United States History: Made Fun and Engaging
Student engagement of United States History through the historiographical and 21st Century teaching perspectives of the subject is the focal point of this web site. Critical examination of history through creative, collaborative and communicative methods allows for depth of student learning. As such, making the history of the United States FUN enhances student involvement and results in memorable learning. I'm a U. S. History teacher with 20+ years of experience teaching this topic coupled with a MA in History from Oakland University in Rochester, MI in which I focused on the Early American Colonial Era. This site focuses on Innovative, Inspirational and Imaginative teaching practices of this subject area. I offer FREE advice, lessons and assistance on Classroom Technology Integration; U.S. History Power Point Presentations; and Teaching Techniques. As a free-lance writer I also compose Book Reviews and provide recommendations on book purchases. Feel free to buy BOOKS and APPS directly through this website via Amazon.com and iTunes as we are an affiliate company of both.
Visit our home page: www.askteacherz.com. I work and reside in Grosse Pointe, MI. Follow me on twitter @askteacherzcom or contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Join our Professional Learning Network (PLN) as well. I'm working to Transform Education through Collaboration.
In June of 2011 CHRISTINE ARMARIO reported that only 13 percent of High School seniors on the 2010 National Assessment of Educational Progress, nicknamed the Nations Report Card, "...showed solid academic performance in American History." While no one in the United States can be proud of this achievement the report can be somewhat deceiving. The 13% that is identified is actually made up of 1% that is advanced and 12% that is at or above proficient. What really needs to be made clear is that 45% of those tested were at or above basic skill levels while 55% was below. Again none this is positive but when compared to score averages since 1994 there is a 2% increase in each area of students' U.S. History knowledge in 2010. However, the 2010 scores were a 1% drop since 2006. Never the less, as U.S. History instruction goes these scores MUST improve. The solution is not easy to attain or even identifiable. It is my contention that more effort needs to focus on making the topic fun, make it come alive, allow students to be able to touch and see the history around. There is nothing more powerful than a connection to history for students. Once students get hooked onto a subject it will inevitably come alive for them. This web page is all about that very topic; providing to students, teachers and parents the various perspectives, techniques and ways of learning about the topic of U.S. History.
Lots of Educational Opportunities in the Backyard
...for educators, students (anyone) to look over, get ideas from these, use them and if you contact me I would be more than happy to discuss the ways in which I use them on a daily basis in my classroom. Some of these power points are FREE of charge and downloadable below; all I ask is that you properly provide the copyrights to askteacherz.com. Some of the others can be purchased through Teachers Pay Teachers; a wonderful web site that allows educators to buy each others work at a minimum cost. If you want to view more of these presentations or purchase them click on the icon below. Please contact me if you would like to share some ideas about power point presentations, Smart Board activities, the use of technology in the classroom, use of primary sources in the classroom. etc.
FREE United States History Power Point Presentations
Host a Puppet Play = FUN!
Something I have always done in my eighth grade U.S. History classes are "puppet plays." What inspired the idea was that my school had a subscription to Junior Scholastic Magazine; each month there would be a read-a-long play in the magazine. The students really enjoyed the plays so I thought it might be more exciting to have students make a puppet to use in the play. At first I brought in my daughters' play time puppet stage; students crafted puppets out of brown paper bags in class and then we had ourselves a little play. It took two class periods (40 minute each) to complete the lesson back then. It has evolved into something far more today. Today class periods are 50 minutes and I allow students to make sock puppets as extra credit projects. I built a wooden stand or rack to hang a large U.S Flag across (as seen in the picture) and it acts as a puppet stage space for 5-6 students to hide behind. My students and I are fortunate enough to have smart technology in the classroom (smart boards and the smart slate). The technology provides a state of the art backdrop for the plays. I am actually able to change the background image for each scene in the play. This lesson now can be accomplished within one class period of 50 minutes today. When its completed the students will have had any enjoyable yet very educational experience in U.S. History... and its really a lot of fun. Please contact us if you want more information on this activity.
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Who's Publishing this Site?
This is really a very fair and, in my opinion, a very critical question to ask. The person publishing this site is a U.S History teacher: me. I have been teaching U.S. History for 18 years at the secondary and college levels. In 2002 I earned my MA in History and concentrated on the Early Republic of American history. U.S. History is my other passion. Fortunately in my career I have been able to combine the two. The intent of this web page is NOT to sell merchandise but rather to help others enjoy the subject that I consider to be so rewarding. It is truly my hope that you can use the material I have placed on this site to assist you in your quest to learn more about United States History. Please contact me; whether it's a question or comment. Even just completing one of the many little surveys that exists would be much appreciated. ENJOY!
