A Tale of Two Projects: Week 1 IPE Emerging Tech (NSF) Project

This blog entry is the partner entry to this story: Week 1 Algebra 2 blog entry.  During the short week between Wed, 1/18, and Fri, 1/20, we launched two projects in my main preps: the Emerging Technology (or NSF) project in Integrated Physics and Engineering and the Sports Science Video project in Algebra 2.   The events in this article occurred concurrently with the events in this article.  To get links to accounts of earlier and later phases of this project go this page: A Tale of 2+ Projects.


Integrated Physics & Engineering, Day 1 NSF Project , 1/18

Students in IPE were greeted with this visual when they arrived in class in Day 1 of the Emerging Tech project.  The branding on this agenda slide shows the icon from the previous project with a bandaid over it.  This reinforced the warmup for the day which was a reflection on their past report scores and their plans to use report feedback to raise their scores that week.  In the IPE class, student work is graded once a week: notebooks are graded on Friday’s and major products submitted online are graded on Sundays.  Students have up to 2 weeks to revise their work: after 1 week, they can earn up to a 90% on late or resubmitted work and after 2 weeks, they can earn up to 70% on this work.  After 2 weeks, my co-teacher and I no longer accept the work.

After the students completed the report reflection warmup, we held our once-a-6-weeks Class Officer Elections.  Nominated students gave speeches to earn student votes in elections for 3 officer positions: Facilitator, Time Manager, and Grade Manager.  The facilitator goes over the daily agenda at the start of class each day.  The time manager tracks the time left in class activities and class periods and provides periodic time announcements describing the amounts of time left for activities and left in class.  The grade manager uses a weekly task completion chart to follow-up with students who did not turn in assignments.  All 3 officers support the class when I’m sick.  Subs who have taken over my classes are usually just adults on record who take attendance and watch while my 3 officers lead students through the day’s activities.  Three of my Algebra 2 officers that were elected earlier in the morning during 1st period managed to get elected in the same positions in their IPE class periods. I allowed them to run for office again because I enjoy having experienced and committed class officers.

After the officer elections, we announced teams.  The teams claimed new team tables to serve as headquarters for their new teams.  They used the visual below to set up their notebooks for the next project.

We explained to them that we were going to do a project in “Advanced” Physics and Science topics.  We explained that “advanced” in this context did not necessarily mean more difficult.   What it really means is that it involves science discovered “later” than much of the science we had studied throughout the year.  We also explained that the National Science Foundation (NSF) has a very large budget (order of billions) which it allocates to science and engineering proposals with the power to advance our understanding of science (intellectual merit) and to improve our society (broad impact).  We explained that the goal of the project was to create an NSF proposal that involves emerging technology that has intellectual merit and broad impact.  To give them an idea of some the problems they could address in their proposals, we watched a video about the NEA Grand Challenges in Engineering.


After we watched the video, students working in teams dissected the project design brief and created a chart listing their Content Knows and Need-to-Knows and their Project Logistics Knows and Need-to-Knows.  For the final activity of the day, the facilitator in each class period led a class discussion to consolidate all the students’ Knows and Need-to-Knows:

 While they shared their prior content knowledge in their Content Knows, I appreciate how the 4th Period students gave me a brief summary of what they remembered about atomic theory and what they knew of GMO’s.


Later in the day, I prepped for activities later in the week by continue to conduct research and to draft visuals and question prompts for my first workshop on Nuclear Physics for Day 3 of the project.  While reviewing the nuclear material I decided that the way to chunk the Nuclear Physics was into 2 parts.  Part 1 would focus on the strong force, energy-mass equivalence, fission, and fusion and its applications.  Part 2 would focus on radioactive decays (alpha, gamma, and beta), the weak force, the idea of half life  and applications of radioactivity.


I also prepped a Test Correction assignment because trimester exams are in 5 weeks.  In this activity, students use a key to correct their test using a colored pen or pencil different from the color they used in the test.  The color contrast helps students know what concepts they need to revisit when they study for their trimester exams.


Integrated Physics & Engineering, Day 2 NSF Project , 1/19



On day 2 of the NSF project, students did a warmup that reviewed Laws  of Exponents.  I designed the warm-up problems to take on the same form as the energy-mass equivalence (E = mc^2) problems we would introduce the following day.  This warm-up gave us the opportunity to review laws of exponents and putting final results into scientific notation.


After the warmup, the students created their team norms and agreements and documented these in a team contract using this template.    They also set up their Google folders and shared them with their teammates.  On this day, we started the useful practice of adding the team number to the name of the Google folder.  We linked their Google folder links to the project rubric chart:


The rubric chart is our one-stop-shop for all the electronic work students submit for the project.  It also contains text from all the project rubrics (see left column) and has column boxes which we populate with yellow (partial credit) and green (full credit) stamps as each team completes parts of the rubrics in their products.  After the students set-up their team folders and team contracts, we gave them time to work on their test and report corrections to wrap up class Day 2 of the NSF project.


Later in the day, I prepared for Day 3 by finalizing my lesson outline, lesson visuals and lesson handout for Nuclear Physics (1 of 2).  To really focus the lesson, I referred back to my analysis of a test bank aligned to my target TEKS.  This analysis led me to focus my lesson on binding energy, mass defect and how these relate to fission, fusion and mass-energy equivalence.  In addition I found this great gif that illustrates the chain reaction that occurs with uranium-235:



Integrated Physics & Engineering, Day 3 NSF Project , 1/20

On Day 3, I facilitated part 1 of 2 of a workshop on Nuclear Physics.  Because our previous project had focused on conservation of energy and momentum, I integrated questions in the workshop that tied the new forces (strong forces) and new energies (binding energies) in nuclear physics to concepts we had already learned in previous projects: energy transformations, Coulomb forces, potential energy, and kinetic energy.  We learned about the role of the strong force in the stability of atomic nuclei.  We learned how to calculate the mass defect and the binding energy using E = mc^2 where E is energy, m is mass, and c is the speed of light.  We learned about fission and fusion, their connections to the strong force, and technological applications of each.


Later in the day, I graded all the Week 19 assignments in students notebooks.  I also learned how to install a TI-83 emulator unto my laptop so I could model how to do calculations with very large and very small numbers in our class set of scientific calculators.


Integrated Physics & Engineering, Week 2 Prep NSF Project , 1/20

Over the weekend, I prepared for Week 2 of the NSF project by setting up a rubric, research questions and suggested sources for presentations students would give on nuclear and quantum physicists.

A Tale of Two Projects: Week 1 Algebra 2 Sports Science Project

The first week of the 4th-six-weeks grading period was a short one at Cedars International Next Generation High School due to a school holiday on Monday, 1/16, and Benchmark testing on 1/17.  The 3 remaining days were still quite dense.  In this time, we launched two projects in my two main preps, Algebra 2 and Integrated Physics and Engineering (IPE).  This article describes the the first week of the Sports Science Project, an Algebra 2 project on Quadratic Functions.  The next article in this series will describe what happened in the first week of the Emerging Technologies (or NSF) project in IPE. To read about the prep that went into preparing for the launches of these two projects, you can read this blog article.  To read about later phases in this project, visit this page: A Tale of 2+ Projects.


 Repeated Disclaimer: If you don’t want to know about all the details in the PBL sausage, stop reading.  


Day 1, Algebra 2 Sports Science Project: LAUNCH!

On Wednesday, 1/18, we started the Algebra 2 class with a few activities to wrap up the NERFallistics project.  In that project students learned about polynomials and applied that knowledge while analyzing the trajectories of NERF gun pellets.  These wrap up activities were designed to give students time to reflect and revise their work.  To set the right tone and maintain the suspense for the new project a little longer, I used this for my opening agenda slide:

The band-aid is over the project icon for the project we were wrapping up, the NERFallistics  project.  The icon symbolized the work we were going to do to fix the boo-boos in our last project.  

In the NERF Report Reflection warmup, the students read over their report feedback, checked their report grades, and made plans with their NERF teammate to make revisions on the report.  In my classes, students always have 2 weeks to re-submit deliverables: after 1 week, they can earn up to a 90% on their resubmitted work; after 2 weeks, they can earn up to a 70% on resubmitted work, and after that, I no longer accept the work.  After they completed that reflection, I gave students time to complete a culminating activity from the last project that many teams did not have time to finish during our last class meeting.  In the Target Practice activity, students had to solve a regression equation the modeled the trajectories of their NERF guns to in order to hit a table and a small chair in the common room of our school.  One team succeeded in hitting the table and the chair shown below from distances of 10+ meters away.  They were exuberant to find that sometimes, Math really works!

