treat.  

Thursday, October 23, 2014

My Book is Getting Closer, Pre-Order Now

So I started my blogs in April of 2008 - which means I have been hawking free wares for quite a long time.  But no more!  My book manuscript should arrive in my in box in a few days and after I initial it, the next stop is the printer.  The publication date is the last week of January, but you and/or your school or district can pre-order it now.  

The title pretty much says it all.  I believe that technology is great since that is the world we now live in, but two terms I use in my book are "first and second order" uses of technology.  First order is just digitizing everything you normally do on paper while "second order" is using technology to do learning with your students (such as individualizing) that you could not do without it.  Not only do I give you the research, but I give you the step by step instructions for how to do this.

Over the next few months, I will be giving you more details on the book so please keep reading if you aren't yet sure if you want to purchase it yet.   If you go here, there is both a very detailed chapter outline as well as the early reviews and a way to order the book.  

Wednesday, October 22, 2014


One of the things that students really seem to enjoy and get quite a bit out of is backchanneling while watching a full-length video in class. I generally only show full-length videos in the first two units of the year and I use I set specific parameters for students (username, required number of comments/questions, etc) so how they earn their grade is clear. What I like the best about using this in the classroom is that it gives even the quietest students a true voice and allows them to play a more active role in class.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Twitter Warm-up for Your Classes

Today my colleague, Doug Zywiol asked his US history classes to Tweet him the biggest hurdle facing George Washington when he started his presidential term.  If you go to @dougzywiol you can see the student responses.  To have your students do it, they simply need to add your Twitter handle to a text and then you can project the responses on the board or simply have your students use their smartphones to look at and discuss the answers.  Alternatively you could make a hashtag (just put the "#" symbol along side any class name you might invent (such as @Zywiolclass) and then have your students add this to their text.  Then go to the newly made site to see all of the Tweets.

By the way Zywiol's government students were doing their government service hours and met Barbara Comstock (see image above) who is likely to be a new member of Congress come January and of course they Tweeted about it so Zywiol's other students could see it.

Obviously no matter the subject you teach, you can use Twitter to start your warm-up.  If you are like us and have slow laptops, it can be done while the laptops are logging in. 

Monday, October 20, 2014

The Wizard of Oz as an Allegory

So I was just quizzing my daughters tonight on the westward movement when it dawned on me that they are moving towards really understanding the allegory behind the Wizard of Oz.  Since I just did the post on the election of 1896 below and Keith hits on it in his video, here is the entire allegory.

  • The Wizard of Oz is William McKinley who represents all politicians - full of hot air and not much action
  • the Scarecrow who has no heart because he represented all farmers who were not rotating their crops and therefor depleting its nutrients - so hence no brain
  • the Tin Man as he was emblematic of all factory owners who pushed children to work and had people at it six days a week and so they had no hearts and so it goes.  
  • Just read the link above to get the full story. 

Sunday, October 19, 2014

The Election of 1896

Keith Hughes is a machine when it comes to flipped videos as he knocks out about two a week giving you the chance to pick and choose ones for your US history classes.  Above it the pivotal election of 1896 and here are all of his videos.  

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Remind Gets Even Easier

Remind (which used to be Remind101) is getting even easier.  Stating in November all your students and parents will have to do is to text "81010" and your unique class code (which you make) and they will be signed up.  I have been using the site for the past three years and their CEO even gave my upcoming January release book (Deeper Learning Through Technology) a nice endorsement.   I can't say enough for how it has improved my students' memory to get their nightly text reminders in finishing any lingering work they may have for me.  

Monday, October 13, 2014

Who Were the First Europeans to Hit the Americas?

Who were the first Europeans to come to the Americas - Columbus, Erikson or the Irish?  So this NPR piece is more background for teachers than something you might give your students, but nonetheless it is interesting.  Most debunk the legend of the Irish sailors, but I just learned of it this summer myself.  But we all know of the Vikings and should they be considered the first or should we go with Columbus who gets the credit since others followed because of his voyages.  Asking your students is a good way to have them think more clearly what "first" means.  Also you could ask why, for so long the Native Americans were overlooked?  While we are at it you could also show the Mercator map and ask why Europe is in the bull's eye and tie that to why Columbus was given so much credit.  After all those writing history get to shape it even years after it might have been disproved.

