Well, we have a newly adopted textbook that has turned out to be....boring. Does anyone have any great ideas or units for 8th grade American History? I would LOVE to make my classroom more interactive, and I would also love to have some sort of project that links the year together. Vague, I know, but I am really disappointed with the textbook--it's quite horribly written and goes from way to technical to over-simplified in a paragraph.

Tags: american, history, middle, school, teaching

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Hi Jennie
If you have access to the internet consider using Primary Access. It is a cool tool that allows the students to explore primary source imagery and make their own digital stories about various periods of history. The link for Primary Acess is http://www.primaryaccess.org/. I have seen samples from other classes studying US history but I am not sure at teh moment of the address. Check out the website though and then also search for examples.
I hope this helps
Barbara
With my Grade 9 Canadian history class, we've done "radio plays" on World War II for the past few years. That involved the kids researching a part of the war of particular significance to Canada (Raid on Dieppe, landing at Juno Beach, invasion of Sicily, Allied pilot training, etc) and then making a radio style performance about it. It could be a news show format, a talk show, a call in show (though I don't think they really had those in WWII, did they?), or whatever but it had to focus on that event. To give it flavor and authenticity, the kids were to incorporate period music such as Glenn Miller or the Andrew Sisters. I've had the students do the material live, or recorded on tape, but this would make an excellent podcast. It's also easily adaptable to whatever age range you've got, and whatever history topic you want to cover. This has proven to be easily the most popular activity in the four years that I've done it.
Wow, those are both great suggestions! Thanks!
You could also try video games. I recently went to a conference where David Martz presented Making History. It is a strategy game by Muzzy Lane based on the events prior to WWII. I'm not a history teacher but it sounded great to me.
Sid Meier, best known for designing the game Civilization, has also created Colonization (about the European powers colonizing North America) and the US Civil War sim games Gettysburg! and Antietam. They're fairly old so if you can get them they'd be cheap. They might be useful for enrichment activities.
Have you seen Primary Access? or Footnotes? or the Library of Congress's new blog? I have a blog on using primary sources in the classroom, we've done some great projects and there are amazing resources online. We're getting ready to do the project called Titanic in the Classroom (you can read about it on the blog) You can see my blog at http://averyoldplace.blogspot.com I've done national presentations on Library of Congress and Using Primary Sources in the Classroom so let me know if you want any more ideas.

Oh here's another one. Have students write historical blogs---they write the blog as a person in history.
I think that Google Earth offers a fantastic geographical framework on which students can track historical explorations and more.
Oh, you have to check out Eric Langhorst, who teaches 8th-grade US history. You are going to have some fun! His website is www.speakingofhistory.blogspot.com/. I also interviewed him, see www.stevehargadon.com/2007/04/mr-podcast-eric-langhorst-classroom-2....
Hi Jennie,
Using one iPod and a digital camera (still or video), our students created a podcast based on historical places around the school. They interviewed some local folks who were already well versed in local history, took pictures of some artifacts, and actually created a walking tour for others to follow. They went out in small groups, and worked on putting the information together in the classroom. It made history real for them, and even made the textbook less boring, since it was used as a resource as well. The primary access link that Barbara suggested is a valuable one and could be used as well.
Kay
I know this was posted a long time ago, but I was wondering if you could provide more details about the scope of this project? How long did it last and how did you create the podcast? Any help would be great because this is something that I am trying to put together for my students.

Aaron
Bonjour / Hi Jennie

In France, we use this cartoon "Une Histoire des Etats-Unis en 3 minutes" ;-)

Vincent

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