Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Introduction to Historical Thinking: Working With Evidence

It's important to start the year with a few icebreakers and activities that allow students and teachers to get to know one another. This lesson threads the critical thinking needle through a look into the future followed by observations of selected spaces on campus. All of which is used to warm up our minds to the kinds of historical thinking we will use to gather, interpret, analyze, evaluate, and synthesize evidence to respond to a variety of problems.
Enduring Understanding: History involves interpretation, which means historians can and do disagree.
Essential Question: What should we do when our sources disagree?
Skills: identifying similarities and differences, evaluation of sources, point of view, synthesis, summarizing. 

1. Your Future You (Where are we going?) [30 minutes]

Students complete the Future You survey and share their responses with a neighbor. Each student needs to identify two similarities and two difference between the two surveys.

Debrief on the activity includes sharing out of the most interesting similarity or difference.

2. Campus Scavenger Hunt (Where are we now?) [30 minutes]

I like to transition with an open discussion about what they predict they'll do this year to support their future goals and achievements before making observations and collecting data.

The students are asked to collect data on three spaces in the school: courtyard (or front of building), cafeteria, and library. The only rule (besides the obvious safety rules) is that they cannot confer with anyone. All of the data must be their own work. *It's important to talk to any staff or faculty that supervises these areas.

When the students come back to the room, the report the data, which is recorded on the board by a volunteer recorder. The debrief is something usually happens throughout the sharing of the data because their are usually discrepancies that are discussed right away.

My transition is on the question of accuracy and confidence in the data.

  • What kinds of data affect students? (Grades are relevant topic.) 
  • Are there discrepancies that we can live with? Ones that perhaps strengthen our learning experiences? (This questions ends with a more empathetic response to discrepancy.) 

3. "The Three Little Pigs" [45 minutes] *Our blocks are 77 minutes, so we would finish next time.

This is where the students put together evaluation of sources and point of view to select evidence and retell a widely accepted story. It's also where they experience artistic license when it comes to filling in the gaps.
  • Discuss the commonly accepted story of the Three Little Pigs. List the main points on the board.
  • Read the Wolf's Story.
  • Make a graphic organizer that shows the similarities and differences between the Wolf's Story and the commonly accepted version.
  • Write a one-sentence summary that chooses a point of view and provides justification for your decision. 
Debrief could be about how point of view is critical to question when reading sources. 

If time permits, I share the "Six Wise Men of Hindustan." You'll know exactly what to do with this.  

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Elements of Mercantilism and the Atlantic System


Why silver?

Research: Silver Mines
  • Potosi
  • Guanajuato
Write: Explain the labor and technology used to mine silver in the Spanish Americas.

Capt. Drake – Hero or Pirate?
Reading and documents

The economic system of large financial institutions—banks, stock exchanges, investment companies—that first developed in early modern Europe. Commercial capitalism, the trading system of the early modern economy, is often distinguished from industrial capitalism, the system based on machine production.

Land Empires in the Early Modern 1450-1750

Empires expanded and conquered new peoples around the world, but they often had difficulties incorporating culturally, ethnically, and religiously diverse subjects, and administrating widely dispersed territories. ... Around the world, empires and states of varying sizes pursued strategies of centralization, including more efficient taxation systems that placed strains on peasant producers, sometimes prompting local rebellions. Rulers used public displays of art and architecture to legitimize state power (AP Curriculum).

This lesson is a cooperative learning activity that exercises reading, note-taking, and summarizing skills. It's a jig saw in groups of four with one note-taker recording the notes from the presenters as they share with the group. It begins individually and is assessed individually with cooperative learning and a collaborative product (notes on Google Docs).

Empires: Ming, Qing, Safavid / Ottoman, Songhay / Mughal

Reading: Ways of the World Strayer 2nd Ed.

  1. Read and make notes about your assigned civilization. Be prepared to share what you learned with your group.
  2. Share what you learned while the group recorder adds notes to the group document (Google Docs)
  3. Review other groups' notes to add to yours.
What was the most significant note that added from another group?

Write two direct comparisons between civilizations of your choice.


These videos are good case studies. I never show students Crash Course for introduction. Here's a set of guiding questions.

  • What is the relationship between Mongols and Mughals?
  • How were Hindus treated?
  • What economic pursuits supported the empire?
  • Describe the government structure and nature of politics.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Continuity and Change: Latin America and Interregional Trade 1450-1750

The interconnection of the Eastern and Western hemispheres, made possible by transoceanic voyaging, marked a key transformation of this period. 