By the way, CNN has a very balanced look today at Columbus

Free Lesson Plans & Several on Columbus Day

Hot Chalk has over 4000 free lesson plans for teachers.  For those of you who want ones on Columbus Day, here are ten from the site.  

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Lesson Planning and the US Constitution

If you are putting together a lesson plan on the making of the Constitution, above is a short TedX video with great visuals that is only four minutes.

You might want to use the Prezi below to go through the major points.

Or you might like to use this interactive Constitution and then quiz the kids using this site.

Any way you do it, isn't it better to have the kids doing the work?!

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Controversy and APUSH

I am doing some work with the College Board this weekend in New York City and one of my colleagues is Brenda Santos who wrote a very succinct article explaining the changes in the new APUSH test in an article for the American Historical Association.

The APUSH changes have been in the news from a defense from the left in the LA Times and an attack from the right from the National Review.  Of course there are also the principled students in Jefferson County, CO who have walked out of class as a protest to their school board who is considering dropping the APUSH course.  Even the College Board came out this week in support of the students.   Of course all these actions, school board, civil disobedience, etc. are good fodder for government students.  

Thursday, October 2, 2014

A New History Blog

One of the teachers who is helping me on ContextU (and you are interested in writing for us, look at the site and then email me at is Lauren Brown who teaches outside of Chicago. She has a new blog on her teaching ideas for US history.  With the new changes in the AP US exam, I was immediately drawn to her most recent post on major principles and essential questions.   The strength of her blog, called US History ideas, is that she puts a lot of her teaching ideas on it so take a look at it.  

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

How to Draw a Map in Google Drawing

It is rather important that our students be able to locate areas on US and world maps.  If you want to do it digitally in Google Drive, then watch the video above as it explains it in 150 seconds.  

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Primary Documents and the Civil War

Sullivan Ballou wrote a last letter to his wife a few days before the first Battle of Bull Run.  Primary documents are a great way to present any part of US history.  Above is the clip from Ken Burn's Civil War documentary and here is a written copy.  Here is much more on Ballou and his death.

So in the sprit of the post below, a flipped class might have a screencast on the  major battles if the Civil War (Fort Sumter, Bull Run, Shiloh, Antietam, Gettysburg) and then have the students perform an exercise where they look at Ballou's letter and select a battle and write from different perspectives such as the military leaders of the Union or Confederacy, Lincoln's perspective, etc.  In such a letter, the students would have to show comprehension of the battles and yet be creative enough to an understanding of what might be coming up or have just passed, if done afterwards.

For such an assignment, you could go to Rubistar and make your own rubric.

All of this was generated from a book I am reading called Dataclysm  I guess I am never too far away from my teaching!

Flipping, flipping, flipping!

All three of my preps this year are being flipped so I am really getting into it which is good after four years of practicing the "craft."  Today we are having a tech in-service at Hayfield Secondary where I teach and I am teaching two sections of how to flip one's classroom.  If you aren't a teacher at Hayfield and want to watch how to do flip, above is an eight minute video detailing all of the steps and what to do in the classroom after you have done your flipped lecture.

Here is an example of a flipped video, the actual Google form we used and the interactive assignment that followed in class

Saturday, September 27, 2014

The Hanoi Hilton

I have a friend who is traveling in Vietnam who posted about the video above.  It shows Jeremiah Denton who an American imprisoned during the Vietnam War.  He was filmed by the North Vietnamese saying how he was being treated so nicely, but in fact, he was using his eyes to say repeatedly in Morse Code "T-O-R-T-U-R-E."  You can read about the story here.  Considering the recent ISIS beheadings and the forced statements those people have made, above is a different twist on another tough situation that your students will be studying this year.  

