Tag Archives: Lesson Plans

Google Art Project

I’ve played with Google Art Project since its inception, but recent renovations make me very excited! If you’re unfamiliar with Google Art Project, it is an online “museum,” a repository of high resolution images and 3D gallery views of art collections from more than 40 countries and 151 collections. Here’s a brief video outlining how it works:

If you teach Art, Art History, or want to incorporate artworks into your classroom, it is a great free resource to explore collections from around the world. Students can even collect and curate their own works. They have several lesson plans and ideas in their education section.

Shmoop’s Learning Guides and Libraries – Great Free Resources for Students and Educators!

Screen Shot 2013-02-22 at 10.14.26 AMI have written about Shmoop in the past (see my article: “Highlight of Product at the AP Conference Shmoop“). If you are unfamiliar with Shmoop, think of them as an all inclusive website for study-guides, lesson plans, student and teacher resources, and sample standardized test repository (just to name a few). While Shmoop offers a wide variety of paid resources (inexpensive and well worth the investment it in my opinion), they also have ample free resources for both educators and students.

If you are looking for a great review of material, check out their “Free Learning Guides” that cover a myriad of topics from literature to mathematics. They also have a great repository of learning videos under their “Shmoopsterpiece Theater.”

If you are looking to provide guidance to students preparing to leave High School, try the section on “Shmoop Careers,” where students can take a brief aptitude and interest test and receive guidance, or “College 101,” which can help students to select a college or university that will meet their needs, complete a successful application, and get funding.

New material is added regularly, so this is  a site to bookmark!

Teaching with the Library of Congress

Yesterday, I posted that the Library of Congress has begun its application process for the Library of Congress Summer Institute, where educators can learn how to use the Library of Congress’s resources in their classrooms. Best College’s Online has an amazing infographic that highlights these resources. I am reproducing with permission here.


Six Sites for Primary Source Materials

It is officially August and most educators are beginning to feel the pressure that is the beginning of school. As we start to look at rosters and enrollment, we start to pull out and revamp old lesson plans and search for new material. As a History Teacher (with a background in archaeology) I understand the relevance and importance of primary sources in the classroom. Primary sources are not solely essays or primary works, but art, photographs, and other avenues of popular culture.

Finding primary source documents on the web can sometimes be a bit of a scavenger hunt. I know that I have spent hours scouring the web for good translations, excerpted texts, or relevant materials. Additionally, incorporating primary source texts can be a challenge with high school children. My youngest kids are ninth graders and often, when I distribute an original text, it is the first time they have seen a document of this type. Additionally, as much as we educators do not like to admit, sometimes it is a challenge for us to come up with ideas and activities to effectively incorporate this material into our classrooms. How do we make this interesting? How do we make this comprehensible? How do we make this relevant? Bringing in an original work and simply tossing it into a classroom environment is a sure-fire method for failure – students will often be confused, bored, and overwhelmed. Teaching with primary sources requires preparation and method.

In this article, I am focusing on six websites that focus on providing primary sources for educators and students. These sites are all excellent resources for educators in the Social Studies with a broad range of topics: American History, World History, World Religions, Language, Literature, Art, and Politics. There are many more amazing resources out there and I encourage you to add yours as well! So, here are my favorite five (presented in no particular order):

1. Milestone Documents  (Subscribe to their Facebook and Twitter feeds (all free) for regular highlights of documents in their catalogue as well as lesson plan ideas.)

  • Cost: $106.20 for an annual subscription
  • Grades: High School and College  (the material is too sophisticated for elementary and middle school).
  • Subject(s): History
  • Geographic Focus: Milestone focuses heavily on American History, but includes a solid library of texts for all of World History (Ancient, Western, African, and Asian).
  • Additional Subject Focus: In addition to organizing the material by date and region, Milestone has sections of Social History including politics (heavily focused on American political history), religion, and women.
  • Material Types: Text-based documents
  • Navigation: The content area is easy to navigate and great for “browsing.” The search feature is excellent for when you know exactly what you need.
  • Teacher Resources: lesson plans, rubrics, and assessment material.
  • Web 2.0 Focus: Many of the lesson plans incorporate Web 2.0 elements – Google Maps, Mind Mapping, etc.

What sets Milestone apart from the free resources listed below is that each document is predicated with a succinct contextual/historical statement. Students and educators are provided with a solid background for the text. Most works are also followed up with a critical analysis essay as well as provocative questions. Milestone is an excellent investment for teachers and students alike.

