Presidential Speeches

The Miller Center is a website that specializes in presidential scholarship, public policy, and political history. The Miller Center has an impressive official oral history project  for every administration from President Carter to President Obama. They are also transcribe  White House audio tapes  of President FDR through President Nixon. The Miller Center provides first hand accounts on how administrations have dealt with complex and difficult issues. They have an impressive collection of presidential speeches from transcripts, audio, and video that is easily searchable by topic and president. This primary source collection could significantly enhance any US History or Government course.

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Gilder Lehrman Reconstruction Seminar Resources

Beyond the Bubble and Reading Like a Historian

I am very proud to announce that The Stanford History Group will be hosting the first #sschat of 2013 on Monday, January 7th at 7 PM EST. They will be discussing reading and writing in history courses. Please join us on #sschat


The Sanford History Educaton Group has created two wonderful programs: Reading Like a Historian and Beyond the Bubble.  The Reading like a historian curriculum engages students in historical inquiry. Each of their 65 lessons revolve  around a central historical question and features primary documents modified for students of all ability levels.   Instead of memorizing historical facts, students evaluate the trustworthiness of multiple perspectives on issues from King Philip’s War to the Montgomery Bus Boycott, and make historical claims backed by documentary evidence. Beyond the Bubble utilizes the digital archives of the library of Congress to create a new form of history assessments. Their goal is to “go beyond the bubble” by offering teachers an easy-to-use assessment that captures student’s knowledge and interpretation of critical thinking instead of memorization of facts.




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Part 2: Evernote for the Social Studies

Last week, I posted at what you can do with Evernote.  Hopefully you’ve had a chance to get hands-on with Evernote in the last few days and got a feel for how awesome it really is.  Once you do get started with Evernote, you’ll wonder what you did without it.

Evernote in History Class

(Photo courtesy: Library of Congress)

Continuing on in the “Evernote for the Social Studies” series, today I wanted to take a look at how Evernote can help students in History class.  For this post, I contacted a former student of mine and asked if she would be willing to take a few minutes with me and take a look at what Evernote could do for her in her History class.

Digitize and Organize your notes

As I sat down with her and we began to discuss what she was doing in her classes, she showed me some of the notes that she had taken in her class.  Currently, she’s in 8th grade and taking a United States History class from Colonization period to the end of Reconstruction of the American Civil War.  The notes had been done on loose-leaf notebook paper and she kept them in a folder specifically for that class.  As we discussed the positives and negatives of taking and retaining notes that way, the one thing that concerned her was loosing her notes.  Here’s where I showed her where Evernote could step in and take care of that problem.  To start off with, we created a new notebook “US History Notes” in her Evernote account (age requirement is 13 yrs old for any users of Evernote, see the privacy policy).  Using the Evernote app on her Ipod Touch, we took a snapshot of her notes:

She like the idea of creating a “notebook” specially for her US History class for quick and easy organization.  What I also showed her as well was how Evernote can help her refresh on her notes and prepare for a test.  On the notes above, we looked at Evernote’s search feature to quickly find needed notes.  Once she took the snapshot of her notes, she would title them–i.e. Jamestown notes:

Notice how performing a search of “jamestown” in her Evernote notes came up with her Jamestown notes and how Evernote highlighted the searched term in yellow.  As a side note, if you are a premium user you can also search for text in the image themselves.

At the end of our discussion of Evernote, she said she was going to try using Evernote for the next couple of weeks and see how it will help her.  I’ll be updating everyone as she continues to use Evernote over the next few days.  In her words, she classified Evernote as “cool”.  Yes my fellow educators, Evernote will make your students say “cool”.


Staying up-to-date on current events with Evernote

The interesting part of history is that it does’t stop, history happens every day.  If you plan on having your students keep up with current events throughout the school year, why not have them clip articles with Evernote?  As my former student did for her history notes, have your students create a notebook in their Evernote account and name it something like “Current Events”.  If they have the Evernote Webclipper installed on their internet browsers (weather it be at home or at school) they can clip a article that they like or over a topic that you choose for them.  Here’s an example of article I clipped and also added a short response, the article is over the events in Libya.  What’s good about this is that students can email you the article they clipped or share in on Facebook, Twitter, or copy the note URL and put it in their Livebinder.


How does this help the teacher?

