Sunday, December 14, 2014

Gilded Age Christmas (or any time of year) Shopping

By Jeff Burns

The Gilded Age transformed America like few other periods in American history.  Industrialization made individuals into billionaires, often more powerful than the government, giant corporations were born, and inventors made huge technological advances.  The United States became a major world economic power.  For the first time, more Americans lived in cities than in rural areas and worked at non-agricultural jobs.  Millions of new immigrants arrived, enriching the American culture and becoming Americanized simultaneously.   Progressive reformers and cities began making changes to improve urban living and working conditions. 

For years now, I have taken my students shopping, without leaving the classroom,  in order to get them to see and understand these changes.  First, we talk about the rise of department stores, a new concept for urban shoppers.  Then, we shop from mail order catalogs, one of the new developments of the Gilded Age.  Pioneers like JC Penny, Montgomery Ward, and Sears & Roebuck developed catalogs in order to reach the still large rural population, unable to shop in department stores.  I relate how valuable catalogs were for rural Americans, using my grandmother’s family as a n example.  Small farmers in South Georgia, they might have made it into a general store once a week or less, as late as the 1930s and 1940s. As a child growing up myself in a small town with few shopping options, my family relied heavily on the Sears catalog and catalog distribution store in town.  Santa Claus was for me at least pretty much a Sears employee.

For this activity, I have acquired a number of reproductions of old catalogs from the 1880s.  You can find them pretty readily, new and used.  I copied a number of pages from them and divided them into five categories:  health and beauty, recreation, household, men’s fashion, and women’s fashion.  I divide the class into 5 groups, and they rotate through each group in the course of the activity.  For each category, I give them a few questions to guide their small group discussion and encourage them to look at and talk about every page, discussing things like: What’s familiar and unfamiliar?  What would use and not use? Etc.  The health and beauty category always draws a lot of attention and discussion because of the cure-all products and things like electric belts.

Because my school year starts in early August, it’s perfect timing for me to make it a Christmas shopping activity.  (But it can be done at any time of the year.)  I might give them a $25 or $30 shopping budget to buy gifts or tell them to make a wish-list for Santa from the catalog pages.  One question that always comes up is how much are those prices now. While it’s not perfect, I find it an easy rule of thumb to tell them to multiply by 20.

 After all the groups have seen everything, it’s time to debrief. We have interesting discussions about what these products can tell us about everyday life and about the roles of men and women, what did people do in their leisure time for fun, what medical issues were people concerned about and what was the state of healthcare.  They see the effects of mass production and how catalogs and the shared shopping experience homogenized American culture and helped Americanize new immigrants.  It’s always a fun and enlightening day or two in class.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Follow in the Footsteps of Model Citizens as you enter the Digital World.

By Nina Kendall

In today’s world, people have to learn how to navigate the shoals of the real world and digital world. No matter what arena you are navigating a great way to learn is follow the footstep of model citizens. George Washington in his youth copied the Rules of Civility & Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation which may have served as a guide for behavior during his life. Those rules offer us useful advice in the digital world as well. See how rules from more than 200 years ago support important characteristics of digital citizens today.

Character Trait: Thoughtfulness


Every Action done in Company, ought to be with Some Sign of Respect, to those that are Present.
Be Thoughtful. Treat everyone with respect.   Thing don’t have to be said in person or online. Information and images posted online lasts forever. Make thoughtful choices about what you say and how you say it.

Character Trait: Openness


Be not tedious in Discourse, make not many Digressions, nor repeat often the Same manner of Discourse.

Be Open. Learn the rules and practices of appropriate accepted practices for communicating with others in digital environment. Learn about hashtags and rules for chats. Even in a digital environment some behaviors are frowned upon. Remember communication is a digital two-way street. Listen and speak.

Character Trait: Restraint


Be not immodest in urging your Friends to Discover a Secret.

Practice Restraint. Learn the difference between sharing ideas and participating in conversations and revealing personal information. Keep personal information secret to be safe. Discretion is an undervalue practice. 

