Friday, January 18, 2008

Already 18 days into January, impossible!

Hi All-

Sorry that I missed you all at the meeting in December. I am really excited to be part of this group and have enjoyed reading all of your thoughts so far.

The first week in December, I had the opportunity to visit Charleston, South Carolina and visit a huge elementary school. I was struck by many differences while visiting down there, and one included any social studies related information displayed in their hallways.

As it was South Carolina, when I passed a bulletin board about the Revolutionary War, I was interested to see that Francis Marion ("The Swamp Fox") was prominently displayed as an important figure. Francis Marion is someone that I don't even talk about anymore since the revision of the Frameworks. He might only come up in conversation with students who have seen the movie, "The Patriot". That got me thinking about the true importance of some people, and mistakes and myths often associated with famous figures in history.

I would love to recommend to you, two excellent books that I had the opportunity to read in the TAH bookclubs. The first book club was read last year and was titled "Founding Myths". It was written by Ray Raphael. As a teacher of American History at any level, this book will blow your mind. Raphael uses tons of evidence to dispel many of the things that we teach, and proclaims them myth. There are specific chapters on beloved figures such as Paul Revere and "Molly Pitcher" , and even places and battles like Valley Forge and Bunker Hill.

I would also recommend to people the book that we just completed for our most recent TAH read. This book ,"Revolutionary Mothers, also focused on somewhat mythical women of the Revolution, but also gave excellent background information on little discussed female groups, like African-American and Native American perspectives. In just one year, both of these books have reshaped my thoughts and approaches to the teaching of the American Revolution.

The opportunity to be part of these book clubs has been phenomenal. Last year, the group was comprised of teachers in grades 3-12. It was an amazing privilege to spend time with, and get to know my colleagues at middle school and high school. Such amazing conversations of students and history was had (and a lot of laughs too).

If people have not had the chance to be part of these groups, I encourage all to participate next year.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Teacher Fellows

Recently some of the Encounters and Exchanges in U.S. History Teacher Fellows have posted to the Encounters and Exchanges Blog.

With an emphasis on supporting and sharing TAH Grant related content and activities, during Years Two and Three, the project intends to utilize a few select Encounters and Exchanges in U.S. History Teacher Fellows from each participating district.

Teacher Fellows' responsibilities include a commitment to Encounters and Exchanges Grant programming, informal in-house guidance and support to American history teachers in their school/district, the posting of four blog entries that highlight how they are utilizing TAH content and strategies with students or other teachers, and a presentation of a lesson plan/instructional strategy for teaching American history at the Encounters and Exchanges in U.S. History Annual Conference on April 18, 2008.

Look for Teacher Fellows' blog postings in February, March, and June.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

PowerPoints with Art/Photos as Primary Sources

Happy New Year!

As teachers, we are always pressed for time. Here’s a tip with a lot of bang for the buck. It combines a great teacher created site containing excellent PowerPoints with another site that has countless ways to not only incorporate but analyze primary sources, especially photographs.

During one of the technology workshops from Year One of the Encounters and Exchanges in U.S. History grant, I was introduced to (see link below) This site was created and is meticulously maintained by Ms. Susan M. Pojer, a High School AP History teacher at the Horace Greely High School in Chappaqua, New York. This home page offers thousands of links to newspapers, writing guides, government information, online references, and more. I have found her online collection of PowerPoints extremely useful. She has titled it PowerPoint Palooza. (see link below) She has hundreds of PowerPoints already created. I have contacted her and asked for permission to use them. She graciously emailed back and simply asked to be credited as the creator. I teach at the Middle School level, so I usually edit her PowerPoints to suit my needs.

One of my favorite PowerPoints from Ms. Pojer’s collection focuses on the Italian Renaissance. I often use art and pictures in my class as teaching tools, as they are great ways to utilize primary sources. There are many methods and templates for using and analyzing primary sources. I was introduced to a new site recently by Pat Fontaine, Professor of Education at UMass Lowell, who is working with the TAH grant. offers an online primary source handbook. (see link below) The handbook has useful links for teachers just beginning to use primary sources, while also offering new ideas and templates for teachers who are already familiar with primary sources. The handbook contains lesson ideas, best practices, teaching materials, LibraryQuests, and a host of other gems. I found the most useful teaching materials on the site to be analysis worksheets including: Photograph Analysis Worksheet, Map Analysis Worksheet and Music Analysis Worksheet.
PrimarySourceLearning Handbook