Monday, December 17, 2007

Essential Vermeer

One of the wonderful things about the Internet is websites that make you go "wow". Essential Vermeer is one of those websites. A comprehensive site on Johannes Vermeer brings to life the man and his paintings. One of the neat things about the site is indepth analysis of some of the paintings. Several years ago my students read the book Chasing Vermeer, by Blue Balliett and we studied the works of Vermeer. I put together a curriculum to guide us. Take a look at this beautiful website, you'll be better off for it.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Blog Rating

My other two blogs received an Elementary Rating and a Junior High Rating but this one received a Genius Rating. Who the heck knows why?

cash advance

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Photos As Primary Sources

On Tuesday we joined the fifth graders in our building on a fieldtrip. Our school's art teacher, Paul Elo, designed a architectural fieldtrip to Northeast Kansas City. Using a scavenger hunt, we looked closely at 20 homes built at the turn of the century. Students wrote short paragraphs and took 400 photos. We developed a website to share all of our information. You can see the website here.
You can also find the original scavenger hunt and the tour map on the website.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Wonderful Images of Old Classrooms

When I was designing the header for my students' blog I wanted to use images of old classrooms so I searched for hours until I came up with some good ones. I'm going to share them with you in this entry, then I'm going to look for the citations. So, if you don't see the citations check back.

I love the images on the left. Shows how much classrooms have

change in the last 100 years, these young women are doing

calisthenics at their desks. Wasn't there a movement several years
ago to have kids exercise at their desks?

Below is a list of images from the Library of Congress that you might enjoy. This is a portion of 100s of images they have archived at the LOC.

Classroom of students at the State Normal School, Kearney, Nebraska Nebraska State Historical Society, [Digital ID, e.g., nbhips 12036]

1st grade art work at Central, 1941
Western History/Genealogy Department, Denver Public Library

2nd grade at Central, 1941, Miss Monroe
Western History/Genealogy Department, Denver Public Library

Aspen School Room
Western History/Genealogy Department, Denver Public Library

Boys sitting at tables and reading books at the Chicago Telephone Company School for Boys
Chicago Daily News negatives collection, DN-0003451. Courtesy of the Chicago Historical Society.

Small Children Studying Geometry in the Classroom Johnston, Frances Benjamin,1864-1952. Washington, D.C., school survey Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Novels with a Historical Connection

Blue Balliett wrote several novels that we used in our classroom with great success. Her first book was Chasing Vermeer, a mystery developed around a missing painting by Johannes Vermeer. The second book, The Wright 3, had the Frank Lloyd Wright Robie House as its main focus. I really liked the historical connection in the novels and the kids immediately warmed to the main characters. I liked the connections with primary sources; the paintings, the blueprints, the original photos.

I wrote curriculum for each book with a heavy emphasis on technology and the Internet. We did our first classroom wiki as a culminating project for our reading of The Wright 3. I discussed the wiki in a previous post Wikis in the Classroom.

I've read several other novels with a historical connection. I have not used Endymoin Spring by Matthew Skelton in the classroom, but there is a lot of potential in it---it's all about the power of the book. We might read it this Spring. The other book, which our students loved, was The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick. It is a marvel---I didn't write a curriculum but there are so many connections to old movies and movie makers--definately a must read but students really need their own copy since 1/2 of the 300+ pages are illustrations. Let me know if you run across any other novels with a historical connection. These Da'Vinci Code like books for kids makes great gifted curriculum.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Titanic in the Classroom

Be on the lookout for something new. Titanic in the Classroom was originally developed by the Department of Education & Children Services, Southern Australia I contacted them in June 2007 to ask if I could use some of their activities in a Titanic curriculum I was writing to use in the fall. I looked for Wayne Starick, the original webmaster, he was no where it be found. Eventually I found Henry Legedza, Corporate Web Administrator and he informed me that they were getting ready to disassemble the site. The Titanic in the Classroom site seemed to be the only site with a "searchable" Titanic database so I asked if I could re-construct the site. Luckily, Mr. Legedza said "yes".

So I have reconstructed the original site and am adding much more including the curriculum we will use. Please check out the new site Titanic in the Classroom now and again and see how things are progressing. As of today the database is the only weak link. Hopefully in the next few months I will find someone to get it up and running.

