.








Monday, February 29, 2016

Nominate Local History Leaders For Montana Historical Society Award

It's the season! Right on the heels of our call for nominations for the Centennial Bell Montana History Teacher of the Year Awards I received this call for nominations. It is a great opportunity to honor someone from your community who deserves recognition as a local heritage keeper.

The Montana Historical Society Board of Trustees is seeking nominations from across the state to receive their 2016 Heritage Keepers Awards at the 43rd annual Montana History Conference in Hamilton this September.

“When you visit communities across the state and ask a question about local history, inevitably, the person you ask will direct you to someone he or she knows will have the answer,” MHS Trustees President Bob Brown said. “That ‘go to’ history person is the one we want to be nominated.”

The Heritage Keepers Award honors exemplary work, commitment, and effort in identifying, preserving and presenting the history and heritage of Montana for current and future generations. Nominations must be submitted by March 15.

Nominations can include living individuals, or a group that has significantly contributed to the ongoing preservation and/or education of Montana history with a statewide, regional or community focus.

That can include written history, preservation of artifacts and historic properties, education programs or other things that enrich the history of the area. Documents, photos, letters of support and other evidence of the person or group’s efforts can be submitted.

Two Heritage Keepers Awards will be presented, one from the eastern part of the state and one from the west. The full 15-member Board of Trustees from across the state will vote on the winners.

Find the nomination form here and the list of past awardees here.

For more information or to submit the nominations contact Joy Lewis at 406-444-1799 or email at jlewis@mt.gov.      

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Nominate a Teacher for the Centennial Bell Award

Do you know a great 7th-12th grade teacher who has done an exemplary job teaching Montana history during the 2015-2016 school year?  Please nominate him or her for the 27th Montana Statehood Centennial Bell Award.

To nominate a 7th-12th grade Montana history teacher, email Norma Ashby at ashby7@q.com.  Please include the following information:

*  Your name
*  Your email
*  Nominee’s name
*  Nominee’s email
*  Grade Level
*  School Name
*  School address
*  School phone number
*  Principal’s name
*  Principal’s email
*  Nominations are due by March 24, 2016

Nominated teachers will be asked to submit two letters of support (one from their principal, superintendent, other administrator, or fellow teacher) and one from a student, and a one-to-two page statement detailing the following:

1. Why they enjoy teaching Montana history
2. How they engage their students in learning
3. How their Montana history course recognizes Montana’s cultural diversity
4. Anything else they’d like to share about their class or methods.

Nominees will receive more instructions on how to submit this material after March 24, 2016.  They will have until May 4, 2016 to submit their material.

The winner and his or her class will be honored at a ceremony in the state capitol on Monday, November 7, 2016. The winner will receive a plaque and $2,500 toward library and classroom materials, field trips, speakers and anything else that will enhance learning in the classroom.

This program is sponsored by the Montana Television Network, the Montana History Foundation and the Sons & Daughters of Montana Pioneers in cooperation with the Montana Historical Society. The Award is given in odd numbered years to a 4th-6th grade Montana history teacher and in even numbered years to a 7th-12th grade Montana history teacher.


Please contact Norma Ashby of Great Falls, Montana, with any questions about the award or the nomination process at 406-453-7078 or at ashby7@q.com. Thank you for your help in honoring the best teachers of Montana history in the state.

Monday, February 22, 2016

April Educator Workshops in Great Falls, Billings, Miles City, and Sidney

Mark your calendars and tell your friends! The Montana Historical Society is going on the road with four educator workshops, at venues across the state.
First up is “Teaching Montana’s Charlie Russell: A Workshop for Educators,” cosponsored by the C.M. Russell Museum, Great Falls. 
Place: C. M. Russell Museum, 400 13th Street North, Great Falls, Montana
Date: April 21, 2016
Time: 8:30 a.m. - 3:30 p.m.
6 OPI Renewal Units available
Register here.
View schedule.
Limit: 40 people

Topics will include Visual Thinking Strategies, C. M. Russell’s rich biography, and Common Core aligned Russell-related lesson plans. The workshop is free and attendees can earn 6 OPI Renewal Units. Registration is limited to 40 participants. 
Next we're heading to Billings (April 27), Miles City (April 28), and  Sidney (April 29) with "Crossing Disciplines: Social Studies, Art, and the Common Core." 