After these wrap-up activities, we started off the six-weeks with our traditional once-a-six-weeks Class Officer Elections.  Every six weeks, my students in each period elect 3 class officers: a facilitator, a time manager, and a grade manager.  I learned how to integrate and train student leaders in my classes from my friend and mentor from Manor New Tech HS, Ms. Holly Davis.  The facilitator starts the the class each day by going over the class agenda with the class.  He or she does this while I take care of start of class logistics like taking attendance, refilling my coffee, etc.  The time manager keeps track of the time for the class and makes time announcements to alert students and teachers of the time left in class activities and in the class period.  The grade manager gathers student work on my grading days (each Friday) and follows up with students who need to submit work late because they missed some due dates.  The elections are both playful and quite serious.  Candidates give speeches to convince the class that they will be the most effective student at their desired roles.  

I let the students take their time with this process because I rely heavily on my class officers to do my job effectively.  I’m so used to effective time managers that I don’t know what time some of my classes end.  I’m just used to my timekeeper telling me when to wrap things up and move on to the next period.  My facilitator acts as my acting sub when I’m absent.  When I’m out, the facilitator leads the class through activities while the adult-sub-on-record takes attendance, hangs out, and watches.  Sometimes I get so far ahead in my prep that I forget what we’re about to do in class until my facilitator goes over it with the class.   My grade managers are amazing!  I may not have the best turn in rates on the original due dates, but my 1-week-late turn-in rate is awesome thanks to all the in-person / emailed reminders students receive from my grade managers when they forget to turn in work.


After class officer elections, we announced new teams and set up our notebooks for the next project.  

After setting up their table of contents for the new project, the students read over the design brief with their team and came up with at least 10 Knows and 10 Need-to-Knows for the project.  They divided these into Content (Algebra 2 related) items and Project (logistics, deadlines, etc) items.  The design brief communicated the project’s objectives, purpose, rough timeline and deliverables.  In the Sports Science project, students will gather and analyze 100-m dash data to create a sports science video that investigates the question: What separates everyday and world class athletes?  In addition to analyzing the Design Brief, we watched a sample ESPN Sport Science video featuring Lebron James.  This video provided a sample of their final product and showed them how motion data can be used to make a compelling argument.


Later that day, I prepared for Days 2 and 3 of the project by preparing a workshop and practice set on position-time graphs and by purchasing a 300-ft long tape measure.  My co-teacher, Mr. Fishman, had me download the Home Depot app so I could shop for my tape measure efficiently.  When you’re in the store, you can search for products and the app will give you the aisle and section of the store for the product along with a labeled map of the store.  It was so sweet.  I bought calculator batteries and a crazy long tape measure in record time using the app.


I sometimes joke with my friends that my Algebra 2 class is my Physics-2 class.  About half of the students in Algebra 2 are also taking my Integrated Physics and Engineering class.  Sometimes our projects in Algebra 2 are situated in Physics contexts because the math fits and I can’t resist because of my physics background.  This is why I found myself preparing an activity on Position-Time graphs for my Algebra 2 (not Physics) students.  I prepared the lesson because it was in my students’ need-to-knows and because I knew that students needed to be equipped with this knowledge to make sense of the data they were going to gather on their 100-m runs.  (On a side note, my students sometimes get confused by all the math they are learning in physics and all the physics they are learning in math; sometimes they write their notes in the wrong notebook and end up writing a weird location in their table of contents for an activity they placed in the wrong notebook.)


I also spent some time search for videos of world class athletes in 100-m races that we could analyze for our comparison cases.  It was really challenging to find the perfect video because many distances within the 100-m are not marked.  I settled for looking for videos with sideview camera angles and found one video that compiled sideview from several races.


[Spoiler alert] Later in Week 2 of the project I came up with a way to approximately analyze world class run data.  Usain Bolt’s stride length is well documented.  I was able to analyze his world record 100 meter run by using Coach my Video to find the times associated with each of his strides (exact time that one foot hit the ground) and used his average stride length to determine positions for those times.  Later in the project, I provided students with a data table of his world record run so they could analyze it and  compare his motion stats to their own run data.


Day 2, Algebra 2 Sports Science Project: Team Contracts / Explore Position-Time Graphs:

We started off Day 2 by completing a warm-up that was a pre-assessment on what students already knew or could deduce about position-time graphs:


I scanned their notebooks and the results were hit-or-miss.  A couple students did it perfectly, many more guessed several wrong, and a couple didn’t know where to start.  After the time manager let us know that the warm-up time was over, I told students I was going to break protocol and not go over the warm-up at this time.  I did this because we were about to go over position-time graphs and I reused the warm-up problems to make up half of the follow-up practice set to this activity.

After the warm-up, the student facilitator went over the agenda and then led a class discussion to come up with a compiled list of student Knows and Need-to-Knows.  Here are the students’ Content Knows and Need-to-Knows:


And here are their Project Knows and Need-to-Knows:

I had to play devil’s advocate a bit to get students to elaborate on their Content Knows.  They’re pretty good at specifically articulating  their Content Need-to-Knows and Project Knows and Need-to-Knows.  Over the course of the project, we will revisit and update their Knows and Need-to-Knows as students learn new things and develop more questions.

After the Knows and Need-to-Knows discussion the students set up their team contracts and shared project Google folders.  The students completed this Team Contract template and then placed their finished contract in a sheet protector and inside the Team Contract binder.  Over the course of the project they will revisit their contract and use the back side of it to document their Work Log goals and agreements.  While they prepared their contracts, I linked their Google folder to the Project Rubric Chart:


I’ve streamlined student turn-in processes such that their nearly all their work lives in 2 places: (1) in their notebook and (2) in shared project Google folders.  If their work is located in a project Google folder, I link the folder and its key contents to a rubric chart.  I use the rubric chart to give students yellow and green stamps on project work that relate to rubric items (see left column).  Having the links very close to the rubric makes it easy for me to assess project products against the rubric.  Later in the project, students refer to the rubric chart on work days to see which items they have earned full (green stamp) and partial (yellow stamp) credit.  

After they set-up their team contracts and team Google folder, we started an activity on Position-Time graphs.  I set up the workshop to be interactive. Throughout the workshop, I displayed a prompt on the board and had their teams discuss the prompt while I played Jeopardy music. While the music played, I overheard their discussions and looked at their proposed motion graphs.  After the music stopped, I called on the students with interesting insights and went over the correct answers.  We did this 10 times.  By the end of these cycles we had completed and thoroughly discussed a graphic organizer that showed the shapes for all the types of motion they would need in the project: stopped motion, constant velocity (positive and negative direction), increasing speed (positive and negative direction) and decreasing speed (positive and negative direction).

Also, while developing these workshop slides. I came up with a new trick to convey the alignment between state standards and workshop objectives.  I color-code the verbs (red) and noun / noun phrases (blue) in both the standards and the objectives to highlight the connections between the two.  I now do that in all my workshop objectives slides and in all my daily agenda slides.

After the workshop, students redid the warm-up problems and did a few more practice problems on motion graphs.  Nearly every students was able to do the warm-up perfectly on the first try after the workshop.

Later on Day 2, I did some big picture planning of the content scaffolding in the Sports Science project.  I looked at the standards again and ranked them from easiest to hardest and grouped them by similarity and developed an outline for a lesson sequence that would cover all the standards.  In broad strokes I decided we would start by learning several techniques to formulate quadratic equations (from easy to hard), then learn how to solve quadratic equations, and then learn how to solve systems of linear and quadratic equations.  


Day 3, Algebra 2 Sports Science Project: RUN, STUDENTS RUN!!!

Prior to class on Day 3, I prepped for an exciting Data Collection day by using spreadsheets to create a Track Marking conversion chart (meters to feet and inches):

I also created this visual to convey all the hats students would need to wear in order to ensure a safe, efficient time in the parking lot:


Also at the end of Day 3, I knew I needed to get student work for my grading day, so I created this visual:

This visual shows my Algebra 2 grade manager in the middle of his election speech.  He gave me permission to use that pic in visuals reminding students of deadlines.   [Spoiler Alert] My grade manager enjoyed this image so much, he had me put it up again in the IPE class where he also got elected into this role.


Data Collection day was a blast!  The whole class helped to prepare the track on the parking lot behind the school.  I put a student in charge of the tape measure and in charge of organizing the team effort to create the track.  The students were really smart.  They designed the track in a way that made data collection of a tricky data set really simple.  They used long lines to mark each 2-meter increment and they marked each line with the total distance from the starting line to that line:

It took them about a half hour to create the track.  Then I demonstrated how to properly videotape a run, by taping Mr. Ray while he ran.  This involves some back pedaling and some frantic, laughing and chasing while trying to aim the iPad camera in a way that the runner’s feet passing each increment line is captured throughout the 100-meter run.  It was really fun to watch students to gather data.  By some trick of Murphy’s law, nearly every team had a big height mismatch between their (very tall) runner and their (very short) camera-person.  However, the track design that my students came up with, made it possible to get excellent data even when the camera shorts were really dynamic due to the chasing that was occurring.  

