Sunday, December 27, 2009

2010 Teacher of the Year Nominations

The National Council for Social Studies (NCSS) is now accepting nominations for the 2010 Teacher of the Year Awards. The Teacher of the Year program is part of the NCSS's continuous efforts to highlight social studies teachers and their importance in education.

Winners will receive $2,500 cash award and an opportunity to present at the NCSS conference and up to $500 in travel and lodging expenses.

If you've got someone in mind who is worthy of such an award, or perhaps you'd like to nudge someone to nominate you, you must have the nominations postmarked by April 1.

For more information and details go to http://socialstudies.org/awards/teaching

Keep reading for another award opportunity for teachers...

The National Teachers Hall of Fame (NTHF) is searching educators to honor in 2010. The NTHF is a non-profit organization that has been honoring outstanding educators for 18 years. They are now accepting nominations for the Hall of Fame. The nominations must be postmarked by January 2.


Nominees must have 20 years of teaching experience at the preK-12 level. For more information, hurry to http://www.nthf.org/





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Friday, December 25, 2009

USHistoryBlog Rewind: The Americanization of Christmas

It seems the holiday of Christmas is a combination of many different cultures and many different rituals that have come together over the last 2000 years. The curiosity of the holiday is something that has always interested me.

It was last year that I showed a film about the history of Christmas to my World History students and since then, I've had a fascination with its history. Here's the post I wrote last year about the Americanization of Christmas, with the video in full.

http://ushistorysite.blogspot.com/2008/12/brief-history-of-americanization-of.html


Happy Holidays!

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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Naughty & Nice: A History of The Holiday Season - BackStoryRadio.org

The American History Guys of BackStoryRadio.org make history accessible... they talk in common terms and interview pertinent guests that help bring out the story of their discussion.

This month's podcast discusses the history of Christmas in America. I've downloaded the podcast and have enjoyed the conversation. Here's the rundown of this episode:

The History Guys, examine the history of the “holiday season” in America. Is Christmas more less religious then it used to be? How has Christmas evolved or changed? Is it true that Hanukkah was born as a reaction to Christmas? And how have American Jews helped to shape the winter holiday?

The conversation is laid back, informative and perfect for that long drive to the in-laws on Christmas afternoon.

So go to BackStoryRadio.org and download the show for yourself.

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Sunday, December 20, 2009

You Are There - Walter Cronkite Reports World History

While sitting around eating left-over Thanksgiving turkey a few weeks back, the conversation turned to Walter Cronkite. It was at this time that somebody mentioned if I had heard of Walter Cronkite's television show... "You Are There" - I had not.

The series ran on CBS in the 1950s. Here's more information on the series: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/You_Are_There_%28series%29

I was told he would broadcast different events in world history and that CBS would recreate the scenes as if it were breaking news... I was hooked. I had to find some of these episodes, and I did...

After a few minutes of searching I discovered the Museum of Broadcast Communication and 13 of the episodes in their archives. Though only 8 of them have video. You can do a search for yourself here: http://archives.museum.tv/archives

The show is a hoot... I've been having trouble uploading the video to the blog, but it was quite easy to pull it from The Museum of Broadcast Communication's website. They're a little dated, but still entertaining... and used in the right way, and with a sense of humor and a grain of salt, could definitely be used in the classroom.

Some titles include: The Assassination of Julius Caesar, The Chicago Fire, The Death of Socrates, The Emancipation Proclamation, Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad, Grant & Lee, The Death of Stonewall Jackson, The End of the Dalton Gang and The Crisis of Galileo, et. al


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Thursday, November 26, 2009

Links to History: 100 Greatest Moments in American History on YouTube

Sure.. it's a link sent to me from an online university trying to increase their Google rank by getting a lot of relevant incoming traffic.... but they still do a good job of compiling the information.

Watch the 100 Greatest Moments in American History on YouTube

Categorized for your convenience... enjoy.


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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Veteran's Day

So as not to reinvent the wheel... I'm bringing back a post from last year...

This year, my favorite veteran... my grandfather is no longer with us - and I know he took this day to call many of his friends from the service and the greaLinkt men he's met throughout his years.

Now Grandpop is in the sky hanging out with all his 'doughboys' celebrating upstairs.

Here's a brief history of veterans day - http://ushistorysite.blogspot.com/2008/11/veterans-day-brief-history.html


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Friday, November 06, 2009

Gettysburg: One Man's Visit

I don't know about the rest of you, but I'm an excitable reader. By this, I mean that I get excited about reading, and usually try to bite off more than I can chew. But this is never a bad thing.

When it comes to books, I have a problem. I rarely finish them. This is probably due to my excitability around books and the subjects they cover. I'll read 90% and gladly pick up another if the mood suits me. I'll read 4, 5, 6 books at one time. And as a dedicated teacher and father it is hard to find time to sit back and relax with a good book.

This weekend is no different. I'm going to Gettysburg, and I'm excited about a few books.

For my birthday my wife has decided to take me to Gettysburg this weekend. A short drive from our home in Philadelphia, Gettysburg is one of those places that has always eluded me. So I'm excited to finally get the opportunity to go. And we're not just going. We're GOING. We're leaving tonight (Friday) and staying all day Saturday and some of the day Sunday.

In preparation, and for the little downtown I'll have (with bringing our 3 1/2 month old son with us), I've brought with me, two books. One I've already read; The Killer Angels, by Michael Shaara
. It's a favorite of mine, and because of the way it's written, it's a book I've finished. I hope to thumb through this and pull out some good dialogue concerning the battle.

The other book I've brought with me is a collection of speeches and writings of Abraham Lincoln
. This book, from the Library of America collection is a cool looking canvas bound book, which looks great on a book shelf. (a book shelf that doesn't exist in my house)

These books, along with the history of Gettysburg, the nightly ghost tours, the quaint little town of Gettysburg and my incredible wife and son, are sure to make my birthday weekend enjoyable. Oh, and an Eagles win over the Cowboys Sunday night would help too. All of this might make the Phillies loss a little easier to swallow.

Happy Reading!

Go Birds!


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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Top Ten US History Inspired Halloween Costumes

The following comes from an email I received from my good friends at Shmoop.com - Shmoop is an awesome site for teachers and students. It's history and literature lessons with a twist...

Check out the links below...

This Halloween, scare up some fun with these US history and lit-inspired costumes

Ten US History-Inspired Halloween Costumes

1. Put on a three-corner hat and cape, pull a cardboard boat around your waist, and pose as George Washington crossing the Delaware during the American Revolution.

2. Dress up as Benjamin Franklin with a kite and singed hair. Be careful around the French maids.

3. Pretend to hitchhike as Christopher Columbus with a sign that says "India or bust."

4. Dress up like Abe Lincoln - with two tickets in his breast pocket.

5. Test people's knowledge of US history trivia by putting on a turn-of-the-century suit, carrying some bags of fake money, and painting your nose purple. Yes, JP Morgan really did have a purple nose.

6. Try a scandalous costume for a trio: Marilyn Monroe, Jackie Kennedy, and John F. Kennedy.

7. Wear a suit and a Richard Nixon mask. Carry a hollowed-out pumpkin filled with film. You're reenacting the "Pumpkin Papers," a famous Cold War incident in which future President Richard Nixon took down Soviet spy Alger Hiss.