2. EDSITEment – Sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities,

  • Cost: Free
  • Grades: K-12
  • Subject(s): Art & Culture, Foreign Language, History & Social Studies, as well as Literature & Language Arts.
  • Geographic Focus: World
  • Additional Subjects: Current event topics, social history, politics, religion, popular culture, and more. There are many sub-categories that merit exploration.
  • Material Types: Text-based documents, visual material, maps, etc.
  • Navigation: Easy to browse and explore content areas.
  • Teacher Resources: Educator’s using this resource can readily access a multitude of innovative lesson plans, activities, assessment materials, alignment with Common Core Standards, worksheets, and listings for additional materials and resources.
  • Web 2.0: Many lesson plans incorporate Web 2.0 elements

3. Smithsonian Education – Sponsored by the Smithsonian Institution

  • Cost: Free
  • Grades: K-12
  • Subject(s): Art & Design, Science & Technology, History & Culture, Language Arts
  • Geographic Focus: World (US History most thorough)
  • Additional Subjects: Current event topics, social history, art history
  • Material Types: Text-based documents, visual material, audio recordings, maps, etc.
  • Navigation: Easy to browse and explore content areas.
  • Teacher Resources: Educator’s using this resource can readily access a multitude of innovative lesson plans, activities, assessment materials, alignment with Common Core Standards, worksheets, and listings for additional materials and resources.
  • Web 2.0: Many lesson plans incorporate Web 2.0 elements

4. Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History

  • Cost: Free for Educators and Students (private citizens pay per use), must register for access to materials. Gilder Lehrman encourages schools to register as Affiliated Schools (numerous benefits and access to more resources)
  • Grades: K-12, College, Graduate
  • Subjects: American History
  • Geographic Focus: The United States of America
  • Additional Subjects: Social History, Politics, Civil Rights
  • Material Types: Text-based documents, visual material, audio recordings, maps, video, interviews, etc.
  • Navigation: Easy to browse and explore content
  • Teacher Resources: some lesson plans and ideas, collaborative weblog, sponsored Teacher Seminars
  • Web 2.0: very little web 2.0 focus.

5. The Library of Congress

  • Cost: Free
  • Grades: K-12, College, Graduate
  • Subjects: History
  • Geographic Focus: Heavily focused on the Americas (national and regional histories), limited resources for World History
  • Additional Subjects: Folklore, local histories, veteran history, literature
  • Material Types: Text-based documents, visual material, audio recordings, maps, video, interviews, etc.
  • Navigation: Tricky to browse and search, requires adaptability
  • Teacher Resources: Some sections have extensive teachers resources in the form of lesson plans and activities, others are more spartan in their construct. LOC offers grants for professional development.
  • Web 2.0: Some sections readily incorporate web 2.0 activities, others are more limited and traditional.

6. Perseus Digital Library – Sponsored by Tufts University

  • Cost: Free
  • Grades: 9-12, College, Graduate
  • Subject: History, Art History, Archaeology
  • Geographic Focus: Heavily focused on Greco-Roman (founded as a Classical Library it contains all Latin & Greek works), Arabic, Germanic, 19th century America, Renaissance Europe, Egyptian Papyri
  • Additional Subjects: Humanism, Literature
  • Material Types: Text-based documents, visual material; the Art & Archaeology Artifact Browser provides High Definition images of thousands of artifacts.
  • Navigation: Tricky to browse, excellent search capabilities. This is an fabulous tool so long as you know what you are looking for.
  • Teacher Resources: No lesson plans or activities, purely material resources.
  • Web 2.0: No web 2.0 incorporation.

As you can see, there are numerous and extensive resources readily available to educators. The six that I highlighted are a good start, but hardly an all encompassing list. If you have suggestions or additions, please add them here! In the meantime, get browsing for some great material and lesson plan ideas!

My First Attempt at Employing Digital Storytelling in the Classroom

Today, my students turned in their Digital Storytelling projects. I set the bar high for them and they more than delivered. I first learned about Digital Storytelling while at a Learning Conference at the American School in London. It was an amazing presentation and demonstration, presented by Leah Treesh.

My overall goal with this project is:

  • To help students to learn how to research topics, develop a topic focus, and to present material in a coherent, logical way to their peers.
  • Teach students to learn to read both text and imagery as it relates to historical topics (my pet concept as I’m a trained archaeologist).
  • To help students develop their research skills, especially to recognize and utilize reliable and informative sources (be they written in a book, an academic journal, a magazine, and/or an online blog).
  • To have students employ and exercise multiple senses and activities to promote understanding and retention of material. In ‘regular english,’ having them use visual, audio, and tactile skills in production they are more likely to remember what they learn.
  • To help students focus, hone, and develop their own time-management skills. This was a project that was intensive and most students were working 100% of class time and then working about 20 minutes in the evening. It required planning ahead and managing their workload. Waiting until the last minute would result in a timely investment at the very end.
  • To have my students push the envelope and challenge themselves not only with new material, but new tools.

I posted my lesson plan and project objectives at the beginning of the week. You can read up on that here: “Digital Story-Telling Lesson Plan.” Here were the written instructions that I distributed to the students:

We went over the instructions step-by-step in class. I also showed them an example of what I produced so that they could see a finished product.

I also developed a thorough rubric that emphasized the fact that the video productions were not about the “razzle dazzle” but the content. The students were given the rubric in advance.

We then went to a prepared library orientation where students were shown how to use our school’s resources for finding books and journal articles. Our librarian did an amazing job and the students were given an introduction on how to find useful information.

Our entire focus this last week in class (and as homework) has been working on the project – we have all been either in the library or the computer lab. Students picked their own topics of interest and then developed their topics. We hit some bumps in the road, but ultimately came up with an amazing product.