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

ContextU Looking for Some Paid Content Writers

Recently I have posted about a start-up that I have been working with called ContextU.  We have our beta site up and now have sub domains up for the American Revolution and the Civil War.  We have a team of fifteen engineers, marketing, etc, but we need people to help write the content. Basically we are trying to contextualize learning as we believe that we learn best when connecting items to other, what we call, "nodes."  So we need people to write 1) 150 word descriptions 2) find cause/effect (and it is mostly from a list we already have 3) relations to other groups.  Right now we are looking for people to write on the Washington-Jackson era.  We are offering either "micro-shares" or pay which is better than anything my county pays!  If you are interested, please email me at 

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The American Revolution in Context

As we all know putting whatever we are studying into context is the best way for our students to learn.  That is why I jumped at the chance to work with a CA based group called ContextU, a while ago to digitize (we are also working on Android and iTunes) for all of US history.  Right now we have up our second grouping on the American Revolution in addition to our first on the Civil War.

Each group has 30-40 "nodes" or people/place/events that have 150 word descriptions, the item on a timeline, located on a map as well as cause/effect and its relation to other like entities or groups.  It would be a great way for your students to see connections when you are studying the American Revolution or if you have already started then the perfect way to review for a test.  

Next up we will have early US.  

How to Use and Make Shortcuts in Google Docs

This comes from Caitlin Tucker who has made the short video above to show you pre-set preferences in Google Docs and how to additional ones of your own.  This comes in handy when you are grading papers and don't want to write the same comment over and over. 

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Book Recommendation: How We Learn by Benedict Carey

There aren't many books about teaching that truly excite me, but I just finished reading a book that every educator should read. How We Lean: The Surprising Truth About When, Where, and Why It Happens by Benedict Carey details several techniques that teachers and students can employ to increase student learning. Teachers may have heard of or even used a couple of the techniques, but Carey provides the background and details that will allow teachers to say "here's what I'm doing, and here's why it works" to themselves, their students, colleagues, and administrators.

Why will I give chapter pre-tests from now on? To see how much students know? No. To have students see what they know before beginning a new unit? No. I'm going to give chapter pre-tests because studies have shown that even when students fail to answer the pre-test questions correctly, a seed is planted that changes the way a student interacts with the content of the upcoming chapter, with students who took pre-tests performing better on assessments than those students who did not take the pre-tests.
One other technique described in How We Learn relates to those of us who have year-end exams, such as state assessments, Advanced Placement Exams, and course final exams. Carey describes the "spacing effect," which calls for students to space out their studying in a unique way. He's not recommending that students study several days in a row leading up to their test, which many teachers have probably recommended to their students. Carey suggests that non-study days be inserted between study days leading up to a test. Research has shown that retention of information for the long term increases using this method, thus student performance on cumulative tests, such as year-end tests, increases.

Read How We Learn so you can apply the rest of what Carey presents in order for your students to learn more effectively.

Frank Franz
Madison High School
Vienna, Virginia

Saturday, September 20, 2014

You Can Now Pre-Order My Book!

We now have a definitive early January release date for my book, whose name has changed to "Deeper Learning Through Technology: Using the Cloud to Individualize Instruction."  The name pretty much says it all as I relate research, examples and explanatory tutorials to show you how to effectively use technology for both primary (technology being used in ways similar to paper and secondary (more of the book and ways to allow you to do things you cannot do without technology).   There are also five "teacher challenges" per chapter so that you and your PLCs could set goals for your teams to integrate the techniques into your classrooms and school.    

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Ken Burns' The Roosevelts Airs

PBS will begin airing The Roosevelts: an Intimate History tonight on most PBS stations and continue throughout the week, at least at WETA in Washington, DC.
Here are the first eight minutes of the 14 hour documentary.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Resources for Helping Students Understand ISIS

I've been surprised (shocked even) with how much my 9th graders know/want to know about ISIS. It's a difficult task because not only does includes history that is often overlooked but geography of a region that many adults are unfamiliar with as well.

In searching for resources to use in my classroom, I found this site from the NYT.  I also found and used this video with my students which talks about many of the basics and highlights areas of control. It also talks about Al-Qaeda, too.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Flipping Back to School Night

I started this last year and had a great deal of success with my AP courses.  I create a tinyurl ( ask my students to text their parents in class the video.  Most of my parents watched it beforehand and then came to class with their questions.  If you look at my World History Teachers Blog, I have suggestions for those of you who have non AP classes.

If you want to create your own flipped back to school night presentation, here is how to do it. 

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Remind Now Allows You To Record Assignments

This is a pretty cool addition for those of you who have Remind on your smartphone (iTunes, Android).  You can, as the video shows, record your student assignments for your kids to hear rather than read.  You can also attach assignments if you like.  If you look at this video you can set up and use Remind with your students.  

