Thursday, June 2, 2016

Top Ten Resources for Brushing Up on US History

I know that many of you who are changing content areas to US History are feeling a little anxious and would like to prepare for your upcoming year during this painfully-short summer. In order to help you prepare for your upcoming content change, we have put together a Top Ten Resources for Brushing Up On US History for those of you who may not have taught US  in a long time, have never taught it, or who would just like some more content resources.

I am intentionally not putting overly-academic sources on this list. This is your summer, and I assume that many of you would like to study in a more enjoyable way. Please, research what you can in a manageable, pleasant way. Don’t over-do it. J

Here are some (10!) of our favorite resources for learning, reviewing, or teaching US History:

1.      Your Colleagues: The first and best resource are the current US History teachers in your school. Please find your current US History teacher colleague and ask him or her what her or his favorite resource is, for either teaching or just for content knowledge. Buy him or her a fruity, cool beverage and hang out, talking US History.
2.      Your TCI Textbook: Borrow a student US History textbook and flip through it at your leisure. In July, you should be able to start with a new subscription to TCI US History (Through Industrialism).
3.      Crash Course US History: The brilliant author and internet super-star (and my secret boyfriend) John Green Has a Youtube Channel called “Crash Course US History”.  This consists of well-researched, historically current, 10-minute videos, each on a topic in US History, narrated by John Green. These aren’t really for kids. He talks too fast, too academically, and occasionally uses an NSFW word or description. It’s great for you-the-teacher to brush up on topics on which you may be rusty. Or watch the whole thing, through episode 25. They’re short and you could watch them on your phone while hanging out this summer.
4.      America, the Story of US: This History Channel  “America: The Story of US” mini-series from 2010 has it all – great visuals, celebrity commentators, the comprehensive story of our nation. Watch the ones related to our course (which is from 1500-1877). Many schools have copes of the DVDs, or you can buy an episode at a time from Apple or Amazon.
5.      Student Novels: It’s easier to Learn US History from a teen novel than from an academic work. Try these favorites. They're more for you-the-teacher than for your students. 
  • Copper Sun Was often read with 8th graders. Not appropriate for 6th graders. Still, really powerful novel of slavery
  • Lyddie Novel of early industrialization at Lowel textile mills
  •  Nightjohn Novel of slavery. Easy read for 6th graders, but may be too violent.
  •  Behind Rebel Lines: A girl dresses as a boy to enlist in the Civil War
  • Come Juneteenth: About when slaves are freed with the Emancipation Proclamation. 
  • New Found Land:  Lewis and Clark’s voyage, told from multiple perspectives in free verse poetry.

Image result for glory movie
6.      Movies: Again, NOT for your students. But Glory is one of the BEST historical movies ever, and probably THE best for our time period (other than Matthew Broderick’s bad accent). Please don’t show this to your students. But stream it online this summer and feel inspired to remember the 54th Massachusetts!  
a.      Honorable Mention: Last of the Mohicans, Amistad, 12 Years a Slave.
7.      Lies My Teacher Told Me: The great author James Lowen has helped us get past the fairytale versions of US History that many of us learned in school so we can teach kids about the messy, complicated world in which we live. Lies My Teacher Told Me is a wonderful book to examine US History. When I searched the Pinellas Public Library Cooperative I found one digital version, six paper versions, and two audio CD versions of this book.
a.      Honorable Mention: “Study Up” Quick Study
8.      Favorite US History Websites:

9.      Mission US Video Games: Sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities, these games are AWESOME. Admittedly, I like them ALMOST as much as the kids do. Mission: US is super-fun. And great for learning.
10.   Hamilton: Seriously. Hamilton the Musical is a great way to brush up on early American History. How can you NOT get excited about US History when you’re listening to Alexander Hamilton do an epic rap battle with Thomas Jefferson about the national debt? Playwright Lin-Manuel Miranda based his musical on the respected biography by Ron Chernow.  Listen on Youtube or check out the annotations on Lyrics Genius about each song.

There are a million wonderful resources for teaching middle school US History. Brush up on your knowledge of US in whatever way you can make enjoyable – musicals, YouTube videos, movies, video games, books, or whatever.

Don’t forget that we, your district SS department are helping you tackle this change in a few other ways:
        Several days of PD this summer for anyone interested and available  (6/13, 7/18, 7/26)
        We also have a team of current 6th and 8th grade teachers working hard this summer to help make adaptations for you.
        DWT will full of US History content, resources, and planning!
        We have a team revising our MFA field trip for the two-year US History focus.

We know that change is hard! Don’t forget to share with us cool resources we have missed or problems that arise!

Happy History-ing!