Teaching with Documents

I try to incorporate as many primary sources into my teaching but I find it extremely difficult to find primary documents that are at my students reading ability and interest level. It sometimes takes me hours to find the right document or documents to compose a lesson.

I recently discovered a great website called Teaching with Documents, which has reproducible copies of primary documents from the  National Archives of the United States. The website also offers activities that are correlated with the National History and Civics Standards.

With the common core standards history teachers have been given the valuable opportunity to use primary sources in their classrooms.  Next year teachers are going to devote instructional time to the close investigation of history texts as well as teach our students to construct their own understanding and analysis of the primary materials. Teaching with primary documents encourages critical thinking and encourages a varied learning environment; all of which can improve our students skills and enthusiasm for history.






Preparing for the Oath with the Smithsonian

At the beginning of every school year I use some form of US Citizenship test to assess my students background knowledge of U.S. Government and U.S. history. I usually give a paper version of the quiz on the first day of school, but next year thanks to @Larryferlazzo  and his wonderful blog, I now have a digital version to supplement with my lesson. The Smithsonian along with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, has just unveiled Preparing For The Oath.


It is a great resource for people preparing to take the U.S. citizenship exam but it is also an interesting and fun way to learn about U.S. history and government.  Preparing For The Oath  is a wonderful web-based learning tool that can provide students with an interactive practice exam, videos, and other activities that use sources from the Smithsonian’s collection and exhibition. The website offers a 100 MC practice questions from the naturalization test, lesson plans for teachers, definitions, and narration that can be transcribed for all learners. Check it out today!


Historical Scene Investigation

The Historical Scene Investigation Project (HSI) is a project designed specifically for social studies teachers with an interest in bringing primary sources into their classroom. As history teachers we always strive to bring our students as close as possible to the actual experience and study as if they were real historians.


Most social studies have a hard time discovering age-appropriate primary documents that are accessible for their students. The internet can provide thousands of primary source documents but the process of searching can become a daunting task. The Historical Scene Investigation was developed for teachers to incorporate primary sources into a fun and interactive lesson.


According to the HSI website, the model consists of the following four steps:

  • Becoming a Detective
  • Investigating the Evidence
  • Searching for Clues
  • Cracking the Case

In the “Becoming a Detective” stage, students are introduced to the historical scene under investigation. Here background information and context are provided for the students. Students are then presented with an Engaging Question to guide their inquiry. Finally, students are presented with a task to help them answer the question – or crack the case.

From this point, students move on to the “Investigating the Evidence” section. Students are provided links to appropriate digital primary sources to help them crack the case. These documents might include text files, images, audio, or video clips.

In the “Searching for Clues” stage, students are provided with a set of questions for their Detective’s Log, guiding their analysis of the evidence. This can be very structured, or more open-ended, depending on the instructional goals. Often, these questions will be provided in the form of a printable handout for students to work from.

Finally, in the “Cracking the Case” section, students present their answer, along with a rationale rooted in the evidence, to the initial question. Additionally, students are encouraged to enter new questions that have arisen during the process for future investigation.

For every case, there is a section for the teacher. This section will list particular objectives for the activity and will also provide additional contextual information and resources as well as instructional strategies that the teacher might find useful.

The model is intentionally standardized so that teachers can easily browse the activities without getting bogged down in unusual terminology. Ultimately, the hope is that teachers do what they do best—that is, download an activity and either use it “as is” or cut, rearrange or extend an activity for use within their particular classroom.

To explore sample investigations, click here.














Khan Academy has History Resources

I first learned about the Khan Academy over a year ago, but was disappointed with the lack of history resources. Over the past year the amount of resources has grown and it continues to grow.  The Khan Academy is changing the face of education by providing free educational videos and lessons to anyone anywhere in the world, completely free of charge.  The Khan Academy has an extensive  library of videos covers K-12 math, science topics such as biology, chemistry, and physics, and even reaches into the humanities with playlists on finance and history. Each video is a ten minute long clip.