Student work post 


Inquiry Process

Analyze continuities and changes in the ways ONE of the following regions participated in interregional trade during the period circa 1500 to 1750.
  • Latin America, including the Caribbean 
  • Sub-Saharan Africa 
  • Southeast Asia
  1. Write three questions that need to be answered to respond to the prompt (each on a separate note card or small piece of paper). Place them in your group's basket when finished. 
  2. Sort the questions and decide which three your group wants to share with the class.
  3. Submit the group's questions through the Google Form.
  4. Discuss the results as a class before reading the selection below.
Big Picture Reading

Read page 611-613 in Strayer.

Discuss: What was life like at the beginning, middle, and end of the period?


Regional Study

Each class will work on one Google Doc accessed from the class notes folder in Classroom. Each group will find five facts for their region that will be need to respond to the questions you wrote in the inquiry activity.
  • Europe Interior 
  • Europe Exploration 
  • Indigenous Americas
  • Spice Islands
  • Ottoman, Safavid, Mughal  
  • East Asia
  • Africa

CCOT Statement Practice

Use the Google Doc to write 4 CCOT statements, each from different regions. You'll choose one statement to submit through the Google Form. Use the "How to Write CCOT" on Classroom as needed.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Post-Classical Labor Forms, Rebellions, & Cities

The economic opportunities of the Post-Classical period were in both manufacturing and agriculture. Population growth led to urbanization and overuse of resources. Environmental issues and disease led to population shifts, as well. Existing forms of labor were adapted and new forms, such as serfdom and mit'a, were introduced. Cities rose and fell for many of the same reasons as they always have, and peasant rebellions were staged over taxes (not surprising). The Red Turban Rebellion was successful after 30 years of fighting. The victory led to the beginning of the Ming Dynasty at the end of the Post-Classical.  

Learning Goals 
  • Explain the innovations that led to increases in agricultural and industrial production
  • Identify the reasons for the rise and downfall of cities in certain regions.
  • Explain the circumstances of the Red Turban Rebellion. 
  • Discuss the changes in gender relations and family structure that resulted from the diffusion of Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, and Neoconfucianism.

APWH Curriculum 

Discussion: Population and Urbanization

Innovations in Agriculture
  1. Champa rice varieties 
  2. The chinampa field systems 
  3. Waru waru agricultural techniques in the Andean areas 
  4. Improved terracing techniques 
  5. The horse collar
Chinese, Persian, and Indian artisans and merchants expanded their production of textiles and porcelains for export; industrial production of iron and steel expanded in China

CCOT Practice: Labor Forms

  • Study the labor forms and write a CCOT thesis statement based on the Post-Classical time period. Include the reasons why the labor form stayed the same or changed. Include a group, social movement, or technology that affected the change.

CCOT essay framework

Research: Red Turban Rebellion

Why did the Chinese peasants overthrow the Yuan Dynasty (Mongols)?

Comparative Practice : Women of Islam and Christianity 

  • Write a summary statement that includes a similarity and difference between women in Islam and Christianity.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Labor and Law: The Triangle Shirtwaist Fire

Since this lesson bridges the unfavorable conditions of the Gilded Age with the Progressive Era, a closer look at the evidence of law and safety procedures we have in our school was a good place to start.


Find artifacts in the school that relate to exiting safely in the event that a fire broke out in one of the second-floor hallways.

When you get back to the classroom, meet in groups based on your artifact and make sure you have one device for every three group members.

Our goal is to add historical context to the legal reasons why we have particular procedures for emergency exiting. This information will be used as a component to evacuation training. 


Use your device or one of the classroom devices to look up a connection between the artifact you found and an event that impacted the law(s) that stipulate use of the artifact. Write the artifact and the event/legal connection on a piece of paper and tack (or tape it to the wall.

Inquiry: Image Analysis 

Write questions that would need to guide your research if you needed to find out what happened.

Guided reading

Read the the Department of Labor's explanation of the Triangle Shirtwaiste Fire. Make notes about the safety issues and what the government has done to ensure that disasters like it don't happen again.

The Product: Historical Context Placard

Make a placard that explains what the safety artifact is and how it came to be required by law. We will print, laminate, and post them on the History Hallway.


#HistoryIn30 reflection
Group response to lesson blog post.

A Remind message will help students connect disasters like this one with other labor-related issues that were alleviated through legal codes. They can stamp check if they get it or ? if they don't. If three or more students stamp ?, they can receive a message for support without messaging everyone, again. 

