Historical History

Welcome to my blog! I hope you'll find the information here useful and applicable to you and your classroom.

History teachers PREPARE students for the FUTURE by teaching about the PAST

28 January 2009

Women's Studies Project

The other day I was teaching my Women's Studies class and it was one of those days, where I can literally see the eyes rolling into the back of their heads. Obviously, something was not going right. I was not enjoying the class and it was abundantly clear the students were not having a good time either. In the middle of my rambling I stopped and said, "Okay, this obviously isn't working. What do you want from this class? You chose this class, so what do you hope to get out the class?" The students, taken back a bit, looked at each other, . . .then me, . . .then at each other again. Finally, after a moment of awkward silence a student in the back quietly said, "Maybe we could do a project or something."

Thus, an idea was born! We were painfully trying to get through the role of women in a variety of cultures from the ancient world. I went home that night and put some thought to how I could get the students to learn the information in a way that they enjoyed and learned something from at the same time.

I decided that I would let the students do the work by researching the cultures and, as a group, present their findings to the class. I broke the students into four groups and gave each group an ancient civilization: Roman, Spartan, Jewish, or Greek. As a group, they researched the culture, any historical events, and two to three significant women from that society. Their task was to put all their research in a coherent PowerPoint presentation, where they could be as creative they wished. I allotted three days to research, using laptops, and create their presentation.

I would love to know if you have any suggestion for how I could do a project similar to this in the future, or if you have done something similar. Please share your ideas and constructive criticism. Today they are on their second day of research, and already a problem I am running into is keeping a class full of girls on task. I am hearing more stories of gossip and less of ancient civilizations. Every few minutes I am reminding them to stay on task.

I really enjoy the class, but I am having trouble keeping them engaged in the material. In addition, since there is no set curriculum, I am having to develop a curriculum as I go along. The teacher, who I have replaced left a vague outline where the class should go, which has been a lot of help thus far, but I am getting the feeling that as the semester progresses I will have to come up with other material. Any suggestion would be greatly appreciated.

22 January 2009

Parkhill School District

Last week I was offered a long term substitute position at Park Hill School District, to fill in for a teacher who teaches four sections of AP US History and one section of Women's Studies. Nervously, I accepted the job and have been at Park Hill since Tuesday of this week. It was a transition I had never experienced before; leaving the comfort zone of one district and moving to another.

My first day at the new school I was thrown into classes without much preparation. It was as if I were thrown into a pool and were trying to put my feet on the bottom, without knowing how far the bottom of the pool was beneath me. It took about two days, but I think I'm starting to find the bottom of the pool. The AP classes are blocked every other day, which is great, because it allows my a day in between to prepare. On the other hand, the Women's Studies class is blocked everyday. I think if I had a week or so to plan for this class I could make it an entertaining and intriguing class. The teacher, who I've stepped in for, did a fantastic job at preparing the material I will need for the next few months. I have started to develop my own system for preparing for each class. Because this is my first classroom, I am not yet at point where I feel confident enough to walk in moderately prepared and deliver a fantastic lecture about any given point in US history; therefore, I have been reading, taking notes, and creating PowerPoints everyday this week. Today was the first day I gave a lecture to the AP class and I think it went well. The students seemed engaged and entertained. I think if I can stay a chapter ahead of them, I'll be fine for the rest of the semester. However, I can potentially see myself becoming exhausted in a few weeks if I stay as busy I was this week. Only time will tell, but I am starting to feel more comfortable in my new environment.

I know that this experience will be a learning experience no matter if it is a good or bad experience, and I believe if I stay positive and work hard, good things will come. I know that sounds incredibly optimistic, but I have a feeling this is just one more stepping stone in my journey through education. If you have a similar experience, I would love to hear about, please feel free to post a comment at the bottom. Thank you and have a great fantastic day!

13 January 2009


Have you ever done "role playing" in the classroom? If you teach anything, then I would be willing to bet you have done some sort of role play. While role playing is fun for students and educational, wouldn't it be awesome if your students could write and direct their own short film about the unit being taught? Well, they can! It is called xtranormal and the students can write the script, select the actors, the set, and various camera angles. It is a fascinating tool to be used in the classroom. If you have been keeping up to date with this blog, you know I do not have a classroom of my own yet, but if you have used this website in your classroom I would love to know how it went.

