Monday, October 16, 2017

Meet our Newest Footlocker: Oral History in the Classroom

I'm delighted to announce the debut of a new mini-footlocker, "Oral History in the Classroom." Unlike most of our footlockers, which are designed for fourth grade—but used successfully at all grade levels with some adapation—this footlocker is designed with upper grades in mind. 

Most of our footlockers include replica artifacts and focus on particular topics (immigrationthe early reservation period, or World War II, for example.) Oral History in the Classroom is more of a DYI kit, designed to get students working as oral historians, recording the history of their own communities. The footlocker includes eight Sony IC Audio Recorders, batteries and chargers, useful reference material, and detailed lesson plans for creating a classroom-based oral history project. 

As with all of our footlockers, educators are welcome to download the user guide whether or not you order the footlocker. The user guide includes detailed lesson plans, most of which can be done without ordering the footlocker, assuming you have access to digital recorders. (Students can even use a digital recorder app on their cell phones, but the audio quality won't be as good.)  

The lesson plans include information on WHY and HOW to conduct classroom oral history projectscovering methodological questions (what does oral history offer that other types of research don't) and offering practical suggestions (how to recruit good narrators and teach students to ask open-ended questions.) It also contains useful formssample release forms, interview summary worksheets, as well as a rubric for grading student projects and suggestions for project topics. 

As with our other footlockers, Oral History in the Classroom can be reserved for a two-week period (and if you think you'll need the footlocker for longer than two weeks, you can reserve it for two consecutive reservation periods). The only cost to the school of ordering a footlocker is the cost of shipping it to the next user or back to the Montana Historical Society. 

I'm pretty tickled with how the footlocker turned out. I hope you'll check it outliterally, by using our online reservation form, or figuratively, by downloading and reviewing the user guide. Then let me know what you think! I sure hope it's useful.

P.S. We'll be bringing this footlocker and lots of other resources to MEA-MFT. Come by our booth and check it out. And, if you have time, join us Thursday evening (5:15 p.m.-) for an informal meet-up at the Montgomery Distillery, 129 West Front Street. (The distillery serves both alcoholic and non-alcoholic cocktails.)

Thursday, October 12, 2017

World War I and Other Veterans Day Resources

Veterans Day is less than a month away. This year we are in the midst of commemorating the 100th anniversary of World War I, which led to the holiday's creation, so I wanted to share both some general resources and WWI specific resources for you to consider using in your classes this year.

Montana and the Great War is a website that we created to provide resources for teaching about this complicated period in history.

The website includes 
  • Story Mapsinteractive maps featuring images and events from across the state, exploring different ways the war—and its aftermath—affected Montanans. (The Story Maps are divided into three main sections: Over Here, Over There, and Home Again. Each section includes an introduction and at least one map featuring specific stories. Also available are a demographic map--in the Over Here section--and a map showing county enlistment numbers--in the Over There section.)
  • Books and Articles: a list of published works that explore Montana during World War I—including links to full text of many of those resources.
  • Voices: short oral history clips featuring Montanans’ memories of life during World War I—overseas and at home.
  • Information on Archival Material and Digitized Newspapers available for students conducting more in-depth research projects.  
  • And, of course, teaching resources.
What are those teaching resources, you ask? 

Montana and the Great War Scavenger Hunt offers a fun way to engage students in an exploration of the Montana and the Great War Story Maps.   
Montana and the "Great War" Lesson Plan (Designed for 5-8, but adaptable to high school). After exploring the Story Maps to learn more about individuals' experiences during World War I, students will write a short piece of historical fiction (a letter or journal entry) from the perspective of a Montanan--on the home front or serving in the armed forces--during the period.
Local Experiences of World War I Lesson Plan (High school). Students will conduct and share original research on ways the war impacted the people of their own county. The Montana Historical Society will include a link to their project on its Montana and the Great War website. 
I'm excited about all of these lesson plans, but particularly excited about the more in-depth high school lesson that engages students in community study for an authentic audience. (Longtime readers will know this is a passion of mine. See, for example, this article from March 2012, this one from March 2014, this one from April 2015, and this one from March 2016.) 
Several teachers have taken up the challenge of examining their county's WWI history and Phil Leonardi, who helped create and test the lesson plan, had his class complete the assignment last spring. You can see their work here. 

There are SO MANY national resources that have been created for the centennial, that I'll just mention a few: 

The National Archives has launched a WWI Research Portal as has the Library of Congress. My favorite LOC collection is the WWI sheet music collection, both because the cover art is incredible (and sometimes disturbing) and because Billings school librarian Ruth Ferris told me about a Sheet Music Scanner app, which lets you hear historic sheet music. And, of course, you can also listen to some of original recordings on the National Jukebox. (Here, for example, is Nora Bayes' recording of "Over There.")