Mental Note for Future Versions of this Project:  Everyone needs to wear running clothes and shoes because the photographers ended up running just as hard as the runner to get good footage.


Here’s a sample data set that came from a video that was really bumpy:

Even though they were unable to see some of the track markings (usually when the photographer transitioned from backpedaling to forward chasing), they still gathered enough data to see clear quadratic and linear regions.  Just the thing needed to learn how to solve systems of linear and quadratic equations!  Every team was able to get a good data set that made sense.  Data Collection day was a surprising success.  I was worried that the data would be too hard to get or too dirty to analyze, but everything worked out great.


At the end of Day 3, I did my routine Friday grading of notebooks. After I graded all the notebooks, I used conditional formatting on my Google spreadsheets grade book to create this visual.  I cropped out the student names for this post.  Red boxes represent missing work and green boxes represent turned-in work.  I emailed this visual (the version with the student names) to the grade manager along with a couple links to Google forms associated with a couple of these tasks.  My grade manager sent follow-up emails to students missing work and during the following week, he collected late notebooks from students on Tuesday when I decided to follow-up on some late work.  By Wednesday the chart was nearly all green except for one student who was out sick for several days.  Student Leadership Rocks!


Pre-Week 2 Prep:


Over the weekend, I prepped lessons that showed how to use Desmos to find linear and quadratic regression equations.  I also prepared a warmup that had students compare motion equations to linear and quadratic equations in order to relate motion quantities to the parameters in the standard forms of linear and quadratic equations.  I also finalized a Shell Science Lab Challenge grant in the hopes of getting more support to design more and higher quality STEM experiences like the ones we had in Week 1 of the Sports Science project.

206: Why and How to Teach Science to Children?




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Summary of National Goals:
  • On Learning:
    1. Students should explore broad concepts or “big ideas” instead of isolated facts or skills.  Learning frameworks rather than facts will enable students to continue to learn and understand new ideas as they emerge in our ever changing technological society.
    2. Students should learn how to think critically, solve problems, and make decisions.  Learning these skills will prepare students to make informed decisions that impact their own lives and societies.
    3. Students should actively construct meaning from experiences with concrete materials, not be passive observers.  Students need to actively engage with phenomena to construct deep understandings.
    4. Students should learn how to apply science and technology to everyday life.  Students should learn how science is relevant to their present and future lives.
    5. Science should foster students’ natural sense of curiosity, creativity, and interest.  Teachers should leverage students’ interests to make learning more engaging.
    6. Science instruction should foster develop of scientific attitudes in students.  These attitudes include: seeking out knowledge based on evidence, questioning ideas, relying on data, accepting ambiguity, being willing to refine explanations, respecting reason, being honest, and collaborating to solving problems
  • On Curriculum:
    1. Less content should be covered – aim for depth not breadth.
    2. Science should be portrayed as interdisciplinary – should explicit connect fields of study.
    3. Students should explore the interrelationships among science, technology, and society.
  • On Teaching:
    1. The teacher acts as a guide (facilitator) of exploration, not solely as an authoritative presenter of knowledge.
    2. The content of science should be taught as a process involving investigation and answering questions.
    3. Science instruction needs to be integrated with instruction in other discipline areas.
    4. Science instruction should encourage students to challenge conceptions and debate ideas.
    5. Science instruction should build on students’ prior experiences and knowledge.
Connections between National Goals and Project-Based Learning (PBL)
  1. PBL focuses on covered less content with more depth:
    • In PBL units, students investigate authentic questions that explore central concepts over an extended period of time.
    • Students ask and modify questions, perform investigations and build artifacts over longer periods of time (weeks, sometimes months depending on the scope of the project)
  2. PBL’s driving question are important, meaningful and worthwhile to students.
    • Students learn to apply content towards real world applications
    • Students learn how to apply solutions that apply to their own lives.
  3. PBL promotes an interdisciplinary approach.
    • While creating artifacts, students may learn how to read and write more effectively in more technical genres.
    • While conducting background and experimental research, students may learn connections to other fields such as mathematics, other science course, history, etc.
  4. PBL teacher act as facilitators of exploratory experiences.
    • Teachers guide students through the processes of modifying driving questions, developing investigations, engaging in explorations, collaborating with others and creating artifacts.
  5. In PBL projects, students collaborate to solve problems and learn new content.
    • Student interact with other students and experts to construct knowledge, debate ideas, share and explore ideas.
  6. In PBL projects, teachers leverage students’ prior knowledge to guide scaffolding and assessments.
  7. Investigation is at the core of science PBL projects.  Through investigations, students learn a balance of science content and process skills.
  8. PBL units engage students and leverage students’ natural curiosity.  Students questions (need-to-knows) drive the curriculum in PBL units.
  9. PBL supports the development of scientific attitudes and habits of mind such as accepting ambiguity, being skeptical, and respecting reason.
  10. PBL stresses assessment processes that are embedded in the instructional process.  Assessments double as tools in the investigation and as evidence of student learning.
Project based learning (PBL) is deeply connected with national science goals for science teaching, learning, and curriculum.  Through PBL, students receive opportunities to learn the content, frameworks, strategies, attitudes, and habits of minds that make science an effective investigative and problem solving discipline.  Even if students do not become scientists, students can apply science knowledge, skills and attitudes to make informed decisions about their lives and their societies.


Preparation Steps
  • Analyze science curriculum standards.  Look for enduring understandings and opportunities for interdisciplinary connections.
  • Design a yearlong project sequence that focuses on enduring understandings.  Where possible include projects that make natural connections to other subjects.
  • Design projects that are held together by engaging investigative driving questions.
  • Design project scaffolding that emphasizes the relationships among concepts and key process skills.
  • Design assessments that double as investigative tools and diagnostic tools that gather evidence on student learning.
  • Evaluate project designs using Summary of National Goals on teaching, learning, and curriculum.  See above.  Refine projects designs to better align to national goals.
Early Implementation Steps
  • Implement projects designed in preparation steps.
  • Use many formative assessments to fine tune projects and to give students specific feedback they can use to refine their understandings and products.
  • Evaluate project implementation using Summary of National Goals on teaching, learning, and curriculum.  See above.  Refine projects implementation to better align to national goals.
Advanced Implementation Steps
  • Collaborate with experts outside school to create more authentic learning experiences for students.
  • Design projects that enable students to use science to solve problems in their communities.



205: Using Investigative Approaches Year Round





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  1.  Follow the KISS Principle:
    • Introduce fundamental concepts for investigations in first investigative units and spiral those concepts through successive investigative units
      • Examples: text, context, and subtext – see this article for related prompts: Facilitating a Historical Investigation
      • Science connection:  Concepts that need to be spiraled through scientific investigation units are variables (independent and dependent), constants and the manipulation / measurement of these in the design of research studies
  2. Slow and Steady Wins the Race
    • Lesh recommends for 1 investigative lesson per unit
    • Focuses on the following core concepts during investigative lessons:
      • Causality
      • Chronology
      • Multiple perspectives
      • Contingency
      • Empathy
      • Change and continuity over time
      • Influence / significance / impact
      • Contrasting interpretations
      • Intent / motivations
    • Science connection – Can aim for the design or analysis of the design of at least one experiment or research study per project (in a PBL school that runs project-to-project).
      • I need to conduct more research to develop a list of core concepts for science investigation – here’s my tentative list for now
        • Testable question and hypothesis design
        • Use of variables and constants in designing experiments
        • Reproducibility
        • Model Building, Analysis, and Interpretation
        • Organizing, analyzing, and interpreting data
        • Formulating data-based conclusions
        • Connecting research to background research
        • Implications of specific research studies
  3. It All Starts with Questions
    • Make good driving questions the center of investigative units
    • Science connections
      • Ditto
      • Let driving questions and processes used to investigate these highlight the problem solving nature of science as a discipline
  4. You Will Still Be in Charge
    • Factors that promote on-task behavior:
      • reducing number, length and types of historical sources
      • varying grouping styles (full group, small group, pairs, individual)
      • periodic quick writes (short formative assessments)
      • engaging driving questions
    • Connections to coverage:
      • students tend to better remember content when they are engaged
    • Science connections
      • Factors that can promote on-task behavior:
        • introducing fundamental concepts in a gradual, structured way
        • variety of formative assessments
        • investigations that are well tied to engaging driving questions
        • investigations that address student need-to-knows
        • using resources that are student friendly
        • providing scaffolds that make resources more accessible to students
  5. Before and After Are As Important as During:
    • Make sure investigative lessons are sandwiched between lessons that support investigative objectives and that continue to be engaging to students
    • Science connections
      • Use well-designed student-centered approaches to lab-based and non lab-based lessons
    • Develop a yearlong plan that provides opportunities to teach / learn all fundamental concepts, especially those that are high stakes
    • Science connections
      • Ditto above
The tips listed above for implementing investigative approaches year round emphasize the need for good design at the macro (year long sequence) and micro (lesson plan) levels.  They emphasize that using this student-cemtered approach does not mean abandoning teacher control, but shifting the aims of teacher controls towards goals that balance content and process.  Spiraling key processes throughout the year will gradually build student skill and also help them learn the centrality / importance of these skills to the discipline.