Billings (Cosponsored by the Yellowstone Art Museum)
    Place: 401 N 27th St
    Date: April 27, 2016
    Time: 8:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m.

Miles City (Cosponsored by the WaterWorks Art Museum)
    Place: 85 Waterplant Road
    Date: April 28, 2016
    Time: 8:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m.


Sidney (Cosponsored by MonDak Heritage Center)
    Place: 120 3rd Ave SE
    Date: April 29, 2016
    Time: 8:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m.
Cosponsored and held at local museums, these workshop are targeted to 4-12 teachers interested in meeting Common Core ELA and Math standards while engaging students in active learning.
The morning will be spent on Visual Thinking Strategies, a technique that uses teacher-facilitated discussions of art images to train students in “key behaviors sought by Common Core Standards: thinking skills that become habitual and transfer from lesson to lesson, oral and written language literacy, visual literacy, and collaborative interactions among peers.” (VTShome.org)
In the afternoon, participants will be introduced to ready-to-use cross-disciplinary lesson plans from the Montana Historical Society, including lessons inspired by Charles M. Russell’s art, a primary-source based exploration of homesteading, and a lesson that engages students in collecting and analyzing survey data to learn change over time.
Attendees at all the workshops will leave with a Teaching Charlie Russell packet that includes fifteen prints, PowerPoints, and grade-specific art-, ELA-, and social studies-themed lesson plans as well as information on how to access all of the Montana Historical Society’s free primary-source based lessons. 
The workshops are free but space is limited. 6 OPI Renewal Units available. 
Learn more, view the agendas, and find the links to register here. 

This is the first time we've tried something like this--so please help us spread the word. Questions? Don't hesitate to contact me.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Using Primary Sources with Elementary Students

The post "Kindergarten Historians: Primary Sources in an Early Elementary Classroom" reminded me that, when done right, primary sources can be powerful tools to bring history alive in early elementary classrooms.

The caveat, of course, is "done right." The Library of Congress's TPS Quarterly offers a list of hints for choosing appropriate sources for elementary students here.

We have a few lesson plans aimed at younger students (K-3) on our website. Linda Oesterle, who attended our weeklong, NEH-funded workshop on mining, "The Richest Hills," in 2011, created the kindergarten lesson plan "Long Ago and Today," in which students examine photographs of the past and present to compare today and long ago. (See more lesson plans created by Richest Hills scholars here and learn more about NEH summer workshops for teachers here--deadline to apply is March 1.)

"The Art of Storytelling: Plains Indian Perspectives" includes art/IEFA lesson plans on winter counts and ledger art for grades K-3 and 4-6 (and 7-12, too). Packets with these lesson plans were sent to every Montana public school library in 2012--and are also available on our website.

Montana's Charlie Russell also includes lessons for all ages. Particularly, we've heard rave reviews from a Bozeman first grade teacher about her students' response to "An Artist's Journey: Transform Paintings to Poetry." (This packet was also sent to all Montana public school libraries and is also available to download from our website--but we also have copies to send to interested classroom teachers. So if you want one send a request (along with your snail mail address) to mhseducation@mt.gov.

Although they are designed for fourth grade, I know several 1st-3rd grade teachers who use of our hands-on history footlockers. Focusing on a range of topics, footlockers are filled with reproductions of clothing, tools, everyday objects, maps, and photographs. They are available to Montana educators for two weeks at a time. No rental fee is charged for the use of footlockers. However, schools are responsible for the cost of shipping the footlocker to the next venue.

K-3 teachers: Do you use primary sources in your classroom? If you have tips (or cautions), send them along and I'll share them!