Other Veterans Day Resources Beyond World War I, among my MHS favorite lesson plans is "Readers Theater: Letters from Home." Learn more about it here and watch Helena High theater teacher Rob Holter's students perform it here. (In what hardly ever happens, students responded to the lesson exactly as I hoped they would. According to Rob, when he introduced the lesson, many of the students asked: "why anyone would save old letters by ordinary Montanans"? During the Q and A, after their performance, many of these same students vowed to write letters in order to provide personal reflections to posterity. And they were saying things like, "ordinary people make history." In addition, Rob told me that one of his struggling students responded to the letters with dawning recognition: "people just like me can make a difference in this world!" In my wildest dreams, I could not have imagined any lesson we produced would have such an impact.)

Monday, October 9, 2017

It's Amazing What's Out There

Colleagues have shared many interested resources lately, I decided it was time for a link roundup:

Mike Jetty at the Indian Education Division of the Office of Public Instruction introduced me to “Introducing the First Nations of Montana to the World,” a short eight-minute video created by the Montana Office of Tourism. This is exactly what you need to reintroduce your students to Montana’s tribes. 

“From Superstar to Superfund: The History of a Northwest Montana Aluminum Smelter” is a labor of love and a tremendous resource on the history, politics, and economics of the Columbia Falls Aluminum smelter. 

“The Acoustic Atlas of Yellowstone National Park is curated by the Montana State University Library and includes more than 2500 recordings of species and environments from throughout the Western United States.   

Elementary school teacher Justin Czarka, who I met when we hosted the NEH Landmarks Workshop “Richest Hills: Mining in the Far West,” shared with me a project he conducted with his elementary students to commemorate the lives of slaves that lived in Hunts Point (a neighborhood in the Bronx, NY) and to definitively locate the Hunts Point Slave Burial Grounds—an unmarked burial ground near their school. The project suggests the potentially transformative power of local history.

I’m a longtime fan of the Stanford History Education Group, so was pleased to learn that they have many new or revamped lesson plans for U.S. and world history. 

Finally, I'm very much enjoying listening to the recordings of talks I missed at the Montana History Conference (darn concurrent sessions)! We put them all on SoundCloud, but I've also gathered the playlist and video presentations on our Montana and The Great War website, where you'll find videos of other presentations as well.

Do you have a favorite website or online resource? Send me the link (bonus points for including a note saying what you like about it.) 

Thursday, October 5, 2017

MEA-MFT Is Only a Few Weeks Away

Will I see you at the MEA-MFT Educators Conference in Missoula on Thursday, October 19-20?

I’ll be participating in two sessions on Thursday:
  • Montana and the Great War: Bringing It Home, 10:00 AM - 10:50 AM
  • Montana History Reborn (a panel discussion organized by Ken Egan), 3:00 PM - 4:50 PM

My colleague Deb Mitchell and I will also be staffing our booth in the exhibit hall, so stop by and say hello and check out our new resources! And if anyone wants to convene for cocktails and conversation, I propose we arrange a meet-up Thursday evening at 5:15 p.m. Anyone know a good place in Missoula to gather for convivial conversation? Email me. 

But back to more formal learning opportunities: I've been perusing the program, and there are a LOT of other sessions I’m interested in attending. Here are a few that caught my eye.

On Thursday

9:00 AM - 9:50 AM, Blackfeet Language and Stories: Maato'ommstatto'osi tells old stories that have been passed down generation to generation by the Piikunnii. Audiences get a taste of how Piikunnii lives once were, how their spirituality and empathy were important, and the joys of humor. He teaches people about Blackfeet people while making the audience feel respected.

10:00 AM - 10:50 AM: Montana's Legal System--What Teachers and Students Should Know: Have you ever wanted to teach your students about Montana's legal system but were afraid to go there? Come learn about legal resources, including free guides, from attorneys and members of the state bar's law-related education committee. Teach students what they should know legal-wise before they turn 18!

12:00 PM - 12:50 PM, A Visit with an 1879 American Fur Company Trader: Portrayal of James Willard Schultz (Apikuni) who wrote extensively regarding his life with the Blackfoot Nation. Schultz would live to see and experience the end of the buffalo days. His stories climax with a visionary gift to be shared with school kids - suggesting positive hope for our future.

1:00 PM - 1:50 PM, Before the Horse: Northern Rockies Lifestyles: Indian people of the Northern Rockies are most often considered part of the American Indian Horse Culture, yet the people existed long before the horse appeared 280 years ago. In those centuries before the horse, when the extensive use of dogs was most prevalent. Listeners will re-think ancient cultures' impact.

1:00 PM - 1:50 PM, Igniting Students' Civic Involvement Through Montana Politics and Government: This session will explore strategies to engage students in civics through conversations about local and state government, politics, and service learning. Siri Smillie, Education Policy Advisor to Gov. Steve Bullock and her former teacher Eileen Sheehy will lead teachers in this interactive session.

