Lessons and Activities

History Lesson Plans & Technology

  • Thinking about Lesson Plans
  • Best Sites for History Lesson Plans & Activities
  • History Activities & Games
  • Innovative Projects from EdTechTeacher

Thinking about Lesson Plans

The most effective technology integration lessons put students at the center of the learning process. These lessons empower students by fostering creativity and innovation and they enhance collaboration and communication. Look for lesson plans that help build 21st century skills such as inventive thinking, communication and collaboration, and information literacy.

There are great lesson plan resources available online that help build 21st century skills. It is often helpful to review the lessons created and use them as a building block to develop personalized lessons for your classroom and students.

A Vision of K-12 Students Today, created by Professor Michael Wesch at Kansas State University

  • It is often helpful to use sets of documents or themed materials that you can customize and build into lessons plans that will address the skills and needs of your students.Instead of focusing on “canned” lesson plans, concentrate on finding “lesson ideas” that can be adopted and integrated into your lesson objectives. Look for lesson plans and activities that enhance and supplement what you are trying to accomplish, not supplant it. Keep in mind that the number of sites devoted to lesson plans is growing rapidly and you will need to do some critical evaluation before introducing any of these lesson plans into your classroom. Not all lesson plans you find will automatically be valuable, authentic learning experiences.

Best Sites for History Lesson Plans and Activities

These websites are a gateway to a vast number of history and social studies teaching resources, including lesson plans, curriculum units, presentations, primary sources, Powerpoints, quizzes, and more. Many of these resources included technology-integration history classroom activities, though not exclusively so.

As you browse their contents focus on “lesson ideas” that can be adopted and integrated into your lesson objectives. Look for lesson plans and activities that enhance and supplement what you are trying to accomplish, not supplant it. You will need to do some critical evaluation before introducing any of these lesson plans into your classroom.

Best of History Web Sites Best of History Web Sites contains links to over 1200 history-related web sites that have been reviewed for quality, accuracy, and usefulness. It also features categorized and annotated lists of links to hundreds K-12 history lesson plans, teacher guides, activities, games, quizzes, and more throughout its pages. Also, visit the special Lesson Plans section of Best of History Web Sites for the best history lesson plan collections on the Internet.

Center for History and Media: History Matters CHNM’s resources include a list of “best” web sites, links to syllabi and lesson plans, essays on history and new media, a link to their excellent History Matters web site for U.S. History, and more. Resources are designed to benefit professional historians, high school teachers, and students of history. Go to the Digital Blackboard section for lesson ideas that integrate the Internet.

Teaching American History This is a wonderful collection of thoughtful and thorough lesson plans and other resources on teaching American history. Each project was created by teachers in Virginia at a Center for History and New Media workshop. All projects include a variety of lesson plans and resources, and some even offer instructional videos on source analysis. The lesson plans cover a range of topics in American history and utilize interesting and engaging sources, activities, discussion questions, and assessments. Take your time browsing—there are many to choose from.

Library of Congress: Teachers The new Library of Congress Teachers page provides tools and resources for using Library of Congress primary source documents in the classroom and include excellent lesson plans, document analysis tools, online and offline activities, timelines, presentations and professional development resources. The Library of Congress American Memory in particular is an outstanding resource for American history and general studies. Included are multimedia collections of photographs, recorded sound, moving pictures, and digitized text. Use the Teachers sectuion to explore primary set collections and themed resources. Teachers can get updates on new tools, professional development opportunities, and Library programs, events and services.

PBS Teacher Source PBS is a great source for information on a myriad of historical events and personalities. PBS’s assorted and diverse web exhibits supplement specific individual television series and generally include a resume of each episode, interviews (often with sound bites), a timeline , a glossary, photos, and links to relevant sites. Go to the PBS Teacher Source for lessons and activities — arranged by topic and grade level — and sign up for their newsletter. Categories include American History, World History, History on Television, and Biographies. Some lesson plans require viewing PBS video, but many do not.s.

BBC: History BBC’s History section offers a multitude of sites, activities, games and other resources. Major categories include: Ancient History, Archaeology, Church and State, Science and Discovery, Society and Conflict, War and Culture, and Family History. There are also sections entitled Multimedia Room, Historic Figures, Timelines, Programmes, Reading Room, Talk History, For Kids, and History Trails. The BBC Multimedia zone offers games, animations, virtual tours, and galleries. Many games deal with various aspects of British history.

The National Archives: Teachers’ Resources The National Archives Lesson Plans section contains incorporates U.S. primary documents and its excellent teaching activities correlate to the National History Standards and National Standards for Civics and Government. Lessons are organized by chronological era, from 1754 to the present.

National Archives: DocsTeach Using DocsTeach from the U.S. National Archives, educators can create interactive history activities that incorporate more than 3,000 primary-source materials from the National Archives. These constructivist activities engage students in hands-on exploration of history.

National Archives: Digital Vaults Digital Vaults is an interactive exploration of history that examines thousands of documents, photographs, and pieces of history that have been integrated in a digital format. Clicking on a document will give a description and a brief history of that archive, as well as displays a large variety of similar archives. The user has the ability to shuffle, rearrange, collect, and explore archives, as well as search for specific points in history using a keyword search. Although a lack of initial organization or index might seem overwhelming, Digital Vaults is a wonderfully imaginative resource for exploring history in a digitally compiled way.