Preparation Steps
  • Analyze the course curriculum and identify fundamental concepts and processes.
  • Develop a year-long sequence of projects / units that includes time for all fundamental concepts and processes.
  • Develop a gradual sequence that spirals fundamental processes throughout the year.
  • Research and design resources that will teach students how to apply key processes towards solving problems and learning key concepts.
  • Design driving questions for each project that engage students to learn and apply content and to develop and use key processes.
Early Implementation Steps
  • Implement projects in year long plan that provide opportunities to learn key content and processes.
  • In all projects, use the following key elements:
    • engaging and provocative driving questions
    • variety of grouping styles
    • variety of assessments
    • scaffolding the supporting learning of key content and skills and answers key students’ need-to-knows
    • well design project sequences that mimic the problem solving sequences of discipline-specific experts
    • for more criteria for good project design and implement, see this article: 6 A’s criteria for designing projects
Advanced Implementation Steps
  • Use project reflections to gather student data that will improve project design over time
  • Research fundamental concepts and processes that are promoted by professional organizations and use these to supplement (provided broader context) to concepts / skills present in standards
  • Develop driving questions that are more and more authentic – involve questions and deliverables that are used by people outside the classroom.  For more ideas on this, see this article: Amping up the authenticity

204: Teaching Historical Empathy (Truman & the Korean War)





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Teaching Historical Empathy:
  • Bad Examples:
    • binding the hands and feet of students to help them feel what it felt like to be transported like slaves
    • dividing class in halves and treating one half like they are privileged and other half like they are part of a persecuted underclass
    • place students in a position to empathize with a moment, idea or person in history without examining historical evidence
  • What It is Not
    • impossible to make students have the same emotions and thoughts as historical figures
    • not being the person; not an exercise of pure imagination
  • What It is
    • attempt to use historical evidence to make sense of the way people saw things and how those viewpoints influenced their actions
    • attempt to answer question – Why did an individual or group of people act in a certain way given a set of circumstances?
    • developing appreciation that the past is very different from the present
    • judging past actors in their own historically situated context and on its terms
    • listening to voice of the past without preconceptions – let people of the past begin and end their own sentences
    • stripping away the present and immersing students in the past on its own terms
    • examining multiple sources of evidence in an attempt to understand the past in its own terms
  • With whom to empathize?
    • Working through a “structured dilemma” that requires students to work through evidence can build empathy
      • example: key presidential decisions
        • Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation
        • Jackson’s removal of the Easter tribes
        • Franklin Roosevelt and whether to bomb Auschwitz-Birkenau
        • Kennedy and the Cuban Missile Crisis
        • Truman and Korean War decisions
  • Caveats
    • Do not let students use their imaginations to re-create historical decisions without letting them base their decisions on historical evidence available to actors at the time of the decision
Why the Korean War?
  • Conflicting Intents
    • US entered was as part of United Nations forces, did not declare war
    • Contain spread of Communism in Asia
    • Avoid World War III starting in Asia
  • Korean War & MacArthur:
    • MacArthur broke a stalemate with the successful attack of Inchon harbor on September 15, 1950
    • Recaptured Seoul Sept 28, 1950
    • As a result, US changed policy from containing Communism to the 38th parallel to it back to the Chinese border
    • Sept 2, 1950 – President Truman authorized MacArthur to cross the 38th parallel and take the battle back to the Chinese border
    • Tides of war turned against US
      • Nov 26, 1950 – 260,000 Chinese troops crossed the border and engaged UN and South Korean forces
      • Jan 1951 – UN forces pushed back across the 38th parallel with massive casualties
    • Nov 18, 1950 – US Security Council reaffirmed intent to prevent war from flaring into a global confrontation (anti-WW3 intent)
      • steeling itself for a possible other WW3 in Europe against Soviet Union
    • Apr 19, 1951 – MacArthur speech to Congress asking for a wider war
      • prior to this met with Chiang Kai-shek – to gather support of Chinese Nationalists
      • also make public comments about need to support Taiwan
      • Wanted to widen war by:
        • involving Chinese Nationalist troops to invade China
        • attacking Chinese industrial sites
    • Mar 1951 – tensions between MacArthur and Truman administration escalated when MacArthur conducted interviews in Tokyo that discussed the need to escalate the way and that criticized the Truman administration for limiting his ability to win the war
    • Apr 11, 1951 – Truman administration removed MacArthur from his position
    • May 1851 – MacArthur returned home to a victory parade
    • Apr 19, 1951 – MacArthur addressed joint session for Congress and continued to press for his policies
    • Korean War ended in stalemate, negotiation and frustration
    • Negotiated settlement reached in Eisenhower’s administration due to threat of use of nuclear weapons in Korea
Implementing the Lesson:
  • Pre-Launch activities:
    • Students read a reading on early events of Korean War
  • Launch events:
    • Student brainstorm list of events that might affect public support for a war
      • emphasize unpredictability of public opinion and need to manage pubic opinion when US is involved in military engagements
    • Students analyze public opinion polls during first 8 months of Korean War
    • Students discuss change of public opinion over time
    • Polling subtext is important –
      • how does sample size affect results?
      • how do questions affect the results?
    • Debrief reading on Korean War events:
      • focus on battlefield events and US domestic policies
      • establish context for Truman’s decisions
  • Investigation:
    • Students consult a timeline of Korean War events and create a T-chart for evidence for and against the removal of MacArthur
      • Work individually and in a pairs
      • Attempt to decide whether Truman should listen to MacArthur’s advice or fire him
    • Working in groups of 4, students consider the questions
      • If the US does not fight to win, will it be perceived as weak by China and the Soviet Union?
      • Could MacArthur’s suggestions expand the scope of the war and possibly escalate it to World War III?
      • Did MacArthur violate the Constitution with his actions and words by crossing the President acting as Commander and Chief?
      • Even though the President is the Commander and Chief, shouldn’t he listen to the advice of his generals?  Whose job is it to develop military policy?
    • Students divide themselves into 1 of 3 groups:
      • Truman and MacArthur should negotiate peace with North Korea
      • Fire MacArthur but follow his advice to escalate the war to all of Korea
      • Look past MacArthur’s actions and follow his advice
  • Halftime:
    • Students develop quick list of thoughts that occupy Truman’s thoughts in the winter of 1950-1951
  • Finishing Investigation:
    • Quick review of key historical content
    • Revisit driving question – Given events of 1951, what should Truman decide?
    • Examine reactions to President Truman’s decisions to fire MacArthur and start peace negotiations
    • Students write a press release as Truman’s press secretary
      • Explains decisions relating to Korean War and ties these to
        • causes of Korean War
        • events that altered the course of the war
        • General MacArthur’s demands and actions in the war
        • reasons for Truman’s decision
  • Student responses to lesson:
    • some see context within the current period
    • some struggle to shed current notions and examine decisions from the presents
    • some use cliches to formulate decisions
    • learn difficulties of making decisions as a policy maker who has to consider variables such as public opinion, political impacts / consequences, etc.
    • develop some empathy by considering multiple sources of historical evidence
Science Connections:
  • Students could consider various sources of scientific evidence that are used to inform policies.  Examples:
    • Should US invest in nuclear energy?
    • Should US de-incentivize fossil fuel energy sources and incentivize non-fossil fuel energy source as wind power and solar power?
    • Should US create policy that requires labeling of foods that include genetically modified crops?
    • Should public schools require proof of early childhood vaccines?
    • Should US limit the use of fossil fuels in an attempt to reduce fossil fuels?
  • Students can create T-charts that use scientific evidence in favor and against specific policies and then create an Analytic Memo for a policy maker that:
    • suggests a specific policy
    • provides scientific context of events / evidence that support the policy
    • discuss impacts of policy


Using analysis of various types of historical evidence to develop some sense of historical empathy can teach students how to use evidence to understand other people’s perspectives on their own terms.  Using “structured dilemmas” to build this sense of empathy can help students to better understand the challenges and variables that impact policy maker’s decisions.  It can also give students opportunities practice in skills that help them become better advisor and / or policy makers.



Note:  This is written for Science teachers.  For tips for history teachers, read the book or the summary of the book chapter in the WHAT? section of this article above.


