US History Bellworks

Please see my previous post here on the importance of bellworks at the beginning of class.  It helps establish a routine and expectations as well as spark interesting discussions.  Some get the students forming their own opinions before we begin a unit or topic, and others review information letting us as teachers know where they are in their thinking.  Below are a few examples from my first grading period broken down by topic.

First Question at the Beginning of the Year or For a New Student

Write a paragraph about yourself, including anything you believe I should know about you.

Civil War

How can disagreements be settled so that they do not lead to arguments/war?

What do you believe to be the most significant technology invention that impacted the Civil War and why?  How did it impact the War?

If you were a freed black slave, would you run towards the North, stay in the south and try to get a house and a paying job, or join the Union army?  Why?

If you were a rich, white southern plantation owner, what would be your reaction to the Emancipation Proclamation?  How do you know?

How do you think the attacks on September 11, 2001 and December 7, 1941 (to bring the US into World War II) compare to each other?

Imagine you are President Lincoln and have just accepted the surrender of the Confederate army.  What would be your punishment for the southern states that seceded?

How does the Civil War still affect us today?  Please write 3 or more sentences.

Industrial Revolution

What does it mean for a country to industrialize?  What does it mean for a country to go through a revolution?

If you had the money and power to own your own factory, how would you treat your workers?  How would you determine their pay?  Would you rather be a railroad, oil, or steel owner? Why?

Which of the Robber Barons that we studied yesterday would you rather work for?  Why?

Progressivism and Social Change

How would you handle a work situation where you felt that you were being paid unfairly and working too many hours?  What if the conditions you were working in were dangerous?  Who could you contact?

Imagine you are moving to a new country.  What feelings would you have?  What would you expect the process to be like?  Do you think it would be easy or difficult to find a place to live and work?

What might be the benefits and drawbacks of having a political machine?  Who do these types of systems hurt?  Who do they help?  Do you think a political machine and/or “pay to play” systems always lead to corruption?  Why or why not?

Describe the working conditions of the average worker during the early 1900s.  Was this treatment fair?  How do you think they could correct this treatment?

Do you know of any organizations today that help people find housing and jobs?  What are some of those organizations?  How do you go about finding a place to live and work today?

Come up with a list of how you can determine the importance of a person or industry (such as railroads or steel).  How would you determine the impact that person or industry had on Florida?

Imperialism

What would be the benefit for the United States in owning property all around the world?  What would be a disadvantage?

What makes you read a story or a news article?  Which type of article or story grabs your attention? (studying yellow journalism)

Why would countries welcome the United States’ influence into their lands?  What would be their motivation? What could be their motivation to not want the US involved?

Immigration Timeline

So for the past few months, off and on because of personal events that have thrown me off course, I have been working on a timeline of immigration and citizenship laws in the United States.  Please let me know if I have missed any as I most likely have.  I hope this is helpful!  I know I will definitely be using this in a classroom.  I had limited space for extended information and references, so if you’re curious, just send me an email and I will get you what you need.

You can view it here, since I can’t figure out how to embed it into this post…

If you’d like to create your own timeline, I highly recommend TimeToast.  It is an easy to use (and free!) website.

Pre-Class Writing Prompts

jBorrowed from Todaysadmin.comWhen students come into a classroom it’s often hard to get them to settle down and get ready for a lesson.  Between intense discussions with each other, being distracted with other responsibilities, or just non-interest in the subject, their attention is often focused elsewhere as they shuffle into the classroom.  Setting up a beginning-of-class routine for them is one way to curb this distraction.

I like having students keep a journal that they write in with a daily writing prompt.  It’s often a good idea to have the students’ keep their journals in your classroom so you don’t run the risk of someone forgetting it or losing it completely, though this will take up valuable real estate especially with large class sizes.  Keep them by the door in boxes labeled by class so that they may pick them up when they walk in.  Talking can be kept to a minimum and once the routine is established it becomes second nature for the students (ideally, though they may still gripe about it).  Keep the writing prompts interesting enough for the students to be able to form an opinion that they can write on for at least one to five minutes.  These may also serve as an excellent way to help determine if the students are doing their homework reading assignments!  The idea is to keep the students writing and thinking.