1:00 PM - 2:50 PM, The Digital Storywork Partnership: Community Engagement and Social Studies Education: The Digital Storywork Partnership connects youth with community members to conduct research and produce documentary films. The Partnership applies community-centered and culturally revitalizing pedagogy using a framework collaboratively developed with partners. This session will introduce participants to the DSP as a model for youth-led inquiry to enhance social studies education.

2:00 PM - 2:50 PM, Storytelling: Cultural Survival, Indigenous Cultures, and the Importance of Story: Storytelling is integral to education and cultural survival. How does story define community? How does it keep cultures intact? What functions does story serve in shaping our understanding of the world? Sharing stories with a focus on Indigenous American stories and perspectives, we learn our history.

2:00 PM - 3:50 PM, Project-based Learning with Montana National History Day: This section will discuss how to implement Montana National History Day in your classroom by using the project-based learning method and what programs MTNHD can offer you and your students. This is geared for teachers 4-12, deals with Common Core, IEFA and technology education.

4:00 PM - 4:50 PM, Resources to Reach Reluctant Writers from NHD (National History Day): This session is for educators in grades 6-12 to share resources from National History Day to help teachers improve reading and writing in their classrooms.

4:00 PM - 4:50 PM, Find the Clues, Unlock the Learning: Do you enjoy challenges? Breakout Edu is an activity that promotes collaboration, teamwork, problem-solving, higher level thinking skills and more. You will use primary sources, documents and photos to help solve the clues. Come explore a new way to engage your students. Electronic devices encouraged.

On Friday

8:00 AM - 8:50 AM, New Resource for Geography Education: The Giant Map of Montana: The National Geographic State Giant Traveling Map of Montana is a 15x20 foot floor map promotes an interactive geography learning experience for elementary and middle school students. Educators will have the opportunity to engage in lessons using the giant map and learn how to bring the map to their classrooms.

9:00 AM - 9:50 AM, Mapping Censorship: the Montana Banned Books Project: Join us as we share the new interactive online map detailing the history of book challenges in Montana! We’ll share some of the more interesting challenges as well as broader intellectual freedom implications. Participants will learn about the software used and discuss how it could be applied in their classrooms.

9:00 AM - 9:50 AM, Geographic Pedagogy: Droughts, Floods, Resilience, Science and Community Development: This session explores important contemporary dynamics in geographic education and pedagogy, including issues such as drought and flooding in Montana, ecological and human resilience to climate change, and the role of science in community development.

10:00 AM - 10:50 AM, Highways, Treaties, and Poems: Through maps, poems, treaties, and seasonal rounds, teachers will work interactively to discover how the cultural landscape changed in Montana after the Fort Laramie and Hell Gate treaties were established. Suitable for K-12, all subjects, background knowledge building, and integration ideas.

12:00 PM - 12:50 PM, Reaching Reluctant Writers Through Social Studies: Reluctant writers lurk in every classroom. This interactive session will give teachers strategies to help improve student writing in Social Studies classrooms. Gain specific tools to use historical content to improve historical thinking and writing skills.

1:00 PM - 1:50 PM, Teaching Montana Indian History with Primary Sources: This section presents innovative ways of incorporating archival, primary sources into lessons on Montana’s Native American history. Drawing primarily on documents held in the Montana Historical Society archives, I will demonstrate how these primary sources can inform how we teach Montana Indian history topics such as treaties, trade, and sovereignty.

3:00 PM - 3:50 PM, Teaching about Tribal Sovereignty and Federal Indian Policy: This interactive session will provide ideas, resources and strategies for teaching about contemporary American Indian issues. Relevant resources and where to access them will also be shared with participants.

Hope to see you soon!

Monday, October 2, 2017

Montana Authors Project Invites High School Collaborators

Humanities Montana invites schools to participate in our Montana Authors Project, a part of our Montana Center for the Book program. Using images, quotes, and interpretation, literary maps bring favorite novels, stories, poems and personal histories of regional and national importance to life. Each literary map can be used as a virtual tour of an author’s imagination, as well as an actual road map of a literary setting.

Park High students in Livingston recently read Shann Ray’s American Copper, searching for place-based passages and images that might accompany them. After they finished, Humanities Montana staff populated our map with six sites from American Copper using student images and passages.

Students were able to see their hard work come to life in our online literary map and to engage with the text in new ways, connecting it to the real world, imagining it in real space, and learning valuable research and analysis skills as they selected the most relevant passages.

If you are interested in participating in our MAPs project, contact info@humanitiesmontana.org. Staff will visit your classroom for a guest lesson on the MAPs project, stay in communication with you as you work the project into your syllabus, and bring your students’ hard work to life on our Humanities Montana website.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

More on Fire

Last week I wrote about finding a teachable moment in this year's awful forest fires.  Some readers responded with suggestions: 

Dalene Normand, of Frenchtown, suggested these fire resources: 

  • The Forest Service Fire Lab in Missoula has a Fire Works trunk that educators can use to teach about forest fires    
  • Also, there is an IEFA lesson plan: Fire on the Land for middle school age that deals with Native use of fire for land management.  