8. Dress up as Betsy Ross with a half-finished American flag. Include a rainbow flag, a pirate flag, and yellow smiley face among your book of samples.

9. Sport your finest 1920s-style outfit, a plastic Tommy gun, a cigar, and your best Al Capone accent. Rave about the merits of the 18th Amendment and Prohibition.

10. Roll up your sleeves and get ready to flex those guns. Rosie the Riveter is one of the best "girl power" costumes in history. (World War II: Home Front)

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Sunday, October 25, 2009

Still Out there....

It's been some time since I've addressed this blog. A few things have been happening. I have a 3 month old son, and as always my role as teacher, and now athletic director and father take away much of my time.

A big thank you to those that still keep me in your "inbox" and RSS feeds. There will be much more for me to contribute in due time.

I've taken steps to simplify my life - perhaps from a new found perspective of fatherhood - and this blog and is something I love to do... and thus, will be part of that simplified life.

I know I've promised some of you the opportunity to contribute to other sites I've created as well. Those will be on the horizon also. Sit tight and stick with me. First up, is www.TodayInUSHistory.com - so I'll be contacting those that showed an interest in researching for that site.... thanks in advance.

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Thursday, October 22, 2009

Daily History Quiz

For fun... here's a site where you can test your American history knowledge. Enjoy a new contest everyday.

http://www.historynet.com/quiz



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Friday, September 25, 2009

USHistoryQuotes.com

An ongoing project to add to the success of USHistorySite.com, I've recently launched USHistoryQuotes.com.

USHistoryQuotes.com will have more than just quotes from presidents and your cliche Americans, but will also include important and more obscure statesmen, athletes, activists and artists.

Would love to get some suggestions from my readers as to who should be included on the site. In other words... who do you think is quote worthy?

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Friday, August 28, 2009

Upcoming Contest on EverythingHistory.com

Starting Monday 8/31, EverythingIsHistory.com will be running a trivia contest on their website.

I've been told it won't be that tough, and they'll actually give you the answers before they ask the questions.

So what's the incentive? CASH and PRIZES!

There will be a prize given away each day, including a grand prize of a $50 gift card to Amazon for one lucky participant!

The rules are simple, it's free to participate, and you can find more details here: http://everythingishistory.com/2009/08/24/upcoming-contest-50-years-of-50-states/


The winner for the day will then be chosen at random from the correct answers and will be announced the following morning. Prizes include the books State by State: A Panoramic Portrait of America, and How the States Got Their Shapes, and a few others.

The blog is pretty cool too... so check it out.

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Saturday, August 22, 2009

100 Twitter Feeds That Teach You History

Some people don't understand Twitter. Part of that problem comes with its original intent. But what Twitter has become is so much more. Twitter is a great place to find information... just choose a few good people to follow and suddenly you're inundated with more cool links than you can handle.

Here are some Twitter feeds that offer all sorts of historical facts ranging from American history to European and everything in between. Labeled, the 100 Twitter Feeds that Teach You History.

This blogs feed was included.... now check out the other 99.
http://associatedegree.org/2009/08/19/100-twitter-feeds-that-teach-you-history/

And if you haven't already, sign up for my feed... http://twitter.com/USHistorySite - I post information about cool websites and articles that are appropriate for my audience.

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Friday, August 21, 2009

Links to History: World War II Comic Books

I receive great information via email and love to that information with you...

This one comes from the editor of America in WWII magazine... and it reads:

"While preparing the current issue of AMERICA IN WWII magazine (available at Barnes & Noble, Borders), we found two gutsy, fun, high-quality World War II comic books produced by, believe it or not, the US government!

America was desperate for high-octane warplane fuel early in World War II. But sagging morale slowed refinery construction. The US government's Petroleum Administration for War (PAW) searched for a solution and decided the answer was...comic books! PAW published two comic books for petroleum refinery construction workers in 1943.

We ran a photo essay on the comic books in our current issue. But the comic books are so cool that we decided to post both of them in their entirety on our website, www.americainwwii.com, as downloadable PDFs.

Here are the urls for the comic books: http://www.americainwwii.com/pdfs/comin-in-on-a-wing.pdf and http://www.americainwwii.com/pdfs/undercover-war-comic.pdf

Both comic books are in the public domain. The copies we scanned are housed in the National Archives II in College Park, Maryland.

Please feel free to share the links and pass the comics around. Who knows, they may just raise morale nationwide!"

There... I just did.

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Saturday, August 15, 2009

What would Teddy Roosevelt think about Michael Vick?

Many of you may know I live and breathe Philadelphia. I was born and raised in the outskirts of this town and I'm proud to now live within it's boundaries. With that, comes a love for the Philadelphia Eagles.

For the record, I support the franchise and it's signing of Michael Vick. Many outsiders probably don't understand head coach Andy Reid and the problems his two oldest sons have had with drugs and run-ins with the law. To make a long story short, they've made some terrible decisions, and they've been given a second chance. Michael Vick deserves that chance too.

And as it turns out, the day after the Eagles' shocked the world by signing Michael Vick, was a day I was able to look into the past and find out what Teddy Roosevelt might think about what Michael Vick did. Douglas Brinkley's book The Wilderness Warrior, gives us a glimpse of Roosevelt's views on animal cruelty.

Roosevelt, an avid hunter, had no problem defending his seemingly hypocritical beliefs. It would be a difficult task to find someone who loves hunting - and eating game - more than Roosevelt. His defense? Darwinism. Stay with me here... In the wild, the death of the hunted was very violent, where prey were often torn to pieces by their predators. Hunting, if done correctly, was a more human way of killing the animal. Roosevelt insisted that hunters follow an ethical code to make it a true gentleman sport. He didn't like traps or abusive treatment of wild or domestic animals. Even cattle and lambs brought to slaughter should be handled with dignity. The Roosevelt family, firmly believed that animal shelters and sterilization methods needed to be established in major cities. So I think we can conclude that Roosevelt would not have approved of dog fighting.

As a child a horse being flogged or a dog being kicked made Roosevelt sick.
President Roosevelt believed that all animals could feel pain, and therefore deliberate infliction of pain had to be stopped. Roosevelt also believed that some animals had emotions and thought similar to humans. To quote him...

"I believe that the higher mammals and birds have reasoning powers, which differ in degree rather than kind from the lower reasoning powers of, for instance, the lower savages."

Roosevelt's grandfather, Cornelius V.S. Roosevelt and his grand-uncle John J. Roosevelt both played integral parts in the establishment and incorporation of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA).

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Saturday, August 08, 2009

Theodore Roosevelt: The Wilderness Warrior - A Man Before His Time

What's amazing about the quote below, is not the eloquence of the statement, but the idea behind it. A man before his time, often criticized for his desire to preserve land, Theodore Roosevelt's quotes are even more special today. Our new found desire for greenness, and the reality of environmental awareness as a true virtue and the destruction of it as a true problem, make Teddy's words that much more important.