Monday, September 8, 2014

Free Online US History Textbook

We are in our fifth year of using an online textbook with our students and so it never ceases to amaze me that Pearson still isn't ready for prime time.  Every year at this point, when everyone is logging in their books, they can't handle the traffic.  Or the one that was really amused with was McGraw-Hill servicing their online books from Thursday - this morning after having had the entire summer to work on their shells.

Having said all that, I still believe that online books are the way to go, but not just because they are online.  Really I hope we are moving towards the days when books will be used as a resource and not the main source.  There are so many videos, links, images, documents online that a book should fill in the gaps or be the starting point.

But if you do want a book, here is one I worked on years ago called and it is not going to go down on your students and it is complete through about 2000.  

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Remind for Texts to Your Students

I have been using Remind (used to be called Remind101) for the past three years (in fact their CEO even wrote a nice blurb for my book which is coming out in a few months).  Students today do not use email very often, but cannot text enough to save their lives!  So when I started using Remind I found that the amount of homework among my standard (non AP/IB) students improved dramatically.  If you have students who do not have smartphones, the service also allows emails.  Additionally you can send a message to as few as three students.  

Friday, September 5, 2014

Jamestown Lesson Plan

Living only a few hours from Jamestown I am more versed in the lore of Jamestown (for example, the actual site is now under water).   So naturally I really like this lesson on the Jamestown settlement as it looks at a number of primary documents and then requires the student to write why the "starving time" occurred.   I found the lesson on

Monday, September 1, 2014

Colonial Video and Lesson Plan

My son just showed this video to me.  It is a nice overview of colonial American history.  There is also a link at the beginning of the video for a lesson plan to go with the video.   

Twitter Warm-up

So I always have a meet and greet on our first day of school, but tomorrow, thanks to @dougzywiol I am going more high tech (imagine that!) and having the kids Tweet their answers.  To do that yourself you can either create your own hashtag by putting a number a hashtag symbol besides a name (make sure others are using it first) and then have your kids add it in of their Tweets which is what I am going to do.  Alternatively you could just have the students write your Twitter handle in their Tweets.  I will then have the kids go to our hashtag and we will go through them.  For the kids who don't have Twitter, we'll just do it orally.   

Why Study History?

More often than not, the students who will walk in my classroom for the first time this coming Tuesday (yes I am getting excited for year #24) do not appreciate the reasons for studying history.  So the very first exercise we will carry out will be to consider why we should study it.  If you have a similar plan you might like the these two short clips.  The one above, your students will like best and the one above (only the first minute), you will appreciate more.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

How to Interview Someone Using a Google+ Hangout

If you are like me and all of your classes have a state or national exam at the end, you often feel somewhat pressed for time so bringing a speaker is not always something you can do until the end of the year.  But if you use a Google+ Hangout, you can bring someone in, limit the time they are "in" your room and share the live broadcast and or have it recorded to YouTube for later broadcasts. Above is a short video telling you how to do this.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

27 AP US Flip Videos

Here are twenty-seven flipped videos to go with AP US history.  You could use them to "give" your lectures and then do something more interactive in class or as a review site.  

Take My Tech Integration Course

I will be teaching the seventh version of my technology integration course with Fairfax County Public Schools this spring.  We will learn about such items as webquests, pacing your students individually using technology, flipping the classroom, using electronic textbooks, collaborating online, how to use Google Drive and lots more in a ten week course.  You can get more details here on page 43.  To sign up go to MyPLT (if you need help go to page 68) and put either the title or just a few words from the title or even e-mail me and I can add you to the class.  The sign-up period is from August 27th at 4 pm until September 10th.