Suzanne Thomason recommended Boy Wonder and the Big Burns by Chris Petersen.  He is a photographer and relates his experience with his autistic son and the Glacier fires of 2001.  Lots of pictures, a quick read, mostly about the fires with just enough information about autism spectrum disorders tucked in.  Excellent potential for teacher meetings.

Brenda Johnston, who teaches high school English in Browning, described the project her students are doing: "My students have been working on this very thing.  They read an article from the New York Times, which included vocabulary work and literacy skills, ending by writing a summary.  JoAnne Grandstaff then came in and talked with all of the students about fire.  She is a Kickapoo tribal member, and they are the keepers of fire, so she talked about how we show respect for fire.  The kids then read about the Great Hinckley Fire of 1894, again practicing comprehension skills. Today I am reading "The Fire Keeper" from Joseph Bruchac's Keepers of the Earth.  We will wrap it up next week with a writing assignment.

Finally, Karen Reinhart, from the Yellowstone Gateway Museum in Livingston invited teachers to bring their students to see their fire exhibit: "On Fire: Structural and Wildland Fire." "The exhibit includes stories of early day firefighting and firefighters, and also the 1988 fires in Yellowstone and the more recent, 2012 Pine Creek Fire. Safety tips, too." For those far from Livingston, she suggested that there may be other museums with resources worth tapping into, "like the smokejumper museum/visitor center in Missoula."

Monday, September 25, 2017

Teaching with Maps and Other Primary Sources

I had an amazing time about a week ago at the workshop "Teaching with Primary Sources: Understanding How Our Past Paints our Future" in Great Falls. 

The good news for you is that presenters Kathy Hoyt and Ruth Ferris will be reprising the workshop October 6-7 at Miles Community College in Miles City, so you too have an opportunity to participate! 

Here were a few of my highlights: 

1. Putting together "map puzzles." Kathy printed some historic maps, including this 1879 map of Montana Territory. She cut them into puzzle pieces and laminated them. Assembling the maps required us to slow down and LOOK--which in turn raised lots of questions.

2. Kathy then gave us clear overheads and had us trace today's reservations from the regular Montana highway map. We put those on top of the 1879 reservations for a hands-on look at the shrinking reservations. 

3. We had time to explore Library of Congress resources. I found this amazing 1851 map, created by Father De Smet, of the Upper Great Plains and Rocky Mountains showing Indian territories as he understood them.

4. I learned a new trick for navigating the Library of Congress's gargantuan collections. Use Google! Search using the key words plus "Library of Congress" to get relevant hits.

5. I was introduced to a new primary source graphic organizer: C.L.U.E., which asks students to "Check it over" (especially looking for author, date, and type of source), "Look at the historical setting (context)," Understand the author's message" (tone and purpose), and Examine closely. (I wish the graphic organizer asked about audience--but otherwise I thought it could be very useful.) 

6. I learned more about Breakout Games. We were faced with a box locked with several locks (a directional lock, a letter lock, a three number lock, and a 4 number lock) and were given a number of clues (including primary sources) relating to homesteading and the novel Hattie Big Sky. We had a great time finding the information we needed to unlock our box. There are online Breakout games too: I haven't seen any on Montana history, but I really enjoyed doing this one on Langston Hughes. One of the creators, Tom Mullaney, designed a template for teachers interested in making their own digital breakouts. If anyone creates a Montana history related digital breakout, let me know! I'd love to check it out.

7. I learned several other simple and effective ways to integrate primary sources--especially in elementary classrooms. Playing "I Spy" for example.

I'll be digesting the two days and working to integrate some of these new practices into future lesson plans. If you can make it to Miles City, I highly recommend signing up for the October workshop. It was well worth the time. Otherwise, try some of the ideas above and let me know how they work with your students.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Can we find a teachable moment through the smoke?

If you are on Facebook, I bet your feed is filled with stories about the fires. Mine is.

These articles brought to mind a post I wrote awhile back about 
using disasters as a way to engage students in larger questions

It also made me wonder if this year’s fire season offers a “teachable moment.” If so, here are some resources for teaching about fire and fire history. Most are taken from the Montana: Stories of the Land Teachers Guide and Companion Website, Chapter 12. 
Interested in changes how fire policy has changed since 1910? We created this bibliography for National History Day students, but it’s a good starting point for any researcher.  Other interesting sources include:
Wildfires and the appropriate response to them are also at the center of policy debates. 
  • What should the government’s approach be toward fire protection in the Wildland-Urban Interface?
  • How do state and federal policies affect fires? (Recently, Senator Daines called for more logging to prevent fires and Senator Tester called for action to slow climate change.)
  • What are the budget implications of increasing forest fires and how should we pay for fire fighting?
Consider asking students to research and then write (and/or present) policy briefs to your local legislator and/or county commissioners on one of these issues. (Former middle school teacher Jim Schulz said having students present decision-makers with their research—and proposed solutions—to current problems was the all-time best activity he ever did with his students.)
If you do end up exploring fire in a meaningful way in your classroom, I'd love to learn what you did and how it went. And in the meantime, I'm sure you join me in wishing for snow.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Teachers' Choice: Favorite High School Lesson Plans

You've seen the elementary and middle school teachers' responses to the question, “Describe (in brief) the best Montana history or IEFA lesson or project or resource you taught this year--the one you will make time for next year no matter what.” As promised, here are the answers we received from high school teachers to the same question. [I've added links where I could find them and a few comments in brackets.] 