Used as in introduction to the The Wilderness Warrior: Theodore Roosevelt and the Crusade for America - it's a quote that really sets the scene for what appears to be a great book - a book I can't wait to continue reading...

"Defenders of the short-sighted men who in their greed and selfishness will, if permitted, rob our country of half its charm by their reckless extermination of all useful and beautiful wild things sometimes seek to champion them by saying the 'the game belongs to the people.' So it does; and not merely to the people now alive, but to the unborn people. The 'greatest good for the greatest number' applies to the number within the womb of time, compared to which those now alive form but an insignificant fraction. Our duty to the whole, including the unborn generations, bids us restrain an unprincipled present-day minority from wasting the heritage of these unborn generations. The movement for the conservation of wild life and the larger movement for the conservation of all our natural resources are essentially democratic in spirit, purpose, and method."
- Theodore Roosevelt, A Book-Lover's Holidays in the Open (1916)

The picture here shows Roosevelt hiking Yosemite with Sierra Club founder John Muir. Roosevelt should be commended for setting aside so much land. The land TR saved for the National Forests was greater than France, Belgium and Holland combined.

Roosevelt is a gem, and we are very lucky that he took the initiative to make conservation a national endeavor.

A book I'm reviewing now focuses on exactly this...

Roosevelt's role as the "naturalist president". The book, entitled The Wilderness Warrior: Theodore Roosevelt and the Crusade for America, pulls from never-before-published material to paint a picture of Roosevelt, that not only evokes masculinity, but a sense of both concern and pride for the nature and beauty of the United States. In the little bit I've read thus far, Roosevelt uses his network of naturalists, mountaineers, hunters, ornithologists, museum experts and the elite to save the country he loves and leave a legacy for which we should be forever grateful.

I'm enjoying this book so much - you'll probably see several blog entries from me concerning this book... great research, great read.

Click here to check out the book and read some reviews.

More Roosevelt Quotes:

http://ushistoryquotes.com/teddy

http://www.theodoreroosevelt.org/life/quotes.htm

John Muir Quotes:

http://ushistoryquotes.com/john_muir_quotes.php

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Thursday, August 06, 2009

How to... embed a link into the comment field

First and foremost, thanks to all of those who chimed into the roll call. It's always good to get a sense of who's reading this thing and to find out how I can improve.

I gave you guys the opportunity to promote your blogs and websites - and many of you took advantage of that. However, I noticed that a lot of you with blogs and websites, didn't take the time, or maybe don't know how to actually link to your site.

So I took the time to show you how...

I used a cool tool called Jing to record my computer movements and show you how... Check it out below. The video is embedded, but it's much easier to see if you click the link below the video.



Click this link to see it full screen:
http://www.screencast.com/users/klkatz/folders/Jing/media/7936f538-dbed-4f40-abec-2107fb1900e6

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Sunday, August 02, 2009

Roll Call: Who's Reading this blog?

Because of my curiosity and my desire to continuously improve this blog and the sites that accompany it, I'm gathering information. Another call to arms so to speak.

Once again, I'd like my readers to check in - and tell me a little about themselves. When I first did this, about a year ago, I had about 50 RSS subscribers/readers. I now have over 200. I also have close to 30 blog followers and a dozen email subscribers. Thank you all for wanting to receive my information, it's a pleasure providing it.

What I'd like is for some of you to chime in and give all of our readers a quick note about yourself. As a guideline, maybe you can answer the following questions.

- age, occupation - or you can be anonymous
- how you heard about/stumbled upon USHistoryBlog
- what part of history is your favorite
- which features you like about this blog - what else you'd like to see
- and if you have a blog/site of your own, feel free to plug it... this is a community

Thanks in advance for your time. And thank you for reading...

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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Government is Like a Baby... Ronald Reagan

With a 7 day old child, haven't found much time to write the things I'd like to write. But I did find this quote, which is appropriate on two levels.

"Government is like a baby. An alimentary canal with a big appetite
at one end and no sense of responsibility at the other."

- Ronald Reagan

For more quotes go to USHistoryQuotes.com

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Monday, July 20, 2009

Appollo Moon Landing

I just finished watching the original CBS recording of the moon landing on the History Channel.

tang astronauts moon landingAs a celebration for the event I bought some Tang. I had never had Tang before. I was looking for the original orange flavor, but found orange mixed with strawberry instead. It's pretty good. More about Tang: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tang_(drink)

There were several things about the CBS telecast that left an impression on me. First, it appeared as if Cronkite and his wing man remained on the air all night. They would regularly show the time in the upper left of the screen and it appeared to start around 9:30 PM and they were still broadcasting at 4 AM when the lunar module left the moon.

For the telecast from the Moon, Armstrong and his associates won the Best Foreign Television award from the British Academy of Film and Television Arts in 1969.

Something else I noticed was the pure joy and elation from Cronkite. Much like the emotion he showed during Kennedy's assassination, his feelings let us know that Cronkite is real. And so is the moon landing. But just in case there are some of you out there who like the conspiracy theories behind this event... here's your link... http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apollo_Moon_Landing_hoax_conspiracy_theories


Below is a video with reflections from Walter Cronkite.



And finally, in response to recent events I bring you the second man to moonwalk...

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Friday, July 17, 2009

Walter Cronkite Dies at 92

Though not the voice of my generation, he was the voice for many. He was the news.

He was invited into the living rooms of millions of Americans and reported the news. Unlike today's biased networks who purposely leave out all the facts and all the information, Cronkite would tell you what he knew.

Consider the clip below.



Clearly shaken by the sudden death of JFK, you can hear a crack in his voice. A crack that signified that he, like the rest of the world, was effected by the news of Kennedy's death. You can see it in the video at about the 5:15-5:20 mark. Cronkite's professionalism soon takes over and he reports the news as he knows it to be.

And that's the way it is.

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Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Mister James K. Polk, our 11th President

There are many of us who find the presidency of James K. Polk to be interesting. After all, he did accomplish a lot in his one and only term. He also adds to the allure of his legacy by opting not to run for a second term.

Most notably famous for his successful foreign policy. First he acquired lots of land in the Pacific Northwest by threatening to go to war with Britain, essentially taking what we know of as the Oregon Territory. Next, he was president during the Mexican–American War which resulted in the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, where the United States took land from Mexico. James K. Polk is manifest destiny at it's finest, in all Polk was able to secure over 900,000 square miles for the expansion of the United States.

For a history teacher, this is pretty cool stuff. But for a student....? Aahh, maybe not so interesting. So how about teaching about James K. Polk through song. The band They Might be Giants (TMBG) makes it easy for you.

Click the play button below, and read the lyric and I'm sure you'll agree that they've got the facts straight. Then go to TMBG's page below for an annotated version of their lyrics.