Art of Music in US History Instruction
Make Musical Memories
Over the past four school years I have made the commitment, for the most part daily, to interject into my lesson plans some type of music. The use of music, and/or visually showing the lyrics simultaneously, really helps to get students to recall certain aspects of history (or really any topic for that matter). Some of the best, I know perhaps elementary in nature, are the old School House Rocks videos. Although one might think that Middle or High School students have outgrown these little tunes; let me tell you they haven't, they still enjoy them. The internet is filled with lots of little songs related to all subjects; just do some YouTube searches then use the free KeepVid application to save the file and you have yourself an instant song/video to use in your lesson plan/s. The infusion of these songs and/or little videos really does break up the class period and bring a sense of joy to all; at times students even sing-a-long.
Recommended U.S. History Links
Captivate and Inspire Students
Perhaps the most difficult task for any educator, but especially one in the field of history, is getting students to relate to the topic. Students are often thinking to themselves, maybe even out loud: What is the purpose of learning about this? Why do I need to know that? I am never going to use this information in life! Let's face it, in history this stuff is in the past (Duhh), many of the individuals are long gone and the topics are really pretty dry.
What I found to inspire, captivate and get students to be interested in the topic is to relate the events of the past to current, more popular items in their lives today. These topics DO NOT have to relate to the subject but rather link their current, trending and socially motivating items to education. The example I am going to use is the ever-so-popular song by Justin Bieber titled Never Say Never. What I did was use his song and lyrics as a link to General George Washington's strategy to win the Revolutionary War. The YouTube presentation is below for your viewing:
Michigan History Links
Question/Comment Posts & askteacherz© Responses
Tremendous question; attaining a true understanding as to what life was like for enslaved African people on plantations in the American South in the Antebellum Era is many times a misunderstood topic. Hollywood has certainly provided a realistic glimpse of middle passage; the work; living quarters; clothing; terror and horror of a life with severe floggings and use of the whip by the slave overseer for attempts at running away, etc. In an effort to NOT down play this reality there is much more to the life of slavery than this facet.
The true nature of life on a plantation was dependent upon the owner; much like a company today. There are of course good and bad owners. perhaps the best example of just such an individual is documented in the book written by Andrew Levy titled The First Emancipator: Slavery, Religion, and the Quiet revolution of Robert Carter. This book cronicles the life of the slave owner Robert Carter. he was such a quality person and human being that other slaves actually escaped from captivity on one plantation in an effort to be a slave on his in Virginia. This is of course a rare situation but it did in fact occur(pg.72). Prior to his death Carter emancipated all of the slaves he owned. It is also documented about how well Thomas Jefferson treated the enslaved workers on his plantation, but he never did free any of them (and there is speculation that the reason is that he considered life on his plantation to be better than a free life in a capitalist society). No matter which way one analyzes slavery there is no true substitute whether on plantation with a quality or not for liberty.
Another factor to be considered here is what did slaves do when not laboring in the field, working in their skilled trades, preparing food, watching children or cleaning the mansion or "big house?" Music is one area that must be receive mention; many enslaved Africans made wonderful music in their past time. From fiddle playing to vocal music, slaves had a unique and most enjoyable gift of music. So much so there is documentation from Carter's and Jefferson's plantations archives indicating that members of their own families preferred slave entertainment at gathering at their homes.
Lastly, to generalize the relations between slave and owner the best written interpretation comes from Kenneth M. Stampp's work entitled The Peculiar Institution. Stampp reinforces the idea that the interaction, for the most part, between owner and owned was paternalistic in nature. Paternalism is the concept of a parent and child relationship; meaning that slaves would act, purposfully, like a child in an effort to maintain the illussion that they knew no better. In reality those in bondage were very astute to and aware of what would get them better future respect, treatment and/or rewards; playing the role of the unassuming child, many a slave, considered the best mode of operation. Some other quality books on the topic of slavery that I recommned as well are Rough Crossings: The Slaves, the British, and the American Revolution by Simon Schama;Slave Nation: How Slavery United the Colonies & Sparked the American Revolution by Alfred W and Ruth G. Blumrosen; and for life after slavery I recommend the classic by W.J. Cash titled The Mind of the South.