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Document Box Fun

By Jeff Burns

Of course, I love book stores, new or used.  Barnes & Noble, and other chains, often have great “Bargain Book” aisles in which I can spend lots of time, often finding great materials that I can use in my history classroom.  It was there that I was introduced to various historical collections created by Chronicle Books.  Their products  are also available in many museum gift shops and online. Chronicle publishes creative journals, notecards and stationery, and books.  They also published boxed collections of reproductions of primary documents relating to particular topics.  Unfortunately, it seems that these items may not be available through the website anymore, but they may be found elsewhere.

The boxes themselves are beautifully designed, conversation starters on a table or shelf.  The Ellis Island box for example is made to resemble a piece of luggage, and the Titanic box is designed to look like a steamer trunk, complete with a lift-out inner tray.  Inside each box is a treasure trove of primary documents, carefully archived and explained in the accompanying booklet, in order to present a detailed view of the topic.  In Ellis Island, for example, you find reproductions of postcards, shipping line advertisements, letters from and to immigrants, letters of naturalization, photographs, inspection cards, etc.  In Titanic, there are copies of menus, postcards, ship diagrams, and other documents.   Each document is transcribed and described in the accompanying manual.

For classroom use, I usually laminate the documents for durability.  Then, students can practice interpreting the primary sources.  In reading the documents, students learn important critical reading and interpretation skills, and they gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of the time.     Students might be asked to arrange or group the documents in order to create a particular project or address a particular question.  Documents can be distributed to students who are assigned to create a character or situation based on their assigned document, or the students might be required to use the assigned document as a starting point for a research project.  The accurate reproduction details provide a high level of verisimilitude, making students think and feel like historians.  I also use the documents for bulletin board displays and teaching trunks.  Beyond the classroom, they provide hours of entertainment for history buffs.

If you can find these great resources, I hope you check them out.  If you know of other similar products, please comment below.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Reasons to Attend GCSS

By Nina Kendall

Professional organizations in the fields of History and Education hold annual meetings to fulfill their missions.  These meetings or conferences are opportunities to learn about the work in the field and network with colleagues. The Georgia Council for the Social Studies (GCSS) is the professional organization for Social Studies Educators in Georgia.  Their annual meeting is held annually during the third week in October. The 2014 conference will be October 16-17.  Here are a few reasons to attend.

New Resources
At an annual meeting like GCSS, you have the opportunity to talk to organizations that support your professional work. At this year’s meeting you will have a chance to see new items that vendors have to offer and how organizations like Georgia Council on Economic Education and the Georgia Humanities Council support learning in our state.  No matter your budget, a walk through the exhibitor hall will lead you to resources to use in your classroom.
Exhibitors for GCSS 2014

Bridgeview Education
Cengage Learning
Clairmont Press
Didgeridoo Down Under
EF Education First
Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta
Gallopade International
Georgia Center for Assessment
Georgia Center for Civic Engagement
Georgia Commission on the Holocaust
Georgia Council on Economic Education
Georgia Council for the Social Studies
Georgia Historical Society
Georgia Humanities Council
Georgia Public Broadcasting
Georgia Renaissance Festival
Georgia Southern University Museum
Heifer International
Jewish Community Relations Council
National Geographic
Non-Boring History
PDA Literacy
Studies Weekly
Teachers Retirement System
The Outstanding Guides, LLC
Tracy’s File Cabinet
Warbranch Press, Inc.
World Affairs Council of Atlanta/World Quest

New Insight
A variety of speakers at annual meetings will introduce you to new insights and developments in the field.  A few years ago, attendees got to hear from the Historian working on Today in Georgia History, a joint project between GPB and the Georgia Historical Society. This year you can learn about social studies instruction from around the state from speaker panel lead by Shaun Owen from the Georgia Department of Education.  You can also gain new insight into history while attending the keynote address delivered by Congressman John Lewis. Congressman Lewis will share his experiences and introduce his new book, March.

New Ideas
Make time to attend presentations of your choice at GCSS. From DBQs to Mentoring Student Teachers, there is a topic of interest to everyone.  Histocrat Margaret Duncan will be there presenting about Gamification.  Pick something of interest to you. Look for a session to address a problem you are facing in your school. Find out how to participate in National History Day and connect with the National Archives in Atlanta for research.  Leave with new ideas on how to make your classroom and school more effective and engaging.

