That History Day Guy

August 31, 2007

Quick and Dirty

Filed under: Uncategorized — historydayguy @ 4:22 pm

As teachers we are always looking for the most bang for our instructional buck. Many teachers who are brave enough to take on History Day struggle with helping their students find topics. There are always posted lists on our NYSHD site, but you need a reliable place, that is not Wikepedia, for kids to go take a look at the topic. One little place I like to go that is a kid friendly place to find overviews is factmonster. It is put together by the infoplease people. The information provided is accurate and the graphics and menus lend themselve to the 11-14 year old age group. Another way to arrive at topics if you are working from a specific historical curriculum is to look at major topics you will hit, or call on student’s prior knowledge from past classes of major topics they deal with and creater a web. Have kids sit in groups and give them a large sheet of flip chart paper or butcher block.  You can start with giving each a topic from your curriculum: Civil War, Erie Canal, Age of Homespun, Revolutionary War, Writing of the Constituion, the women’s movement in New York State, abolition, New Amsterdam etc. They write the topic in the center and draw a circle around it. Now they should make spokes out from the central circle and draw smaller circls at the ends. We are making a web. In the sub circles have them write person, place, thing, action, legislation, invention, conflict, compromise, changes or any key words you or they can come up with. Now they insert specific information in thesub circles. For example if they were doing abolition they may come up with John Jay or Fredrick Douglass for a person. For action you may put manumition or for events the Draft Riots. When they are done they should have many of the smaller pieces of a larger historic era, or topic broken down.  Kids can take a sub topic and repeat the exercise with the sub topic at the center. For example students could take the draft riots and break it down. It may even require further express research, but if they select it as an area of interest it is a great way to start your topic search. Students could do this in groups or individually. Any way you look at it, it is a quick way to explore historic topics they already have a connection with. Students are more likely to stick with topics they choose, and make some personal connection with. Its just one of the quick and dirty tricks you can use in the classroom!


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