P.S. Billings librarian Ruth Ferris just alerted me to an app that lets converts a picture of sheet music (for example, from the Library of Congress's sheet music collection) into something your Ipad can recognize and play (though not perfectly). This seems to me as if it could be a great tool to help your students "time travel"--and has potential for both elementary and upper grades.  More here.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Deadlines for Summer Workshops Are Fast Approaching

I've already posted information about the NEH Summer Workshops (application deadline March 1), but I've been remiss in not not let folks know about the Gilder Lehrman Teacher Seminars. Only full-time K–12 teachers and librarians from schools in their Affiliate School Program may apply for Teacher Seminars but, no worries: if your school is not an Affiliate School, you will be directed to a combined application form--and becoming an affiliate is free.

Gilder Lehrman is a little less generous than NEH--while NEH offers $1,200 to cover expenses, Gilder Lehrman offers a $400 travel reimbursement. But their courses look great. How I would love to spend a week at Dartmouth studying Native American history with Colin Calloway, author of Parading through History: The Making of the Crow Nation and One Vast Winter Count: The Native American West Before Lewis and Clark.  Closer to home is "Lewis and Clark: An American Epic," at UM, with the incomparable Elliott West. (Honestly, Elliott is astounding.) Applications are due February 29, 2016. Apply now!

P.S. After reading last week's post, "Helping Students Feel Safe from Prejudice," a friend confided that she grew up hearing "jewed down" and hadn't realized it was offensive. I assured her it is: the term derives from the stereotype of tight-fisted, money-hungry Jews. If, like my friend, you had never made this association, that's okay. Now you know. Especially when it comes to prejudice reduction, I take great comfort in the Maya Angelou quote: "Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better."

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Helping Students Feel Safe from Prejudice

According to The Framework: A Practical Guide for Montana Teachers and Administrators Implementing Indian Education for All, "All schools have an obligation to assure that all children, without regard for any individual difference, feel safe from prejudice. Schools play a central role in prejudice reduction, often acting as a catalyst to change attitudes in American society overall."

How do you make the students in your classroom feel safe from prejudice? (FYI: This isn’t a rhetorical question. I really want to know—so email me!)

There are lesson plans to try to reduce prejudice. For example, the Peace Corps has a series of lesson plans called “Building Bridges: A Peace Corps Classroom Guide Building To Cross-Cultural Understanding.”  OPI’s Indian Education Division also has several lesson plans relating to prejudice reduction/stereotypes:
I would argue, however, that the most important thing you can do in this regard is pay attention to teachable moments and the day-to-day environment of your school and classroom. Need ideas?

1. Understanding Prejudice offers these tips for elementary schools. 

2. Pay attention to IEFA Essential Understanding 2: "There is great diversity among individual American Indians.... A continuum of Indian identity, unique to each individual, ranges from assimilated to traditional. There is no generic American Indian." (This is equally relevant for all minority students. Not every African American student will be steeped in black culture, and not every Muslim or Jewish student will know the details of their religions--or practice them.) Do provide students and families opportunities to share aspects of their cultures, but don't single out students to be a representative of their people--especially since (sadly) many minority students try to blend in so as to avoid prejudice.

3. Teaching Tolerance, a project of the Southern Poverty Law Center, offers a number of resources, including lesson plans, free classroom resources, and webinars.

4. The Southern Poverty Law Center also offers this advice for responding to every day bigotry in the classroom:
  • Determine the extent of the problem. As a social science or club activity, survey students about biased language at school: what they hear most often, who they hear it from, how it makes them feel and what they're willing to do about it.
  • Implement a 'words hurt' campaign. Get students, teachers, counselors and administrators to sponsor an assembly, or a week long or year long education campaign, about the damaging effect of hurtful words.
  • Support student mediators — and use peer pressure. Train students in conflict resolution techniques, and ask them to work with peers to marginalize the use of biased language.
  • Teach tolerance. When slurs are exchanged in the classroom, interrupt whatever lesson is being taught, and start a new one on language, respect and cultural sensitivity.
This last point is key, because even if it doesn’t change attitudes, it at least lets marginalized students know there’s someone in their corner. So, the next time you hear a student use the term "jew down" or "Indian giver,"consider using it as an opportunity for education instead of letting the moment pass.


