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:
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.
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!


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:

* A series of FAQs with Allen Guelzo author of LINCOLN: A Very Short Introduction: and

* A look at how Lincoln almost failed by Jennifer Weber author of COPPERHEADS: The Rise and Fall of Lincoln's Opponents in the North:

Not to be outdone, the Constitution Center, as always has Lincoln's Crossroads, an educational based game with an animated Lincoln. -


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.


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:

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:


Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Links to History: Black History Month Lesson Plans and Resources

Here are some links to resources to help in planning for Black History Month.

At you'll find lots of free educational resources for standards-based K-12 lesson plans, educational games, music clips and videos – all relating to Black History Month and available for downloading., is the educational website of the Verizon Foundation, and the the Black History Month related free lesson plans, teacher resources and student activities on the site are great for your classrooms.

The American Federation of Teachers website, also has some decent resources:

The AFT has identified a variety of resources to help educators celebrate Black History Month in their classrooms. This site highlights key historical events, influential figures and the continuing contributions African-Americans are making to our nation and the world.

It's also got some facts and figures which could make for good class discussion.
For example:
1.1 million is the number of blacks with advanced degrees, which is nearly twice the number from 1995.
You could ask your class to consider the reasons for such a huge increase.

And as always, the has plenty of pages with links to lesson plans on a variety of appropriate topics. Here are a few:

If you've got some of your own, please share them below.