The class will be on Thursdays from 4:30 to 7ish at Woodson.  It is free to FCPS employees, but if you live in the areas and are not in FCPS you can take it, but you have to pay for it (page 9).  The class fills up quickly, so if you are interested I would sign up sooner rather than later.  If you have questions, please e-mail me at 

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Twitter In-Service

Tomorrow I will be doing an in-service on using Twitter in the classroom.  My colleague, Doug Zywiol, joined my department last year having never used it before and attended my Twitter in-service. Now he is a force and will show you how to do warm-ups using Twitter while I will have a hands on demonstration on using Twitter for your PLN and how to use a hashtag for discussions.  We will be in room 228 during session A.  If you are not a FCPS teacher, use the video above to learn how to use Twitter.   If you prefer seeing it all written out, here is a great set of written instructions and below is a summary of them:

For your PLN, a great group to follow is listed below:
Ken Halla @kenhalla
Cool Cat Teacher @letytijerina
We Are Teachers @WeAreTeacher
Larry Ferlazzo @LarryFerlazzo
Eric Sheninger @NMHS_Principal
Richard Byrna @rmbryne
Shelly Terrell @ShellTerrell

For hashtags, go to this link to see how my classes use it for government discussions returns, presidential debates and reviewed for the exams.  Below is a list of hashtags you might want to follow.  Some other useful ones are #SSChat (social studies), #HistoryTeacher and #GeographyTeacher.  To find a hashtag, type in the # symbol plus the name in the search engine in Twitter and the conversation will appear.  If you want to be really blown away go here for the 300 most popular hashtags for educators.
Educational Chats: #edchat, #schools, #lrnchat, #TT (Teacher Tuesday), #GlobalEd
Technology Chats: #edtech, #elearning, #mlearning (mobile learning), #edapps, #gbl (games based learning), #islide2learn (iDevices & learning), #vitalcpt (effective use of tech in the classoom)

If you want to both follow a hashtag and Tweet at the same time, I'd suggest you use TweetChat.  Below is a video on how to use it.  

Flipped Classroom In-Service

Tomorrow I am teaching two sections of how to flip your classroom to Fairfax County (VA) teachers.  If you are coming, I will be in room 228 during sessions B and C.  If you aren't a teacher in Fairfax or if after our session, you want to watch how to do it again, above is an eight minute video detailing all of the steps and what to do in the classroom after you have done your flipping.  

The PowerPoint below has a number of great resources for more information on flipping.

Finally here is an example of a flipped video, the actual Google form we used and the interactive assignment that followed in class

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Flipped Videos

Soon I am doing an in-service on flipping for the social studies teachers in my county (which I will post later).  For now if you want to have flipped videos for US history above are two versions from the French and Indian War, one from John Green and the other from Hip Hughes.  Green is the award winning tween author and Hughes teaches in Buffalo.  

Friday, August 22, 2014

Teaching Thoughts

One of the more interesting education books I have read recently is "The Smartest Kids in the World."  Above is a very interesting interview "excerpt" where she mostly says Finland closed down its education schools and then only opened them again in the prestigious universities.  She even notes that technology is often missing in Finland and Korea (although I argue in my book that it is being used improperly as effectively a way to just digitize paper).

But what you might want to do is to look at the author, Amanda Ripley's blog which has a lot of stimulating articles.  You can also follow her on Twitter.  Food for thought to improve our craft.  

Thursday, August 21, 2014

British Burn Washington,1814: NPR Re-enacts

NPR re-enacts the burning of Washington in 1814 with this broadcast in which reporters around the city tell listeners what's happening.

Become an AP Reader

I have been grading different AP exams for well over a decade and have found it one of the most rewarding experiences of my professional life.  Yes it does get hard the fourth and fifth day of grading the same exam over and over (well some subjects like US train you in two), but the rewards are many.  I have a national network of friends whose collective brains I pick throughout the year, learn how to master an AP rubric and generally enjoy the places where we grade (San Antonio, Salt Lake City, Lincoln, Daytona Beach).  Perhaps the best thing, and the reason I go is so I can help my students "beat" the AP exam.  I must also say I am very efficient in grading throughout the year as being a grader has greatly improved my speed and the ability to find the exact mistakes the kids are making (which unlike the real AP exam I mark).

If you are interested, apply here by the end of September.  If you decide to go and they generally look for people in their third year - but last year government took people who had taught fewer - you will have your plane, hotel and food paid for the week and you will get an "honorarium." You will spend your first day learning the rubric, the grade for five full days and part of the a sixth one.  You work from 8 to 5 with two 15 minute breaks and an hour lunch.  Even if you think it would be miserable, I think you owe it to your students to try it once.