James K. Polk Lyrics
Artist: They Might Be Giants
Album: Factory Showroom

In 1844, the Democrats were split
The three nominees for the presidential candidate
Were Martin Van Buren, a former president and an abolitionist
James Buchanan, a moderate
Louis Cass, a general and expansionist
From Nashville came a dark horse riding up
He was James K. Polk, Napoleon of the Stump

Austere, severe, he held few people dear
His oratory filled his foes with fear
The factions soon agreed
He's just the man we need
To bring about victory
Fulfill our manifest destiny
And annex the land the Mexicans command
And when the votes were cast the winner was
Mister James K. Polk, Napoleon of the Stump

In four short years he met his every goal
He seized the whole southwest from Mexico
Made sure the tarriffs fell
And made the English sell the Oregon territory
He built an independent treasury
Having done all this he sought no second term
But precious few have mourned the passing of
Mister James K. Polk, our eleventh president
Young Hickory, Napoleon of the Stump


Here's a link to TMBG's site and some explanations of the lyrics.
http://www.tmbg.org/learning/jameskpolk/

Kudos to TMBG for making it easy for teachers to use their song in class.

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Saturday, July 04, 2009

Happy 4th of July

"Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide. "

- John Adams

Every government degenerates when trusted to the rulers of the people alone. The people themselves are its only safe depositories.

- Thomas Jefferson

Hey guys... 233 Years and Counting...



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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

What Makes a Good US History Textbook?

I recently received an email from a US History teacher in Hawaii, who inquired about a text book that accurately portrays "the other side" as it deals with America's dealings with the American Indian and the annexation of Hawaii.

At a loss, I figured I'd post his request to see if anyone out there can give him some guidance. Please comment below or email me directly at USHistorySite at gmail dot com.

This also begs the question, What makes a good American History textbook?

His request below. Thanks in advance for your help.


Aloha,

I teach in a small (only 40 students grades K-12) Public Charter School in Hawai'i whose students are all Hawaiian and who all come from families from the privately-owned island of Ni'ihau. Most of our students speak Hawaiian as their first language, and those who don't have chosen our school because part of the mission of the school is to help strengthen and perpetuate the Ni'ihau dialect among this small community who are the only speakers of this dialect in the entire world.

So far we have been doing project-based or topic-based lessons in US history, but I've been wondering if there exists a good high school textbook (or other book) that presents all the great things in US history but which also deals fairly with the not-so-admirable topics by presenting "the other side," especially when dealing with American Indians and even the annexation of Hawai'i.



Hawaiian students are more than aware of the injustice of the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy in 1893, and the sovereignty movement is definitely a live issue here, so sometimes it's a fine line between acknowledging past wrongs and still appreciating the good side of the US, especially for these students.

I've searched the Internet and asked other teachers here on Kaua'i, but no one seems to know if such a book exists. I've never even entered a blog site before, but I started wondering if this is a way to find what I'm looking for. On thing to consider is that for most of our students, English is their second language, so the difficulty of the language in a text must be considered.

To whomever reads this: Is this a way to help me in my search, or do you have any other suggestions?

Mahalo (thank you),
Hokulani Cleeland

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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Teaching History: Categorical or Chronological?

There are essentially two models of history curriculum design: chronological and categorical. For the sake of ensuring everyone is on the same page we will define these two terms quickly. Curriculum design that is done chronologically is the typical method as events, people, and dates occur in the order in which they happened. Curriculum that is categorical is broken up according to major themes (government, human rights, etc.). Both have positives and negatives as any curriculum does yet I have never heard any discussion take place as to which is more effective at teaching kids history. It often results in an “I prefer this” or “I prefer that” discussion that focuses on how the teacher thinks rather than the student learns.



The implications of this information are crucial to history teachers throughout the country. Given that we spend time discussing important issues in US history, it would be nice to have data-driven proof as to what the best way to go about providing the information is. I would hypothesize that most districts (including mine) have curriculum set up in the traditional framework (chronological).

Consider this when you are teaching the Constitution next year. The one unit that I teach that I would label as “categorical” is the Constitution. I go back to ancient Greece and Rome to discuss influences on the belief systems of the founding fathers that influenced the major documents in United States history. Then we go through an evolution of the Constitution including discussion of major Supreme Court cases and the importance of each of the amendments. I also revisit these amendments when I get to their point in the traditional curriculum. It would be impossible to teach the Civil War and Reconstruction without discussing the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments. I find that this leaves students with a greater understanding of the importance of the Constitution and how it influences their daily lives.

My point is this: we need to find out the best way to present history to kids on a macro (curriculum) as well as micro (instruction) level. The faster we come up with this information, the easier the time we will all have in engaging kids and providing them with the means of instruction that best fits THEM.

-----

This Post written by Aaron Eyler
for more information about Aaron, visit his "21st Century Education" blog at http://stretchourminds.blogspot.com/

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Friday, May 22, 2009

Links to History: Memorial Day Tribute

BackStory with the American History Guys (backstoryradio.org) is a call-in radio show that brings a historical perspective to every day happenings. U.S. historians Ed Ayers, Peter Onuf, and Brian Balogh discuss current events from a historical perspective.

On Memorial Day, BackStory will pay public tribute to those who lost their lives fighting for our country. The people that should be remembered and revered more than three or four days a year. The focus will be on the changing attitude of America towards dying. The program features an interview between historian and Harvard president Drew Gilpin Faust, and BackStory co-host Ed Ayers.

Interested in how to listen to BackStoryRadio?

Though BackStory is produced monthly and can be heard on a select number of radio stations around the country, the best way to hear the broadcast is to sign up for their free podcasts.

Signing up for the podcast will get you the newest episode delivered directly to your computer as soon as it is completed. For more information about how to subscribe to the free podcast Click here.

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Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Favorite American Quote Winner

Several weeks ago I asked my readers to contribute their favorite quote from American history. I promised I'd choose my favorite from the list and highlight it in a future post. This... is that future post.


I'd first like to thank those of you that contributed. We had about ten participants and about 15 submissions.

My favorite of the bunch was from the anonymous contributor 'boldlygo', who submitted a great Abraham Lincoln quote from a letter Lincoln wrote to Union General George McClellan.

"If you don't want to use the army, I should like to borrow it for a while."


That said, here's a little history of that quote...

Lincoln, was known as a micro-manager. During the war he could hardly keep still and was constantly getting his hands dirty in the details of the war. According to Doris Kearns Goodwin, Author of Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Lincoln, Lincoln would often "get himself to the battlefield to visit the soldiers, walk amidst their ranks, [and] see the wounded in the hospital."Abraham Lincoln would often walk amongst the soldiers during the Civil War

The picture to the left is a great example of Lincoln's "Management by Walking Around" concept. A strategy still used today by many managers and supervisors.

His relationship with McClellan was no exception. McClellan was entrusted with the duties of leading the Union soldiers to battle against the Confederates. McClellan however, who's talent was in organization and training, did little more than prepare his soldiers for battle. Lincoln repeatedly urged his General to "engage the enemy" but McClellan claimed he needed more men, more munitions and more time. And with Lincoln's aforementioned want of total control Lincoln asked for control of the Army of the Potomac in March of 1862.

Lincoln wanted to win the war quickly, and was no longer willing to accept McClellan’s belief that the Union Army "should take their time and use extra precaution". An interview found in Spartacus, in March of 1863, Lincoln said:

I directed McClellan peremptorily to move on Richmond. It was eleven days before he crossed his first man over the Potomac; it was eleven days after that before he crossed the last man. Thus he was twenty-two days in passing the river at a much easier and more practicable ford than that where Lee crossed his entire army between dark one night and daylight the next morning. That was the last grain of sand which broke the camel’s back. I relieved McClellan at once.