Monday, February 8, 2016

Making Field Trips More Meaningful

I'm both old and a not very visual person, so it's no wonder I haven't reflexively embraced Glogster, "a Web 2.0 tool that allows users to create virtual posters combining text, audio, video, images, and hyperlinks and to share them with others electronically."

Despite my natural resistance, I am intrigued by the idea of using Glogster to bring learning home from a museum field trip.

Glogster asks: "What if there was a way to get real results by letting learners do what they do best – exploring?" And it proposes that its a field trip template is designed to do just "exactly that, using their own curiosity as a guide" while also checking their understanding and creating "a lasting memento of a fun and fact-filled day out." 


What do you think makes a meaningful fieldtrip--and how can you make it more than a fun day away from school? Can Glogster help you fulfill your goals? 


The Smithsonian points to the following research-based best practices for a meaningful fieldtrip:
  • Clarifying the learning objectives of the visit.
  • Linking the visit to curriculum. If necessary, contact the museum’s education department for assistance.
  • Giving structure to the visit (with tours, writing activities, worksheets, etc.) while also allowing time for free exploration. At any age—but especially by middle school—students want time simply to observe and interact with an exhibition.
  • Building in opportunities for students to work together in groups.
  • Interacting with students during the visit. Pose open-ended questions, explain aspects of exhibitions, and get students talking about what they are seeing and experiencing.
  • Making the experience more memorable and personal by building on it when you return to the classroom.
The Glogster app is one tool to help implement some of these best practices. But there are others--several examples of which were featured on TeachingHistory.org.

First-grade teacher Jennifer Orr asks her students to take pictures on a field trip to Washington, DC, to create a class video on the monuments and memorials they see. Back in the classroom, the students help Orr organize the pictures and decide on and record the narration.


High School teacher James Percoco shares his strategies for creating "Individual Field Trips" which, he claims permit "students to encounter the past at historic sites and museums, all within the context of learning history based on state and national standards. They make outstanding summative assessment tools, while at the same time permitting students to have an enjoyable and fun experience while they learn." He also shares his techniques for "Crafiting Meaningful Field Trips for Students" by using student historians. 


Columbus, Montana, English teacher Casey Olsen is a master at making field trips meaningful. One of his tricks is to provide students time to write on site. 


We've been working hard to make our tours more interactive--which we hope will make them more meaningful.You can find out more about our tours here--and if you are bringing a class to Helena, I particularly encourage you to consider booking a tour at the Original Governor's Mansion. Our lead tour guide has recently created new interactive children’s tours of the mansion, which "highlight stories of the mischievous young Stewart girls, Emily, Marjorie, and Leah. Participants experience social and material culture from 100 years ago and become part of life at the mansion when they receive a role to play, crank up the Victrola, or place a call on a vintage phone."


If a standard tour won't do, we are happy to work with you to personalize your class's field trip to fit into your curriculum. And--as always, I'm interested in your best practices. What do you do to make field trips meaningful? Let me know, and I'll share out.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Teaching Montana: Stories of the Land

A few weeks ago, we asked those of you using our textbook, Montana: Stories of the Land, to take a brief survey. Twenty-three wonderful teachers took time out of their busy schedule to respond. Thank you! It warmed my heart. Two were high school teachers, one was a fourth grade teacher, but most were middle school teachers. Here is what they had to say.

Helpful hints for teachers using MSOL for the first time:


