Category Archives: US History 1

The 2012 Election in Your Classroom

The election is coming! The election is coming! 2012 is ‘one of those years’ in the classroom and it is a great opportunity for History and Social Studies teachers to focus on the choices that Americans make to determine their next president. For us, as teachers, there are a lot of bases to cover as we hope to inform our students about the process by which a person becomes a candidate, the social issues that divide and unite the country, the nature of political parties and campaign financing, the current state of the economy amid high unemployment, and the war in Afghanistan and our foreign policy in very important regions of the world like China, the Middle East, Africa and more. It’s a big plate.

I’d like to offer some suggestions and resources that might help facilitate discussion, depth and debate before November 6th rolls around. Many of these suggestions come from the great work done by other educators and found on Twitter. We all stand on the backs of giants.

  • From the National Constitution Center, gives students the power to create their own candidacy for the presidency by creating their own campaign ad. It’s an easy step-by-step process. Thanks to the great post by Gillian Nyla.
  • Facilitate a discussion with your students on the nature of the political parties and the issues that divide them into ‘left and right’ positions using this infographic. Infographics allow students to visualize complex issues. You can even have students create their own using sites like,, and For a great resource on 2012 election infographics, check out this intense Pinterest board on the subject. Have students fact-check and analyze as propaganda.
  • Watch with students, ‘The Choice’ by PBS Frontline with your students. It will air on October 9th and will provide a documentary on the biographies of the two candidates as well as an in-depth look at the issues that divide them and their leadership styles and personalities. Also check out their documentaries on the 2008,2004 and 2000 elections.
  • Explore the complex issues of campaign financing with your students using the transparency of Following the 1996 elections, the Center for Responsive Politics created the website to ‘follow the money’ in national and local elections. Role play with students campaign fundraising activities, re-enact the Citizens United Supreme Court case, or run an in-class election as if it was a presidential one to see how the money influences (or not) the vote.
  • Any US History teacher knows how complicated it is to explain the dreaded Electoral College. This under 5 minute video helps explain it all, including all of the oddities and complexities of the process. It’s great. You could show this to your students all the way through and ask them “Who got this?”, then go back and pause it along the way for deeper explanation.  Open a discussion about why this process exists. If its around Constitution Day, even better! If students still have questions, send them to the US Government FAQ page for the process.
  • FIguring out where the candidates stand on the issues is sometimes a lot harder than it looks. Sometimes there are subtle policy differences and other times its really hard to determine where the candidates are just based on general statements made in speeches. has a great webpage that takes the issues and parses them by the candidates own statements, along with analysis, by topic. It’s a great place for students to go to find out sometimes how similar and different the choices between candidates is. Have students create their own stump speeches, role play and debate each other, have a newsmaker interview with campaign staff, etc. and watch the subtleties fly! This website is also a good place to learn and discuss foreign policy, which hasn’t really been a front-page issue in 2012.
  • Here’s some great resources for students to see and build their own electoral maps from the New York Times, PBS Newshour, CNN and FOX. Have your students figure out how polls determine these stats. Help them conduct their own school and town/city polls. Finally, here’s another good one that students can use to build a map to 270 electoral votes, called 270 to Win.
  • The New York Times also has some great infographics from the conventions. This one explains visually how many times certain words were used in the convention speeches. Students can look at these and begin a discussion on who the audience is for each speech and what the candidate’s intent is. You could also use the website Wordle to cut and paste famous speeches in history into a text box. What happens next is that you get a visual ‘word cloud’ on the most commonly used words in bigger and bolder print. Here’s a link to convention speeches I put into Wordle.
  • Campaign commercials also say a lot about a candidate and their campaign’s message. We all remember the little girl counting while picking a flower, and then getting blown up by a nuclear weapon. This site, the Living Room Candidate, has hundreds of campaign commercials going back to Eisenhower. They make for excellent primary source analysis as well as a focus on propaganda in election politics. Here’s also a great site which provides a sample of 200 years of election posters.
  • There are many surveys and questionnaires you can give your students to gauge their positions on different issues. Here’s a brief list: Campaign Match Up,
  • Finally, here’s a list of some great sites with other teaching lessons and ideas for Election 2012:

I hope these resources help. Please feel free to leave feedback, and have a great time exploring these issues with your students on the road to November!

