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.