Janessa Parenteau in Froid taught Playing for the World: The 1904 Fort Shaw Indian Boarding School Girls Basketball Team. 

Jane Kolstad, a special education and alternative school teacher in Glasgow, recommends "Counting Coup:  Becoming a Crow Chief on the Reservation and Beyond, by Joe Medicine Crow. She wrote: "I supplement with the lessons from the OPI website.  I also like to do some lessons with the book:  Land of the Nakoda which is in reference to the Assiniboine Indians who are native to this area.  

Betty Bennett, who teaches English in Missoula, wrote, "I use several every year, but I am especially committed to using "Blood on the Marias" at the end of our unit on Fools Crow by James Welch.  It is also a great starting point for additional "history detective" work.  My students are much more interested in novels that are based on historical events."

Power teacher Shelly Vick wrote: "7 Essentials Understandings illustrated on tipis.  Didn't expect it to go well but the students loved it."

Jennifer Ogden, art teacher in Victor, used The Art of Storytelling: Plains Indian Perspectives (a unit on pictographic art).

One teacher wrote: "I took bits and pieces of Native American speeches and then had my students try and match them up with the time period and personality of who said them. It is a fun exercise for my students and it gets them talking about the personalities and culture of Native American society.

One teacher used our "Cavalry on the Frontier footlocker."  [Our footlockers, though designed for 4th grade, are often successfully adapted to high school. More information on the footlocker program here.]

Another teacher said, "The one the kids enjoyed the most was my flint and steel fire starting hands-on lesson."

A principal was proud of his teachers' collaborative project on Glacier National Park: "The English teacher and the art teacher took a field trip to Glacier National Park.  The art side of the project is ledger art and the English side was place-based learning with an emphasis on the Salish perspective." [A good related resource is our hands-on history footlocker--Land of Many Stories: The People and Histories of Glacier National ParkThough designed for fourth grade, it is easily adaptable to upper grades.]

And and another teacher wrote, "Lewis and Clark: Journals on the Yellowstone and visit to forts/confluence."

Several teachers mentioned topics they focused on (The link to resources are mine):

Last but not least, a teacher wrote that she does a "Sense of Place" unit. It reminded me of the work Montana Heritage Project teachers used to do. I am so glad this type of community studies continues, so I asked her for details. She wrote: 

Students need to have a solid, personal history foundation, before venturing out to impact the world. I have discovered that students know very little about their own family history, and or community present and past. My students know where to get the best $2 fries in town, but have no idea about the soaking pools, museum, Artist Society or local politics. They know nothing, or very little, about the rich history of the valley.
I start with some personal history, such as their first name. Why were they given that name? What does it mean? Are there others in the family with the same name? Learning about their last name also provides a plethora of family history.
Many of our rural kids have stories tied to their land. How long has it been in the family? Homesteaders or a recent purchase…has the land always raised cattle, pigs, wheat or barley? Is there a family cemetery? Where was the nearest school, store or post office. 
I like to have students research the various professions within the family tree. Again, this provides an interesting look at each student’s personal history.
A tour around town (ours is small) where students can discuss, list or write about any knowledge they have about the town, now and in the past. Once that is done I have them talk to family members and or community members to glean their information about town. Sometimes this turns into oral histories for the museum.
Do you have a favorite lesson or resource you'd like to share? It's not too late--let me know what it is and I will share it with the group. Among the suggestions for how to improve Teaching Montana History was to posts more about what teachers were doing (both successes and failures). So email me so we can make that happen! 

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Struggling Readers and Informational Text

We were lucky beyond measure to host a workshop with reading specialist and SKC professor Tammy Elser in June. It had an unwieldy title, "Struggling Readers and Content Area Textbooks: Making Montana: Stories of the Land Accessible to All," but many of the strategies Tammy featured were quick and easy to implement. In fact, several of our resources now incorporate them.

Tammy introduced us to "Takeaway" bookmarks--a tool for teaching students how to summarize (she said that the idea was inspired by SKC graduate Taylor Crawford). Modeled on the one Tammy created for Chapter 8 of Montana: Stories of the Land, we created “Takeaway” bookmarks for every chapter--and posted them on the Educator Resources pages of the Montana: Stories of the Land Companion Website. Before starting a chapter, print and cut out these bookmarks and distribute them to your students. Ask them to use the available space on the Takeaway to summarize the GIST of what they learn from reading each subsection of the chapter. Remind them that they don’t have much room, so they’ll need to think before they write down the most important idea they want to take away from the section. 