Preparation Steps
  • Identify what concepts are the enduring understandings of your particular course
  • Research to determine if any of the enduring understandings are related to host of scientific evidence that has been / is currently being considered to make policy decisions
  • Research to find or create an annotated timeline that includes scientific evidence that supports and goes against specific policy decisions
  • Gather evidence of public opinion that supports or goes against policies that can be used during project launch.  Could take form of
    • public opinion polls
    • contradicting editorials or political cartoons
  • Design a project calendar with following phase:
    • launch
      • brainstorm what kinds of scientific evidence can sway decisions of policy makers and influence public opinion
      • initial investigations of public opinion pieces
      • introduce driving question – Should ____________ support the policy to ______________?  What scientific evidence supports this policy?
    • investigation phase
      • students study scientific evidence and develop a T-chart in favor and against specific policies
    • half time assessment
      • make a quick list of scientific evidence that must be considered to suggest a good policy
    • continue investigation
      • students in teams consider questions such as:
        • What does scientific evidence suggest as potential benefits of a specific policy?
        • What are the limitations of the scientific evidence used to support and contradict a specific policy?
        • How can scientific evidence be presented in a way that sways public opinion in favor of a specific policy?
    • end investigation
      • students use T-charts to make a specific policy recommendation
      • students create  an Analytic Memo for a policy maker that:
        • suggests a specific policy
        • provides scientific context of events / evidence that support the policy
        • discuss impacts of policy
Early Implementation Steps
  • Implement project calendar described above
  • Monitor students during individual investigation phase to make sure they are using scientific significance criteria to compile T-chart evidence
  • Monitor students while they debate which policy to support – make sure they supporting their recommendations with scientific evidence
  • Provide formative feedback on Analytic Memos that focuses on students’ use of scientific evidence to support policies
Advanced Implementation Steps
  • Students analyze a current issue and submit / present policy recommendations to lobby a real policy maker or person who works for a real policy maker



203: Using the Civil Rights Movement to Teach Historical Significance





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Inspiration for the Lesson:
  • Debate among leaders of the Organization of American Historians as to when the Civil Right’s movement started
Implementing the Lesson:
  • Student investigate a series of images related to the Civil Right’s Movement and select the top 2 they associate with the Civil Right’s Movement
  • Teacher asks students questions about their top choices
  • Teacher tells compelling stories of images without votes
  • Class discusses criteria for determining the historical significance of an event
    • Students come up with criteria similar to ones by Levesque
      • Importance
      • Profundity
      • Quantity
      • Durability
      • Relevance
  • Use their own criteria for historical significance to investigate events on annotated timeline that covers Civil Rights events from the 1900’s until today and try to answer the driving question:  When did the Civil Right’s Movement begin?
  • Students use this analysis of historical events to answer driving question and create a Birth Certificate that has
    • Date of start of Civil Right’s Movement
    • Parents of Civil Right’s Movement
    • Event that started Civil Right’s Movement
  • Student gains:
    • learn greater context for events involve Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rosa Parks
    • learn that Civil Rights figures did not magically appear, instead they were furthering goals of predecessors
    • use analysis of evidence to make an evidence-based argument
    • learn how to use their own criteria to establish the historical significant of events
Science Connections:
  • The most famous committee that rewards scientists for making impactful discoveries is the Nobel Prize Committee
  • A similar lesson can be designed that has students investigate the scientific significance of discoveries.
  • In this lesson students can:
    • develop criteria for the scientific significance of events
    • analyze discoveries on an annotated timelines and try to identify the next winner of the Nobel Prize in a subject related to your course
    • analyze discoveries on annotated timelines and try to identify who should have been the winners of the Nobel Prize due to their contributions in the understanding one a specific concept
  • End product – Nobel Prize announcement that
    • names the Nobel Prize winner
    • explains the significance of the winner’s discoveries using the criteria for scientific significance determined by the students


In this lesson, students learn how to develop and use their own criteria to establish the significance of historical events.  This skills teachers students how to use their own judgement to develop frameworks that can be used to analyze sources.  While using their criteria to investigate several events in an annotated timeline, students learned a broader context for the events of the Civil Rights Movement.


Note:  This is written for Science teachers.  For tips for history teachers, read the book or the summary of the book chapter in the WHAT? section of this article above.


Preparation Steps
  • Identify what concepts are the enduring understandings of your particular course
  • Research to determine if any of the enduring understandings have underpinnings that include people and discoveries that are invisible in typical science curricula
  • Research to find or create an annotated timelines that includes people and discoveries that both well-known and unknown to most science students
  • Research criteria for the Nobel Prize.  Decide whether you would like students to use the Nobel Prize criteria to determine scientific significance of a discovery or develop their own criteria.
  • Create an image bank that can be used to launch the event:
    • include both iconic and less well known images of concept being studied
  • Design a project calendar with following phase:
    • launch – initial investigate of images and selecting of top 2 iconic images
    • review of criteria:
      • students create criteria for scientific significance OR
      • students restate Nobel criteria in their own words
  • Students working in teams investigate discoveries on an annotate time lines and the criteria for scientific significance to determine which discovery should win the Nobel Prize in ______________ for contributions related to the concept of ____________
  • Students compose a Nobel Prize announcement that includes name of prize winner(s), the discovery, the significance and impact of the discovery
Early Implementation Steps
  • Implement project calendar described above
  • Monitor students during individual investigation phase to make sure they are using scientific significance criteria to prioritize and rank discoveries
  • Monitor students while they debate which discoveries deserve the Nobel Prize – make sure they are reference evidence related to the discoveries and scientific significance criteria
  • During debrief discussions, probe for questions, understandings and misconceptions
Advanced Implementation Steps
  • Get students to analyze discoveries of current scientists and predict who will win the Nobel Prize in 10 years – have them back their conclusions with evidence from the discovery and future impacts the discovery might logically have on technology and other branches of science



202: Continuity & Change Over Time (Custer’s Last Stand or the Battle of Greasy Grass)







Pledge of Allegiance – Example of Continuity & Change
  • 1870’s – poem by Edward Bellamy to commemorate 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’ discovery
    • Bellamy salute – left hand on heart, right hand extended with palm facing the flag
    • “I pledge allegiance to my Flag and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation indivisible with liberty and Justice for all.
  • 1920’s –
    • “I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation indivisible with liberty and Justice for all.
    • Due to concerns about anarchists and Communists and xenophobia about immigrants
  • 1930’s –
    • Bellamy salute -> right hand over heart
    • Differentiate American democracy from European fascism
  • 1950’s –
    • added phrase “under God”
    • Distinguish US’s religious freedom from Soviet Union’s banning of religion
Lesson with Pledge of Allegiance:
  • Early in the year, show students 3 forms of the pledge and ask them to:
    • identify major differences in the pledges
    • speculate reasons for changes in the pledges
Inspiration for lesson involving Custer’s last stand:
  • new evidence uncovered near the battle site caused historians to reexamine evidence of the battle
  • political lobbying by Native American community to rename the park and modify park exhibits that glorified Custer
  • why venerate Custer when he had died while many poor tactical decisions
Supporting lessons:
  • Students examine post-Civil War population movement westward.  Students examine:
    • Transcontinental Railroad
    • Homestead Act
    • Exoduster migration out of the South
    • Indian Wars
      • Sand Creek incident
      • pusuit and capture of Geronimo and Nez Perce
Little Big Horn Lesson:
  • Before the lesson, students read about the causes, course, and consequences of the Battle of Little Bighorn.
  • Project images of battle that represent 2 different perspectives – one that glorifies Custer and one painted by a Native American who had fought in the battle
    • after students discuss each image, teacher reveals the purpose, creator and timer period of the image
  • After discussion around images, teacher provides brief overview of the events that led to and define Custer’s last stand – summary of reading students had done earlier.  Students exposed to:
    • relationships among Plains Indian tribes, the settlers, and the military
    • battlefield actions
    • helps student understand context of the battle
  • Introduce driving question – students are members of the National Park Service who are charged with naming the battle site. Possibilities include:
    • The Battle of the Little Bighorn National Monument
    • Custer’s Last Stand National Battlefield
    • Sioux Victory National Battlefield
    • Custer’s Battlefield National Monument
    • Native Victory National Battlefield
    • Greasy Grass National Battlefield  (Native name for Little Bighorn River)
    • Little Bighorn National Memorial
    • Fill in the bank with your own choice
  • Students individually consider 1 of various assigned sources that represent different perspectives of the battle
  • Students in teams that include experts of each of the sources try to interpret all the evidence and come up with a name for the historical site
  • Student misconceptions
    • bias is a bad thing rather than a neutral thing (point of view) present in all history sources
    • truth is absolute, black or white, no grays – miss the idea that sources depict different people’s perspectives
    • sorting truthful from untruthful sources – this type of thinking oversimplifies the investigation
    • create interpretations colored by their own personal beliefs
    • false mathematical views of history – try to mathematically aggregate the sources to find the one right answer
  • Student gains
    • students see the need to consider multiple sources to come up with historical interpretations
    • students see the need to consider where sources came from
    • instead of interpreting history as accepting “other’s facts”, start using facts to make their own historical interpretations
    • roles played by main actors in the events humanize Indian Wars for students
    • students learn to pay attention to historical details in sources to make decisions
Science Connections:
  • Teachers can design lessons that cause students to investigate how our understanding of fundamental concepts has changed over time.  Core concepts that have evolved over time include:
    • gravity
    • energy
    • thermodynamics
    • atomic model
    • electromagnetism
    • evolution
    • nature of light
    • solar system models
  • Students can investigate how theories evolve over time due to
    • invention of new tools (both technological and mathematical)
    • application of old tools to new things
    • development of theoretical models
  • For ideas on how to structure this, see Now What? section below


Using historical sources to study how historical artifacts (such as the Pledge of Allegiance) and historical interpretations evolve over time can teach students to appreciate history in ways that are deeper than taking history merely at face value.  Learning how to consider more perspectives to develop more nuanced understandings of historical events will teach students skills they can apply in history and fields outside history in their future careers.