I have created a sample film to see what sort of things it could do, and I was absolutely amazed. If your school district is fortunate enough to have laptops in the classroom or a computer lab, then this can be used for your class. This website allows the students to be their own directors and shoot movies that pertain to the subject matter being taught, which can be shared with the whole class as a review or teaching method. If you haven't already checked it out, go take a look. I have embedded the link in the title of this post. Camera, Lights, ACTION!

12 January 2009

I Prefer "Alternate" Teacher

I walk into a classroom I have only seen while doing observations after student teaching with a key, an ID tag that reads, "SUBSTITUTE", and a folder. The folder contains information for the substitute about the classes and the full-time teachers expectations. I enter the room, find the light switch, and sit down at the desk to prepare my mind for the day. On the desk is a piece of paper with clearly written direction for how the lessons should be taught. I take a deep breath, close my eyes, and exhale. This will be my first experience as a substitute teacher.

My mind is racing with ideas and jokes to start the class, do I tell the one about the teacher who..., or the two guys that..., or how will I introduce myself? Fortunately, I was taught that, "Early is on time, and on time is late," so I have about twenty minutes before the first class is suppose to begin. I suppose the first thing I should do is write my name on the board, so I do. In fat bubble letters, I write, "Mr. SUMMIT," and draw a mountain underneath it with an arrow pointing to the top. Since the top of a mountain is known as the summit, it makes sense. Before I know it, the bell has rung and slowly students begin to enter the once peacefully quiet classroom. As they enter I begin to hear, "Are you our sub?" "Awesome a sub!" "Where is Mr. Gates?" all of which I will answer in a few moments.

BING, BING, the tardy bell has rung and it is time to begin. I close the door to the hallway and all fear or anxiety disappears into I don't know where. I begin by saying,

"Good morning ladies and gentlemen! If you haven't noticed by now, Mr. Gates is M.I.A and therefore you are blessed with me. I will be your substitute for the day; however, I do not like the word 'substitute,' because to me, it means all sort of negative things. For that reason, I prefer alternate teacher, the replacement teacher, and for those thespians among us, the under-study to Mr. Gates."

I go on to explain that my name is Mr. Summit and I have drawn a picture for those "visual" learners. By now the class has loosened up and have laughed at least twice. That is my trick, my key, my tool, my whatever,...humor! If I can get the students to laugh or even smile, then it will be a good day.

I learned in my experience as a student teacher last semester, that humor is an essential piece of my teaching style. I believe that students remember more things they thought were funny, than things they fell asleep to. Case-and-point, why is it that almost every student can quote any Adam Sandler, Will Ferrel, or SNL movie? Because they're funny, they laugh, and they have a good time watching them; they are ENTERTAINED! I believe the same is true in the classroom; if I can entertain the students for an hour and teach them something at the same time, then I have done my job.

After my introduction, we transitioned into the planned lesson, which went smoother than I had anticipated. The students were engaged in the discussion and were asking questions, some of which I could answer, some of which I could not, but that is okay. It is okay to admit you DON'T know everything, because you don't. In my experience, the students will respect you more for admitting you were wrong or that you don't know something, than if you pretend like you know everything and give them a bogus answer.

Classes came and went throughout the day and I had an incredible time teaching those students. I realized that I had been needing to get back in the classroom. I have subbed twice since the start of the semester and it seems like I cannot get in the classroom enough. Being a substitute has merely enhanced my desire to have a classroom of my own. For those of you teachers who already have your own classroom, cherish it, for you are fortunate. If you have a similar experience you would like to share, please post a comment. Thank you and remember, history teachers prepare students for the future by teaching about the past!

06 January 2009

Maps of War

There is a website called, Maps of War, that is absolutely fascinating. It is especially useful for any teacher teaching world history. In the site you will find animation that briefly shows the expansion of empires in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. In addition, there are animations depicting the history and expansion of religion across the world, which is essential to teaching world history. Beyond that, there are animations and links to describe a variety of historical warfare, from WWI to the Iraq War.

I first learned of this site from a social studies teacher at Liberty High School, where I student taught. I thought the animation, which I have included in this post, was so remarkable that I shared it with one of my college professors at William Jewell College, who teaches a survey course of Middle Eastern history. He responded to my e-mail by saying how much he enjoyed it and that he would be using it in class the next day. I know that I have not been a teacher for very long, but I know that this site has a lot of information to offer to students who are longing to learn from the technology they have been surrounded by since their birth.

I urge any social studies teacher or anyone who is curious to explore this site, I guarantee it will not be time ill spent. If you have seen this before or have used it in the classroom, please comment and tell me how you taught it. Thank you.