Lincoln soon replaced McClellan with Ambrose Burnside. Lincoln would go on to relieve several more Union leaders until finally settling on Ulysses S. Grant to finish the war.


Other Works cited:

http://www.pabook.libraries.psu.edu/palitmap/bios/McClellan__George_B.html

http://books.google.com/books?id=qbefJcN89sIC&printsec=frontcover

Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin

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Tuesday, May 19, 2009

What Should History Teachers Teach?

The following post was submitted by USHistoryBlog contributor Aaron Eyler.

One of the greatest struggles we have as history teachers is deciding what content to include and what to leave out. How can anyone tell a Civil War buff that teaching certain intricacies of the war are not necessary in a K-12 classroom? The truth is that history teachers, as most teachers, are passionate about their subject and find our curriculum growing on a daily basis despite a static amount of class time. We are beginning to find a need to make difficult decisions about what content is “more” important regardless of the personal connection that we have with it.

This only becomes more difficult in classes such as AP History where students are responsible for taking a test in May based on 500 years of history. If a teacher cuts out the “wrong” content then the students are not aptly prepared. Scores will then suffer and create a potential loss of the program. The question becomes clear: what strides can history teachers, the College Board or other governing body, and districts make to ensure that students are gaining an accurate representation of history without sacrificing teaching important skills in the social sciences like critical thinking?

Normally with this type of exercise we would start with discussing amendments that can be made to policy and passed to ameliorate the problem. Let’s be honest, the different special interest groups that have a stake in social studies curriculum will never agree on how much, or how little, of their content needs to be taught. That’s part of the reason that I marvel at the standards created by the National Council for the Social Studies. I can’t blame these groups. Advocates of each of the special interests (geography, economics, history, etc.) have a very valid point. Kids do need to know the intricacies of each of them, but the problem is, as stated above, we have limited time and an expanding curriculum. (This is also part of the reason why it is so difficult for Social Studies to be standardized tested as there is minimal agreement as to which components should make up what percentage of the test.)

So now what can we do as classroom teachers? The first point is pretty obvious. We need to begin to prioritize our scope and sequence. When beginning a new unit, the first question always has to be, “what do I want my students to know at the end of _________?” This directly follows the Understanding by Design mentality where the assessment exists prior to teaching the unit. I start every unit with a list of topics and specifics that would be labeled “critical” by most historians. For instance, my Civil War unit must contain discussion of Bull Run, Vicksburg, Antietam, Gettysburg, differences between the Confederate and United States Constitutions, etc. The problem is when people begin units with the intention of amending the topics based on the time they find themselves to have. This is when important content from the end of units ends up being eliminated. This is where people realize that they don’t have a lot of time left so they teach the Gettysburg address but fail to emphasize that Gettysburg was Lee’s last offensive and the major turning point in the war. To use the coined phrase: learn to think backwards.

Rather than providing straightforward answers, I hope this post has gotten you thinking about what we teach in history class and how we make those decisions. Hopefully, the idea above allows you to have an easier time planning. But the most important outcome of this post is that we start this discussion now before our students are graduating from our schools with a ton of meaningless content and without a full appreciation of the social sciences or a well-developed critical thinking capacity.

-----

This Post written by Aaron Eyler
for more information about Aaron, visit his "21st Century Education" blog at http://stretchourminds.blogspot.com/

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Wednesday, May 13, 2009

US History Caption Contest

I thought it might be a good idea to take a look at some interesting photographs from our great American history and have some fun with them. And lately I've been at a loss for entries, while other things occupy my time - so I thought I could leave the writing to you.

Think of a clever caption to go along with this picture of FDR and Churchill. The best caption will have an opportunity to shamelessly plug their favorite blog or website. Good luck!




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Saturday, May 02, 2009

General Patton Diary Entry - May 1, 1944

"In spite of possible execution this morning I slept well and trust my destiny. God has never let me, or the country, down yet."

http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/churchill/wc-trans215.html

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Friday, May 01, 2009

This Day in U.S. History, May 1st.

On May 1st, 1960, Francis Gary Powers was shot down by Soviet Air Defenses while piloting his U-2 spy plane.

Flying from an airbase established in Pakistan, Powers was supposed to take pictures of several top-secret soviet facilities before landing in Norway. Unfortunately, the Soviets were aware of the flights and were prepared.

Their first attempts to bring the U-2 down were with MiG-19 fighters, with orders to bring it down by any means including ramming if necessary. Due to the extreme operating altitude of the spy plane, the MiG-19s were unable to engage but continued to chase it. Finally a salvo of surface-to-air missiles hit the aircraft and it began to descend. Powers bailed out just before a second salvo hit the aircraft and was captured. A pursuing MiG was brought down by friendly fire.

Initially, the United States tried to cover up the incident. NASA claimed one of their aircraft had gone missing, and a U-2 was given a NASA paintjob in an attempt to convince the press that it was operating these aircraft. The Soviets continued to tell the world (correctly) that they had shot down a spy-plane.

The Soviets made no mention that Francis Gary Powers had been captured, and then President Dwight D. Eisenhower assumed he had been killed (or had killed himself using poison he carried in a fake silver dollar to avoid capture). The White House issued a statement saying a weather research aircraft had lost its way and that "there was absolutely no deliberate attempt to violate Soviet airspace and never has been."

The White House had walked right into a trap, and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev announced "I must tell you a secret. When I made my first report I deliberately did not say that the pilot was alive and well… and now just look how many silly things [the Americans] have said." Not only did they have Powers, but the Soviets had even managed to develop some of the film taken by the U-2's camera.

A very embarrassed White House was forced to acknowledge the spying missions, and Soviet-U.S. relationships deteriorated even further. Francis Gary Powers was convicted of espionage, and sentenced to three years of imprisonment followed by seven of hard labor. He was later exchanged for a captured soviet spy after serving 21 months of the sentence.

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Thursday, April 30, 2009

This Day in U.S. History, April 30th.

On April 30, 1803, France sold Louisiana and the adjoining lands to the United States for $15 million dollars (78 million francs).

The Louisiana Purchase was a pivotal point in U.S. history for several reasons. First, it drastically increased the size of the young country…nearly doubling the territory the United States controlled. Second, it set an important precedent for the Federal government to expand the country.

The asking price was no great obstacle. The total price was partially covered by the cancelling of $3,250,000 worth of French debt held by the U.S., and after a $3 million down payment in gold, only about $9 million needed to be raised. With U.S. credit still recovering from the Revolutionary War it was, ironically, an English financial firm that backed the U.S. bonds used to raise the money.

It was this second reason that lead to the most opposition to the purchase. The Constitution made no mention of acquiring territory, and any power that was not expressly granted to the federal government was supposed to belong to the states. At a time when most state governments tended to think of themselves as almost separate countries, this was no trifling point. President Jefferson, president at the time, had been the greatest champion of state rights but pragmatism quickly overruled his philosophical leanings…hypocritical or not it was simply too good of a deal to pass up.