Friday, March 6, 2015

Mongols and the Barbarian Empires

The Mongols changed the world. This group of pastoralists showed the world that you didn't have to agriculturalists to be advanced and powerful. The Mongols created modern Russia through interaction with the princes at Moscow. At the decline of the Yuan Dynasty (the Mongol Empire in China), they were the receiving end of the first use of firearms that had any impact on world history.  

Goal: Explain the impact of the Mongols on economic and political systems in the late Post-Classical.


The discussion piece introduces the Mongols and how they interact with others. This resource has images, secondary source excerpts, and questions for reflection. I project it on the screen and zoom in on the parts as we discuss, which is led through cues and questions.

The Khanate

Students watch this Crash Course video and make notes about the Mongol government structure. Consider what makes the empire success with trade and how jobs are assigned.

End of the Yuan, Rise of the Ming

The Red Turban was a peasant group that revolted against the Mongols in Nanjing, beginning the decline of the Yuan and ushering in the Ming Dynasty. The plague was hard on the population, which made the peasants seek to overthrow the Mongol rule in China.

This slide presentation is only for review. It contains no new critical content.

DBQ Assessment

The previous lesson comparing the knights and samurais was practice for this assessment. Students were given the DBQ without the background essay to complete the DBQ quiz worksheet.

Knights vs. Samurai

Instead of teaching feudalism in Europe and saying, "Oh, yeah. It happened in Japan, too." I decided to teach both at the same time through a DBQ that asks if the similarities between the samurai and the knight are greater than the differences. This prompt requires students to choose a side and sift through the evidence many times to prove it.

Goal: Explain the similarities and differences between the warrior classes of Post-Classical Japan and Europe.

In an effort to show students how the big picture can be revealed by looking closely, I chose a video that compares the katana and the longsword.

The Mini-Q

The DBQ (from the DBQ Project 2013) includes a background essay and six sets of documents.

  1. Students made notes of three similarities and three differences while reading the background essay. 
  2. Everyone stood and read an item on their list. As an item is read and discussed, students mark off the items on their list so there no repeats. 
  3. Students completed a DBQ worksheet that's designed according to the AP rubric.
  4. The last task is to discuss what an acceptable response statement (thesis) looks like. This includes reading through a few that are unacceptable, without revealing the student names. 
  5. Students partner according to the way I ordered the worksheets, which pairs stronger students with the weaker ones. 
Visiting warrior journal

Imagine a samurai travels to Europe and a knight to Japan. What would they write in their journals? Students write a journal entry as if they are one of the warriors in the scenario. What would a knight in Europe say about a visiting samurai? What would the samurai say? What would they teach each other?

Students can choose to write it on their blogs, make a video, write a fairy tale, or any other way. The most important requirement was that the final product had to include facts about the economy, society, and government in terms of similarities and differences from the point of view of the chosen warrior.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Post-Classical Africa

Africa in the Post-Classical period is characterized by its golden age, brought on by the effects of the Bantu migration, the spread of Islam, and the intensification of trade on the Swahili coast. 

The Bantu Migration
The Bantu-speaking peoples of West Africa migrated East and South between 1500 BCE. As they moved, they came into contact with new environments and people, bringing knowledge of animal herding, metal working, and agriculture. The Bantu used technology to alter the landscape and societies.

AP Connection: As people move to new environments, they bring language, technology, and plants and animals, altering the new people and places they contact. 

Other Example: Polynesian Migration

Remind message: I sent a basic image showing the migation routes along with a question. Which way did they go? (or something like that). A better question would be: Which way did they not go?

Ibn Battuta

Since spread of Islam and the expanding view of the world are themes in the Post-Classical, Ibn Battuta is a good choice to learn about how people of different cultures perceived on another.

We focused on a reading selection that describes his visit to the kingdom of Mali and the customs and interactions of the people. This is a powerful source considering the impact of Islam on the development of West African kingdoms and how Islam was similar and different in new places as opposed to its Arabian homeland.

I mentioned the Marco Polo's journeys provided a similar value in terms of what different cultures new about one another.

Mansa Musa DBQ

This DBQ is a mini-Q that has journal activities. Like Ibn Battuta, students are traveling in Africa. The only difference is that they have documents that relate to Mansa Musa's hajj, which didn't iuclude Ibn Battuta.

The purpose of the scenarios related to each document are to help students practice developing context and interpreting the documents. I had students include at least one fact from the document as they wrote the short journal entry (one or two sentences).