Of course, these do not have to be limited to historical concepts.  If there has been an issue in your classroom, you could creatively ask the students to come up with a solution or ways that they could make the situation different by reacting differently or standing up for a friend.  Bullying is always a hot topic, but be careful and try not to single out students.  Make these types of prompts as broad as possible.  Writing prompts could also be a segue into teaching students empathy about a subject you will be teaching about, like the Great San Francisco Earthquake of 1906 or Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

I like to check the writing assignments once a quarter, spot checking them (not reading every single entry).  Students have the option of folding back a page once a week, letting me know that this is personal to them (though I check to make sure there is writing on the page without reading it).

Some writing prompt ideas can be:

American History:

  • If you were a farmer living in one of the original 13 colonies, what livestock would you raise and why?  What crops would you be farming and why?  Which colony would you prefer to live in?
  • What Constitutional amendment would you like to see added in the next 20 years to the United States Constitution?  Who would it benefit and why?  Who would it hurt and why?
  • Consider the technological advances in the last 100 years that have become so important in our every day lives (electricity, telephones, cell phones, computers, internet).  What do you think will come out of technology in the next 100 years?  How will it shape our daily lives?
  • If you were the President of the United States, what could you do to change the country for the better?  What laws would you create or change?
  • During an (earthquake, hurricane, tornado), most of us do not have the time or presence of mind to do more than duck beneath a table or into a doorway.  Afterwards, we may wish we had been able to save an object of sentimental value like a photograph or childhood toy.  Pick one thing you would want to save from destruction and write about it.  Describe this thing and why it is special to you.  (Adapted from http://staff.esuhsd.org/danielle/english%20department%20lvillage/CAHSEE%20English/Sample%20Writing%20Prompts.pdf)

World History:

  • If you had to live as a Spartan, a Viking, an English Knight, or a Roman warrior, which would you choose and why?  What would a day in your life look like?  What would be the fun parts and the not so fun parts?
  • Imagine that the Roman Emperor has just sentenced you to fight in the Colliseum for a crime you have committed.  What is the crime and what would your argument be to him to help save your life?

General:

  • If you could have grown up in a different place and cultural from your own, where and which would you choose?  How would it be different?
  • We have studied numerous historical figures so far in this class.  Who has been your favorite so far?  Why?  Are there any characteristics of this person that you see in yourself or any that you would like to see?
  • Imagine that you are on an archaeological dig (essentially, a bunch of people looking for old stuff in the ground) and you come upon an amazing discover. What is it and what do you do when you become famous for the discovery? (Taken from: http://www.build-creative-writing-ideas.com/5th-grade-writing-prompts-social-studies.html)
  • Think about the historical figures we have learned about so far this semester.  If you could have dinner with any of them, whom would you choose and why?  What would you talk about or ask him or her? (Adapted from http://staff.esuhsd.org/danielle/english%20department%20lvillage/CAHSEE%20English/Sample%20Writing%20Prompts.pdf)

Resources:

http://www.theteacherscorner.net/daily-writing-prompts/

http://www.build-creative-writing-ideas.com/5th-grade-writing-prompts-social-studies.html

http://staff.esuhsd.org/danielle/english%20department%20lvillage/CAHSEE%20English/Sample%20Writing%20Prompts.pdf

Immigration

Political_Cartoon_-_Every_Dog_Has_His_Day

Immigration is not a new issue in the United States. Every half century, there is a new perceived foreign threat to our status quo. From the natives (that’s a whole other discussion regarding the definition of ‘foreign’), to the African slaves, Chinese, Italians, Irish… the list goes on. The United States has an ugly history of xenophobia. Sadly, it never seems to truly go away in some portions of the country, with ethnic slurs still muttered either intentionally or unintentionally insulting. I eagerly await more news on the “immigration reform” that the President and Congress is supposedly coming up with, especially regarding these new threats.  Hopefully this chapter in our history will close soon, but I know better than to expect that this will be the last immigration issue we hear about.  Look for a future post regarding a brief overview of our history of ugly immigration policy and some teaching tips very soon.  I thought I’d post this political cartoon from 1879 in advance just as a bit of a teaser 😉 (click on the picture to make it bigger so you can read the text)