The territory acquired would eventually make up parts of 14 U.S. states and 2 Canadian provinces. The Louisiana Purchase accounts for 23% of the present-day United States. The modern day states of Arkansas, Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, and Wyoming, were acquired at least partially in the purchase (as were small pieces of modern day Canadian Provinces Alberta and Saskatchewan).

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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

President Barack Obama's First 100 Days

The following entry comes directly from a correspondence with the National Constitution Center.


The National Constitution Center has a variety of resources to help your students discover the origins of the 100 day administration marker, engage in a conversation on the president's job performance and get them thinking about the next steps they want the president to take.

Since Franklin Delano Roosevelt guided fifteen pieces of legislation through Congress in the first three months of his administration, expectations have risen for the first 100 days of every presidential administration. This milestone presents an excellent opportunity for your students to reflect on current events, the role and function of government and the president's performance—all of which will enable your students to build the habits of active citizenship.

The Center's Education Team has created a helpful activity during which your students complete a Progress Report for the president. This resource will get your students in the conversation about the president's performance and encourage them to critically think about his actions well after the first 100 days. Download the Presidential Progress Report here.

The Center also provides your students with the ability to contact the president directly, so they can send the president his progress report or give their opinions on the issues they feel are most important.

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Friday, April 17, 2009

Your Favorite Quote from American History

Do you have a favorite quote? Was it said by a famous American?

Washington? FDR? Sandy Koufax?

Is it inspirational? funny? or the epitome of liberty?

We're interested to learn more about our audience by having them interact.
Share your favorite US History Quote below and tell us why you love it so much.

We'll choose our favorites and highlight them in a future post.

Thanks. for sharing.

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On This Day: April 17, 1790 - Ben Franklin Dies

On this day in 1790, the first American super-star died. Benjamin Franklin was the most accomplished American of his age, and perhaps any age. Franklin was successful in many areas, he was an accomplished author, printer, scientist, inventor, politician, and diplomat. In his spare time, he was a civic activist who founded one of the most influential libraries in the (then) colonies, reformed the U.S. postal system and laid the groundwork for the modern system, and created one of the first volunteer fire fighting companies.

His career covered an amazing breadth of subjects, but he is perhaps best known for his work discovering electricity (the famous kite experiment), and also for his efforts to bring France into the War for Independence. Popular with many influential French thinkers, Franklin was dispatched to gain support for the cause. In many ways, it was Franklin's efforts to secure French loans that kept the Continental Army in the field. Franklin, along with John Adams and John Jay, would go on to negotiate the Treaty of Paris that ended the Revolutionary War.

To future generations, Franklin is an icon of the Revolutionary period. During his lifetime, however, he was far more popular with the crowns of Europe than he was with the leadership of the Colonies. John Adams, whom he had collaborated with on the Declaration of Independence and later in France, absolutely loathed the man. He would complain that his own role in the Revolution will be forgotten in favor of Franklin, he would write: "The essence of the whole will be that Dr. Franklin's electrical rod smote the earth and out sprang General Washington. That Franklin electrified him with his rod - and thenceforward these two conducted all the policies, negotiations, legislatures, and war."

Though not quite accurate, Adams was correct that the average American would always cherish the memory of Franklin. His funeral was attended by 20,000 people who crowded around the church to say goodbye. To this day, thousands of people visit his simple grave in Philadelphia, and toss pennies onto the tombstone of the man who advised a young nation that "a penny saved is a penny earned".

this post by Tom Haynes

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Wednesday, April 15, 2009

On This Day: April 15, 1861 - Civil War Begins

The following post was submitted by USHistoryBlog contributor Tom Haynes.

On this day, the Civil War officially began. In response to southern forces firing on Fort Sumter three days prior, President Abraham Lincoln declares a state of insurrection and calls out Union troops.

In the resolution issued this day, Lincoln called 75,000 militia troops from the various states still loyal. At this point, seven states had announced their intention to secede from that Union. South Carolina had been first, followed by Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas. The militia's first duty, according to Lincoln's statement, would be to secure federal property seized by those states.

At the same time, Lincoln called both houses of Congress into session, scheduled for the 4th of July 1861. This period would be something of a lull in hostilities, but several more states (most notably Virginia) would quickly respond to Lincoln's call for troops by joining the secession movement.


Whereas the laws of the United States have been for some time past, and now are opposed, and the execution thereof obstructed, in the States of South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas, by combinations too powerful to be suppressed by the ordinary course of judicial proceedings, or by the powers vested in the Marshals by law.

Now therefore, I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, in virtue of the
power in me vested by the Constitution, and the laws, have thought fit to call forth, and hereby do call forth, the militia of the several States of the Union, to the aggregate number of seventy-five thousand, in order to suppress said combinations, and to cause the laws to be duly executed. The details, for this object, will be immediately communicated to the State authorities through the War Department.

I appeal to all loyal citizens to favor, facilitate and aid this effort to maintain the honor, the integrity, and the existence of our National Union, and the perpetuity of popular government; and to redress wrongs already long enough endured.

I deem it proper to say that the first service assigned to the forces hereby called forth will probably be to re-possess the forts, places, and property which have been seized from the Union; and in every event, the utmost care will be observed, consistently with the objects aforesaid, to avoid any devastation, any destruction of, or interference with, property, or any disturbance of peaceful citizens in any part of the country.

And I hereby command the persons composing the combinations aforesaid to disperse, and retire peaceably to their respective abodes within twenty days
from this date. Deeming that the present condition of public affairs presents an extraordinary occasion, I do hereby, in virtue of the power in me vested by the Constitution, convene both Houses of Congress. Senators and Representatives are therefore summoned to assemble at their respective chambers, at 12 o'clock, noon, on Thursday, the fourth day of July, next, then and there to consider and determine, such measures, as, in their wisdom, the public safety, and interest may seem to demand.

In Witness Whereof I have hereunto set my hand, and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed. Done at the city of Washington this fifteenth day of April in the year of our Lord One thousand, Eight hundred and Sixtyone, and of the Independence the United States the Eightyfifth.

ABRAHAM LINCOLN

By the President:
WILLIAM H. SEWARD, Secretary of State.




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Monday, April 13, 2009

Thomas Jefferson Visitor Center & Smith Education Center Official Opening

If you're in the area and have the day off, head on over... otherwise, enjoy the resources.

On April 15, two days after the 266th anniversary of Thomas Jefferson’s birth and after nearly a decade of planning, the $43 million Thomas Jefferson Visitor Center & Smith Education Center will officially open with an opening ceremony.

The new Center will give visitors of all ages distinctive opportunities to become engaged in Jefferson’s life and legacies at their own pace and on their own terms. Emphasizing the power of place and the strength of ideas, these all-new features will highlight Jefferson’s accomplishments, his beliefs about liberty and their global relevance today, the wider community of people – both enslaved and free – who lived on the plantation, and the remarkable house and landscapes of Monticello.



WHAT:

Opening Ceremony for Thomas Jefferson Visitor Center

West Lawn at Monticello event celebrating Jefferson’s lasting legacies with:

· 2008 National Book Award winner Annette Gordon-Reed

· Presidential historian Michael Beschloss

· Former Secretary of State Warren Christopher

The new Center will serve as a 21st-century gateway to Jefferson’s timeless Monticello in Charlottesville, Va. The center’s multiple components will transform the visitor experience by preparing guests for their trips to the historic mountaintop through dynamic content presenting fresh perspectives on Monticello and the enduring significance of Jefferson’s life and ideas.