Write Your Way In/Write Your Way Out
While Tammy featured this strategy at the workshop, her friend Julie Saylor actually introduced me to it a few years ago. Julie worked with us to design the Original Governor's Mansion footlocker and used the strategy with great success in several lessons. The strategy is extremely simple to implement. Start with a question central to the lesson (if you are using Montana: Stories of the Land, you can modify one of the "Read to Find Out" statements.)

In the first lesson of the Original Governor's Mansion footlocker, Julie provided the following prompt: What was life like for Montana children in the years 1900–1920? Describe what you might know from stories and reading and what you imagine. What did their homes look like? What did their schools look like? Where (and what) did children play? What type of clothing did they wear? Don’t stop writing for five minutes! (Tammy suggests only writing for three minutes. Do what works for your class.)

After providing the prompt, let them know that they will be thinking hard and writing for five minutes nonstop, as soon as you say, “Go!” You will be using a timer and they must keep on going, not lifting their pencils until the five minutes are up. If they are stuck for what to write next, encourage them to write, “I am thinking!” until they think of more to say. Remind them they can use their imaginations! Create a sense of urgency! For this exercise, they should not be concerned with their spelling, etc. They should just think and pour out their thoughts on paper. When the timer goes off at the end of five minutes, tell students to draw a line where they stopped.

After completing the chapter, lesson or unit, have your students "Write their way out" on the same question, using the same method of non-stop writing (only three minutes this time around.) When we classroom tested this technique in Jodi Delaney's fourth-fifth grade class, she said that students who had struggled to write a sentence proudly filled a page. 

Tea Party
Perhaps some of you already use this powerful pre-reading strategy, which "allows students to predict what they think will happen in the text as they make inferences, see casual relationships, compare and contrast, practice sequencing, and draw on their prior experiences." If not, I recommend trying it.

At the Struggling Readers workshop, Tammy gave us each an index card with a short section of text (in this case from the 1855 Hellgate Treaty, using part of a lesson created by Arlee teacher Shawn Orr). She didn't tell us anything about the text. Instead, she had us read our snippet to ourselves and write a very short summary of it (no more than 20 words--in a classroom, you might want to do this with partners). After we copied our  summary on the back of the card, we "tea partied." We walked around and shared our cards with other members of the class. We read our snippet and summary aloud to our partner (while they followed along silently). Then we listened while our partner did the same. By the end of the tea party, I'd read my part of the treaty 4 times, had mastered some difficult technical language, and had begun to put the pieces together by listening/reading other sections. We don't have any lessons that use this strategy yet, but you can bet we will soon.

I'm pleased to say that Tammy is planning on working with OPI to create an online HUB course based on the workshop she gave for us. I'll let you know when it goes live--likely sometime next spring.

Do you have a great reading strategy? Please email me: I'd love to learn about it.

Monday, September 11, 2017

More Eastern Montana Professional Development Opportunities

I'm delighted to announce that we are cosponsoring two workshops in Glendive in cooperation with the Prairie View Curriculum Consortium.

On Wednesday, September 27, 2017, from 10-3, award-winning educator Jim Schulz will lead a workshop for grades 4-7 educators: "Bringing History Alive." At this workshop, teachers will spend the morning exploring what life was like for Montana Indians during the pre- and early contact periods. The afternoon will showcase lesson plans from the hands-on history footlocker "Coming to Montana: Immigrants from Around the World."  Teachers will leave with interactive ready-to-go lessons they can immediately use in their classrooms.

Then, on Thursday, September 28, 10-3, Jim will will lead a workshop for grade 7-12 teachers: "Teaching Hard History." During this workshop, teachers will spend the morning looking at how war affected Montana and Montanans, using a readers’ theater script “Letters Home from Montanans at War” and introducing new resources the MT Historical Society has created for the World War I Centennial.  The afternoon will focus on Indian Education for All, showcasing lesson plans that use primary sources to investigate Montana’s Indian history.  Teachers will leave with interactive ready-to-go lessons they can immediately use in their classrooms.

Those of you who have attended Jim's "Crossing Discipline" workshops know what a great presenter he is. This is a chance to work with him and gain exposure to entirely different content.

Both workshops will be held at the PVSS Building, 30 Hwy. 200 S in Glendive. Participants will earn 5 renewal credits. Lunch will be provided (and it will be a working lunch).

To register for either (or both) workshops, email Kim Stanton with your name, school, grade level, cell phone--in case the workshop is cancelled--and the name of the session you are registering for.