Note:  This is written for Science teachers.  For tips for history teachers, read the book or the summary of the book chapter in the WHAT? section of this article above.


Preparation Steps
  • Identify what concepts are the enduring understandings of your particular course
  • Research to determine if any of the enduring understandings have underpinnings that are continuum of models that evolved over time
  • Research to find several sources that:
    • focus on the evolution of model centered around once concept
    • offer a collection of models / understandings of the concept
    • use multiple methodologies to investigate the issue – different experimental studies, different theoretical models, etc.
    • are accessible to students with some vocabulary scaffolding support
  • Develop a driving question that can be investigated by all the sources – It could be something like:
    • Why is the model of ________________ evolving?  What should be the name of a research institute dedicated to the discoveries of the concept of __________?
  • Develop thinking sheets for each of the sources that ask students to consider:
    • what model is constructed to describe the phenomena?
    • what are the strengths of the model?
      • what type of phenomena are described well by the phenomena. Why?
    • what are the limitations of the model
      • what type of phenomena are not well described by the model.  Why?
    • what new discoveries led to the modifications present in the model?
    • who supports the model? why?
    • who does not support the model? why?
  • Decide which sources will serve as the launch source:
    • the launch source should hook students into the debate and transition well to the driving question
  • Design a project calendar with following phase:
    • launch – initial investigation and initial impression gathering phase
    • provide background overview that helps students have some holistic sense of why models are evolving
    • investigate individual sources individually
    • in groups share evidence in order to formulate answers to driving questions that consider evidence from multiple sources
    • students present their interpretations of the driving question to the class
    • debrief discussion that shares current accepted views of the phenomena and how the science community came to agreement on that model
Early Implementation Steps
  • Implement project calendar described above
  • Monitor students during individual investigation phase to make sure they are questioning and accurately describing he strengths and limitations of the models in their sources
  • Monitor students while they debate and formulate interpretations in their teams – make sure they are using evidence from their sources in their arguments
  • During debrief discussions, probe for questions, understandings and misconceptions
Advanced Implementation Steps
  • Get students to investigate a model that is still in development (ex – origin of the universe, expansion of the universe, dimensions of the universe) and extrapolate how that model might evolve in the future and the evidence that would be gathered to create projected changes in the model



201: Teaching Multiple Perspectives (Bonus March of 1932)



Official BEF Photo. Digital image. Radio Diaries. Radio Diaries, n.d. Web. 14 May 2016.






Revising History:
  • Examples:
    • Pluto lost its planet status in 2004
    • Deepening understanding of role of women in American Revolution due to work of Carol Berkin, Mary Beth Norton, Kathryn Sklar, Linda Kerber, Nancy Cott, Carol Dubois
  • Why this occurs:
    • New evidence uncovered
    • Old evidence investigated by new questions
  • Math / Science connections
    • Understanding of concepts and techniques change as
      • new evidence is uncovered
      • new techniques are tools are invented
Multiple Perspectives:
  • Multiple perspectives versus Historical interpretations
    • former deals with evidence created by people in close proximity to the focus events
    • latter deals with sources created by people who are not participants in the focus events – wrote about the event later in time
  • Tips about teaching multiple perspectives to teenagers
    • do not use too many perspectives at once
    • use a variety of one-dimensional sources that as a collection represent multiple perspectives
    • subtext and context of sources is important to understanding perspectives of pieces
Why the Bonus Army?  
  • Stories of participants humanize the Great Depression
  • July 1932 – 20,000 Americans stages a peaceful protest in Washington, D. C.
  • Context: Adjusted Compensation Act of 1924:
    • 1.00 / day for domestic service; 1.25 / day for overseas service
    • Compensation made available through:
      • Bonus certificates redeemable in 1945 for pay over $50
      • Less than $50 – immediate cash
  • Bonus Army and related events:
    • led by WW1 veteran Walter Waters
    • army of unemployed veterans conducted an 18-day march from Portland, Oregon to Washington, D. C.
    • due to news coverage, gained followers from Texas, Louisiana, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, etc
    • protesting late payments of bonuses
    • lobby in favor of bill sponsored by Congressman Wright Patman of Texas for immediate pay of bonus in 1924
      • considered fiscally responsible because it exceeded federal budget
    • a D. C. police chi and WW1 veteran Pelham Glassford aided protestors by organizing sites and buildings for them to lay camp and working to provide them with food and water
      • partly provided aid to make protesters more malleable to local laws
    • Walter Waters responded to police aid with military style discipline
      • forbade freeloading, drinking and radical talk
      • military police patrolled the campgrounds
      • opposed Communist and radical elements within their camps
        • at one point D. C. police had to prevent them from beating Communists caught within their camps
    • June 7 – 8,000 marched down Pennsylvania Avenue
    • Government concerns
      • afraid protests were a threat to reelection of Herbert Hoover
      • afraid lobbying exceed scope of passing the Patman bill
      • afraid of possible connection between B.E.F. and the Community Party who was constantly trying to take credit for the march despite Waters’ protests
    • June 17 – Patman bill rejected by U. S. Senate vote
    • Many protesters left – trains home paid for by $100,000 train assistance provided by Hoover administration
    • 10,000-15,000 protesters remained in D. C.
      • frustration increased due to time, poor food, summer heat, waterborne diseases
    • July 28 – police tried to move protestors from Federal Triangle buildings to Anacostia Flats – protestors responded by throwing bricks at the police
    • Hoover ordered the U. S. Army to move the protestors under command of MacArthur, Eisenhower, and Patton
      • army moved protestors to Anacostia Flats using tear gas, bayonets and physical force
      • MacArthur disobeyed President’s orders to not enter Bonus Army’s camps – entered the camp and routed the veterans.
    • Diverse reactions to veteran treatment
      • some perceived it as evidence of President Hoover’s callousness
      • some perceived it as necessary action to protect country from a Communist plot
    • Hoover made a public announcement that the “Communist threat” was defeated
      • investigations failed to reveal a connection between the Communist party and the Bonus Army
  • Varying historians’ interpretations of the events:
    • evidence of President Hoover’s lack of caring for veterans and the unemployed (Walter Water’s and Police Chief Glassford’s perspective)
    • President Hoover acted to protect country from Communist Party (Cold War perspective)
    • evidence from release of Hoover’s personal papers in 1966, squared blame on MacArthur (Hoover perspective)
  • Students who investigate the Bonus Army investigate multiple perspectives to develop and defend an answer to the question: Why was the Bonus Army forced out of D. C. and who should bear responsibility for this decision?
From Idea to Historical Investigation:
  • Refining driving question
    • Focusing on the why instead of the what of the events helps students to dig deeper into the evidence
  • Limiting number of sources
    • Limited number of sources to 8 to avoid overwhelming students
Teaching the Lesson:
  • Students listen to song: “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?”
    • provide info on the Depression and plight of WW1 veterans
    • relates to homework reading on these topics
  • Students read about Bonus Army for homework
  • Debrief homework using series of images of Bonus War events.
  • Introduce driving question: Why were the marchers forcibly removed and who should take responsibility for the decision?
  • Students provided 1 of 8 sources.
    • Provide students with Who’s Who list of people involved in the Bonus Army events
  • Students grouped into teams that have experts on each of the 8 sources.
    • students share their findings from their sources – present content, context and subtext in their sources (teacher monitoring supports this critical sharing of
    • after sharing, students complete the following sentence stems:
      • We believe that the Bonus Army was forcibly removed from Washington D. C. because …
      • We believe that ________ was / were responsible for the decision to remove the Bonus Marchers because …
    • students debate within their teams while trying to come to an agreement on how to complete the above sentence stems.  Remind student to preface their arguments with According to Source #, ____________
  • After students have interpretations, one final piece of evidence is released, a memoir from Hoover written 30 years later that contradicts many of their interpretations
  • Students’ reactions
    • Students seemed to be more suspicious of sources written long after the events EXCEPT for Hoover’s memoirs.  They seem to give him credit for revealing the truth at a time when the truth is less likely to damage his or other’s reputations.
  • Students learn how to
    • use multiple perspectives to realize a more nuanced view of history
    • question historical sources
    • formulate, define and defend historical arguments
    • how science is created
Science connections:
  • A multiple perspectives treatment of science can be used to consider multi-faceted evidence around once or still controversial issues in science such as:
    • the theory of evolution
    • global warming
    • development of string theories and related theories
    • the development of electromagnetic theory
    • development of theory of gravity
  • While considering different pieces of evidence focused on one of these topics, students can consider:
    • what model is constructed to describe the phenomena
    • what are the strengths of the model
      • what type of phenomena are described well by the phenomena. Why?
    • what are the limitations of the model
      • what type of phenomena are not well described by the model.  Why?
    • who supports the model? why?
    • who does not support the model? why?
  • Caveat –
    • At some point teachers need to emphasize accepted theories to avoid sowing wrong information and misconceptions into students’ minds
    • Teacher may need to explicitly teach how scientists and scientific communities confer validity to some types of information and not others
Having students investigate and interpret sources that represent multiple perspectives helps students develop a more nuanced understanding of how knowledge is created.  Students who engage in using evidence to create, defend, and refine interpretations are more likely to remember the information they investigated.  This is because they are building knowledge frameworks to connect and challenge the information.