WHEN:

Wednesday, April 15, 2009, 11:00 AM EST **

Music by Williamsburg Field Musick fife and drum corps, Union Run Baptist Church Choir, and the Charlottesville Municipal Band

**Members of the media should plan to arrive no later than 10:30 and will be escorted to press parking and seating.

WHERE:

Monticello, Charlottesville, Va. -- please visit http://www.monticello.org/visit/directions.html for directions.

A media kit, which contains key background information on the Center, is accessible at http://monticello.org/press/vcmediakit. The "Overview of the Visitor Center" document is a comprehensive resource.

RSVP:
Reporters and bloggers are encouraged to RSVP to make their arrival seamless.


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Sunday, April 12, 2009

USHistoryBlog Contributors

The USHistoryBlog is looking to expand and is taking steps to do shortly. Keep an eye out for several contributors from different walks of life and different areas of expertise. Currently we've gotten interest from people who will be writing about the following

- Presidents

- This Day in American History


- Views from a Literature/History student

- General history from fellow bloggers

If anybody else would like to contribute please contact me
info@ushistorysite.com for more information.


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Thursday, April 09, 2009

Links to History: Lincoln Assassination PBS Special

Received this information via email - thought some of my readers would enjoy it.

"Harold Holzer, co-chairman of the U.S. Lincoln Bicentennial Commission, appears with acclaimed actor Sam Waterston in a special performance edition of BILL MOYERS JOURNAL at 9 pm on Friday, April 10 -- which is also Good Friday, the tragic day of Lincoln’s assassination.

Lincoln’s Legacy and Legend is a deeply moving and intimate performance of poetry and prose written by Walt Whitman, Frederick Douglass, Allen Ginsburg, Langston Hughes, Harriet Beecher Stowe and many other American writers who have struggled to find words to describe perhaps the greatest of American heroes.

This special edition of BILL MOYERS JOURNAL is based on a private performance that Holzer and Waterston did in February at New York’s Century Club. “That was magnificent,” said Moyers, who was in attendance that evening. “This should be on television, and I intend to put it on.” And now he is doing exactly that.

More information and a press review preview clip are available in a web toolkit at this link: http://www.pbs.org/moyers/journal/lincoln/toolkit.html

The toolkit includes web banners and buttons as well as embeddable video clips of Sam Waterston’s performance that can be added to blogs, websites, facebook pages, etc. A program press release is attached to this email as a Word document for ease of use. The public can be referred to a preview here: http://www.pbs.org/moyers/journal/lincoln/watch.html.

After the premiere of Lincoln’s Legacy and Legend on PBS on April 10th, the program can be viewed online in its entirety at www.pbs.org/moyers/lincoln. The website will also include a robust collection of additional visual and educational material."

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Friday, April 03, 2009

Links to History: A Historic Garden in DC

Got this email this morning. I thought it was appropriate on two levels... Spring (spring break for some of you!), and American History. Enjoy the links.

The Washington D.C. cherry blossoms are in full bloom and National Geographic is a great resource about the historic landmark. National Geographic’s website has the full history of the blossoms from the first commemoration of the donation to the maintenance of the trees today at news.nationalgeographic.com. Also, photography.nationalgeographic.com has a photo gallery of the famous blossoms.

Did you know that the trees were a gift to the United States from Japan in 1912 to symbolize the friendship between the two countries? The article also depicts the ceremonious planting of the trees by First Lady Helen Taft and the wife of the Japanese ambassador on the bank of the Tidal Basin.

Follow the link below to learn more about the historic garden. And click on the photo to view the National Geographic Cherry Blossom photo gallery.

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2002/04/0404_0020405_cherryblossom.html

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Thursday, April 02, 2009

Links to History: SlideShare.net

Looking for a way to share your powerpoints with your students? A way for them to view them from home... SlideShare.net is your answer.

Slideshare allows you to easily upload your powerpoint to their website, for easy viewing by the public. Simply send the kids the URL, or input their slideshare widget on your blog or website, and your good to go.

http://www.slideshare.net/

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Friday, March 27, 2009

Links to History: PastTimesNews.com

Past Times News; Reporting the Rare and Unusual Stories from America's Past

I don't remember how I stumbled across this, but I'm glad I did.

Past Times News is a newspaper written in today's vernacular about events that happened in the past. It's like a newspaper from the past being delivered today. Though for some reason they're not taking any new subscriptions. You can purchase from their archived collection.

http://www.pasttimesnews.com

The idea is simple. Take events of the past and write about them as if they just happened. This would be great if each issue concentrated on one particular era in history. For example a teacher could purchase the stories of 1776 and have the students report on them as if they were current events.

Each issue comes with a bibliography of their sources and a game in the form of a jumble. Click this link to see what each issue can offer: http://www.pasttimesnews.com/vol2issue8/index.php

Here's an excerpt from the article, How to Save Your Family from Imminent Disease and Death

Lethal bacteria spawning on your dish rag, vicious microbes wriggling in the water you gulp, ravenous tapeworm larvae nestling in your breakfast sausage––if only these microscopic monsters were visible to the naked eye, people would be far more careful about keeping their homes clean. Although we are living in the year 1913, years since Louis Pasteur first revealed the unseen organisms causing decay and disease, many people still don’t know the essential measures that need to be taken to protect themselves from such tiny terrors.

Based in Philadelphia, Past Times News seems like a great idea. Perhaps I'll try to contact them to see why they've stopped publishing new material. Maybe they need writers. Any takers?

Each issue is $5.95... not too much to pay for a few lessons, right?

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Monday, March 23, 2009

Textbook Publishers Rush to Include Obama

As much as we dislike certain textbooks and the textbook companies, they should be given credit for this...

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/22/education/22textbook.html?_r=1

I can vouch for this. A few months ago I received a government textbook which had Obama in it, as well as Philadelphia's new Mayor, Michael Nutter.

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Friday, March 13, 2009

The Impeachment of Andrew Johnson

The New York times has a cool feature where they've archived all of their old articles online. In this case, they've referenced the impeachment trial of Andrew Johnson, which began on this day, March 13, 1868. It's pretty cool reading the newspaper articles in the vernacular of the time.
http://www.nytimes.com/learning/general/onthisday/big/0313.html#article

Today also marks the day that Standard Time was adopted in the United States in 1884.

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Monday, March 02, 2009

The Founders on the Founders; Word Portraits from the American Revolutionary Era

portrait of Thomas Jefferson 3rd president of the United StatesToo often we read about the great men who founded this country from a scholarly perspective. A view which highlights their accomplishments and their public persona, which sometimes does not give insight into their true character. The Founders on the Founders: Word Portraits from the American Revolutionary Era changes that.

Through a collection of quotes from journals, John P. Kaminski profiles 30 of the revolution's best known men and women and gives them a personality. The quotes he's chosen bring out the character of each individual, but with a twist. The twist is that most of the quotes are candid "conversations" (letters written between two people), where they talk openly and honestly about someone else. This, is what reveals the WORD PORTRAIT of that individual. The result is fascinating.

