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10 Reasons to Teach History

When I interview folks who want to teach n Henrico County, I always ask, "Why do you want to teach history?" Not why do they want to teach, but history, specifically? Usually I hear, "I'm passionate about history." While that's a fine answer, passion doesn't often last. This blog from "Why Teach History" has a good list of 10 reasons:

  1. History gives students an opportunity to develop basic skills: reading, writing, and analytical thinking.
  2. History helps students better understand the society in which they live.
  3. History helps students better understand human beings, and in the process of understanding others, students can better understand themselves as individuals.
  4. History helps students understand people who are different.
  5. History allows students to gain perspective and learn to see a bigger picture.
  6. History can inspire students.
  7. History can provide students with a reason for being; it can give meaning to their lives.
  8. History can help students feel a sense of connection.
  9. History is entertaining and fun.
  10. History allows students to dream and wonder; it gives them the opportunity to imagine a better future.

This link gives a full description of each reason.

Prevention Project

I've mentioned Prevention Project a number of times in the newsletters, and a few teachers have used the curriculum in their classrooms over the last two years as a pilot. Well, the curriculum is finally set and ready to go. As a reminder, the Prevention Project is about Modern Day Slavery. It discusses the role human trafficking plays in society today, the size of it, and how students can prevent themselves and friends from becoming a victim (our middle and high school students are the prime age group for being targeted).

If you teach an elective or want to go in-depth with a modern problem, this is perfect for your class. It uses video, discussion, and a call to action for your class. It's easy to use and will engage your students.

If you have any questions, let me know. They can even come to your school if you want to discuss this with you.

Blooms and History

As history teachers, we ask questions to find out what a learner knows and to encourage analytical thinking. Benjamin Bloomʼs Taxonomy of Educational Objectives provides us with a framework for developing a solid questioning strategy.

Level One — Knowledge

• The Level of Simple Recall: Questions ask for factual information. Answers are either right or wrong.

• Begin questions or commands with the following words: define, repeat, record, list, recall, name, relate, underline.

• Example: Name the president of the United States during the Civil War.

Level Two — Comprehension

• The Level of Understanding: Questions ask for reasons. Answers are usually right or wrong.

• Begin questions or commands with the following words: translate, restate, discuss, recognize, explain, express, identify, locate, report, review, tell.

• Example: Explain the primary causes of the Civil War.

Level Three — Application

• The Level of Usage: Questions usually ask for ways to use knowledge and allow for individual creativity. There many be more than one correct answer.

• Begin questions or commands with the following words: interpret, apply, employ, use, demonstrate, dramatize, practice, illustrate, operate, recreate, role play, schedule, shop, sketch

• Example: Role play a debate in the U.S. Senate over the Kansas-Nebraska Act.

Level Four — Analysis

• The Level of Relationships and Intent: Questions ask for comparisons to be made or for component parts of an idea to be developed. Answers are more divergent and personal.

• Begin questions or commands with the following words: distinguish, analyze, calculate, experiment, test, compare, contrast, criticize, diagram, inspect, debate, inventory, question, relate, solve, examine, categorize.

• Example: Compare and contrast Franklin Rooseveltʼs New Deal with Lyndon Johnsonʼs Great Society.

Level Five — Synthesis

• The Level of Ideas: Questions ask students for ideas for new or different solutions to problems. Answers are creative and divergent; there is no one correct answer.

• Begin questions or commands with the following words: compose, plan, propose, design, formulate, arrange, assemble, collect, construct, create, set up, organize, manage, prepare.

• Example: Construct a plan for reforming the American political process.

Level Six — Evaluation

• The Level of Judgement: Questions ask students to make value judgments about ideas of their own or others. Answers are very personal, divergent, and sometimes argumentative.

• Begin questions or commands with the following words: judge, appraise, evaluate, rate, revise, score, assess, estimate, choose, measure, select, value.

• Example: Assess the relative importance of foreign and domestic affairs in shaping the election of 1968.

Student Growth Measures

As we come toward the end of the year, a reminder for everyone and Student Growth Measures. For the first one, the multiple choice test, please make sure you've taught all the SOLs on the test. We were hoping that this would be around the end of the 3rd marking period, but with the snow, that might not be true. So download the tests you need, and give the SGM after you've taught all the material. Remember to download the post-tests, those without the "e) I don't know" option.

For the second one, please make sure you create an environment for success. Make sure your students have time to complete the assignment and that there aren't distractions in class.

VCSS Conference

This year's state Social Studies conference will be held in Tysons Corner in Northern Virginia on October 24 and 25. Right now, the Virginia Council of the Social Studies is accepting presentation proposals. If you'd like to present, please click this link.

Furthermore, if you'd like to join VCSS, you can do so here. Belonging to a professional organization helps you in many ways: 1) you learn more about what you can do in your profession and opportunities open to you; 2) it builds your resume; 3) gives you a way to contribute to your profession. You can join here.

You can also join the National Council of Social Studies here.

2014 Drop-a-Thon

Part two of the Drop-a-Thon begins today! Last time, we went from zero to 2.7 gigs (100s of files) of resources shared in our Dropbox. That's great news for people looking for resources.

However, most of this is first semester material. So I'm now asking teachers to drop second semester material and SOL review material.

This newsletter is global (one guy in China), so email me for a username and password.