We encourage you to make this part of your professional growth plans now and in the future. This annual event sponsored by Georgia Historical Society, Georgia Center for Civic Engagement, Georgia Humanities Council, and Studies Weekly in 2014 is an opportunity not to be missed.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Crafting Comparisons: A Creative Activity for Teaching the CIvil War

By Nina Kendall

As an extended activity the during the Civil War unit, I challenge students to write metaphors comparing some aspect of the Civil War to some facet of a football game.  This activity is simply called, “If the Civil War was a football game.” Students have the opportunity to view models comparisons and a list of broad topics that we study in this unit. It is their job to make evidence based comparison using accurate and colorful language.

I do this activity with students with students enrolled in regular US History class and in Advanced Placement United States History(APUSH). With students in the regular US History Class, I provide a sentence frame, a model sentence, a list of history terms to choose from, and a reference list of football terms as reference. For the APUSH students, I share a few examples and challenge them to make their metaphors. I let my APUSH students choose to work by themselves or in a group. The rule for the assignment is simply the groups must turn in at least 10 metaphors for every group member. Students also had choice about the aspects of the Civil War they choose to be the subject of their metaphors.

This activity is very engaging and a great opportunity for students to be creativity. Students examine the war from economic, political, and military perspectives as they strive to understand how different people and events played a role. Some of the greatest independent  thinking about the Civil War from students happens during this activity. Students frequently extend their inquiry to different perspectives as they craft their metaphors. Further as students are crafting their own comparisons and selecting evidence to support their comparisons it is a great way for me to evaluate their understanding of the  period and their growth in using historical evidence.

At the conclusion of this activity students share the part of their work they are most proud of with their peers. This is a great day in class. I establish some rules for sharing. Each topic can only be used once in the entire class.  We rotate after each comparison to another person or group. Students are invited to express their appreciation and approval for the work of others. Students  happily share their work. As time runs down, students compete with each other to be able to share another part of the work.

Metaphor Rubric
Focus on Metaphor
There is one clear, well-focused metaphor. Main idea stands out and is supported by detailed information.
The metaphor is clear but the supporting information is general.
The metaphor is somewhat clear but there is a need for more supporting information.
The metaphor is not clear. There is a seemingly random collection of information.
Support for Metaphor
Relevant, telling, quality details give the reader important information that goes beyond the obvious or predictable.
Supporting details and information are relevant.
Supporting details and information are relevant, but are not period specific,
Supporting details and information are typically unclear.
The project contains many creative details and/or descriptions that contribute to the reader's enjoyment. The author has really used imagination.
The project contains a few creative details and/or descriptions that contribute to the reader's enjoyment. The author has used imagination.
The project contains a few creative details and/or descriptions, but they distract from the story. The author has tried to use imagination.
There is little evidence of creativity in the project. The author does not seem to have used much imagination.

Rubric from Read Write Think

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Maker Fair Fun in the Social Studies Classroom

By Nina Kendall

The Maker philosophy is to apply a do-it-yourself approach to learning in the modern classroom. Students are empowered to make, to tinker, and to create. This approach appeals to me as an educator and as a child of the 1980’s. Not only do I want to make things, so do kids. This is a great way to encourage creativity in the classroom.  Frequently maker spaces and activities involve 3-D printers and Lego robots.   Yet the maker movement is bigger than robots. This approach to learning can certainly be brought into the Social Studies classroom too.

Here is what I did to bring a maker event to my classroom:

·         Investigated the #maker approach with Mozilla and looked for way that this approach could be brought in to class for learners at all levels of digital experience.

·         Selected the tools for use in the activity.

·         Selected the content students could share their understanding of that day.

·         Created a PowerPoint slide for each activity that included tool, product goal, and content.

·         I saved the slides as jpeg files(photos).

·         I created a basic website that had links to web tools that students could use and a photo slide show of the activities.

·         I created a form to hand to each student that would indicate the activity they choose, the type of activity completed, and the method of electronic turn the students used. (Students could email project, turn in on ThreeRing, save to their drives, or upload to Edmodo. )

Maker Event in Class:

·         Give students each a copy of the form to report their efforts on.

·         Direct students to #maker website and let them know that what they choose to make is there choice.