Note:  This is written for Science teachers.  For tips for history teachers, read the book or the summary of the book chapter in the WHAT? section of this article above.


Preparation Steps
  • Identify what concepts are the enduring understandings of your particular course
  • Research to determine if any of the enduring understandings either have a controversial origin or are applied in a current controversial issue
  • Research to find several sources that:
    • focus on one controversial issue
    • offer a collection of perspectives towards the controversial issue
    • use multiple methodologies to investigate the issue – different experimental studies, different theoretical models, etc.
    • are accessible to students with some vocabulary scaffolding support
  • Develop a driving question that can be investigated by all the sources – It could be something like:
    •  Why is the model of ________________ evolving?  Who posed the most valid description(s) of ________________ and what makes their description(s) most valid?
  • Develop thinking sheets for each of the sources that ask students to consider:
    • what model is constructed to describe the phenomena?
    • what are the strengths of the model?
      • what type of phenomena are described well by the phenomena. Why?
    • what are the limitations of the model
      • what type of phenomena are not well described by the model.  Why?
    • who supports the model? why?
    • who does not support the model? why?
  • Decide which sources will serve as the launch source and the final piece of evidence source:
    • the launch source should hook students into the debate and transition well to the driving question
    • the final released piece of evidence source should
      • contradict some of the previously released emphasis
      • might help to have it connect with the most accepted view of the phenomena since people tend to remember best the sources they are shown last
  • Design a project calendar with following phase:
    • launch – initial investigation and initial impression gathering phase
    • investigate individual sources individually
    • in groups share evidence to form consensus interpretations of evidence considered as a whole that address the driving question
    • release final piece of evidence
    • students refine their conclusions
    • debrief discussion that shares current accepted views of the phenomena and how the science community came to agreement on that model
Early Implementation Steps
  • Implement project calendar described above
  • Monitor students during individual investigation phase to make sure they are questioning and accurately describing he strengths and limitations of the models in their sources
  • Monitor students while they debate and formulate interpretations in their teams – make sure they are using evidence from their sources in their arguments
  • During debrief discussions, probe for questions, understandings and misconceptions
Advanced Implementation Steps
  • Get students to investigate a debate that is still ongoing and to predict how the debate  will end in the future and the types of evidence that will be required to end the debate

200: Teaching Chronological Thinking and Causality (Rail Strike of 1877)





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Chronological Thinking
  • Beyond sequencing events in temporal order
  • Examining sources to determine how events relate to each other
  • Looking for causes of events and consequences of events
  • Understanding the difference between causal and correlational relationships
  • National Standards for History (related to chronology):
    • Identify in historical narratives the temporal structure of a historical narrative or story
    • Measure and calculate calendar time
    • Interpret data presented in time lines
    • Reconstruct patterns of historical succession and duration
    • Establish temporal order in constructing historical narratives of their own
  • Chronological thinking needs to be taught alongside causality
  • Math / Science Connections:
    • Scientists / mathematicians are more likely to say that two variable are correlated than causally related because the latter is harder to prove
    • The relationships among things is emphasized throughout the disciplines, it is the basis of functions and functions are a main ingredient in mathematical / scientific models and the predictions that emerge from the models
  • Standards related to causality:
    • explain causes in analyzing historical actions
    • grasp the complexity of historical causation, respect particularity, and avoid excessively abstract generalizations
  • Debates surrounding causes of events / eras can make history more real and engaging to students
  • While introducing this concept, select sources that require students to form a chronological narrative – NOT multiple causes, perspectives, or other types of historical thinking – isolate chronological / causal thinking
Why the Railway Strike of 1877?
  • images involve buildings that are local and recognizable to Baltimore students
  • Background info:
    • economic recession and racial tensions during the Reconstruction
    • 1873 Wall Street panic negatively affected nationwide economy
    • 1874 6,000 businesses close
    • railroads hit really hard
    • railroads engaged in a rate war to minimize effects of the depression
    • lower rates led to lower labor costs
      • paid workers less
      • workers hired for less hours
      • workers had to pay for travel home when work took them to distant cities
    • railroads ended rate wars in favor of an agreement to lower workers’ hourly wave
      • workers striked
        • sometimes destroyed railroad property
        • involved 100,000 workers nationwide
      • strike ended due to
        • federal trop deployment
        • lack of central workers’ org
    • Impacts:
      • stirred fear in the public
      • some reforms:
        • created Employees Relief Association – provide some medical services and death benefits to employees (1880
        • 1884 companies setup pensions for workers
      • momentum for Workingmen’s political party and labor movement
      • highlighted problems of industrialization
Implementing the Lesson
  • Display image from strike that shoes building on fire and ask students to identify elements in the image that aid in understanding artist’s viewpoint
  • Introduce Driving question: What event does the image depict and what is the artist’s message about the event?
  • Four sources:
    1. letter advertising Gatling gun to owner of B&O Railroad
    2. broadside announcing lowering of worker wages
    3. letter from president of B&O to President Hayes asking for federal troops
    4. insurance document listing damages caused by worker
  • These four sources can help students’ determine causal relationship among events of the strike
  • Cursive note: can provide typed copies of cursive sources just in case students struggle to read the handwriting
  • Jigsaw analysis
    • Students analyze different sources within a team of 4 with the help of thinking sheets that use question prompts to guide students to notice and interpret key features of the sources and formulate hypotheses
    • As a group, students use collection of sources to create a chronological account that generate original artist’s image at project launch
  • Alternative to group analysis
    • Each group analyzes the same source and presents their finding to the whole class
    • The whole class tries to process and arrange the sources in chronological order
  • Note about the sources and lessons learned:
    • the dates on sources do not necessarily correspond to the actual dates of the events they describe
    • this fact requires students to use causality to correctly order the sources
    • students learn that dates alone do not order sources / events; determinations about the relationships about the information within the sources influence the chronology
    • history is more than a random aggregation of information – there is an organization to the information due to causal relationships
  • Concluding the lesson:
    • Is the launch image pro- or anti- labor?
      • after discussing this question, teacher reveals caption of image: The Frenzy and What Came of It”
Leveraging these Lesson in the Future
  • Lessons learned by students:
    • Challenges misconception – sources created close in time to the event are more valid
      • sometimes sources created farther in time from the event have useful things to say because they are written from a broader perspective with access to more corroborating evidence
    • Moving beyond timelines – students learn to interpret sources and their relationships to each other to develop chronological frameworks that connect the sources
    • Students learn to view history narratives as jigsaw puzzles that can be solved
      • students were more engaged by “creating” time line than simply memorizing it – led to better retention
      • caveats – students may read too much or too little into sources and develop chronologies with logic flaws; promoting discussing among discussion may helps students to catch logic flaws
  • Teaching tip:
    • Many historical tools can be used to analyze and interpret sources
    • While scaffolding these tools, it’s helpful to emphasize one over the others
Math / Science Connections:
  • This style of lesson can be used to design lessons that show:
    • chronology of events that led to expanding understanding of a concept or the development of a currently well established math / science model (often called a theory)
      • examples:
        • development of quantum mechanics – happened very quickly and may have a lot of sources with dates that don’t necessarily match the exact discovery dates – (can also remove dates from source until after students have a hypothesis about the chronology). Within quantum mechanics – there are several concepts that can be focused on such as:
          • development of model for an atom
          • development for model of behavior of light
          • development for model for atomic nuclei
        • development of understanding of models to describe electricity and magnetis
        • development of model to understand gravity
        • with biology – the development of the theory of evolution
    •  can open with quote or a cartoon inspired by model being studied and ask students to describe what they notice and answer the driving question – What does this image depict and what is the artist’s message about the contents?
    • teaching students to logically link the development of models can help them to learn how mathematicians / scientists incrementally create new knowledge using more and more sophisticated models (or sometimes simpler models) to understand phenomena


Teaching students how to create their own chronological frameworks by interpreting and connecting primary sources teaches students that history is not just an random aggregate of facts and events.  Creating their own timelines as opposed to simply memorizing ones can involve students in an engaging jigsaw puzzle that makes the resulting sequence more memorable.  This type of lesson can be applied in science / math lessons that investigate the development of now accepted models for describing phenomena.


