Primary Source Fun

I was entertained yesterday when reading the Library of Congress’ post “What did Lincoln Say about Extemporaneous Speaking.” The post had an interesting segment of a letter that Lincoln wrote to his wife Mary Todd, though it wasn’t the content of the letter that intrigued me, it was his salutation. He wrote “Dear Wife.” When sharing this with a colleague this morning, he said, “What if you had the students guess who wrote the letter or who it was to.” What a great idea! It could be a, “Who Wrote It” based on the date, salutation, and as much content as they see. Granted, providing a transcript might be needed, but it would be a fun way to have an authentic mystery to solve. Happy Friday!


New interactives from the Library of Congress!

Screen Shot 2017-11-17 at 1.51.05 PMI love being able to teach with interactives and simulations. They give students a new way to explore material and help it “stick.” Today the Library of Congress announced  three new interactive projects funded by LOC grants and they look really cool! Eagle Eye Citizen is for middle and high school students focusing on US History, civics and government and promotes civic understanding and historical thinking skills. Engaging Congress has several game-based interactives looking at representative government, and KidCitizen allows K-5 learners to explore history. All three interactive programs utilize primary sources from the Library of Congress. Love it!

Decoding History

I was disappointed when I read about this web activity and the government shutdown resulted in the NPS websites being offline for a while, but now, no more!  George Washington’s Codes activity is from the NPS and is a part of the junior ranger program.  Visitors to the site are introduced to a coding scheme George Washington used to keep his wartime messages secret and then are given the opportunity to decode a message themselves.

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Interested in more decoding? This PBS site  that supports the NOVA show “Decoding Nazi Secrets” explores the Enigma machine, decoding efforts during WWII, offers a virtual Enigma-like machine to try, and in the teaching materials section, a decoder that can be printed and built by students, then used to explore more codes.

Both offer fun ways to talk about secrets during wartime. Then, depending on the age of the students, a conversation could extend into a discussion about intelligence gathering today, the Patriot Act, the role of the NSA, and more.

Linking Magic with Google Drive

Google Drive’s sharing options are great. Today my seniors discussed some research

about cases on the Supreme Court’s 2013-14 docket. Some of them typed their notes into a Google Doc, others used Pages and even one used paper (amazing, isn’t it?). Once we were finished, all of the research needed to be turned in and it was my goal to allow the students to see the work of the others so I created a Google doc that had a table in it and each student typed the name of their court case into the document. The students who created their notes in a Google doc clicked “Share” and set the privacy settings to “Public: Anyone With the Link Can View.” They then copied the URL, went to their case name in our shared document, highlighted it, clicked the link button, and added their URL so their case name became a hyperlink to their research. For those who created their notes in Pages, we uploaded the document to Google Drive, didn’t convert it, and then shared it with the same process. For the one who wrote out in pencil? We scanned the paper to pdf, uploaded it to Google drive and shared that too. It was great.

This same process could be used to make a great class fake “Facebook” assignment. Have each student pick and research an author, famous person, event, something like that. Then, each student will make a copy of a “Fake Facebook” Google template like this one. They fill in the required information, share their links with the class, and then in the “Friends” column, they can select their classmates’ URLs and create hyperlinked “Friends” like the real Facebook allows so an historical period could be linked together like this! (Only JFK & LBJ are linked in this example.)  Pretty sweet…