Chapter 11 Study Guide

Slavery has many faces. First, let’s begin with your books description and explanation:

Slavery in America was both an intricate web of human relationships and a labor system. Two large themes permeate this chapter. First, after tracing the economic development of the Old South in global context, in which slavery and cotton played vital roles, this chapter will emphasize the dreams, daily lives, and relationships of masters and slaves who lived, loved, learned, worked, and struggled with one another in the years before the Civil War. Perhaps no issue in American history has generated as many interpretations or as much emotional controversy as slavery. Three interpretive schools developed over the years, each adding to our knowledge of “the peculiar institution.” The first saw slavery as a relatively humane institution in which plantation owners took care of helpless, childlike slaves. The second depicted slavery as a harsh and cruel system of exploitation. The third, and most recent, interpretation described slavery from the perspective of the slaves, who, like Douglass, did indeed suffer brutal treatment yet nevertheless survived with integrity, intelligence, and self-esteem supported by community and culture. While the first and second interpretive schools emphasized workaday interactions among powerful masters and seemingly passive, victimized slaves, the third focused on the creative energies, agency, and vibrancy of life in the slave quarters from sundown to sunup. In a unique structure, this chapter follows these masters and slaves through their day, from morning in the Big House through the hot afternoon in the fields to the slave cabins at night. Although slavery crucially defined the Old South, diverse social groups and international trade patterns contributed to the tremendous economic growth of the South from 1820 to 1860. We will look first at these socioeconomic aspects of antebellum southern life and then follow whites and blacks through a southern day from morning to noon to night.

You’ve already seen my previous post titled, Slavery: Then and Now. Now, let’s hear from slaves themselves. One of the best ways to do so is from the HBO series, Unchained Memories. Here’s a student packet from the series. Check it out.


  1. The tremendous growth of agriculture in the Old South was dependent on cotton and slavery.  But contrary to myth, the South  was an area of great diversity, regionally, socially, and in terms of class and slave ownership.  These differences bred tensions among whites as well as between masters and slaves.
  2. Although slavery was a labor system, the chapter emphasizes the daily life and complex, entangled relationships of white masters and black slaves and points out the difficulties of generalizing about their relationships.  The experiences of the family of rice planter Robert Allston suggests some of the dimensions of white slaveholders’ lives, while the youth of Frederick Douglass illuminates the lives of black slaves.
  3. A unique structure in this chapter discusses slavery in three sections: morning in the Big House, which focuses on white masters; noon in the fields, which looks at daily work and other hardships of the slaves; and nighttime in the quarters, which describes a slave culture and community centered around religion, music, the family, and other adaptive survivals from African culture.
  4. Racism was not confined to the South but existed throughout American society.  Racism as well as slavery limited black freedom.  To a much lesser extent, southern slaveholders also suffered limitations on their freedom from the burdens of the slave system.


Familiarity with Basic Knowledge
After reading this chapter, you should be able to:

  1. Distinguish several geographic regions  and the main crops; then describe the socioeconomic class variations of slaveholding patterns in the Old South.
  2. Explain the distribution of slaveholders and nonslaveholders in the South.
  3. Describe the burdens of slavery from the perspective of the slaveholders and explain five ways in which they justified slavery.
  4. Describe a typical day on the plantation for slave men and women, both in the house and in the fields.
  5. Explain the nature of black family life and culture in the slave quarters, including how religion, music, and folklore gave the slaves a sense of identity and self-esteem.
  6. List five ways in which the slaves protested and resisted their situation.

Practice in Historical Thinking Skills
After reading this chapter, you should be able to:

  1. Develop arguments for and against slavery from the perspective of southern slaveholders, non-slaveholding southerners, northern whites, slaves, and freed  blacks.
  2. Discuss and evaluate the question of who was “free” in southern antebellum society.
  3. Identify the author’s interpretation of slavery and other possible interpretations.


1787   Constitution adopted with proslavery provisions
1793   Eli Whitney invents cotton gin
1794-1800  The Haitian Revolution
1800   Gabriel Prosser conspiracy in Virginia
1808   External slave trade prohibited by Congress
1820   South becomes world’s largest cotton producer
1822   Denmark Vesey’s conspiracy in Charleston, South Carolina
1827    John B. Russwurm and Samuel Cornish publish the first African American newspaper Freedom’s Journal
1829   David Walker’s Appeal
1830s   Southern justification of slavery changes from a necessary evil to a positive good
1831   Nat Turner’s slave revolt in Virginia
1845    Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass published
1850s   Cotton boom
1851   Indiana state constitution excludes free blacks
1852   Harriet Beecher Stowe publishes best-selling Uncle Tom’s Cabin
1860   Cotton production and prices peak



Slavery, Then and Now

Note for APUSH students: I’ve made and used this post before to help my other students research slavery. I know it will help you as well. Let me know if you have any questions. Please feel free to comment.