Monday, June 11, 2007

CSI--Finally Finished!!

We finally finished the CSI:Cemetery Scene Investigation website mentioned in an earlier post. Check it out!

Monday, March 26, 2007

Martha Ballard's Diary

I ran across this site, Martha Ballard's Diary, seven years ago and was amazed by it. I included it in all my primary source workshops. There is a PBS documentary about the same topic. I was reminded of the site by a listing on Blue Web'n listserv-- be sure to check out the diary site as well as the documentary.

American Experience: A Midwife's Tale (PBS)

Description: In 1785 Martha Ballard began the diary that she would keep for the next 27 years, until her death. At a time when fewer than half the women in America were literate, Ballard faithfully recorded the weather, her daily household tasks, her midwifery duties, and countless incidents that reveal the turmoil of a new nation. Historian Laurel Thatcher Ulrich discusses the importance of Martha Ballard's diary and what it reveals about 17th century America and women's roles at that time. Based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning book of the same name by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, "A Midwife's Tale," Teaching Activities may be adapted in the absence of the for-fee film.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

What Do You See?

I've done several NECC workshops on The Library of Congress and was "wowed" at the time as I looked deeper into what they have available for teachers and students. I want to share one of those "wow" activities with you. I was researching visual learners when I ran into this activity and I said to myself, "I can see where kids would really like this". The activity is called What Do You See?

"In this lesson students analyze a single photograph from the American Memory collection Selected Civil War Photographs, 1861-1865. Using the skills developed, students then find and analyze other images. Conclusions reached will allow students develop links between the Civil War and American industrialization."

Students divide into teams and look at a section of a bigger picture, they then come up with answers to questions about the photograph. They return to to the larger group and discuss the "Big Picture". When, in the late 1990's, I first saw this photograph and the "technology" used to cut it up I thought, "this is so cool". It seems rinky dink by today's standard but utilizing the technique is a good way to enhance visual literacy. Check it out and see how you could use this technique in your classroom.

Image From Selected Civil War Photographs, 1861-1865, Library of Congress

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

CSI: Cemetery Scene Investigation

Over the summer I read an article in Edutopia magazine called Six Feet Wonder. I have no idea why I was reading a 3 year old magazine unless it was on the stack of things to "read eventually"! The article told of a cemetery project that some students in California had done and linked to the curriculum the teachers had written. I thought it sounded fun so I mentioned it to my co-teacher.

When our district's foundation grant application came in the mail we decided to write a grant to do the CSI project. I can usually come up with good grant ideas and I've written grants before, so the "prize patrol" came to our classroom with a big check, flowers and balloons in November, we'd gotten the grant. With the grant monies we purchased 2 GPSs, 2 Palm TXs, 3 digital cameras and a digital video camera; we also included fieldtrip expenses. You can read about the project objectives on our website.

After looking at the original CSI project and webquest we decided how we were going to go about completing the project with the sixth graders in our gifted program. I spent dozens of hours setting up a skeleton website so there would be some scaffolding for our students' work. We expanded our project (from the original) to include extra research providing a thorough background for all of us. The students were able to use a wiki to "store" their research before it went to the website. Students started working on the project about three weeks ago. You can see the day to day schedule and student research done so far on our website CSI: Cemetery Scene Investigation .

Before we take our first of three fieldtrips we are going to have a Garmin representative come in and do a workshop on GPSs, high school students are coming in to teach digital photography and photo manipulation, a videographer is coming to talk to the kids about making and editing videos. We are also going to do lessons on weathering and of course take a look at patents for preventing premature burials (!), ghost stories, and vampires!! We are visiting a local Indian Mission cemetery and a family farm cemetery as an introduction to the field study. We will then spent two full days in two other cemeteries recording data, taking pictures, making videos, and of course doing whatever we are suppose to be doing with the GPSs. The last month of school will put all the data and media on the website and probably have a big Open House/Party to share our findings!! Check the website often to see how we are doing.