What to share:
· Power Points
· Flip Charts
· Worksheets
· Notes
· Exam View files
· Project ideas

General Rules:
· If you use anything from the dropbox, please give back to the dropbox
· If you already see 3 Power Points for SOL VUS.4a, you don’t need to add a 4th VUS.4a power point
· If you’re putting something in the dropbox, you know people may alter it to fit their own needs
· Always give credit for someone else’s work when possible
· If you borrowed from someone, and you know who’s it is (maybe their name is on the Power Point), email them a Thank You!

Teacher Opportunities

JMU History and Social Science Content Academy

SOL Social Studies Content Academy at James Madison University. The academy will be held Monday, June 23, 2014 – Friday June 27, 2014. The 6-12 Social Studies Academy will examine pivotal periods in history and will explore innovative teaching strategies for middle and secondary social studies classrooms in a collaborative environment. Participants will engage in sessions that provide historical content followed by hands on sessions that examine various applied learning activities, including discussions of differentiated learning approaches that provide the tools for students to learn and to do history in the classroom. Emphasis will be placed on developing better historical thinking skills, particularly improving the interpretation of various primary sources.

More information here.

Check out these opportunities for teachers:

Henricus Historical Park

Eisenhower Summer Institute (not free)

History and Revisionism

Instructional Ideas

Click here to go to the HCPS SOL Resources WikiPage

Digital resources for SOL courses including state guidelines, online textbooks, and other resources to use in the classroom.

Civil Rights and the 1950s: Crash Course US History #39


For Econ/Personal Finance class, the game SPENT give students the opportunity to see what it's like to live a month on minimum wage. Play it yourself first to see if it is appropriate. It's done by the Urban Ministries of Durham. It's not preachy, but asks for a donation to feed people at the end.

Six Degrees of Separation

We've all heard of the Kevin Bacon game and Six Degrees of Separation. But have you thought of it as a teaching activity? It's pretty simple: have the students connect two pieces of history, two people, or a combination that are separated by a certain number of years.

For example, connecting John Adams to the Sandra Day O'Connor:

  • John Adams appointed John Marshall to the Supreme Court
  • In 1928, John Marshall was replaced by William McKinley in the $500
  • McKinley sent Pershing to war in 1898
  • John Pershing was a mentor to Dwight D. Eisenhower
  • Eisenhower nominated Potter Stewart to the Supreme Court
  • Potter Stewart was replaced by Sandra Day O'Connor to the bench

Admittedly, that was a tough one. But that's what you can do with this. Make it as easy or difficult as you want. One hard one can equal two easy one for points. You can either give students the random connections or have them make it up.

It teaches them research skills and creative thinking. It can also help them review past material.

Dueling Documents

In a past newsletter, I discussed the idea of "Double Exposure," where students dissected two divergent photos to investigate history. In Dueling Documents, students do the same thing, but with primary source readings.

For example:

1. Select a topic for exploration (e.g. slave life).

2. Gather two documents that offer competing descriptions of a(n) person, event, institution, society etc. For example,

Document A = a former slave describes the experience of slavery as one of unrelenting horror in which slaves are viewed as passive objects.

Document B = a former slave describes his or her life as a subject who exhibited agency and crafted moments of joy despite the evil that existed.

3. Jigsaw: Split the class into halves. Divide students in both halves into small groups and distribute Document A to some groups and Document B to other groups.

4. Have students read and analyze their document and discuss the following in their small groups: What does this document suggest about the topic (e.g. slavelife)?

5. Take students who analyzed Document A and pair them off with students who analyzed Document B. Ask each student in the paired group to describe the conclusions they drew from their photograph. If the photographs are well selected, students should arrive at competing conclusions.

6. Tell the students that they are now going to play a game of Dueling Documents. Explain that they have two documents that are competing to tell the story of the past (e.g. what slave life was like). Their task is to decide which document should win the duel. Ask them to discuss the following questions as they decide which document wins the duel:

which source is “best?” Why”

which conclusion about the past is "best?” Why?

7. Ask each group to explain which document won the duel and why?

8. Debrief: Ask why might historians arrive at different conclusions about the past? Explain that history is filled with different interpretations. One reason for the different interpretations is that historians often rely on different pieces of evidence (e.g. photographs) to construct their accounts. However, your experiences with the documents suggest that there may be more than one story about the past.

Idea from here.


Please make sure you get the Flocabulary link from your department chair and sign up. Once you do, you'll see videos and songs for your content area (US History, World History, and Civics/Government), quizzes, printable lyrics, questions to ask, and more.

There is also a student password for them to use the site at home.

Let me know what you think.

Trivia and Other Balderdash

Trivia: Teachers- 13 and Mike- 8

Last Week: No winners this week. The Answer was Constantinople. The clues:

  • I'm over 1500 years old, but only 84. Constantinople is over 1500 years old, but was renamed to Istanbul 84 years ago.
  • I came before James K. Polk. On the album, Flood by They Might Be Giants, the song, "Istanbul (Not Constantinople) is track #1. James K, Polk is song #2.
  • Tony Reali probably didn't go around this one. Tony Reali hosts, "Around the Horn" on ESPN. Constantinople is on the "Golden Horn."

This week:

  • The first to plant an American flag
  • Was "married" to an Inuit
  • 90, 0

History in the News

Below are current event stories that most likely will end up in a textbook one day. My narrative will link to stories and give you an idea on how to approach the subject in class. If you have a current event that I've missed, let me know.

  • Affordable Care Act: Now that the law seems secure, it's probably secured a place in future textbooks, alongside Social Security, Medicaid, and Medicare. Since this could directly affect students, especially those about to graduate, understanding the concept of insurance will be as important as the history of the law's passage.


Fair Wages: A History of Getting Paid by BackStory