From some of the input I got from colleagues, here were some of the problems that I anticipated and tried to plan for as much as possible.

  1. Having to teach students a ton of new software and then play tech-support monkey. I can honestly say that software instruction and tech support was far more limited than I anticipated. I tried to pre-empt this as much as possible with my “Troubleshooting Suggestions.” Whenever a student asked me a question, I asked if they had tried one of the first few suggestions – most of the time they replied “no” and went to work on the list. They were, 90% of the time, able to solve their own problems and thus developed some self-reliant skills. Not to say that there weren’t any tech issues, but I didn’t feel overwhelmed and found that if I had several students with the same problem (e.g. how do I upload to YouTube), I could show one and then they would teach their classmates.
  2. Uneven access to resources – would all students have access to computers and internet outside of school. I tried to make as much time as possible for students to work in the classroom. Most of them still had to do some work outside of the class. However, due to the nature of my school, all of my students had internet and computer access outside of school. Still, I realize that this is not the reality for many educators.
  3. Some students will wait until the last minute and thus won’t complete it on time. Since this may require that they access software or information unevenly available (e.g. a program at school vs. one at home and vice versa). This requires a lot of time management skills that many teenagers do not have. This is a real concern as teenagers are just learning this skill. However, like adults sometimes they have to learn the hard way and suffer some consequences. My students know that there is a 10 point grade penalty for all late assignments. I had about 10-15% of students who did not have their projects completed on time. If they had a reasonable explanation/excuse then they were granted an extension. However, if it was a time-management issue they had to take the penalty. What I did was plan in a 10 point extra credit assignment. If they watched a classmates video (posted on our classblog) and meaningfully commented, they could earn up to 10 points. This rewards those who followed the instructions, managed their time, and completed their work in a timely manner but also provided a safety net for those who struggled so that they can make-up their missed points.
  4. There will be technical difficulties and some students won’t be able to solve them. This is always the reality be it making a PowerPoint slide or a video production. We didn’t have a lot of true technical difficulties – most of them were simple errors (like storing pictures in the wrong folder). Sometimes, students needed to do more research on how to use their elected program (PowerPoint seemed to be especially a struggle when it came to saving it as a movie). Even I can’t learn all of the tech elements of every program to teach them effectively. If a student waited until the last minute, this hit them harder.

In addition to planned hiccups, there are also unplanned problems that I had to deal with:

  1. A few parents were uncomfortable with their child having a public video on YouTube. Many parents are reasonably concerned about their child’s public presence on media. I had a few parents that expressed concern and I made allowances for their child to put their video on a flash drive and show their video without it being shared. 
  2. The power went out at 9am. Yep, power outage. Fortunately, it didn’t last very long. However, it reset all of the servers. So in my first period class we started about 20 minutes late. Fortunately, our tech team was on the ball and made a point to reactivate my YouTube access right away.Teamwork!
  3. Not all students have video capable bandwidth. This actually surprised me quite a bit. I assumed that everyone would be able to upload a small video from home, but I had a few students (about 2 or 3) that were unable to upload videos from home to either YouTube or our shared DropBox. I had them bring it on a flash drive to school where I uploaded it to YouTube (students cannot access YouTube at our campus).
  4. Sometimes YouTube is a jerk. If the server is heavy or busy, videos can take a long time to upload and process errors can occur. A few students had videos that were seemingly ‘stuck’ in ‘processing’ mode on YouTube. When they messaged me, the problem was generally solved by having the student repeat the process.

The next time that I do this project (and yes, there will be a next time) there are definitely some things that I will do differently. Likewise, I assume that there are some things that my students will do differently. Overall, the successes far outweighed the fall-backs. Also, I set the bar really high for my students and they not only hit it – they jumped over it. I was so impressed with their presentations; they were well researched, thoughtful, creative, and professional. Several of them told me that they felt proud that they had accomplished something meaningful – that they had challenged themselves and met it head on. I’m going to include a few examples here (but keep in mind, there were so many amazing examples that it’s hard to pick a few). Of course, not 100% of the students were thrilled by this – some I’m sure will be happier when we do our ‘standard’ research paper in a few weeks (or perhaps they will nostalgically look back on this project).

Digital Story-Telling Lesson Plan

Today, I introduced a research project to my students for the Indus Valley Civilization. This time, it will be presented in the form of Digital Story-Telling. I first learned about this pedagogy while at the Learning Institute at the American School in London. I was eager to introduce this to my students and today issued the assignment. I will post the written assignments here, but note that we went over them in detail, explained questions, and then showed them some examples (including mine).

I went through the instructions with the students, and even showed them the “Digital Story” that I made:

The initially had mixed reactions to the assignments. Some are very excited – others are non-too thrilled. We’ll see how it goes, however. I’m hoping that this will be both a fun and educational exercise – teaching students new skills, how to research, how to cite materials, how to troubleshoot technological issues, and even develop some creativity.

Archaeology Lesson Plans K-12

The Archaeological Institute of American (AIA) has a wonderful series of K-12 lesson plans for teachers interested in teaching their students about archaeology. From interactive ‘school digs’ to making togas for your teddy bears, check out these great, fun, and creative lessons.