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

The Voyage of the St. Louis

When my students were working on the background research for the Guardians of Freedom project we used this site, The Voyage of the St. Louis from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Quoting the site, Students of the Holocaust frequently ask, "Why didn’t Jewish people flee Germany when the Nazis took power?" Framed in the context of several broader issues, the story of the St. Louis offers a historical case study through which to address this question. The broader contextual issues include: German anti-Jewish policy in 1938 and 1939; the international response to the growing refugee crisis; the plight of refugees in German-occupied western Europe; and United States immigration and refugee policy during the 1930s and 1940s.
Using documentary evidence, Museum researchers have reconstructed the individual stories of many St. Louis passengers. This information will help students understand the complex issues mentioned above, especially the difficulties that Jewish refugees faced when fleeing Nazi Germany and how United States government policies influenced the fates of refugees.

Students used the primary documents to discover the fate of several passengers on the St. Louis. There is something very powerful about scrolling the database of prisoners registered at Auschwitz, scanning for the name of a family member you are trying to "locate". This site certainly enhanced the students' understanding of the plight of Jews during the Holocaust.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Guardians of Freedom

In each teacher's career there is the time when you say "this is the best thing I will ever do as a teacher". That happened to me in 2000. My co teacher, Judy, mentioned in the middle of August that she thought it would be neat for students in our gifted program to interview WWII veterans. This was the year of the Library of Congress Veterans Project and I agreed but we immediately realized there would be some stumbling blocks. We figured it would be hard, if not impossible, to interview veterans without knowing anything about the time period or the war.

So we embarked on a world wind saturation curriculum. Since we only saw our students (3 different classes) one day a week we knew we were going to have to cram. Through the fall and winter I gave a series of lectures on the time period between 1915 and 1945. Sometimes the lectures would last would last several hours and it still amazes me that our fifty 5th and 6th graders would sit and listen intently. We supplemented the curriculum with guest speakers, videos, web activities and field trips.

As the year progressed I asked my mom who she knew that had fought "in the war". She suggested I contact the seniors group at a local college and ask all my friends and students about their parents and grandparents. The rest, as they say, is history. Hoping to get about 20 veterans we ended up with 54!!

Even though our students are in a program for academically gifted students, we knew interviewing would be hard. Asking the questions, listening and recording would be hard for anybody, so we "hired" 40 adult secretaries (parents, teachers, friends, children) to record the interviews. The veterans came, some in uniform with boxes of memorabilia, to tell stories they had never told before. Each student and adult secretary spent an hour with their veteran to record the history of that man or woman. Six adults, including one of my sons, proofread all of the stories and we published a book and posted a website, Guardians of Freedom. We had a reception for the veterans and gave them a copy of the book, over 400 people came and we enjoyed showing the veterans how to use the computer so they could see their webpage.

This project changed the lives of everyone involved; the students, the adults, the veterans. We will never be the same having met those wonderful men and women. Since the project ended, six of the veterans have died, but the project lives on. I receive 3-4 emails a month from people trying to connect with one of our veterans. People from all over the country are trying to find someone who knew their grandfather, uncle, or brother. Taking the oral histories of men and women from the "Greatest Generation" gives us an invaluable resource from which to draw strength and an understanding of times past. Even if you don't do oral histories in your classes, be sure to take the oral histories of your own mom and dad. They won't be around for ever to tell those stories.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007


What a find. If you are interested in using primary source documents and Web 2.0 technologies you will love Footnote. Here's what they have to say:

At you will find millions of images of original source documents, many of which have never been available online before. But at Footnote, finding an image is just the beginning. We have created powerful tools that let you interact with and enhance what you find. Annotate important information on the image, easily organize and share your findings or collaborate with people who have similar interests. If you have original source images of your own that you want to share with your colleagues, classmates, friends and family, simply upload them to Footnote and use our tools to make your images searchable and available to others. Footnote also gives you an opportunity to share your story, ideas or research with others by creating your own "Member Pages". A Member Page is a place on the Footnote site where you can share your knowledge and research with others. You can write what you know, attach original sources that support your story and invite others to share their insights.
Footnote has something for everyone, from individual history buffs to groups and societies looking for a smart way to make their collections available to millions of people.

2/10/07 OK, this is a good lesson on why you should look over a site before recommending it--I was just looking at Footnote and even though they have some free documents to play with most of the site is fee based. I guess I'm not that surprised.