On the way home from Glendive, Jim will be offering the tried and true "Crossing Disciplines: Social Studies, Art, and the Common Core" in Hardin on September 29, and Livingston on September 30. More details about those workshops here

For those of you in Western Montana, there's still time to register for the Montana History Conference, or at least the Thursday, September 21, Educator Workshop. Looking forward! It's going to be dynamite.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Teachers' Choice: Favorite Middle School Lessons

Last week I shared the answers that elementary teachers gave to the question “Describe (in brief) the best Montana history or IEFA lesson or project or resource your taught this year--the one you will make time for next year no matter what.” Today, I'll share middle school teachers' answers to the same question. I've added links to likely lesson plans and additional information in brackets. High school teachers' responses coming soon. 

Cindy Hatten. who teaches 6-8 grades Colstrip, shared three favorites: The Original Governor's Mansion footlocker,[scroll down for the link to the User Guide], The Railroads Transform Montana PowerPoint lesson plan, and the Women at Work lesson plan.

Jennifer Hall, who teaches 8th grade in Eureka, wrote: "Mapping MT: A-Z, Girl from the Gulches lessons, Charlie Russell on Indians and Gallery Walk and many more."

Laura Dukart, 8th grade MT history in Wibaux, also loves Mapping Montana: "Students "travel" to towns they select in alphabetical order, noting the mileage between each, and facts about each town."

Jennifer Graham, who teaches 7-12 history in Philipsburg, writes: "A field trip to the [Montana Historical Society] Museum. It is always worth it!!!  I love how it brings to life the textbook and everything we have talked about all year long."

Power teacher Shelly Vick wrote: "7 Essentials Understandings illustrated on tipis.  Didn't expect it to go well but the students loved it."

Jennifer Ogden, K-12 art teacher in Victor, recommends "The Art of Storytelling." [We sent packets of this unit on pictographic art to every public school library and also put the material on our website for download.]

Sunny Real Bird, a Ronan 7th grade math teacher, recommends "traditional games." [Here's a Traditional Games Unit from OPI.]

Other teachers replied anonymously: 

 "FIRST-Teaching about Ledger Art and then making our own ledger art from ledger paper. SECOND-I will definitely check out the Lewis and Clark trunk again."

"Charlie Russell and VTS."

"The trial of Henry Plummer- students draw for prosecution or defense. We use multiple sources and put Mr. Plummer on Trial."

"Making parfleche bags."

"Lewis and Clark: Journals on the Yellowstone and visit to forts/confluence."

"Sense of Place lessons...learning about the community, (right now and in the past)."

Do you have a favorite lesson you'd like to share? It's not too late. Email me with details and I'll share it with the group. 

Monday, September 4, 2017

OPI Site Redesign

In my August 28 post, I put out a plea for folks to let me know when they found broken links on our site. That's still in effect, with one caveat.

The Montana Office of Public Instruction has just launched a redesigned website. This means that the links we have provided to OPI’s resources no longer work. We are working to fix them as quickly as we can. 

If you find a broken link to an OPI resource, for the short term, I recommend using the "search" function on their main web page as well as Montana Teach, where it looks as if many of the curriculum resources have been moved. I know they are still building the Montana Teach and Indian Education Division's pages and are adding additional resources every day.

The material OPI puts out is top notch--so the extra digging is worth it. My new favorite OPI resource is "Crossing Boundaries through Art: Seals of Montana Tribal Nations" (grades 3-5, grades 6-8, and grades 9-12). Give it a look--and please be patient as we clean up our site and lesson plans. 

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Teachers' Choice: Favorite Elementary Lessons

Every spring, I survey readers, both to get feedback on how to make Teaching Montana History better and to gather everyone’s favorite lessons so I can share them with the group. I love learning what has actually worked in the classroom—and being able to share teacher-approved lessons. So, without further ado, here are some of the answers elementary teachers gave to the question “Describe (in brief) the best Montana history or IEFA lesson or project or resource you taught this year--the one you will make time for next year no matter what.” Stay tuned for future posts featuring the answers from middle and high school teachers. [I've added some links, and a few comments in brackets--couldn't resist putting my oar in.] 

Justine Hurley, who teaches grades 3-5 in White Sulphur Springs, wrote: "This year I used the Montana Indian Stories Lit Kit.  The students really enjoyed the interactive puppetry that can go along with the stories.  We studied this footlocker after Christmas and it was very useful in getting the kids engaged after a long winter break!  Next year I intend to use the To Learn A New Way footlocker.  I will be creating in-depth social studies lessons and field trip based on this footlocker!" [Discover more about both of these footlockers by exploring the User Guides, posted on our Footlocker page.] 

Susan Seastrand, who teaches K-8 in a one-room school, used the Charlie Russell pictures that were part of our Montana's Charlie Russell packet. [We sent one to every public school library--but if you want one for your classroom, send us an email and we'll send you one while supplies last. You can also access all of the packet material (including the images, biographical PowerPoints, three hands-on art lessons, and five ELA/social studies lessons) on our website.]