Note:  This sequence will be written for science teachers.  If you’re looking for advice on how to prepare and implement lessons related to historical lessons on chronology, read the WHAT? summary above.


Preparation Steps
  • Research the unfolding of discoveries that advanced the development of models that describe a specific phenomena.
  • Find student friendly, engaging sources that represent different models that describe the same phenomena.
  • Select sources whose dates don’t necessarily relate to the dates of the origin of the models OR expunge the dates from the sources.
  • Developing thinking sheets with several question prompts that guide students to analyze each source and its relationship to the anchor image.
  • Find an anchor image to launch the project that shows the model in an interesting way that hints at its origins and implications.
  • Create a driving question that requires students to investigate the sources to chronologically relate the models depicted in them to the model depicted in the anchor image?
Early Implementation Steps
  • Introduce anchor image and driving question.  Hold preliminary discussions to share and record what is initially notices and initial hypotheses
  • Have different teams investigate different sources with the help of thinking sheets.
  • Have each team present their findings to the class.
  • Use teams’ presentations to have a discussion aimed at sequencing the models
  • After models are sequenced, reconsider the anchor image and re-address the driving question
Advanced Implementation Steps
  • Lesson could have models that relate to concepts that are still in flux and have students predict future expressions of the model



199: Text, Subtext and Context (Theodore Roosevelt & the Panama Canal)





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A Common Language for Investigating the Part:
  • Using content, context and sub-text to summarize and evaluate historical sources can work for all units
  • Need to repeatedly use content, context and sub-text reflections to build up student skills
  • For guided questions related to content, context and sub-text, go this article: Making historical thinking a reality
Criteria for Selecting Sources
  1. Do not use more than 4 to 6 sources.  Especially in the beginning.
  2. Read the sources ahead of time and check for:
    • can lead to discussion related to driving question
    • accessible to students
  3. Vary types of sources
    • examples: cartoons, artwork, pictures, text, pop culture sources, maps, data tables, graphs, etc
  4. Aid students with:
    • academic vocabulary
    • contextualizing sources
    • providing legible copies of sources (if they are originally in cursive)
  5. Make sources of comparable length if you are using the jigsaw strategy to distribute / share sources.
Initiating the Investigation
  • Investigate sources and look for:
    • lies,
    • half-truths
    • exaggerations
    • rationalizations
    • obfuscations
    • Math / Science adaptations:
      • Look at strategies or concepts and identify
        • Always true
        • Sometimes true
        • Always false
        • Sometimes false
  • Students read excerpt from Theodore Roosevelt’s autobiography about the Panama Canal and ponder the Driving Question
    • What is Roosevelt doing in his autobiography (lying, telling a half-truth, exaggerating, rationalizing or obfuscating)?
    • What role did the US play in the acquisition of the territory used to construct the Panama Canal?
    • Math / Science adaptations:
      • Could present or develop circle axioms (or other conjecture types) and ask:
        • are these always, never or sometimes true?
        • In what situations are they true?
Digging Deeper
  • Students in teams are given one historical source and asked to answer questions related to the content, context and subtext of the source
    • source represent a cross section of view about the Panama Canal
    • 2 short guide questions:
      • What role did US play in the Panamanian Revolution?
      • Is there any info in this source that challenges assertions in Theodore Roosevelt’s autobiographical excerpts?
  • Students in teams discuss their sources.
    • Each team member read and analyzed different source
    • Discuss different sources citing specific examples and quotes from their sources
  • Alternatives to jigsaw approach:
    • One person reads all sources – very time consuming
    • Each group of 3 or 4 analyzes the same source and presents their findings to the class so whole class is exposed to all sources
    • Math /  Science Connection
      • Jigsaw approach – Each person in the team examine a different piece of evidence and share interpretations, observations with whole team (all evidence relates to the same concept)
      • Non-jigsaw approach – All students in same team of 2-3 solve the same problem – challenge students to develop multiple approaches to the same problem and use visuals to represent different approaches
Doing Source Work:
  • Wineburg, Historical Thinking Matters Framework
    • sourcing
    • contextualizing
    • close reading
    • corroborating
  • Hicks, et al. SCIM-C Strategy Framework
    • summarizing
    • contextualizing
    • inferring
    • monitoring
    • corroborating
  • In both approaches:
    • students need to move beyond a single source
    • examine relationships provided by each piece of evidence
    • Corroboration phase -> legitimate interpretations of historical questions
  • Math / Science connections:
    • Math framework
      • Asking questions
      • Making models to answer questions
      • Computations
      • Relating model results back to real life to check if they apply
    • Science framework
      • Making observations
      • Asking questions and hypotheses based on observations
      • Designing data procedures
      • Gathering, organizing, analyzing data
      • Drawing conclusions
    • Corroboration connections:
      • In Math – verifying that multiple approaches led to the same solution
      • In Science – verifying that different tests yield the same results
Complicating the Investigation
  • Students corroborate their evidence by completing the following sentence stem:
    • The various types of sources used to determine the purpose of Roosevelt’s autobiography created problems because …
    • Math connections
      • The various ways of representing the problem reveal different facets of the problem including …
      • The various ways of solving the problem are good for different purposes including …
    • Science connections
      • The various data sources yield different conclusions because …
      • The various data sources create problems because …
  • Types of student responses:
    • unreliable due to biased subtexts
    • sources only try to portray their own biased viewpoints
    • hard to know which source to believe
    • contradicting viewpoints, hard to tell what really happened
  • Student difficulties:
    • Students struggle to make connections among content, context and subtext
  • Another question that guides student corroboration of various sources: The subtext of the various documents was important to consider because …
    • Math / Science connection
      • The contexts / subtexts of the data are important to consider because …
    • Student responses:
      • explains why the source was written
      • explain variety of opinions
      • explains variety of evidence used by sources
      • helped convey reliability of sources
      • insights into intentions of authors
      • helped to tease out truth in sources
      • helped show biased in sources
  • Overall when trying to interpret events from the past, you need to …”
    • Math / Science connection
      • Overall, when trying to interpret data, you need to …
    • Student responses
      • consider sources with different viewpoints
      • research background info that reveals subtexts of sources
      • compare information from different sources
    • Student difficulties
      • believe that bias negates validity of a source (mathematical approach to history)
Student Interpretations – Transition Quick Write
  • Transition quick write at end of day one: Attempt to answer the driving question
    • Look fors in student quick writes:
      • evidence from sources
      • perspectives from multiple sources
    • Math / Science connection
      • Use driving question as quick write prompt
    • Student difficulties
      • Using evidence
      • Bridging content, context, and subtext in interpretations
      • Mathematical approach to history (problematic approach)
        • require consensus among sources
        • require lack of bias in sources
Returning to the Investigation:
  • End analysis by revealing most controversial and faceted source to students
  • Math / Science connection
    • Could reserve most nuanced and controversial piece of data for release near middle or end of project
  • Analyzing sources’ content, context and subtext can help student investigate the past rather than just memorize and regurgitate text excerpts
  • Teacher resistance
    • kids can’t do this work
      • responses
        • studies have shown that this type of work can be done by elementary school students
        • teacher perseverance helps students acquire student skills
        • historical investigations make history more interesting
        • prepares students with skills they can use in any career
Finding the right evidence and fashioning the right driving question can make boring topics interesting to students.  Releasing evidence at various points in the project can start and reinvigorate conversations related to the driving question.  Using content, context and subtext to analyze evidence can teach students how to investigate, question and interpret evidence.


Preparation Steps
  • Collect evidence (data, sources, etc) that students can use to explore content by investigating a driving question
  • Design driving question
  • Design thinking sheets that help students examine content, context and subtext of sources
  • Design prompts to facilitate conversations that corroborate evidence – see above for examples.
Early Implementation Steps
  • Use a controversial or provocative source to introduce a driving question
  • Assign sources (various) to students working in teams
  • Individually assign students to examine the content, context, and subtext to different sources within a team.
  • Get students to answer prompts as a team that get them to corroborate their sources and formulate interpretations that address the driving question
Advanced Implementation Steps
  • Gather evidence and sources that uncovers current problems that relate to central concepts in your course. Design project and driving questions around that set of sources.