 

The Ultimate Search: Finding Your Birth Family

imagesCAOT6STOAccording to The AFCARS Report from the US Department of Health and Human Services as of September 30, 2011 there were 104,236 children age 18 and under who were waiting to be adopted.  Each year, more and more of these children grow farther apart from their personal history, some never knowing who their parents are and others with unpleasant memories of their birth families.  The tragedy for the former group is the ever-present questions “who am I?” and “why did they give me up?”  Every day they receive constant reminders of these questions when they are asked at the doctor’s office for their medical history or even in the faces of their children when they in turn ask the questions about their ancestry, often times for a classroom assignment.  Thus, the search begins.

Who am I?

The daunting task of beginning the search looms over these people.  How do I begin?  What if I’m not prepared for the answers I might receive?  No doubt, it will be an emotional journey full of stops and starts, emotional highs and pitfalls.

Beginning Your Search

First, create a folder where you will keep all of the information you collect.  Whether it be electronically or a hardcopy file, it is best to keep everything in one place with a backup copy somewhere else just in case.  Second, write down everything you know about your birth- the date, location, your original name if your adoptive parents changed it, the hospital, etc.  Anything you know can help.  Your adoptive parents may hold some information in some documents from your official adoption.  They may or may not contain your birth parents’ names.  If possible, contact the Clerk of Courts in the county of your birth for your official birth certificate if you do not have one.  Usually there is a small fee associated with mailing or emailing it.  A petition for adoption and final decree of adoption may also be available.  The Child Welfare Information Gateway has an excellent document regarding how to obtain the adoption paperwork and information from each state that can be found here or search for Access to Adoption Records, Child Welfare Information Gateway.

Many people suggest adding your name to an Adoption Reunion Registry to let people know that you are interested in alogo-theme1 reunion with your birth family.  The most popular that I’ve found is the Adoption.com Reunion Registry found here.  Adoption.com also appears to be a good resource on information for preparing for the impending reunion once you locate your birth family.

Make It Public and Start a Support Network

Support is also an important part of your journey into finding information.  Not only from your family and friends, but also from other people who are going through the same search.  There are numerous communities of people with the same experiences and the same emotional rollercoaster.  One of the best ways to find information is to get it out there that you are looking.  Start a blog, post on Facebook and Twitter, create a YouTube video, do something that can be shared and encourage your friends and family to do so.  However, be careful of the information you post as it will be public domain.  Beware of people who may try to take advantage of you or imposters.  Never post your address, social security number, or other such private information.

Now You Have Some Information

Ok, now you have a nice collection of information and you feel like you can start actually trying to find the people to match the information.  How do you go about that?  You can join a geneaology website like Ancestry.com and find out more information about your relatives and who else you might be related to based on the information you have if it is not complete.  You may also consider joining a location service such as E-Verify.  The website will be able to give you the current locations of people and sometimes even the exact address and phone number of the people you are searching for.  Be careful though because multiple people may show up in the search so you must be vigilant in determining your birth location and look for that location in the listing next to the names.

Reunion

Finding your birth family can be a large personal victory.  I do not recommend just showing up at their front door!  Contact them first and let them know who you are and why you were searching for them.  It is not a good idea to start out with accusatory language for leaving you to the adoption agency.  I hate to say it, but be prepared for disappointment if they are not interested in meeting.  It could be too emotional for them after the separation and they may need time to warm up to the idea.  Remember, at this point you have been on this journey for quite some time now.   If all goes well and they are overjoyed to hear from you, congratulations!