Book Review by askteacherz© of The Meaning of Independence by Edmund S. Morgan
These three American icons had several common goals for the young nation to develop into during their reign of power in the Office of the President of the United States. All of them, most importantly, had profound faith in the American people’s virtue to create, develop and preserve a national form of governing like no other in the history of the world. For it was this fact they all entrusted as being the uniqueness of heart that the young nation held. From this perspective, ironically, they all agreed that only the wealthy and educated should lead the nation. Leadership was something that one not only possessed inherently as a gift from God but it had to be nurtured and groomed through adulthood by a schoolmaster. Lastly, these men all established that the lasting success of the United States depended upon it being a self-sufficient nation that would continue to expand its lands. As similar as these men were in some of the most basic of values of the nation they were very distinct from each other.
What Morgan most successfully captures within the pages of this work is just how different these three men were as people. Perhaps outwardly they have many similarities but their personalities are anything but alike. Morgan describes John Adams as an anti-social, vain and blunt man that was a workaholic. George Washington comes across as an aloof and reserved leader that provided to the young nation a sense of pride, dignity and honor for which it desperately needed in its infancy. Hypocritical, manipulative and subtle are the descriptors of Thomas Jefferson who was, according Morgan perhaps the best literary talent in American History. Together these three men make up, as Morgan brilliantly demonstrates, the perfect founder.
The Meaning of Independence provides tremendous insight into how the personal traits and quirky behaviors of the three Founders impacted the major contributions to the establishment of our nation and the fulfillment of its future. One area that perhaps Edmund S. Morgan could have woven into his analysis is the common conviction these men had with the promotion of educational system in the United States. There are brief mentions of it here and there but no strong development of it really transpires. All three men were profound advocates for education in the country; considering it the true safe guard to keeping and maintaining a republic. Adams was a former school teacher, lawyer and Harvard graduate; Jefferson likewise was a lawyer, graduate of the College of William and Mary and founder of the first public university in the country; only Washington might be suspect in regards to this topic but if one recants his Farewell Address in 1796 one will find mention of the necessity for strong public education system. All in all, this book is a must read for any student in the realm of United States History if only so that the human side of these three symbols of our nation’s history of better understood.
The Origin of Christianity: American Style by askteacherz©
Plymouth Rock, the ship the Mayflower and the landing of the Pilgrims is a familiar story to most students in the United States. However, the ramifications of what the Pilgrims footprint made on the shores of this nation are still being examined. Most noteworthy of this story is that these same Pilgrims started a Great Migration of Puritans to the same shores in an effort to establish a Christian kingdom on earth. In the year 1630 aboard the ship the Arbella one of the future governor’s of the Massachusetts Bay colony, John Winthrope would write one of the great precursors to the young nations founding titled A Model of Christian Charity. From within the text of this writing Winthope prophesizes that they will create a city upon a hill; a commonwealth for which other civilizations would look up to and aspire to emulate. As historian and author Francis J. Bremer concluded this was not a new belief or concept rather it was a biblical one; its root comes from Jesus of Nazareth’s apostle Matthew from his writings in the Bible in section 5:14-16.
Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle and put it under a bushel, but a candle-stick, and giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.
The argument therefore can be successfully made that henceforth from the shores of the Mediterranean Sea to those of the Massachusetts Bay the fundamental beliefs of Christianity and the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth have taken firm hold in the United States. Bremer even goes so far as to eloquently state that the historian Perry Miller may have intimated in his work titled Errand into the Wilderness that there is a sense of American exceptionalism today from these Puritan founders. He explains that the Christian religious undertaking here in the mid 1600’s was not an escape from England rather it was an effort to make better a way of life for themselves and all others; a do over of sorts. The United States of America therefore is the Apostle Matthew’s modern day candle stick. It is nation with a mission to do “good” onto others, not just at home, but around the world; and not just necessarily in the name of a Christian God but in the name of any deity of any faith, such is the doctrine of freedom of religion in the Bill of Rights.
Guisepi, Robert A. The Origins of Chrisitanity. http://history-world.org/origins_of_christianity.htm.
 New Advent. The Catholic Encyclopedia. The Origin of the Name Jesus Christ. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/08374x.htm.
 Morgan, Edmund S. The Puritan Dilemma: The Story of John Winthrope. Little, Brown and Company. 1958. Pg 81.
 Winthrope, John. A Model of Christian Charity. 1630.http://religiousfreedom.lib.virginia.edu/sacred/charity.html.
 Bremer, Francis J. John Winthrope: America’s Forgotten Founding Father. Oxford University Press. 2003. Pg 180.
 The new International Version Bible. Matthew 5:14-16. http://www.biblegateway.com/.
 Bremer. 181.