We watched this Crash Course and reviewed the slides below before taking a Plickers quiz. The DBQ activity is part of a skill-building cycle that will be assessed at the end of the unit.

Closing the Frontier: Railroads in Canada and the United States

Railroad development was similar and different in Canada and the United States. Reasons for traversing the vast unsettled frontier in both countries were influenced by a combination of political and economic goals, yet the consequences of the developments became highly social by nature.   

GOAL: Discuss the causes and effects of industrial growth and economic modernization in the United States and Canada, including railroad construction.

The End in Mind

What better way to start a unit than to look at the part of the exam that relates to unit. We looked at four years of IB diploma history exams. It sounds like a lot, but it's only two questions each exam. After reviewing a handful of the questions,

I showed the students that the questions are often based on the same themes and content, which is how we came up with the prompt we used for the inquiry activity.

Inquiry Activity

After reviewing the past IB paper 3 exam questions related to industry and railroad, I wrote a question that might be asked on the exam. 

Students broke into groups to write three questions each, which were then placed into the basket. The purpose of this is anonymity, so no names were exchanged.  

Then, each group organized the questions and chose three to submit (as a group) via Google Forms.


The responses were read and discussed. The students did such a great job writing these questions. Most of the main ideas of the two readings they were about to study were related to the questions. We pointed out the analysis versus evidence elements of their questions, and I shared brief descriptions to get them ready to look for the meaningful chunks in their guided reading. 


Students read a short piece on Canada's railroad development and one on the United States. Since they had access to the question responses via link on Google Classroom, I encouraged my students to review them as needed while they made notes about the main ideas of each reading. 


A short quiz with Plickers was all they needed to make sure they were focusing on the right stuff. The score from these five questions was formative, so it did not factor into a summary grade for report cards. Students are encouraged to make notes about the areas they missed so they can reflect on why they missed the question and ask for help as needed.

Additional assessments might include writing a thesis statement response to the original question / prompt, followed by an outline of the evidence and analysis used to support the argument. 

What's Next?

The next lesson will look at three entrepreneurs: Vanderbilt, Rockefeller, and Carnegie. This lesson will inherently include reflection and connection with industry and railroads, as well as monopoly issues and expanding markets.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Reconstruction: Visible Consciousness

It always seems like I gloss over Reconstruction, hitting the main points and never doing much more than a vocabulary lesson. This year, it was time to dig deeper.

Evaluate the success or failure of the Reconstruction plans.  

The first task was to read about the three plans and make notes. Students were numbered one or two to determine who was going to use the book and who would use their own device. Even though we have Chromebooks for everyone, it's important to vary the tools students use to complete tasks. I want them to be comfortable with a variety of resources.

DBQ Practice 
A short set of four documents and a background essay were analyzed to practice analyzing for point of view and grouping / labeling documents. The group labels were then used to formulate thesis statements that were written on index cards and tacked to the wall. We could have used digital technology for the thesis statements, but I wanted to change it up. Plus, paper is visible and becomes a symbolic of the work we are doing.  

Study Vocabulary

Stream of consciousness Activity

Writing is only going to get better if you do it. One of my favorite ways to teach writing is through stream of consciousness. It's messy. It's riddled with mistakes. It has many learning opportunities.

Students were able to spend 5 minutes (timed) reviewing their research on the Reconstruction plans and the Quizlet deck. Then, they had to write for 12 minutes (with the timer visible) without stopping. I told them that the goal was to write every word that comes to mind in as close to an essay format as possible.

When they finished writing, we talked about what it was like to write everything on their mind. We ask questions about how this time was different than others (if this is not the first time doing it).

Then, the students underlined all of the descriptions relevant to the lesson goal, circled all of the analysis points, and starred the specific examples. The purpose of this part was to practice identifying the difference between descriptions and recalling facts and actually analyzing the evidence and formulating a substantive argument.    

Reconstruction Slide Discussion

The closing discussion started with a look at a few of the thesis statements the students wrote after the DBQ activity.

This thesis focuses on the negative effects of Reconstruction. It uses white supremacy as a theme to categorize the documents.  

This thesis focuses on the positive effects of Reconstruction. It highlights the step forward our country makes as black males were allowed to hold office. 

This thesis is conflicted. Although it talks about both the positive and negative effects, it does not choose a side. Avoid using the word "but." Arguments are stronger when they take a stand on one side of the issue or the other. 

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Islam: Development, Spread, and Achievements

3.1.III. Cross-cultural exchanges were fostered by the intensification of existing, or the creation of new, networks of trade and communication.