When I was student teaching, I had students who lost their notes, forgot to bring them to class, and everything in between.  As we discussed in the first post of this series, students can access their notes from their computer, tablet, or mobile device.  When a student scans their notes into their Evernote account, they won’t be able to say “I lost them” or “I forgot them”.  Of course, as the teacher, you might consider typing or scanning your notes into your Evernote yourself.  This way, if you do want to share your notes with your students, you can share them the same way your students can.  Here’s how to share notes and notebooks.



Hopefully this gave you some ideas on how you might use Evernote in your History class.  As with any technology tool that is used in the classroom, the main goal of it is to use it to engage the students and nurture them to become life-long learners.  Once I showed Evernote to my former student, she automatically started to see things that she could do with it.


Next week, we’ll look at how Evernote can help in the Geography class.  Looking forward to sharing more ideas for using Evernote the Social Studies classroom!


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Put Ownership on Students with an EdCafe!

I learned about the wonderful idea of an edcafe model from Ms. Katrina Kennett . She is an inspiration and a wonderful English teacher. Her blog goes into much more depth about edcafe’s and many other creative ways to teach.


What is an Edcafe? 

According to Katrina, “An EdCafe is a way to structure class that promotes student choice and ownership over learning. The model was inspired by EdCamp conferences, where participants build the schedule and choose what sessions to attend. This bottom-up approach shifts energy, engagement, and opportunity for exploration to the students, and transforms the teacher into expert facilitator instead of gatekeeper/manager.”


My First EdCafe

I ran my first EdCafe this past Friday. My students read a political book of their choice as their summer assignment. I thought this model would be very beneficial to share the books. I created the basic outline and students submitted their book titles and a few sentences about their book. Students were placed in a particular session to present. The remander of the class could choose what session they would attend. I even had an intermission with food. Overall, my students were engaged, enjoyed sharing their books, and really like the freedom to be in control of their own learning. My principal observed this lesson and said the lesson put the ownership on the students. He also said they they were actively involved in the classroom.

 Here is how I organized the EdCafe:

Images of EdCafe on PhotoPeach

Benefits of the EdCafe Model

  • low pressure presentations
  • small groups
  • student centered topics
  • Engagement
  • Student Ownership
  • authentic note taking
 Some Tips to Running a Successful Edcafe 
  • Scaffolding is key to the success of the edcamp in the classroom model during first attempt teacher should be more directive to establish the tone and the framework for students.  In future sessions more freedom to choose topics can be given.
  • Set clear expectations – kids learning how to take notes because the notes were for the students, not for the teacher
  • Be organized -use google forms to sign up kids
  • Make it fun– I brought food for the intermission between sessions.
  • Student Choice- My students could decide, which Edcafe they went to. They enjoyed the freedom and flexibility.
  • Use Technology– I recorded each sessions discussion with an ipad at each table.

My Students Comments: 

  • “The Edcafe was fun”
  • “Can we do that again?”
  • “I wish we had more time to discuss our books”
  • “Can we have more structure for the next one”
  • “I really liked the way we presented our books today”

I plan on having another Edcafe with my students. Now that they know the general structure it will be easier to run. I plan on doing it with different articles. I will assign five articles and then have students come in and share their article and lead a mini discussion. Each session will be a different article. I also really like Katrina’s idea with quotes and primary documents. Do you have any other suggestions on how an EdCafe can be successful in history?

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IWitness: Personal Holocaust Video Testimonials

I learned about iWitness from @ghkcole from #sschat. IWitness is a website for teachers and students that has over 1,000 Holocaust video testimonials of survivors and witnesses. This collection is just a small part of the collection maintained by the University of Southern California’s Shoah Foundation Institute, established in 1994 by Steven Spielberg.


This is a wonderful resource for schools teaching about the Holocaust. According to iWitness, “Students have the opportunity to use technology to become more active learners while encountering survivors and other eyewitnesses talking about their experiences before, during and after the Holocaust. This application empowers them to participate in their own learning by providing them with the tools to think critically, investigate, develop projects, analyze, and collaborate with others.”  I plan on having my students go to the website and do a personal history search a couple nights before I teach about the Holocaust. Students will then come in to discuss, share, and reflect on what they learned about the Holocaust.  You can watch a short video demonstration of IWitness here.