Good luck on your search!  I hope some of this information can be useful, even if you are just searching for a long lost friend or other relative.  Remember to get your information out there!  The person that spawned this post is one of my friends from elementary school who posted her search for her birth parents on her Facebook account with a YouTube link.  If you can, please watch Anne’s video and let me or her know if you have any information!

History Harvest: Community Collectives

New York TimesThe January 2013 issue of the Perspectives on History highlighted a project of the students and faculty of the University of Nebraska, Lincoln called History Harvest.  The article called to me about a way to collect the information that is most often lost- that of the community in which we all live.  Everyone has those personal historical documents tucked away in a closet, attic, or basement that we think about rarely (or sometimes often).  These documents have a personal value, but also a historical value regarding culture and social of our given communities.  It’s a shame to let those documents sit, forgotten, tucked away when they could be digitized for use by historians and students.

The co-directors William G. Thomas and Patrick D. Jones started this project “to create a popular movement to democratize and open American history by utilizing digital technologies to share the experiences and artifacts of everyday people and local historical institutions.”  People from the community are invited to these harvest gatherings with their personal items and histories to have them digitized with photographs and digital stories.  Local organizations, museums, and others are also welcome to bring items to be digitized.

Students are heavily involved, creating, planning, and advertising for their harvest.  Its an excellent hands on experience for the students to learn what history means to people in their community and how everyone can contribute in some way.  It’s a fascinating project that begs for duplication in communities across the United States and the world.

Needless to say, I would be highly interested in starting my own “History Harvest” in my community with students.  If you would be too, you can contact the co-directors via the links on their names above or contacting them through their website at: http://historyharvest.unl.edu/

Posthumous Freedom

A petition of freedom from 20 slaves who were fighting in the Revolutionary War to the New Hampshire General Assembly was unearthed 30 years ago in the state archives of New Hampshire by Valerie Cunningham, a historian and preservationist from Portsmouth.  The argument and irony of the petition has become well known to historians of the era and up to the Civil War that the colonists were fighting so hard for their own freedom from Great Britian yet were unable to see the plight of their slaves who wanted their own.  Their petition was ignored as it was deemed not the right time to free them.  Later, only 6 slaves were granted their freedom.

Now, 233 years later, it appears that the 14 slaves who were never granted freedom may receive it from the New Hampshire government.  It is a symbolic decision, obviously.  State Senator Martha Fuller Clarke is sponsoring the Senate bill, which has already passed through the Public and Municipal Affairs Committee and is now headed for the full Senate vote.  Governor Maggie Hassan has already agreed to sign the bill upon approval by the full Legislature.

It calls attention to efforts of community organizations to protect and preserve the African burial grounds, culture, and contributions of the people.  The African Burying Ground Committee in Portsmouth has been working for the past ten years to build a memorial park in an African-American burial ground in downtown.  The funds are just not available, however, their hope is to break ground this summer with their design, including granite engravings with passages from the petition.

What do you think?  Is it too little, too late?  Or a needed gesture?

If you’d like to see more about the African Burying Ground Committee, the cause, and possibly make a donation, you can visit their website at http://www.africanburyinggroundnh.org/ .

You can read more about this petition here at the Boston Globe and see more about the memorial here at the City of Portsmouth.

Veteran’s Day

ImageOn the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918, an armistice was signed to end the fighting on the western front of the Great War, or more commonly known as World War I.  This day is celebrate in numerous other nations but after World War II, the United States changed the name of Armistice Day to Veteran’s Day to celebrate and honor the service of every veteran who has fought for freedom of the American people and in defense of our way of thought and life.  You may not agree with some of the policies of our current president, or you may think our country is headed in the wrong direction, or even possibly that war is never the answer and we should not have a standing military.  Regardless, from the American Revolution to the war in Afghanistan and Iraq, these men and woman have stepped up when asked and volunteered on their own to fight for what they feel to be right.  Their dedication to our country and its citizens even when they are at times not welcomed back at home.  Today, take a moment to thank someone that served time in our military. They have sacrificed life, limb, mental health, physical health, and time. Their service has enabled us to be able to have opinions on our country.