Take for example, Thomas Jefferson. We mostly know Jefferson as the quiet, eloquent, peace maker, who would greet people in the White House wearing his slippers. Kaminski's book reveals much more.

Written chronologically, each chapter profiles the men and women of the Revolution as we rarely see them. The book reveals a Jefferson who is vulnerable, heartbroken, depressed and inconsolable. A series of letters between James Madison and Edmund Randolph (Member of the Continental Congress, and would eventually become Va. Governor and Secretary of State) help to tell this story. I've inluded one example below.

James Madison to Edmund Randolph - September 30, 1782 (on Jefferson)

"Mrs. Jefferson has at last shaken off her tormenting pains by yielding to them, (she died Sep. 6) and has left our friend inconsolable... I scarcely supposed, that his grief would be so violent, as to justify the circulating report, of his swooning away whenever he sees his children."
A side of Jefferson we rarely think about, a new portrait of the man we associate with pride and eloquence. A word portrait, as painted by the men who new him best.

The book, The Founders on the Founders is a great reference to reveal the true spirit of our founding fathers.

You can read more about the book here: The Founders on the Founders: Word Portraits from the American Revolutionary Erabook revolutionary era founding fathers quotes

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Sunday, February 15, 2009

Presidential Love Letters

For Valentine's Day, I thought it would be clever to write my wife a love letter/poem using the words from some of our greatest couples. So I did some research to see what I could come up with. I was pleased to find a variety of resources online that had primary sources and transcripts of letters written from soldiers, presidents and first ladies.

John and Abigail Adams
The first letters I attempted to find were those from John and Abigail Adams. As was the custom in those times, both John and Abigail chose pen names. John was Lysander, a Spartan war hero. Abigail at first was Diana, the Goddess of the moon, but later used the name Portia, the wife of Brutus a great Roman politician. Below is a letter from Abigail to her "Dearest Friend" John, from December 23, 1782.

…should I draw you the picture of my Heart, it would be what I hope you
still would Love; tho it contained nothing new; the early possession you
obtained there; and the absolute power you have ever maintained over it; leaves
not the smallest space unoccupied.

See more letters and more information about John and Abigail below: http://www.libraryonline.com/default.asp?pID=57
My Dearest Friend, Letters of Abigail and John Adams

Abraham Lincoln

Next I found Lincoln. Lincoln is a curious case because unlike Adams, he didn't marry his true love. He missed that opportunity and settled for Mary Todd. His true love was Mary Owens. Here's an excerpt from a letter written to the woman he really wanted to marry, from August 16, 1837. But Lincoln has a strange way of expressing his feelings in this one.

Nothing would make me more miserable than to believe you miserable – nothing
more happy, than to know you were so... ...If it suits you best to not
answer this farewell – a long life and a merry one attend you.
Harry Truman
And though these are not transcribed and tough to read, here are some letters from Harry Truman courting his love.


Other Presidents
And finally... a Who Said it? Presidential quiz featuring love letters from some our nation's great leaders. http://ww.neh.gov/news/humanities/2009-01/LoveLetters.html
And on a final note concerning The Kennedy's. It is reported that Jackie had burned her letters from celebrity suitors so that her secret affairs would remain a secret.

I'm sure there are plenty more out there, so if this has peaked your interest. Off you go... find more. And please share them here... Happy Valentine's!

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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Links to History: Lincoln's 200th Birthday

I receive great information via email and love to share them with you... This one comes from the Oxford University Press. In celebration of the Lincoln Bicentennial, the OUPblog is featuring a few posts from well known authors and Lincoln Historians:



* An excerpt from James McPherson's ABRAHAM LINCOLN:
http://blog.oup.com/2009/02/lincoln-mcpherson/

* A series of FAQs with Allen Guelzo author of LINCOLN: A Very Short Introduction:
http://blog.oup.com/2009/02/lincoln_questions/ and http://blog.oup.com/2009/02/abraham-lincoln-faq-part-one/


* A look at how Lincoln almost failed by Jennifer Weber author of COPPERHEADS: The Rise and Fall of Lincoln's Opponents in the North:
http://blog.oup.com/2009/02/lincoln_fail/

Not to be outdone, the Constitution Center, as always has Lincoln's Crossroads, an educational based game with an animated Lincoln. - http://constitutioncenter.org/lincoln/

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Monday, February 09, 2009

Still I Rise; A Graphic History of African Americans

I've noticed in recent years the popularity of graphic-novels. You know, the comic book style books you're students can't seem to put down. Though not quite award-winning literature, it was books like these that had kids reading. It gave them a break from reality, and the ability to get lost in the plot of an anime character.

I was a fan of anything that had kids reading. Whether it be a magazine, a website or a graphic novel. But there was always something about these books that just didn't sit well with me. Maybe it was the fact that they were reading a video game plot and weren't really learning anything.

Still I Rise, changes all that. It's a graphic-novel chronicling the struggle that is the history of African-Americans. This is a new version of the book which extends to the Presidency of Barack Obama. The previous version released several years ago stopped at the million man march.

From the slave trade to Denzel Washington and Halle Berry,
Still I Rise: A Graphic History of African Americans does an excellent job of highlighting important events and introducing some astounding people most Americans never heard of.

Some of local Philadelphia significance include James Forten and Richard Allen, to name just a few.

I liked the book so much I'm going to propose that it become a necessary text for teaching African-American history at my school. It is the perfect compliment to any text. There is not an event in African -American history left unturned.


Still I Rise: A Graphic History of African Americans - is much more than a comic book. It's got content. History is drawn onto every page. From Amistad and Nat Turner's rebellion to Abraham Lincoln and the assassination of Martin Luther King.

The book will do wonders in getting your students engaged. They won't see it as a text, but as a comic book. There are so many extension activities you can do within the pages of this book.

For example:

Students can choose a character from the book and create a mini-comic book highlighting a day in the life of that character.

The can research and write a biography of one or more of the people in the book. Would be more challenging to choose someone they've never heard of. And there will be plenty.

You could take certain scenes, vignettes from the book and have your students create a movie trailer for a movie about the event.

Regardless, your kids will read the book. They'll learn history.

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Saturday, February 07, 2009

Thinkin' You Know Lincoln? - Lincoln Lesson Plan Contest

abraham lincoln lesson plan contest primary source documentsIn honor of Lincoln's 200th Birthday on February 12th, the History Channel is sponsoring a Lincoln Lesson Plan Contest.

Teachers have until April 8, 2009 to submit a lesson plan to be judged on relevance to curriculum, clarity of expression, use of primary sources and innovative and/or multi-media strategies, and an explanation of the assessment method.

For more information about the Abraham Lincoln contest, click on the link below:http://www.history.com/content/give-a-lincoln/lincoln-contest-for-students-and-teachers

After clicking on the link, be sure to check out the teacher resources on the right side of the ensuing page. It's a collection of discussion questions and extension activities that go along with a video you can purchase from the History Channel, but in my experience, you can often find something similar for free in other places.

For more Abe Lincoln resources, check out some of the sources below:

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