·         Monitor progress  and collect sheets at the end of session.

·         Enjoy what students share!


·         Shifting technology infrastructure. Be aware of the limitations of your digital environment.

·         Students struggling with digital tools. They are not all digital natives. Some students are also very insecure with activities that don’t have exact responses.

·         Time. As in every activity some students needed more time than others.


We had a good day. Students were highly engaged and very creative. I liked the focus students displayed.  It was good to see them work together so positively. It was also nice to share in their efforts. In high school, the days students want to share their work with you are rare. I would certainly do this again. 

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Instagram and Hashtags: Connecting with Social Media

By Nina Kendall
July 4th Bingo with the Archives
Instagram offers opportunities to engage students in new and different ways.  Schools and teachers can follow institutions like the National Archives and the National Gallery in using media to engage audiences with observation and curation activities. Here a few thoughts if you are interested in giving it a try.


Embrace the Hashtag
Hashtags are like guide words in a card catalog or key words in a Boolean search as they help you find things.  Using a hashtag allows you to find thoughts and images on a similar topic. 
Create your own Hashtags with Instagram Assignments
 Use them when you create an assignment so you can enjoy student shares without having to follow students. Make the hashtag as unique as possible so your search will have less cross contamination in the results.

Let students craft their own Hashtags
Have students create their own hashtags when analyzing texts or creating diagrams. Their choices will reflect their understanding of the work. You could even have students create hashtags to reflect different perspectives and have students look for evidence to support that hashtag and perspective.
Let Students craft the Vision
Have you ever started a lesson with a modern image or phrase to help students connect with the past and then found they didn’t know the modern image? We know that students are more likely to remember something when they can relate it to something learned previously. Instagram can help you engage students in building hooks for units and lessons. Assign a topic like “cooperation.” Have students share images that represent cooperation to them. Use those images as a hook for discussing how communities reacted to Civil Rights change as you study the 20th century.
Make the world your classroom.
Instagram lets students engage in observations of the world around them. Students capture and share images that become a text to relate what they are learning to and share with others.

Student observations of  modern food landscape
·Have students take pictures of the modern cultural landscape and compare to works about the same area from a different period. The Federal Writer’s Project has some great texts to use for comparison.
·   Going on a field trip? Don’t assign a worksheet. Give students a list of things to photograph on the trip and assign a hashtag for the trip. Students can share their day with others and comment on what others saw. Then with a program like Storify you can have a slide show to view as class the next day.


These ideas represent just a few of the ways you could use hashtags and Instagram in class. What ideas do you have?

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Choice Boards: Personalized Learning in the Elementary Classroom

By Lisa Henriquez

We all know the importance of differentiating assignments for students of different ability levels, but differentiation goes beyond taking off a few questions for less able learners or giving the gifted students an extra project to complete. Differentiated Instruction should reaching different levels but it should also meet specific needs and be student centered. All students learn differently so they should be given different ways to show mastery. One way to address this need is the use of choice boards. They offer students a way to make decisions about what they will do in order to meet class requirements. A choice board could be for a single lesson, a week-long lesson, or even a month-long period of study.

According to Fair Isn't Always Equal: Assessing and Grading in the Differentiated Classroom by Rick Wormeli in order to create a choice board:

O     Identify the most important elements of a lesson or unit.
O     Create a required assignment or project that reflects the minimum understanding you expect all students to achieve.
O     Create negotiables which expand upon the minimum understands. These negotiables often require students to go beyond the basic levels of Bloom's Taxonomy.
O     Create a final section that offers students the opportunity for enrichment.

I use choice boards in all grade levels. The younger students need more detailed instructions and resources in class. I will work on the research and back ground information during class and send the student’s research pages home for parents to help pull everything together in the project. My 1st and 2nd grade classes have approximately 25 students. The individual, creative activities can be difficult to accomplish in class. I feel that it is more important for me to spend class time, helping them get the information. I can assess their understanding of the different assignments and topics and research skills in class.  Older students are given the choice board and class time and resources, but can work at their own pace to complete the activities. They have the freedom to work at home if needed or bring in the needed project supplies if they aren’t in the classroom.

