Close Reading Strategies, Rubrics, and Sample Assessments for History Teachers

The University of Maryland, Baltimore County has an excellent resource for history teachers. The UMBC Assessment Resource Center for History offers sample assessments based on readings from six eras in U.S. history. The assessments include multiple choice question and performance tasks based on close reading exercises. The performance task assessments include scoring rubrics, sample responses from students, and the documents that students need in order to complete the performance tasks. Click here (link opens PDF) for a sample performance task.

Multiple choice assessments featured on ARCH are based on documents and images that students evaluate before making their answer choices.

Applications for Education
It will benefit students if you work with them to go through ARCH's historical thinking rubric before letting them attempt the performance tasks. ARCH's historical thinking rubric is more than just a rubric. There are small sections on close reading methods that students can benefit from if they are given guidance on how to employ the strategies outlined in the rubric section of ARCH.

Thanks to Glenn Wiebe for the tip in his post on assessing critical thinking skills.

Technology and Primary Sources

This morning in Dubuque, Iowa at the 2014 TIC Conference I shared some tools and ideas for teaching with technology and primary sources. The slides from the session are embedded below. The images in the slides are hyperlinked to the tools pictured.


On the fourth slide above you will notice a note about using Google Documents to host discussions around primary source documents. The process that I use for doing that is outlined below.

1. Find a digital copy, preferably in the Public Domain, of the primary source document that I want all of my students to read.

2. Copy and paste the primary source document into a Google Document.

3. Share the document with my students and allow them to comment on the document. I usually use the sharing setting of “anyone with the link” and then post the link on my blog. Alternatively, you could share by entering your students’ email addresses.

4. I will highlight sections of the primary source document and insert a comment directly attached to the highlighted section. In my comments I will enter discussion prompts for students. They can then reply directly to my comments and each other’s comments.

Using this process in a classroom that is not 1:1
If you teach in a classroom that is not 1:1 you can still take advantage of some of this process. Consider having one or two students play the role of note-taker in the Google Document while you are hosting your classroom discussion with all of your students reading the printed version of the article. Have your note-takers tie comments to specific parts of the article. When the activity is over, posted the final set of notes on your classroom blog by selecting “public on the web” in the sharing setting of the Google Document and then post the link on your classroom blog.

Create Multimedia History Presentations With Digital Artifacts

The National Archives Experience Digital Vaults is one of the resources that I almost always share in my workshop on teaching history with technology primary sources. The Digital Vaults offers three good tools that students and teachers can use to create content using images and documents from the National Archives.

The National Archives Digital Vault poster and video creation tools allow students to drag and drop digital artifacts into a poster or video. The National Archives provides images, documents, and audio in an easy to use editor. When making a poster students can combine multiple images, change background colors, and create captions to make collages of digital artifacts. See the screen capture below for a demonstration of poster editing.

Creating a video is just as easy as creating a poster in the Digital Vaults. To create a video simply drag your selected images on to the editing templates, type image captions, select the duration of display for each image, and select audio tracks. See the screen capture below for a look at the video editor.

Applications for Education
The Pathways tool in the Digital Vaults can be used to create small quizzes that ask students to identify the connections between two or more images or documents. To start, drag one image to you Pathways menu then select a related item to add to your Pathway. Type in a clue for students to use to help them make the connection. When you share your Pathway with others, they will see only your first image and your connection clue, they have to find the image that connects. Take a look at a sample Pathways challenge here.

Please note that the Digital Vaults website loads a lot of media when you visit it for the first time. Give it ten seconds or so to load everything before you start to create and investigate. It also helps to be using an updated browser (Chrome or Firefox are best). 

Free Guides to Teaching and Learning With Primary Sources

Last month Common Craft released a great video explanation of the differences between primary and secondary sources. After sharing that video with your students, extend the lesson by using the primary source evaluation guides from the Library of Congress. A central part of the Teacher's Page on the LOC's website is the primary source center. The primary source center walks teachers through the process of locating documents on the Library of Congress' site. The primary source center also provides guides for using various types of primary sources including political cartoons, photographs, and oral histories.

Applications for Education
When I was just starting out as a history teacher I knew that I should include primary source use in my classroom, but I wasn't quite sure how to go about it. Fortunately, after some stumbling around a colleague gave me some of his primary source-based lessons which gave me a much better handle on how to use them effectively. Hopefully, the Library of Congress Teacher's Page will help new history teachers avoid the stumbling process I went through when I started out as a history teacher.

Using Primary Sources to Learn About Lincoln

Under His Hat is a website produced by the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library Foundation for the purpose of showcasing some digital versions of primary source materials about Abraham Lincoln. The materials on Under His Hat are arranged into eight sections or chapters about Lincoln's life. Within each section you can click on featured materials to enlarge them. A lesson plan suggestion is included with primary source material. Some of the materials are also accompanied by audio and video recordings.

Applications for Education
Helping students learn to analyze primary source documents can be challenging. The lesson plans on Under His Hat could help you help your high school students learn to analyze primary sources while learning more about a historical figure whose basic biography they probably know.

Explore 20th Century World History Declassified

The Wilson Center Digital Archive recently published a new set of 73 collections of declassified historical documents. The documents contain memos and transcripts of communications between diplomats and country leaders. The collections are arranged into topics and themes. You'll find collections of documents related to the construction of the Berlin Wall, the origins of the Cold War, and Sino-Soviet relations.

Applications for Education
My first thought when looking at these collections of documents was to have students use these documents to fill-in the gaps in their history textbooks.

You could also give students some of the communications without the names of countries or diplomats showing. Then ask them to use their knowledge of the situation to determine which country or diplomat would have sent that communication.

H/T to Open Culture.

Browse the Digital Public Library of America

The Digital Public Library of America is a huge collection of digitized artifacts and exhibits from museums and libraries across the United States. Through the DPLA you can find documents, books, images, audio recordings, and video clips. The DPLA is a new resource and only some of the artifacts are arranged into exhibits at this point. You can look for artifacts by location, time, or keyword search. Clicking on an artifact will open information about where it is housed and when it was created.

Applications for Education
DPLA could a good place to find primary source artifacts to use in U.S. History lesson plans. Exhibits like this one about prohibition are arranged thematically. After viewing one of the DPLA exhibits as a model, have your students create their own digital exhibits of thematically connected artifacts.

Primary Source Analysis Guides for Students and Teachers

Last week I conducted a webinar on teaching with primary sources. The Library of Congress is one of the resources that I always mention when discussing teaching with primary sources. The LOC has many excellent collections of primary source materials. To help students analyze primary source materials the Library of Congress offers analysis guides.

The LOC's primary source analysis guide for students can be used online or offline. The format is the same either way. The format asks students to record observations (initial impressions), reflections, and questions about each primary source item.

Applications for Education
The LOC offers ten primary source analysis guides for teachers. The guides (available as PDFs) offer some guiding questions that you can ask students about maps, documents, images, sound recordings, political cartoons, and more.