  • Get to know the textbook and on-line resources. We focus fourth quarter social studies on Montana History and I often find that I wish I would have spent more time during the year previewing the vast supplemental materials throughout the year so that I am not trying to do it while planning/implementing the unit. 
  • Great book. Pick and choose which units/chapters that suit your classroom the best.
  • Read each chapter and go through the resources provided on the companion website.  Now that you are familiar with it, create a folder keeping notes of what you liked and start collecting supplemental resources on your own.  When you see them put them in the folder.  Visit any sites, museums, tours that you can add information from.  Your folder will be constantly changing and improving.
  • Use the online text book and your smartboard to identify the critical information that you would like your students to have in their notes. There are very few developed resources for the text (powerpoints and worksheets) so utilizing the text book is a great way to cut down on personalized lesson development if you are in a time crunch.
  • Don't get overwhelmed if you can't get through the whole book.  Look through the chapters and choose the ones you think the class needs to know about.  I only get Montana history for one semester so I don't get through much of the book so I choose chapters that I feel are important for students to know in regards to how Montana was formed. 
  • Although all of the course content is online, I found it very useful to have a hard copy of the Montana Stories of the Land:Teacher's Guide.  I reference it often and it is easier to make copies on the fly if there are internet problems or i don't have access to a computer. I would also use the for educators section and online resources that accompany the website. I found these very helpful and thought they complemented some of the lessons I taught very well.
  • Even with a full year, you cannot hit all of the chapters effectively.
  • Be prepared to come up with your own projects. There are worksheets for each chapter, but they do not always focus on the most important aspects.
  • I only spend enough time on Chapter 1 to develop a full understanding of the geographic eras.  I combine Chapters 2 and 3 into one unit.  They really have fun with the mining unit.  
  • Use the primary sources and worksheets found online! I love to grab these and find them helpful. I don't use too many of the actual chapters since our 7th grade MT History teacher uses the book pretty extensively. [Teacher teaches in high school.] I only use C 6 and 10 because I find them the best and cover material that is kind of difficult to find elsewhere.
  • You can't do all the chapters!  The first several are important for setting the scene.  Kids love Open Range.  I love A People's Constitution and Progressive Montana.  Use the accompanying website -- so many amazing resources.
  • This book and our history beg for hands-on projects.  At the end, have students research and present chapters for which you did not have time.
  • Because CC is about finding information rather than regurgitating, I now almost always have the tests be open book.
  • Read this book aloud with your students.  It is well written and is very useful to use to teach reading comprehension.  Most of the material in this textbook can be put into graphs, such as cause and effect and Venn diagrams.  We make a game out of it in a "Think-Pair-Share" setting.  First we read.  Then students identify the graph.  Next students put the information into a graph by themselves.  Next they share with their group.  Finally each group re-creates their graphs on the whiteboards in a 360 assessment strategy.  The chapter test is relatively easy to pass after doing this.
  • I currently go through the book backwards since I want my students to understand the connections to current events and the ripple effect (cause/effect) that each time period offers to our current choices and options. The book is wonderful because it offers the same information in multiple chapters to help enhance the concepts even if you move faster through it.
  • I give plenty of time for the students to read in class and read to them from the chapter focusing on the key points.  I also make a study guide of each chapter that focuses on key terms.  Included are essay questions and critical thinking questions that they answer on a regular basis.
  • Using local resources is a great tool!  Have people come speak to the class, visit local museums, tells stories about the area.  I purchased Baumler's ghost story and Montana Moments books and will often read stories out of those that relate to the unit we are doing.  They love the ghost stories and the funny stories!!  I also try to do many activities throughout the units.  I feel that the more hands on the units are, the more the students appreciate learning about their state. Walking where Lewis and Clark actually walked or sitting in the room where Sitting Bull surrendered, creating tools just as the Native Americans did in the Dog Days are all examples of how a student can truly experience history.

We know the book is too long to teach all of the chapters well—especially in a quarter or a semester, so we asked our respondents to tell us which chapters they taught and how long it took them to cover a chapter. Of the middle school teachers: 

  • Two respondents only have a quarter: one covered 7 and the other 12 chapters. 
  • Five have a semester. Two of them teach every chapter, two teach 13 chapters, one teaches 8 chapters. 
  • Eleven respondents have yearlong classes. One taught only 8 chapters. Two taught all 22. The others taught between from 11 chapters to 16 chapters. 