American civics videos

Art history videos

Macroeconomics videos 

Microeconomics videos 

History videos

Create Awards with Certificate Street

As the end of the year is closely approaching, it is time to recognize and celebrate all the work our students have accomplished. It’s important to give students a reason and a drive to succeed; using awards and positive recognition is a great way to do just that. I was looking for a simple certificate when I stumbled upon Certificate Street.  The website has a ton of FREE certificates organized into different categories.


Each certificate can be downloaded in an editable PDF format for FREE with the companies watermark on it. You can pay to have the certificate free of the watermark. Once you download the PDF you can personalize the certificate with your students name and details. It’s time to recognize your student’s accomplishments. Check it out today!

Use Google Voice to Call Parents

I am constantly amazed by the number of teachers who do not know about Google Voice. In my school if I want to call a parent I need to go to the main office or into the copy room in the basement “dungeon”  to make a phone call. I work with teachers who give the school phone number, their cell phone number, or home phone number to parents. I always encourage teachers to use Google Voice when calling parents. 


Google Voice is  a FREE program that gives you a phone number that can be tied to any phone or device. Google Voice isn’t a phone service, but it lets you manage and make calls from all your phones. There’s nothing to download, upload, or install, and you don’t have to make or take calls using a computer (but you can).

Once you have your Google Voice number, you can associate your other phone numbers–work, home, mobile, whatever–with it. You can still make calls from  your regular cell phone service; their individual numbers will show up on the caller ID screen. But you can also choose to have your Google number show up instead.


I love that my Google Voice phone number can go directly to email or text message. I can’t tell you the last time I “listened” to a voicemail. You can also customize your Google Voice voicemail for your users. For example on my Google Voice I am Mrs. Seideman and on my regular cell phone number I am Melissa.


Another feature is that you can have all calls to Google Voice forwarded by setting up rules for how you want your calls routed. For example, you may want calls received before 5:00 pm sent to your office phone, calls after that to your cell phone; Google Voice can do that. I send all Google Voice calls before 4 PM directly to email.


Image Citation: Internet Techies  Selling More Homes Google Mobile 


For More information on Google Voice: click here


Present.me- Flip your class but keep the teacher!

I have been experimenting with the flipped classroom (see below for more info). Present.Me is a wonderful website that allows users to flip their classroom but still keep the personal touch of the teacher. With Present.me you first upload your powerpoint, PDF, Excel, Google Doc., or Word document, then you record your presentation with a webcam with either the video or just the audio. Another awesome feature that seems really useful is the ability to edit. If you make a mistake while recording you can just rewind and record again.


When you are finished you can publish and share the link of your lesson to your class. You can share the link with Facebook, Twitter, or even embed it into your class website or blog. The best part is the video is stored in the cloud. You no longer need to upload the video to Youtube or download any annoying program. Students can watch the video from their computer, tablet, or mobile device.

Application in the Classroom:

  • Flipping your classroom leaves you extra time in class for more interactive work
  • Students can use Present.me for public speaking practice
  • Give students the option of submitting their project using Present.me rather than speaking in front of the class
  • Posting lessons online means that parents can keep up-to-date with the topics their children are studying and can make a personal connection with their teacher
  • Make yours a social school by creating a Present.me about the whole class. A friendly and fun way to get the children involved and encourage class integration.
  • Be creative! Use our communication tool to make a Present.me with slides, audio and video content with another language
  • So the football team came top of the league? Why not put together a match report – complete with commentary and pictures of all the action.
  • The ideas are endless!

What is the flipped classroom? 

Students watch 5-7 minute video lecture at home at their own pace, communicate with peers and teacher via online discussion boards or blogs. Since lectures are done at home- labs, critical thinking activities, and concept engagement take place inside the classroom with the support of the teacher. Students can receive frequent and instant feedback in the classroom. Students are less frustrated with critical thinking activities because they are now completed in class. Teachers can also help struggling students who do not understand a particular concept by reteaching in class.

Results: I have seen a noticeable improvement in student test scores as well as student engagement in the classroom. Homework is no longer “as boring” and flipping the classroom has increased comprehension and  higher level thinking. See the flipped info-graphic.