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SoundGecko Converts Any Article Into an MP3

I learned about SoundGecko from Lifehacker blogSoundGecko is an interesting resource for teachers and students of all ages.   SoundGecko is a FREE text-to-audio transcribing service that lets you “read” any article or written content from the web on the go in an audio format.

All you have to do is paste a URL into SoundGecko and it converts the article into speech. You can send the new audio file via email, Dropbox, or Google Drive for immediate syncing. You can also use the iphone app and chrome extension for quicker conversion. Hopefully, they will come out with an ipad app soon! SoundGecko would have been so useful in college and it can help all ages of students in education. SoundGecko works efficiently and simply to use. Pretty amazing website, check it out today!


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Gilder Lehrman and 9/11 Memorial Resources

I attended the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History on 9/11 and American Memory.  The seminar was absolutely amazing! We learned from experts  about how the United States and the world have dealt with tragedy and loss with events such as the Civil War, Pearl Harbor, the Holocaust, Vietnam, and 9/11. We worked with the amazing team of 9/11 memorial experts who are involved in the planning of the 9/11 Memorial Museum, Fire Chief and 9/11 survivor Jay Jonas, and experts in the field of memory such as  the seminar leader David Blight.


Our seminar took a personal tour of the 9/11 museum that is NOT open to the public. Even though it is still under construction, we could instantly observe the beauty, sacredness, and careful planning involved in creating the museum.  I am so impressed with the planning and extensive collection the 9/11 historic site, website, and museum will offer to visitors and generations to honor the victims of September 11th, 2001.


9/11/01 Online Resources 

The 9/11 memorial has a wonderful collection of online resources for teachers to educate our students about September 11th, 2001. The website has an extensive collection of multimedia orientated resources such as an interactive timeline, audio, webcasts, video, images, primary documents, and essential artifacts and collections.  Each lesson is tied to the Common Core Standards and based on the 9/11 collections that can be used throughout the school year and across all subjects and divided into different themes. 






Gilder Lehrman K–12 EDUCATOR PROGRAMS 


For more information visit: Gilder Lehrman Institute  and 9/11 Memorial 



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Bring the World into your Classroom with World Wonders Project

I recently discovered the Google World Wonders Project  which is a website that brings historical sites online.  The website is very interesting and educational because it uses Google’s Street View technology, 3D modelling, photos, videos and information to deliver an interesting medium to go on a virtual field trip. You and your students can truly explore the world from your classroom!


There are many interesting historical locations available to explore on the site, including the Palace of Versailles, the Historic Centre of Cordoba, Stonehenge and Hiroshima. I recently explored Independence Hall and was amazed at the collection of resources: videos, google maps, images, and in depth information about the location. I can’t think of a better way to learn about history, other than actually visiting the historic site!
Google also offers free, easy-to-use, and downloadable history resources which are designed in support and engage students in the study of history. The resources are clear, very well organized and FREE. I already found myself bookmarking specific historical sites to use for next school year.  Check it out today!

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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.






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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.














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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.

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Eye Witness to History

Eye Witness to History is a wonderful website to incorporate primary sources such as first-hand accounts, vintage photographs, and radio broadcasts into your classroom.

Eye Witness to History is a wonderful website for both Global and United States History. The website presents history through the perspective of those who actually lived it – from the ancient world through the 20th century.

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75 Free Lesson Plans based on historical inquiry and primary source activities

I recently discovered Reading Like a Historian, from Ken Halla’s US History Blog, which is a wonderful  curriculum to engage students in historial inquiry. Students are no longer passive learners  but engaged interpreters of history. The Standford History Education Group produced over 75 Lesson Plans based on primary documents and activities to engage your students in the study of United States History.


These lessons seems to align perfectly with the Common Core Standards of reading, analyzing, forming an opinion, and debating primary source materials. Students are not learning the material from a textbook or a teacher but engaging in real and meaningful historical inquiry.


Each of the lessons revolves around a central historical question and features sets of primary documents modified for groups of students with diverse reading skills and abilities. The curriculum can help students use historical inquiry skills such as sourcing, contextualizing, corroborating, and close reading. Here is a sample inquiry lesson, see the Japanese Internment Lesson Plan.


Instead of memorizing historical facts, students evaluate primary sources and develop their own conclusions related to the historical events. I can’t think of a better way to learn history (other than living through the actual event).

Here is a sample Unit:


For More information and Citation: Visit the Standford History Education Group’s Website











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