Christine Ayers, a 3-5 teacher from Polson, wrote: "Honestly, there are so many! The ones that came to mind first, are the resources on Columbus Day and Thanksgiving. We have used those lessons as a base for so many discussions throughout the year. Just those two lessons have sparked in-depth, critical thoughts and debates for the entire year. Fourth graders getting a different perspective and developing empathy is something I will make time for every year, thanks to these lessons!" [Mike Jetty offered some great links on Thanksgiving in his guest post last year on Native American Heritage Month.]

April Wills, who teaches second grade in Bainville, wrote: "The best lesson I teach is Preserving Eastern Montana History with iMovie. Students research, develop questions and record information. When the whole project is done we create iMovies to preserve that knowledge and share with other students. Each year is different, this year we researched homesteads within 50 miles of our town. Students partnered up with high school students to complete their tasks, this also varies each year with the classes we join with depending on scheduling." 

Shannon Baukol, who teaches 3-6 in Pray, wrote: "The best history  lesson I have taught this year is a map layering activity with Montana reservations and tribal affiliations, tied in with a Literary Study on tribes outside of Montana." [She may have used some of the maps available through OPI's Indian Education Division, particularly this one of territories in 1855 and this one showing reservations today. If you are interested in providing a visual on Indian land loss, you may also want to check out this amazing 17-second animation that shows Indian land loss using the chronological collection of land cession maps by Sam B. Hillard, of Louisiana State University, which was published in 1972 in the Annals of the Association of American Geographers. Maps looking at land loss due to allotment are also extremely informative. You can download a map set focused on the Flathead Reservation here.]

Whitefish Technology teacher Michael Carmichael also understands the power of maps. Each year he works with his third graders to create animations of shrinking tribal land. Last year, I was so intrigued I asked him to share details. He wrote: "Students were given different animation project choices including one about  Montana Reservations. The students’ task was to show how traditional tribal areas changed and shrank with the introduction of reservations. Students needed to select three tribes to animate the boundary changes. This lesson activated prior classroom knowledge and utilized free online animation program that was age appropriate and allowed students multiple ways to create their animated infographic. Students accessed traditional tribal territory maps and modern Reservation maps to use as their background before using the drawing and painting tools to create the visual of the shrinking reservations. Animate is free and easy to use on all platforms via the web. Some of the map resources students utilized are:
They also used the  student safe search resource “Bing in the Classroom.”(Free for Schools)."

Bill Moe, Libby 3-5 teacher, loved Mapping Montana A-Z. He declared it "great fun." [Another teacher said her 4th-grade students got frustrated with the exercise and recommended shortening it by placing students in groups and dividing up the alphabet (so one group mapped A-F, another G-L, etc.). She's now teaching 8th grade and says those students love the lesson plan as is.]  

Another teacher also recommended map resources: "I liked the presentation Ruth Ferris gave us using old and new state maps with tribal names. It was interesting to see how Montana has changed over time using maps." [I asked Ruth, and she thought the maps she presented came from MontanaTribes.org.]

A 3-8 art teacher had his students make parfleche bags. 

A 3-5 teacher has embraced combining history and language arts. For example, she read Hattie Big Sky as a read aloud. [I just read this book this summer--what a great tie-in to so many topics in Montana history, including the effects World War I.]

One 3-5 teacher wrote: "I have used women in Montana History information with my students in reading and language arts." [We've gathered our resources on Montana women's history here. Lesson plans particularly appropriate for elementary are Women and Sports: Tracking Change Over Time, Montana Women at Work: Clothesline Timeline, and Biographical Poems Celebrating Amazing Montana Women.] 

Angela Archuleta, a librarian in Lewistown, wrote: "I did a primary resource session from Glacier National Park. I would like to conduct some of the  RAFT exercises in Google Classroom." [I don't know if she used it, but we have a footlocker focused on Glacier that offers a number of primary sources. You can review the user guide here and learn about how to order here. More information on RAFT here and here.]

One K-5 librarian wrote: "I began the 4th graders on Yellowstone Kelly and the newspapers from long ago. I'd like to go deeper into Boot Hill Cemetery and Yellowstone Kelly. One "teachable moment" occurred when one of my students asked who Charlie Russell was. It allowed me to open up the kit we all received about him and talk to the students about his impact on Montana and Western Art." 

A K-5 library teacher recommended using the historical newspapers now available online. [Here are some tips.]

A 3-5 teacher recommended playing Indian games. [Here's a Traditional Games Unit from OPI.]

A few of you listed field trips as the best thing you did: 
  • "We took a school field trip to the Lewis and Clark Interactive Museum in Great Falls that was wonderful." (Grades K-2)
  • "We took the class on a field trip to the BigHorn Battlefield. Before leaving we used many resources from the MT Historical Society emails I received over the course of the year. Most recently we used the piece about History and location of MT tribes for our research projects." (Grades 3-5)
Do you have a favorite lesson you'd like to share? If so, email me with details and I'll share it with the group.