Note for US2 students: In order to understand racism, segregation, and the Civil Rights Movement, let’s look at how it started – with slavery. Now think: which came first, racism or slavery?

Slavery is one of the worst chapters in American history, but understanding it – or attempting to – helps us learn more about ourselves and the world we live in today.   In US History I, we’ve taken a good, hard look at slavery – then and now.  We’ve learned that there were over 35,000 recorded slave voyages, that slave women had all of their children forced into slavery, and that slavery still exists in the world today for over 27 million people.  There’s so much more too.  We’ve learned about slavery through the personal stories of Harriet Jacobs, Nat Turner, Frederick Douglass, Louis Hughes, and more.  These real stories make the story so much more personal.

More than memorizing facts and dates, we’re learning as a class to ask deep questions about then and now.  Why did the majority of presidents before Lincoln own slaves?  Why did Thomas Jefferson father slave children?  Why did George Washington not free his slaves while he was alive?  What is the relationship between slavery and racism?  Which cam first?  How did it end?  How cane racism end?  What keeps people in slavery today?  Who is fighting to free people from slavery today?  What can we do about it today?

Here’s some of the sites we’ve used so far.  Click on the picture to go to the site, and let me know what you think about the information inside, or any questions you have.  Thanks.

US1 Final Exam Prep

I know you will all do well on the final, but first we need to prepare.  This means that we have to review stories from the semester, make sure we know what we’re talking about, understand its importance, and relate it to our lives today.  So where do we start?  Remember what I’ve told you individually in class… Prepare, prepare, prepare.  Can anyone show me a sport where an athlete doesn’t need to train?  One where he or she doesn’t need to practice?  Didn’t think so. :)

So, the final contains 25 multiple choice questions and 2 open response questions.  What’s it going to be on?  Let’s start with the road to the Civil War.  Check out this very good PowerPoint.

Remember also that we are using to create flash cards.  We’re also going to play some Memory Games with historical vocabulary and terms.  I also suggested that you want to associate an image with a word.  This is a great way to link terms together.  Merge the images and then write them as combined ideas.  With open response questions, there are a lot of hints and tips from the net, but one of the most important is to give it your best effort!

We’ll talk more about this in class.

US1 PollEverywhere

So I have learned from my online collaborative and supportive group of Twitter teachers that Poll Everywhere is an awesome tool for the classroom.  The only thing is that it requires the use of texting, so technically all of the feedback will have to come from students when they are home, and not in school.  Basically, it is a website that provides instant audience feedback through text messaging.  Look into it.  It’s credible, widely used in classrooms, and free.

It is important to note that these polls here are just static images.  In class, we see the results on in real time.

When we read about the Philadelphia Ethnic Riots, a couple core questions came up.  First,

And then…

And here is the first poll!


Get a job! 1800’s Economics

So, although I am out sick, I am still at home trying to teach… I’ve got issues apparently.  In economic terms, I am still using human capital and technological commodities to generate both products and services through employment which provides me with wages and benefits that I can use to consume other products like medicine.  OK.  So enough with the babble.  We’re going to learn about all of the over the next week or so.  Here’s what we’re going to do first.  We’re going to give you all jobs.  Here’s the list you have to choose from:

What are we going to do with these jobs?  Well, you’re going to learn about them in detail and in context.  All of that begins with asking good questions about your job.  Think about everything you’d like to know concerning this particular kind of work.  How much will I get paid?  If I don’t get paid, how will I sell goods or services and who will buy them?  What resources do I need?  How much will they cost?  What kind of training or education do I need?  How much will that cost?  What about time?  How long will it take to learn a trade or produce a product or service?  Time is money, right?  Will I need to hire others?  Can I afford to raise a family?  Etc.  These and more are all questions you can ask.  This is the first step in a process we’ll use this week to generate more student-centered learning.  Here’s the gameplan:

I’ll add more to this page and explain more about this in a bit.  Here’s the start: Step #1 today.

We’re going to take a look at some basics in economics and then examine the past in US1 to see how those basics played out in four periods: 1) the agricultural (farming), 2) the industrial era, and (a big time jump here) 3) the globalized economy today.

Supply and demand.  It all begins there.  Look at this chart.  What do you think it means?  We’ll explore this more in class.