We were also curious how long teachers spent on the chapters they teach. Interestingly, this did NOT correlate exactly with how long they had to teach Montana history. Some teachers with shorter units (e.g., a quarter instead of year) wisely chose what to focus on so they could "go deep".
  • One teacher averaged 2-3 periods per chapter.
  • 3 teachers averaged 4-6 periods per chapter.
  • 8 teachers averaged 5-10 periods per chapter.
  • 3 averaged about 10 periods per chapter.
  • 5 averaged 10-20 periods per chapter.
In addition, we wanted to know how much actual reading of the textbook they required of their students (63% said the entire chapter) and where they took time to do special projects (the most popular topics for special projects were Lewis and Clark, the Gold Rush, and the Treaty Period/Indian wars). More details below.

Finally, we were curious about which areas of history teachers focused on. For those who did NOT teach the entire book, half only made it to the homesteading boom. The other half skipped parts of the nineteenth century in order to include more twentieth century chapters. 

Which chapters of Montana Stories of the Land do you teach?

  • 8th grade. Unit lasts a quarter. Teaches chaps 2-13. Notes: “Because our time is limited I generally teach chapters 2 and 3 early in the year to set up some of our IEFA goals that I try to reach throughout the year.  I do not necessarily teach each chapter from front to back.  However, we use the text and the content to teach previewing/reading content area material and noticing text structure while we are introduced to the content.  Generally, I have used chapters 5-13 in connection with a jigsaw strategy -- assigning different groups of students a specific period of time and promoting the chapter in the textbook as their first resource.”
  • 8th grade. Unit lasts a quarter. Teaches chaps. 8-11 and chaps. 20-22, spending about 7 class periods per chapter and has students do an extended project on chapter 11 (reservation era). Students read about half of each chapter.
  • 7th grade. Semester Class. Teaches chaps. 1-13, spending 1-2 weeks per chapter. Students read entire chapters. She assigns larger projects for chapters 3, 4, 7, &  8.
  • 7th grade. Semester Class. Teaches chaps. 1-22. Spends about 2 days per chapter. Students read only part of each chapter.
  • 7th grade. Semester Class. Teaches chaps. 3-10. Spends about 4-6 weeks per chapter with students reading the entire chapter. Does many supplemental activities, “from making pemmican to mapping our town like Lewis in Clark would have.”
  • 7th grade. Semester Class. Teaches chaps 1-22. I usually spend between 4-7 days per chapter, with other material worked in.  Some chapters go faster than others, and the chapters that I am most knowledgeable in go slower because I really try to divulge in the information and talk with the kids about the chapters. Assigns special projects for Chapter 2 (Buffalo Jump Diorama), Chapter 4 (Fur Trapper Journal), Chapter 6 (Mining Town Map Creation), Chapter 8 (Field Trip to Charlie Russell Museum). We do other projects, spaced throughout the semester as well including a weeklong unit from Montana's Charlie Russell. Students read the entire chapter.
  • 8th grade. Semester Class. Teaches chaps. 1-8, 10, 13, 15-16, and 21 spending about 2-3 weeks per chapter. She does larger projects for chapters 1,2,4,5,6, and 10, and her students read about half a chapter.
These teachers have a FULL year to teach Montana history. Lucky folks!
  • 7th grade. Teaches chaps. 1-11, 13, 15-16, 18-19, spending 8-10 days on average per chapter. She does special projects on Lewis & Clark, Two Worlds Collide, Politics & Copper Kings, Homesteading, WWI, Great Depression. When studying a chapter, her students read about half of it.
  • 7th grade. Combines chaps 1-3 in a two-week introductory unit, starting with the state flower lesson plan. She then teaches Chap. 4-7, 10-11, 13, 15-16, 18-19, and 21. Spends an average of 2 weeks per chapter. Students read the entire chapter. “We read all of the text in class, and the supplementary materials become homework.  I also supplement chapters with the Montana Mosaic videos when there is one.” She uses all the historical documents and worksheets since they provide a different perspective. Uses OPI’s Sweetgrass Basket unit with chapter 11 and the When Worlds Collide with chapter 4 for special projects.  Se also fits in Picturing the Past and the Clothesline Timeline lessons at strategic points throughout the year.
  • 7th-8th grade. Teaches chaps. 1-16, aking about two weeks per chapter but spending more time on Chapters 7 - 11 and 13, assigning special projects for Homesteading and Reservation Years. Students read the entire assigned chapter.