I also use the same choice board for all students in class, special education – gifted.  All students are working on the activities they feel comfortable completing.  I conference with students to help pick activities to make sure all are working at their ability level and pushing themselves to try different types of activities.  I also offer a Pick your Product opportunity for older students. They are much more creative than I am so they come up with some great ideas!          

Monday, August 4, 2014

Back to School with NHD in Georgia

By Nina Kendall

Looking for a new way to engage your students in research? Are you considering implementing National History Day(NHD) in your school or classroom next year? Are you looking for advice on how to get started? Here are some basic tips on getting started on NHD in Georgia

Get to Know the Projects

There are 5 different types of projects that are part of National History Day. Project categories include websites, performances, exhibits, documentaries, and papers.  National History Day has a detailed rule book  with detailed descriptions each type of project. LaGrange College runs an extensive support program for National History Day in the State of Georgia. Every project except for a paper can be completed by a group. You can certainly allow students to choose any type of project, but you can advise students on what is possible with school equipment and seek advice from others on producing various projects. Perhaps you have a very supportive drama or technology teacher in your building.

Get to Know the Theme

The 2015 theme is Leadership and Legacy. National History Day presents an essay every year to explore theme. It is a useful tool to help introduce students to working with a theme. This may be the first time you and your students have chosen to complete research based on a theme.

Be Prepared with Sample Topics

When you introduce the project, you are going to want have sample topics to share. National History Day creates a list of sample topics every year.  Topics can focus on any part of history. This year you will also find some lists of topics based on the history of individual states.  You can also see suggestions and discussions of possible topics at the NHD at LaGrange College facebook page. You do not have to use a topic from a list provided by National History Day or any other organization. However, these lists of topics can be sources of inspiration.  

Know where to find Help

National History Day in conjunction with several museums hosted google hangouts about each type of project that you can watch. Each state has an affiliate coordinator that supports NHD and conduct contests within your state. These organizations can offer you advice on how to get started, connect you with your regional competition, and possibly host a workshop you or your students can attend. The Georgia Humanities Council, an NHD affiliate in Georgia. Laura McCarty runs the National History Day program.  Dr. Kevin Shirley at LaGrange College runs the National History Day Mentoring Program. This year a new Research Round-Up in October will offer more support.

Find Out about NHD Contests

If you plan to compete, you need to know about your local competition which is hosted in the spring of each year. The state competition is hosted annually at Mercer University.  Regional competition sponsors include:

·         Clayton State University and the National Archives-Atlanta

·         Coastal Georgia Historical Society

·         Fort Valley State University

·         Georgia Regents University, Summerville Campus

      ·         Georgia College

·         Georgia Southern University

·         Georgia Southwestern State University

·         Kennesaw State University

·         Thomas County Middle School

·         Troup Historical Society and LaGrange College

·         The University of Georgia

  Here are some basic questions to ask about your local competition.

·         Where is the local competition?

·         When is the local competition?

·         When is the registrations deadline?

·         Is there a registration fee? If so, what is the fee?

·         Are there any specific contest requirements asked of each school? (ie… limit on number of projects, paperwork, photo release forms.)

This information will help you in your planning for a successful year.

Good Luck and Happy History Day!

Bonus: Topics List with Georgia Connections (#NHD2015)

·         Southern Christian Leadership Conference

·         James Oglethorpe

·         Andrew Young

·         Alonzo Herndon and the Atlanta Life Insurance Company

·         Richard B. Russell Jr.

·         Jimmy Carter and the Carter Center

·         Joseph Lowery

·         John Hope

·         Sequoyah and the Syllabary

·         Albany Freedom Singers

·         Martha Berry

·         Xavier Roberts-Cabbage Patch Kids

·         William B. Hartsfield and the City to “busy to hate”

·         Cason and Virgina Callaway

·         Asa Candler and Coca-Cola

·         Martin Luther King Jr.

·         Hosea Williams and Feed the Hungry

·         Morris Rich and Rich’s Department Store

·         Truett Cathy and Chick-fil-A

·         General Lucius D. Clay and the Berlin Airlift

·         Henry Wirz and Andersonville Prison

·         Juliette Gordon Low and the Girl Scouts

·         Henry Grady and the New South