Here is a recent comment I posted at NCS-Tech

February 5th, 2007 at 7:03 pm
I have always loved those “wow” things (thanks for pointing them out) that show up on the web. I remember when I first started presenting at NECC (1995 ish) my three hour workshops would be filled with “things that make you go hmmm” and we would all “ow” and “ah”. Some of those things seem almost archane now…things like online citation machines, rubric makers, photo manipulators, eboards, create a graph, etc. BUT back then they were way cool.
I look at the Web 2.0 stuff and I’m saying “wow” again. This time the stuff is even cooler!! I also remember a lot of stuff that used to be free that now costs money like Big Chalk, RiverDeep, Noodletools etc. Won’t all these neat applications like Ourstory, Letterpop, and Scrapblog, and Footnotes et al, eventually be subscription sites? I retire in 3-4 years so I bet I’ll get to use all the Web 2.0 before I retire, and hopefully they’ll be free.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Focus Activities

The Learning Page, part of American Memory at the Library of Congress suggests the use of primary sources as a focus activity to introduce a topic or re-engage students. This what what the Learning Page has to say about choosing focus activities. Choose activities that:

  • present a puzzle;
  • challenge a stereotype or conventional wisdom
  • present a contradiction;
  • offer an insight (or aha! experience);
  • promote empathy (through a human interest story);
  • present a generalization or explanation against which different generalizations or explanations can be compared later.

I've used a focus activity dozens of times with both adults and kids using the following images and questions:
General store interior, Moundville, Alabama What year is it? What could you buy in this store that you can't buy at Wal-mart? What could you buy at Wal-mart that you can't buy at this store?

A member of the Wilkins family…Tallyho, Granville County, North Carolina How does this woman's life differ from your mother's life? How does this woman's life differ from your grandmother's life? What do you notice about this woman's kitchen that is different from your kitchen? When I use this photo with adults I always get great responses; "I never wear a hat or apron when I cook", "Where's the carry-out?" "Does the scale mean she's on Weight Watchers?"

Why The American Child is Not Welcome in Apartment Buildings? What did President Roosevelt say about children living in apartments? Does the author of the article think that the fault lies with the child or with the apartment?

Japanese Internment Camps-- After introducing the topic, have students take a look at the picture. Students work with partners to come up with a list of questions they have about this family.
"Members of the Mochida family awaiting evacuation bus. Identification tags were used to aid in keeping a family unit intact during all phases of evacuation. Mochida operated a nursery and five greenhouses on a two-acre site in Eden Township." In 1942 Executive Order 9066 ordered the removal of 110,000 civilians of Japanese descent, including 71,000 American citizens, from the western United States, placing them in internment camps. By Dorothea Lange, Hayward, California, May 8, 1942 From National Archives

Hopefully, you can find uses for this great strategy using primary source documents as focus activities to intrigue and inspire kids.

Why Use Primary Sources?

If you are wondering why you should take a look at using primary sources in your classroom read what Library of Congress has to say:

  • Primary sources expose students to multiple perspectives on great issues of the past and present.
  • Interpretations of the past are furiously debated among historians, policy makers, politicians, and ordinary citizens. By working with primary sources, students can become involved in these debates.
  • Primary sources help students develop knowledge, skills, and analytical abilities.
  • By dealing directly with primary sources, students engage in asking questions, thinking critically, making intelligent inferences, and developing reasoned explanations and interpretations of events and issues in the past and present.
  • Primary resources help students begin to understand that all history is local and helps them accept empathy for the human condition.
  • Hopefully students will begin to understand the continuum of historyby studying with primary source materials.

Can you think of other reasons, it all boils down to giving kids the opportunity to think.

First Thoughts

I had a brainstorm the other day for a new blog so I thought I'd try it out. I think this is an original idea, if not let me know and I'll cease and desist! About seven years ago I went to my first NECC conference. I went to a session, I can't even remember what the topic was, the presenter used primary sources to inspire student thinking and group discussion. I was hooked. Since then I have presented a workshop called "Using Primary Sources in the Classroom" at two NECC conferences and numerous times at other conferences. You can log into the workshop site using the username "necc" and password "student". I've also presented "The Marvelous Library of Congress" at NECC a couple of years ago and got rave reviews. I think that workshop got me a "Top Presenter" recognition. Since I spent so much time researching primary sources I thought I'd blog about it. I'm going to focus on the "WOW this is so cool" documents, online applications, websites and more. Check back often so you can say "wow", too.