  • 7th grade. Uses chap. 1 to show regions then teaches chaps. 2-10, 12-13, 16, 18, 19, 21. Spends 5-10 days per chapter. Spends 2-3 weeks per unit (chaps 2-3 combined into one unit.) Students read about half the chapter. “We do many projects throughout the units. This year we made authentic Native American bread and tools for the Dog Days unit, created our own specimen boxes and acted as newspaper reporters in St. Louis for the Lewis and Clark Unit, we created a gold mining town replica, visited Fort Union and Fort Buford, research papers on famous mountain men, gold mining towns, explorers, and Native American tribes native to the area.  I use primary source documents from the newspaper archives and other archives on the LoC website for activities. I do make them write quite a few small research papers for practice and to help them document sources among other activities!”
  • 7th grade. Teaches Chaps. 2-8, 11, 13, 15-16, 18, and 21. Spends about 2 weeks per chapter, and almost every chapter has a project/group work assignment.
  • 8th grade. Teaches Chaps. 1-8 and does big projects with all of them.  “For example, in chapter one we do a lot of supplemental activities on the three big disasters, Glacier Lake Missoula, Quake Lake and the one that hasn't happened yet, the Supervolcano.  Chapter 2 - Students ask parents for oral family histories to tell to their classmates, throw atlatls and find out how to make a straight arrow shaft, identify the parts of a buffalo and decide what each part was used for (we have a buffalo box that we bought from a fellow on the Sioux reservation in S. Dakota), read excerpts from primary documents that talk about the role of dogs in the Native American's life. Chapter 3 - Student groups create class winter counts for the years that they have been in school together, Watch OPI's "Tribes of Montana and How They Got Their Names" DVD, pemmican lecture and then we make pemmican and eat it. Chapter 4 - We watch a DVD on David Thompson and read a short book on John Colter.  Then they have to write an essay about their opinion of John Colter and use evidence from their book to prove their point. Chapter 5 - We read a series of primary documents written by various mountain men who lived in Montana.  Each set of primary documents has a writing assignment that involves going back to the documents to prove a point that the student is making.  A quick debate to decide if it would be better to be a free trader or part of a brigade. Chapter 6 -  The students pan for bb's in a mining stimulation, go through a Chinese discrimination activity that teaches them about unions, and debate the ethics of being a vigilante. Chapter 7 - The students participate in a Hellgate Treaty activity, a Tribal Land Status activity, read a short book on the Battle of the Little Big Horn, and if there is time create a news cast about the Battle of the Little Big Horn. Chapter 8 - The students watch a Charlie Russel PP and try to figure out what the names of each painting will be. Read some excerpts from primary documents written by Granville Stuart (Stuart's Stranglers), and if there is time create maps of the major cattle drives, railroads and major shipping points in the U.S.
  • 7th-8th grade. Spends 5-8 days per chapter, students read entire chapter. First year of teaching the book and at half way point just finished chapter 8. Feels as if it could be more teacher-friendly. (Some of the worksheets are a slog.)
  • 7th-8th grade. Teaches Chaps. 1-11, and 13, and the rest of the chapters "as time allows." Students read the entire chapter. Spends about 8-10 class periods.  “It takes about 4--6 for reading and creating notes, usually I have an activity that is fun, and test.” “I conclude the year by reading Pretty Shield.  Last year, I was even able to schedule a trip to the Battle of the Little Big Horn Battlefield. I also use the Montana Historical Society trunks.  They have amazing lesson plans and activities built into them.” 
  • 6th grade. Teaches Chaps. 1-11. Spends 2-3 weeks per chapter (4 weeks on chapter 6). Students just read selections from the text. Assigns larger project for every chapter, whether that is a writing assessment or some other higher level thinking activity.
  • 8th grade. Teaches all the chapters, spending 1-4 weeks per chapter. Students read entire chapter. Typically spends more time on chapters 2, 3, and 11 “since my class struggled with the essential understandings and tribal recognition as sovereign nations”. Assigns larger projects for 6, 7, 10, and 21.
  • 6th grade. Spends 10-18 class periods per chapter. Students read entire chapter. First year teaching MT history but so far has supplemented with “Analyzing a Buffalo Hide created by the Smithsonian http://americanhistory.si.edu/buffalo/hideactivity.html and reads aloud "Spotted Flower and the Ponokomita" by Kae Cheatham, to help them make the connection between the Dog Days and the Horse Days. Uses Past to Present questions as Bell Ringers.
  • 7th grade. Teaches Chaps. 1-14 and 21. Students read entire chapter. Starts school year with Mapping Montana A-Z. (Kids love it.) Two weeks per chapter with more time for chapters 2-3,7, 11 (usually include a research project on these chapters.) In depth projects for chapters 7 and 11 (research project related to Native Americans) and chapter 13 (kids create a Homestead of their own).