Educational Benefits of using the flipped model: 

  • Make your classroom hours more productive
  • Stronger connections to parents and guardians
  • Students can practice their public speaking ability
  • Students can create a flipped lesson and teach their class
  • Teaching becomes outside the box

Citation: Flipped Infographic and Present.me

Here are a flipped history lessons on Youtube called Flipped History Videos.

Use Thinglink to Create a Media Rich Environment

ThingLink is an interesting website designed around the idea of sharing and tagging photos. Once you log in to Thinglink you can upload any photo or use a photo’s url to share the photos online. Users can tag photos with details, questions, and relevant links. The tags can be revealed every-time a user scrolls their mouse over the uploaded image. Users can also drive traffic to the site through the image tags as well as gather statistics related to the online traffic the image generates. The image truly becomes an interactive and media rich environment.

Application in the Classroom: As  a teacher, I foresee myself using this for cartoons or interesting photographs. I can pose questions or relevant details through image tagging and have my students respond electronically to their own interpretation of the image or cartoon. Check out my Thinglink of the Migrant Mother image.

Make a Mini Documentary with WeVideo

Today I was searching the web for a new and interesting way to have my students create the last documentary project about recent U.S. history. I would love to have them use iMovie but my new school does not have Mac computers and the PC’s are not very reliable. I was looking for a web-based program that can create digital movies both at home and school. I discovered WeVideo, which is an easy to use program that is capable of creating interesting student-created documentary projects.


WeVideo allows users to upload video clips and photos, create story-lines, and edit the entire video in the cloud. As a teacher using the cloud is wonderful…. no more issues with the network, no more issues with projects being on a particularly computer, and no more legitimate complaints of students saying they can’t work on it at home. All video creation takes place on your computer, tablet, or smartphone. No software to download and buy. Once the videos are created you can share them in basic interest or HD quality on the WeVideo website or publish and share it online such as Youtube, Facebook, or a teacher website or blog. Every student call now tell a story or make your content come alive. Give WeVideo a try you won’t be disappointed!

Have students write letters to themselves!

Asking your student’s to write themselves a letter is is a classic end of the year activity. Students can reflect on their year as well as their goals for the following school year or the future. But why not make it digital? There are two websites I discovered one website is called Future Me and another is called Letter 2 Future. Both websites offer users the ability to send an email in the future such as words of inspiration or goals for the future. You pick the date you want the email delivered and it is sent to your inbox! It is that simple. Getting a surprise from the past is actually kind of an amazing thing – just check out all the people on Twitter and Facebook that agree.


Application in Classroom: I usually give my students some prompts such as what is one important skill you learned this year in social studies, what is one thing you would like to improve upon next year, what advice would you give to your future self, where do you see yourself in five years or ten years.

My first year of teaching (5 years ago) I had my students write themselves a letter. I still have the letters sitting under my bed in my parents house. I plan on mailing them next year when they graduate high school. This year I plan on using the digital version of future letter writing. I have also heard of teachers mailing the letters right before the start of the following school year. What do you plan on doing for an end of the school year activity?

Interactive Presentations with Slide Boom

I discovered Slide Boom when I was searching for an interactive World War II map (see below). Slide Boom is a website that allows users to upload Powerpoint presentations and the website converts the file to a flash movie. Each presentation that is uploaded can be shared with others on a blog or website.  The slides are uploaded in the same manner as the original .ppt file, including audio, animation, and visual files.


My favorite feature of Slide Boom is the animation options such as a pen, highlighter, or eraser. You can save your writing and animation of each slide. You can then make the presentation available to your students. For example: I animated and highlighted the battles on the interactive WWII map. Here is a how to use Slide Boom guide.