We’re also going to look at employment (jobs) and what that means for the economy as a whole, then and now.  Take a quiz first to see if your assumptions play out in a true/false manner.

We’re also going to take a look at some economics lessons, like The Mystery of the Amazing Farmer (see below), which explores human capital, invest/investment, productivity, and technological change.

We may also try out a few others for size, like this one… a basic concept.

More importantly, to get an idea of how the world’s economy and people’s work behavior (including education) is changing, you have to watch this video by a professor named Daniel Fink.  This is from his talk about his latest book, Drive.


4th QTR Assignments US1

So far, we’ve covered a lot in our thematic unit on war.  We’ve focused on the War of 1812 and the Mexican War in the last part of the 3rd Quarter, but in the beginning of the 4th, we’ve spent a bunch of time learning about the causes of the Civil War, its impact on slaves, the larger issues of racism in the north and the south, as well as Lincoln’s positions on the topic.  Here’s the list of the work we’ve done so far:

We’ve also spent some time last week asking and answering questions concerning Al Qaeda, the Taliban, Osama Bin Laden and 9/11 in the context of the larger war on terror.  Here’s the link to the Terrorism Options and the Afghanistan Political Cartoons.  There’s also more background information here on those cartoons.

MFA Assignment

The Museum of Fine Arts is one of the best in the world.  It has amazing art, sculptures, swords, mummies, etc. from around the world – and we have the potential to go to the MFA on April 25th, the Monday after vacation.

Check out the MFA’s incredible website:

We would be traveling with Mr. Palumbo’s classes, and there’s more good news: the admission is free and the bus is free – but there is a catch.  There is a pre-assignment required for this field trip.  Here’s the details:

In order to learn more about the MFA in Boston, we’re going to travel around the world to the British Museum in London.  The BBC has put together an amazing website that tells the History of the World in 100 Objects.  This website is going to be the basis for our research.

First, here are the directions.

Second, here are some hints to help you with your research.

Third, here are the objects themselves.  Choose one that interests you.

Fourth, here are the podcasts that go along with each object.  They are about 10-15 minutes long and are definitely worth a listen.  (They are in groups of 5)

West, Division & Civil War

In the beginning of this week, we’re going to explore how the US moves closer and closer to Civil War.  We talked earlier about how the Mexican War leads us into the Civil War, as well as Uncle Tom’s Cabin, the Kansas-Nebraska Act and the Dred Scott Case.  Each plays its own role.  Now, we’re going to look at the issues through the story of a History Channel documentary called America: The Story of Us.  Here are three of our first assignments.  Click on them to get the full questions and background.

The US-Mexican War

The US fought many wars to expand its territory.  First, there were the Native Americans.  Then, the US fought against other European powers on behalf of the British.  Next, the US fought to declare their independence to the world, but at the same time, they won territory all the way to the Mississippi River.  In the War of 1812, the US made many attempts to conquer Canada, unsuccessfully – but it did secure New Orleans and the Mississippi River was totally claimed.  Then, with the Europeans out of the picture, the US moved further westward… potentially expanding slavery as well.  Mexico controlled Texas and California and everything in between.  It would only be a matter of time in a nation where ‘manifest destiny’ took hold…  Then, there would be war.  Check out the following links to learn more about Manifest Destiny, the US-Mexican War, and its consequences for Hispanics even today.

This PPT tells the story of Manifest Destiny and the war… It puts a complex story into simple points.

This PBS documentary has a lot on its website that is interactive.  It focuses specifically on the war.

This PPT is a bit more complex, but it includes almost everything you need to know on these two topics, as well as pictures, maps, timelines and more.

This PBS documentary is really cool.  It examines the issue of discrimination and civil rights for Hispanic Americans.  This is one of the consequences of the US-Mexican War.

One of the most famous Mexican-Americans is Cesar Chaves.  Learn his story in this PBS documentary website.  He is often considered in the same context as Gandhi and Dr. King.

One of the most vocal opponents of the US-Mexican War was Henry David Thoreau.  In this essay, he outlines the reasons why he is against the war and how he believes people living in a democracy should protest actively in the name of their conscience.  This website has interactive study notes over all of his writings, so you can easily understand his message and philosophy.

This website is based on the teachings of Howard Zinn.  His telling of the US-Mexican War is one of the most active.  He takes the position that the war was unjustified, and includes a huge amount of evidence to support it.  There’s also a video of an actor reading Frederick Douglass’s speech against the war.  Cool.  Check it out.