Read, Analyze, Create, Publish

Note: This post was originally published at Talks With Teachers.

History is an adventure.  It is a mystery to be solved. The evidence can be found in the images and words of the past.  As a history teacher I love digging into the evidence and finding new insights, but for a 21st century teenager they might not be so entrancing.  I’ve found the trick to getting kids to dig into both primary and secondary sources is to allow them to create something from what they’ve learned and publish their creation. Here’s how:

Give a Historical Figure a Voice

We read two opposing views of the African Colonization Society from the early 19th century. Students found online images of Richard Allen and James Madison, the authors. Then ChatterPix helped them make those images come to life. They used their own words and voices to explain the views from their primary source. The resulting videos were shared with the class and published on their blogs.

Create an eQuilt

The role of women in the Civil War is often overlooked.  Luckily, the New York Times has published a series entitled DISUNION as part of their Opinionator in recognition of the 150th anniversary of the conflict.  Small groups of 2-3 students read some of these articles and created images representing the contributions of women from both the Union and Confederacy. They used apps like Paper and Educreations. When they finished they shared their work collaboratively using Padlet. Along with their symbolic collages, they chose quotes from the article to demonstrate analysis.  The result is what I like to call an eQuilt and it generated great discussion.

Animate the Documents

Gettysburg is the well-known turning point battle of the Civil War. The DBQ Project has put together a fantastic document based question that asks students why this is true. Groups of students examined letters, statistics, maps and the Gettysburg Address to find out. The result of their document analysis this time was an animated movie trailer style video using Animoto. Then we played them in class and talked about what their movies represented.  Here are examples of student videos based on statistics and the Gettysburg Address.

Click here to see Morgan's Animoto.
Click here to see Andrew's Animoto.
Of course, analyzing nonfiction and writing essays is an important part of developing students’ literacy and communication skills, but there are many ways for students to communicate their learning. All of these options allow kids to create something that can be shared with the world.  They can be posted on social media or pulled up on tablet and laptop screens at home so the discussion doesn’t end when the bell rings at the end of class.  Let students create and publish their ideas with digital products and you’ll be amazed at how engaged they will be with the words on the page.


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