Here is the main features of Slideboom

  • It has a basic free version and premium version (Basic is fine for educator)
  • It is very simple and easy to use
  • It allows you to upload PowerPoint presentations and slideshows
  • It can be used to convert PowerPoint presentations to Flash
  • You can share your presentations with others
  • Search for presentations in 100+ different languages and by 30+ categories.
  • Join an interest group or create your own
  • Embed presentations into your blog or website

Explain Everything: For Substitute Plans

I hate having a substitute. My students are usually never on task and don’t complete the assignment. I put a lot of time into substitute plans get really annoyed when they are not taught the way I instructed or a lesson was not completed. This year I resorted to a video or a simple activity the kids can do on their own rather than continue with my lesson plans.


This week I had to create substitute plans with a days notice and rather than change my plans I used the application Explain Everything. I created a 15 minute podcast lesson for my students to watch and listen to with a substitute. My students said “It was like you were there with us,” or “I liked the lesson.” I never hear that after having a substitute. The following day the substitute came into my classroom and said it was the easiest class they ever had to cover.


I learned about Explain Everything from @gregkulowiec at EdCamp Social Studies. Explain Everything is an easy to use app that allows you annotate, animate, and narrate any presentation. You can create interesting and dynamic lessons and tutorials. You can take any lesson and record on screen drawings, objective movements, and capture audio. You can add any photo, powerpoint, PDF, or a file from dropbox, Evernote, Email, or Photos. Explain Everything is truly a wonderful application that is changing the face of education.


For other uses of Explain Everything, please visit the History 2.0 Classroom.

Symbaloo: Share and Save Websites

Sharing the web with students can be a major challenge. I sometimes use QR code generators or url shorteners to direct students to a particular website. I recently discovered Symbaloo EDU, which can be a wonderful resource for teachers and students to easily manage the web.  Symbaloo is a website that allows users to save favorite online tools, resources, and websites about any topic. Symbaloo also has a mobile application!


Symbaloo EDU can be published and shared with colleagues, students, and parents.   You can even create specific folders that contain the websites for each unit you teach. Students can now go to one page for research or extended learning. Symbaloo can be used all year, as a resource sharing website for your students. You can also add the book-marker to your browser, which can be helpful when searching and saving the web.

Here’s a sample US History Brainpop Symbaloo

Animoto: Video Slideshows

Animoto is a simple program online to create simple videos from pictures, sound, text, and  existing video clips. It 508971_Genrl-Slide-160x600-22makes it possible to quickly create a video using still images, music, and text. Animoto  is constantly updating its features as well as background options for your video slideshow.  If you can make a slideshow presentation, you can make a video using Animoto Video Slideshows.


Animoto Video Slideshows limits you to 30 second videos, but you can create longer videos if you apply for an education account and give your students the teacher code. I love to use Animoto early in the school year to introduce my new students to some of the basic skills that will be carried across to more complex video creations later in the year such as Garage Band and iMovie.

Here is a sample assignment and a here is a sample student project: VFW- Interest Group Project



Reflection: #EdCampNYC and #sschat

Unfortunately, teaching has the potential to be an isolated career in terms of collaboration and support. I feel extremely privileged to have discovered #sschat on Twitter and the EdCamp conference model. I love observing people’s reactions when I say I use Twitter for professional development.Twitter has provided me with a wonderful opportunity to connect with dynamic educators from around the world and learn interesting ways to engage my students.  Twitter (#sschat) has truly become one of the most inspirational ways I have created my own profesional learning community.


On Saturday, May 5th, 2012 I attended EdCampNYC at Francis Lewis High School. EdCampNYC was one of many unconferences occurring in the United States. For me, EdCampNYC and EdCampSS was an amazing experience and one in which expanded/reinvigorated my  teaching methodology and repertoire. It is important to remember we are all learners – teachers and administrators as well as students and we must constantly adapt and reflect on our own teaching and learning. Here is the reflection page from EdCampNYC, where there are free resources, websites, presentation links, etc.

I plan on attending two EdCamps this year: 

  • EdCamp Lower Hudson Valley (New Paltz, NY) August 14, 2012 website
  • EdCampNJ (North Brunswick, NJ) December 1, 2012 website

I led the session about mobile devices in the classroom at EdCampNYC. Here is my Powerpoint from the session.

Photo Credit