Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Teaching American History Project Directors' Conference, Washington D.C.

I had an amazing time at the Teaching American History Directors' Conference in Washington D.C. that took place from August 8-11, 2011. In addition to the fabulous classes I was able to attend,  I had the opportunity to take a few "field trips" to visit various museums while in the area and was truly inspired by the incredible displays and exhibits.

In order to process what I learn, it helps for me to reflect on the key points, and then jot down a brief summary.  The following are summaries of a few of the classes I attended while at the conference:

African American Struggle for Equality, Modeling an Inquiry Based Approach to Common Core
  • Explore African American agency in the struggle for freedom
  • Access key digital primary sources at Library of Congress
  • Explain inquiry based approach to primary sources
  • Understand  inquiry based approach to primary sources supports the Common Core Standards  for Literacy
Inquiry Based Learning Model Using Audio Files
As participants, we had the opportunity to listen to an audio recording of an interview with Fountain Hughes.
When doing this activity with students, guide the discussion as follows:
  • Observe, describe what you hear, what can you tell about the person?
  • Reflect, what was purpose of recording, who do you think recorded it, why, what kind of equipment was used for the recording?
  • Question, who, what, when?
  • Consider when to provide context needed, follow up, what questions arise?  

Inquiry Based Learning Model Using Illustrations:
  • Connect- Identify 3 objects in the picture, what is the person wearing? Is this a photo or painting
  • Wonder-what 3 questions would you like to ask this person? Is there anything out of the ordinary in this picture?
  • Investigate-where could we look to find more information about this picture? What is this person's role in history? What was the role of the African American in the Union army? (big question)
  • Construct-use the evidence you found, what is going on in the picture
  • Express-create a presentation for others with the role of the African American in mind
  • Reflect-what questions remain?

Inquiry Approach is Supported through Common Core State Standards
(2010 initiative of National Governors)
  • History CCSS
  • Fall under English language arts
  • Focus on literacy
  • Supplement history state content standards
  • Four standards total
  • Key ideas and details
  • Craft and structure
  • Integration of knowledge & ideas
  • Range of reading

What they are and are not:
  • Not  content, focus on current state standards
  • Are-skills based,
  • Are scaffolded by grade

Example of performance based assessment
  • Read and review three documents
  • Answer questions below in essay form
  • Provide prior knowledge


The Busy Project Directors Toolkit: Teachinghistory.org
This website is a great "go-to" resource for any educator who is interested in accessing content and pedagogy resources, not just project directors! During the workshop, the presenters highlighted these aspects of the website:

History Content
Website review section can be searched by topic, time periods, includes at a glance, links, bookmark backpack,can search multimedia for content
Ask a Historian links for specific questions that are archived and ability to ask new questions
Beyond the Textbook, central question, what does textbooks, historians, and sources say? Idea for teachers to create their own "beyond the textbook"
Weekly history quiz,search by topic or key word, online and PDF version available
Best Practices
Historical thinking and using primary resources
Examples of historical thinking Link to interviews, Example of slave receipts, this example was a form with standardized wording that could be completed by filling in blanks, make connections with places on receipt and map
Teaching In Action linka to various classrooms and what students are doing during instruction, will include the historical thinking skills being utilized
Teaching Materials
Lesson Plan Reviews, rubrics for indicators for strong plan for history content, analytical thinking, scaffolding, and lesson structure
Lesson plan gateway
English language learners
Teaching Guides, Adapting Documents
Digital Classroom
Tech for Teachers, Presentations (Glogster), Wallwisher.com (online bulletin board', scribbler.com interactive whiteboard, prezi
Beyond the Chalkboard filming in the classroom, Skyping, Twitter, Voice Thread
Ask a Digital Historian
Other Resources Discussed
National Archives
Live Binders
Stanford historical thinking

Using Web 2.0 Technology
Web 2.0 technology allows us to gain access to experts throughout the world and to collaborate with one another in our research. The following are a few examples:

 Increase Content Knowledge-
History Scholars & Online Seminars http://americainclass.org/seminars/

 Collaboration and Interactive Book Studies-
Virtual Bookshelf http://www.gurulib.com/

Interactive Map, pin stories, pictures on map-History Pin
Google Books
Google Forms

The Barber of Birmingham, Professional Development that Transfers into Classroom Practice
The purpose of this class was to demonstrate how documentaries can be utilized in the classroom as "well told stories" of important historical events. Just as in any story, a documentary includes the following components:
  • Exposition (context,, and background information)
  • Crisis (trigger, catalyst, cause of change in course)
  • Conflict (challenges, obstacles)
  • Climax (turning point)
  • Resolution (outcome)
Initially we reviewed the above components with the well told story "The Wizard of Oz". We then viewed the documentary "The Barber of Birmingham" and noted the same components of a well told story were part of this documentary, a barber's reflections on how far we had come from fighting for the right to vote for African Americans to recently electing an African American as the President of the United States. Be viewing and discussing the film, it provided numerous opportunities to apply critical thinking skills as we examined the various components of the story structure. Ultimately the goal is to have students become so comfortable with analyzing documentaries, they are able to create their own "well told story" through a documentary.  Additional information about the film Barber of Birmingham, Foot Soldier of the Civil Rights Movement  is available on their website.

Best Practices for Special Education and ESL/ELL US History Instruction
The presenters modeled a classroom simulation, and we as participants took on the role as students. We worked in cooperative groups to sequence events on a sentence strip. Once the groups agreed on the sequence, they would be provided documents to read together in order to win a "date" card that would help confirm whether or not the sequence of events on the sentence strip was correct. Additional resources/activities can be found on the American Social History Project website.

Thinking Like a Historian: Using Primary Sources to Explore Point of View
Danna Bell Russel and Cheryl Lederele from the Library of Congress provided the participants with hands-on experience in examining and analyzing primary source documents related to Abraham Lincoln's assassination. They modeled how to ask questions with our students when asking them to analyze primary source documents. Initially questions such as "What do you see? What do your reflect on? and What else do you want to know?' can serve as openers for the discussion. To continue the discussion, questions such as "Who was the author or creator? When was it created? Why was it created? and What else was happening when it was created? can be posed. It is also important to expose them to multiple sources so that they can compare/contrast the different perspectives of the event. Additional resources are available through the Library of Congress.

Learning to Think Like a History Teacher
Bob Bain, University of Michigan, encouraged us to be students of history teaching and learning and to systematically study our own teaching and to treat the classroom as a historical event and to use the records and artifacts of teaching and student learning as part of that process. There are challenges to teaching history because there is so much content to be covered, and the textbooks are often fragmented. Our goal is to help improve student think more like historians by focusing on higher order thinking. How do philosophers of history decide what is important? Frame problems to drive the investigation and to determine what is important, select and use evidence from sources, study the events, think inside the event as well as examine other events that help frame the context. One practical strategy to begin this thinking process is to ask them to determine what ten things they think would be important to include in a time capsule, then explain the difference between the top three and bottom three. Take these reasons to generate discussion about how historians determine what events are significant.

Field Trips
I highly recommend visiting the following museums when in D.C!
Spy Museum
Smithsonian, National Portrait Gallery, American Origins