Category Archives: Social Studies

Historic Tale Construction Kit

I was in an admittedly unwarranted foul mood this morning while I wracked my brains for a blog post. I have plenty of ideas, but none of them felt “right” for today. Then I ran across this Twitter thread I had saved, originated by Professor Annie Oakley Rides Again (@ProfAnnieOakley) and couldn’t stop laughing at all of the replies. The professor let her art history students use the “Historic Tale Construction Kit,” and once she shared the link with her Twitter followers to this tool hilarity ensued. Click on the image below to see some of the responses in the thread. (Warning: some images are not suitable for children.)

I know you’ll want to try it, too. To add text, click on the background. (May not work on mobile phones.) A few of the images are a bit gruesome, but I know my high school students would have had a blast with this. Some teachers have their students use memes to make rules for the classroom, and this would be a fun alternative. Retelling a modern tale or current event in this setting could also result in some creative products. As you can see in the example below, Margaret McLarty (@MagsMcLarty) designed a Queen-inspired tapestry.

designed by @MagsMcLarty using Historic Tale Construction Kit

Tag me if you or your students design something clever with this tool!

Merge Mercy with Might

UPDATE 1/25/2021: Here is a collection of resources to use if your class is studying Amanda Gorman or Inauguration poetry.

If you couldn’t tell from Monday’s post, I had already fallen in love with the poetry of Amanda Gorman. When our nation’s first Youth Poet Laureate read “The Hill We Climb” at the Inauguration today, I was moved to tears. Her words acknowledge the weight we carry while simultaneously lifting us almost effortlessly to a peak where we can look all around and see new hope. The poem declares that we can be strong as we admit our faults, and move on to correct them in a way that will both heal and empower us.

I added the link to the PBS New Hour lesson that was posted almost immediately following Gorman’s recitation to my list of Inauguration resources, but I wanted to give it a separate place here. For teaching ideas and a transcript of the poem, follow this link. Introduce this incredibly gifted young woman to your students because they are sure to hear more from her in the future.

Inauguration Day Lessons

UPDATE 1/20/2021: My friend, Suzanne H. gave me another resource to add to this list, 8 Videos to Teach the Inauguration Process. Also, PBS immediately released a lesson plan for the poem written and read by Amanda Gorman at the Inauguration, “The Hill We Climb.”

With only two more days until the United Stated Presidential Inauguration on January 20, 2021, most of you probably have decided on your lesson plans for the week. However, for those of you who like to fly by the seat of your pants or don’t mind doing a little tweaking when you see something that suits your needs better, here are some lessons you should definitely consider.

Discovery Education is doing an Inauguration Day Virtual Field Trip on 1/19/2021 at 12 PM ET. Dr. Jill Biden will be one of the special guests presenting. If you and your class are unable to attend, don’t despair. There are plenty of other lesson resources on this page from Discovery that you can use for grades K-12.

iCivics has a lesson plan for The First 100 Days that includes a customizable Google Slide Deck.

For grades 9-12, you may want to try this PBS lesson to “Write Your Own Inauguration Speech.”

Although the EdSitement lesson, “I Do Solemnly Swear” is listed for K-12, the activities look more appropriate for upper elementary through middle school.

You might want to focus on the history of poetry that is read at presidential inaugurations, and discuss the work of this year’s inaugural poet, 22 year old Amanda Gorman. What does it mean, if anything, that there was no poet invited to speak at Donald Trump’s inauguration?

If nothing else, I encourage you to watch and listen to Amanda Gorman reading from one of her poems below, “The Miracle of Morning.” Though this is not the one she has written for the inauguration, it very well could be the magnificent anthem of hope that all of us need.

Native American Heritage Month

In last week’s anti-racist post, I spoke about how the company Analytic Orange is revolutionizing history curriculum by ensuring multiple perspectives are included in its materials. One example is the materials for 4th grade classes in Utah that they have created to teach about the Navajo culture. During the month of November, 2020, which has been declared Native American Heritage Month in the United States, I think that it is important to acknowledge the work that we need to do to correct the over-generalizations and stereotypes regarding Native Americans that have been the norm in classrooms throughout the years, especially when we approach the holiday of Thanksgiving.

One of my good friends shared an excellent resource from PBS to use in the classroom to teach about the Wampanoag tribe, which interacted with the Pilgrims. It was the first link I added to my Thanksgiving Wakelet for this year because I felt it was so important to include the “real story” about the first Thanksgiving. We also need to educate our children about different tribes and their unique cultures, instead of perpetuating the beliefs that all Native Americans lived in teepees, wore headdresses, and were, supposedly the other 364 days of the year, warmongers.

Wyoming PBS has produced materials for that state’s students to learn more about the two tribes that reside there – the Shoshone and the Arapaho – in a unit called, “Why Teach Native American History?” The short video on the page emphasizes the points that I made above regarding stereotypes.

Another place to start is, “Rethinking Native Stories in Classrooms,” by Debbie Reese. She recommends books to read that offer more realistic representations of Native Americans. She also advises that students should learn about specific tribes, and that we should talk about Native Americans in the present tense so we don’t imply that there are no longer Native Americans in our country.

For more resources, as well as a calendar of specific events that will be celebrated throughout the month, I encourage you to visit the Native American Heritage Month website. I would also like to invite you to look at this post written by my friend, Joelle Trayers, with excellent picture book suggestions for culturally sensitive Native American units. And, if you are looking for my past anti-racist posts, you can find them all linked on this Wakelet.

image of Wampanoag winter home replica shared by Brian Herzog on Flickr

Make Your Own Time Capsule

If you have not discovered the Smithsonian Learning Lab yet, you are in for a great surprised. Here are some of the previous posts that I’ve written about the quality educational programming SLL provides. One of their latest projects is to offer a monthly challenge. For this month, it is to “Make Your Own Time Capsule.” I think that most of us would agree that this is definitely a year for the history books, and that describing it to future generations would be a lot more helpful with artifacts. Whether you endeavor to do this at home or at school, the Learning Lab gives you the resources to do it.

You can begin by using the Learning Lab Collection that explains what a time capsule is, and the history of them. Then you can look at a carefully curated sample collection from the National Postal Museum for the year of 1918 – when airmail began (the same year the Armistice was signed, ending World War I, which was the impetus behind our celebration of Veterans Day in the United States). Finally, you can watch a video that shows a unique way to make your very own time capsule. (You may need to be logged in to view these resources. Registration is free.)

With historical and scientific connections, you could easily bring in math and language arts to make this an interdisciplinary unit that would be engaging and relevant for your students – perhaps during those challenging weeks between the end of November and the winter holidays?

If you do something that you would like to share with the world during the challenge period (November 10 – December 8, 2020) , be sure to tag it #SmithsonianEdu.

© Copyright Oliver Dixon and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

Veterans Day 2020

My heart is full of gratitude for the men and women who have served, currently serve, and intend to serve in our military. During a year that has caused many of us to re-examine our definition of freedom and to consider the sacrifices we are willing to make for the benefit of our country, November 11, 2020 should be a day of celebration of our veterans and a reminder of the hardships they endure.

If you are still looking for resources to share with your class this Veteran’s Day, I have a Wakelet list that I have curated here. It includes a BrainPop video for Veterans Day as well as some wonderful poetry ideas and three ways to give thanks through Operation Gratitude, along with many other ideas.

Also, although it’s not specifically a Veterans Day lesson, here is a link to an activity I did with my students a couple of years ago on “War,” which integrates one of the StoryCorps Veterans Day videos.

Thank you to all veterans and your families for your service to our country.

Image by Anita S. from Pixabay