The expansion of the Arab Empire in the years following Muhammad's death led to the creation of caliphates. These early caliphates, coupled with Muslim economics and trading and the later expansion of the Ottoman Empire, resulted in Islam's spread outwards from Mecca towards both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans and the creation of the Muslim world. Trading played an important role in the spread of Islam in several parts of the world, notablysoutheast Asia.

Muslim dynasties were soon established and subsequent empires such as those of the Abbasids,Fatimids, Almoravids, Seljukids, Ajuuraan, Adal and Warsangali in Somalia, Mughals in India andSafavids in Persia and Ottomans were among the largest and most powerful in the world. The people of the Islamic world created numerous sophisticated centers of culture and science with far-reaching mercantile networks, travelers, scientists, hunters, mathematicians, doctors andphilosophers, all contributing to the Golden Age of Islam

SOURCE: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spread_of_Islam

3.1.III.A Islam, based on the revelations of the prophet Muhammad, developed in the Arabian peninsula. The beliefs and practices of Islam reflected interactions among Jews, Christians, and Zoroastrians with the local Arabian peoples. Muslim rule expanded to many parts of Afro-Eurasia due to military expansion, and Islam subsequently expanded through the activities of merchants and missionaries.

3.1.III.A How did Islam develop and expand?

3.1.III.D How did Islam spread to Africa?

DBQ: Mansa Musa

3.2.I.B. In some places, new forms of governance emerged, including those developed in various Islamic states (Abbasid Caliphate)

The spread of Islam DBQ was an excercise in sorting documents (into "buckets") and using the labels for each grouping to write a thesis statement. 

3.1.III.E. Increased cross-cultural interactions also resulted in the diffusion of scientific and technological traditions. The influence of Greek and Indian mathematics on Muslim scholars

DBQ: Muslim Contributions

Byzantine Empire: Justinian's Code, Constantinople, and Russia

The Byzantine Empire continued many of the traditions of the Roman Empire. After the Roman EMpire was split into the Latin East and the Greek West, it lasted from 330 to 1204, almost a thousand years. At it's height (if you're counting territory), it controlled the southern coast of the Black Sea, southern coast of the Mediterranean, Italy, and southern coast of Spain under Justinian in 555. He preserved and updated Roman Law, which is the basis for modern constitutional law.

3.1.I.E. The expansion of empires facilitated Trans-Eurasian trade and communication as new peoples were drawn into their conquerors’ economies and trade networks.

3.1.I.E What effects did expansion of empires have on Trans-Eurasian trade and communication?

We did a rule-based summary of the reading on Constantinople. This activity was good for skill building, background on the Byzantine Empire, and a focus on trade cities, which is one of the AP standards. 

Site: Byzantine and Trade
Summarize: Constantinople

Reading: Influences on the Development of Russia Notes: Chart (copy not for students)

The influences on Russia cannot be overlooked. The interaction between the Kiev Rus and Constantinople are a strong example as to how civilizations developed in the Post-Classical Era.

The Byzantine DBQ was a quick analysis that focused on POV. Students had to label each document as either positive or negative before coming up with a potential source that would provide a contrary POV. This was only an analysis exercise for discussion and preparation for the Islam DBQ.

DBQ: Justinian’s Byzantine Empire

We also study Byzantine and China in 3.2 (see below).


How did the Byzantine Empire and China incorporate traditional sources of power and new sources to reconstitute the empires?

"Roman Empire 460 AD" by Tataryn77 - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Roman_Empire_460_AD.png#mediaviewer/File:Roman_Empire_460_AD.png

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

One Of These Things Is Not Like The Other

What are the similarities and differences between the camels in these two GEICO commercials?

The two main species of camels are the Dromedary (one hump) and the Bactrian (two humps). Click the link for more information.

Think about the use of camels and the benefits travelers, traders, and the military can gain. Compare these to the use of horses by the steppe nomads of Central Asia as well as the use of long ships by the Vikings. These technologies made it possible to travel longer distances because of the range of the animals and boats as well as speed.

In addition to acceptance of diverse cultural traditions, the Mongols were so successful at securing such a large land empire because they could move information, people, and supplies faster than any other organization. Passport-like seals are used to identify a rider'so rights to get fresh horses and provisions. Traders with permission to work on the Mongol-secured Silk Road had rights to fresh horses, protection from bandits, and lodging in trade cities. These resources were paid for by tribute and taxes paid by merchants.

Remember to think about the use of environment when you are grouping the reasons for events and outcomes in history.