For which chapters do you assign larger projects? (Results don't include teachers who assigned special projects for every chapter they taught).

Chapter 1--Geography (2 teachers)
Chapter 2--Pre horse (5 teachers)
Chapter 3--1700s-1820 (3 teachers)
Chapter 4--Exploration (6 teachers)
Chapter 5--Fur trade (2 teachers)
Chapter 6--Mining boom (6 teachers)
Chapter 7--Treaties/Indian Wars (6 teachers)
Chapter 8--Open Range (4 teachers)
Chapter 10--War of the Copper Kings (3 teachers)
Chapter 11--Reservation Period (4 teachers)
Chapter 13--Homesteading (3 teachers)
Chapter 16--World War I (1 teacher)
Chapter 18--Great Depression (1 teacher)
Chapter 21--1972 Constitutional Convention (1 teacher)


Thanks again to all who responded. I hope this peek into other teachers' practice encourages all of those teaching Montana history in middle school to think critically about how they are use MSOL in their own classrooms. I especially hope these results give you permission to cover less content more deeply. My takeaway: most teachers are not teaching every chapter. You don't have to either!  

Monday, February 1, 2016

Online Professional Development

Last fall, we teamed up with OPI to spread the word about our resources by producing four "Digital Blasts," one on footlockers, our new Charlie Russell lesson plans, online resources that accompany our textbook, Montana: Stories of the Land, and our Women's History Matters project and teaching resources.

We've now combined these digital blasts into an online courseMontana Historical Society Educator Resources, for which you can earn one OPI Renewal Unit through OPI's Teacher Learning Hub. 

This was my first experience with the Teacher Learning Hub (the Hub),  an online platform providing free, high quality professional development and training for all Montana K-12 educators. According to OPI, the Hub will minimize the time teachers spend away from the classrooms to attend training, as well as save school districts money on professional development. OPI is keeping a strong partnership with MEA-MFT and MTDA to build on their early success and broaden offerings for Montana educators. The Hub has lots of offerings--both self-paced courses and facilitated courses--so go check it out!

The Hub is only one of many cool things OPI is doing online. Do you teach writing? Then check out the online Montana Writing Teachers Professional Learning Community led by Skyview High School writing teachers Bridgett Paddock and Wendy Tyree. The kickoff was 3:45 p.m. on January 13, 2016, but this is only the first in a series of monthly on-line meetings that will provide a place for writing teachers across MT to meet, share teaching strategies, and learn from one another's expertise, and new participants are always available. The most intriguing part? The instructors noted that "Time will be devoted to writing together--after all, it's important for writing teachers to write."  


The next online Montana Writing Teachers PLC will be held February 10, 2016, beginning at 3:45. p.m. Joining is easy:
  • Click on this link (the same link will be used every month--so if you miss February you can join in March): https://global.gotomeeting.com/join/842676717 Use your microphone and speakers (VoIP) - a headset is recommended. 
  • Or, call in using your telephone.Dial +1 (872) 240-3412 Access Code: 842-676-717 Audio PIN: Shown after joining the meetingMeeting ID: 842-676-717GoToMeeting®
  • Not at your computer? Click the link to join this meeting from your iPhone®, iPad®, Android® or Windows Phone® device via the GoToMeeting app.