Digital History A great site from Steven Mintz that includes: a U.S. history e-textbook; over 400 annotated documents, primary sources on slavery, Mexican American and Native American history, and U.S. political, social, and legal history; short essays on the history of film, ethnicity, private life, and technology; multimedia exhibitions; reference resources that include a searchable database of 1,500 annotated links, classroom handouts, chronologies, glossaries, an audio archive including speeches and book talks by historians, and a visual archive with hundreds of historical maps and images. The site’s Ask the HyperHistorian feature allows users to pose questions to professional historians.

The Web Quest Page A WebQuest is a form of project-based and problem-based learning in which the resources are located on the Web. These inquiry-oriented educational sites are produced by educators for use by students and are modeled on a template developed by Professor Bernie Dodge. Some WebQuests are very impressive — others are less so. We suggest consulting the Portal, which contains an updated matrix of pre-selected Web Quests, and then looking for WebQuests in the “top” category. WebQuest links should be checked to make sure they are active.

EDSITEment – History EDSITEment is a partnership among the National Endowment for the Humanities, Verizon and the National Trust for the Humanities. All websites linked to EDSITEment have been reviewed for content, design, and educational impact in the classroom. This impressive site features reviewed links to top sites, professionally developed lesson plans, classroom activities, materials to help with daily classroom planning, and search engines. You can search lesson plans by subcategory and grade level; middle school lessons are the most numerous.

The British Museum: Ancient Civilisations The British Museum’s award-winning ancient civilizations websites include interesting images, simulations, and other resources to make the study of Ancient History enticing for students. Each website includes a staff room with downloadable teaching resources.

Smithsonian Education The site is divided simply into three main categories: Educators, Families, and Students. The Educators section is keyword searchable and features lesson plans — many pertaining to history. The Students section features an interactive “Secrets of the Smithsonian” that teaches about the special collections at the Smithsonian.

Gilder Lehrman Institure of American History The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History is a nonprofit organization supporting the study and love of American history through a wide range of programs and resources for students, teachers, scholars, and history enthusiasts throughout the nation. The institute offers lessons, quizzes, activities and primary source documents on a variety of topics

Mr. Donn’s Pages: Free Lesson Plans, Activities, and Resources Teacher Don Donn of the Corkran (Maryland) Middle School provides complete units on various historical topics with daily lesson plans and resources. Units include Ancient History, World Geography & Maps, World Cultures/Eastern Hemisphere, World Cultures/Western Hemisphere, World History, U.S. History & U.S. Government, Sociology & Psychology, Social Studies & Literature. The numerous lesson plans and resources available at this popular site have been developed by Mr. Donn and his wife Lin and other contributors.

Historyteacher.net An impressive, award-winning site from a New York high school teacher. It features many research links and curriculum resources for Global Studies, U.S. AP History, US European History, and American History and Government. It also has quizzes, news links, and more.

Schools of California Online Resources for Educators (SCORE) The Schools of California Online Resources for Educators (SCORE) project is a terrific resource for teachers and students alike. You’ll find lesson plans — all rated and arranged by grade level and content area. Unfortunately the state of California is no longer funding SCORE so the website is not being updated.

For more recommended websites please visit Best of History Web Sites: Lesson Plans

History Activities and Games

PBS for Teachers PBS for Teachers provides lesson plans, teaching activities, on-demand video, interactive games and simulations, and free Webinars. PBS Teachers PreK-12 Social Studies content is organized within the grade-subject pages on the new PBS Teachers site.

BBC Schools The BBC Schools section of their site offers games, animations, virtual tours, and galleries in all subjects, including history and geography A link in the bottom right takes you to their collection of games.

Best of History Web Sites: Games and Animations At Best of History Web Sites you will find an annotated list of fun history games and animations organized around broad historical periods. Most of these games and animation are aimed at students ages 10-16. Categories include: Ancient History Games * Medieval History Games * Early Modern History Games * newEarly U.S History Games * newNation-Building U.S. History Games * Modern U.S. History Games * Modern World History Games * Animated Maps *

WebQuest Page A WebQuest is a form of project-based and problem-based learning in which the resources are located on the Web. The WebQuest page features inquiry-oriented educational activities produced by various educators. Some sites are very impressive — others are less so. I would suggest consulting the Matrix of Examples which now contains approximately 600 pre-selected Web Quests, cataloged by grade and subject level. Check links of any WebQuest you are interested in to make sure they are active.

ThinkQuest A large internet-based education program that features about 1000 student-created web sites. Includes teacher resources and contests. Quality of individual sites varies, but some are excellent. Go to Libraries to visit sites on Geography and Cultures from students from various countries. Unfortunately some excellent older sites have been taken down.

Digital History – Link to Games From the excellent Digital History web site, provides links to games and quizzes on various topics in American history.

Quia A highly recommended subscription-based service ($49 U.S.) that enables you to make games and quizzes. Or, you may simply peruse their free database of ready-made materials.

activehistory.co.uk Activehistory.co.uk provides educational games and interactive lessons that can be searched by topic or period. Some are free; some are not. Many deal with topics in European history, especially British history. Some games are student-produced, so check games for possible errors.

Innovative Projects from EdTechTeacher

Tom Daccord and Justin Reich are co-directors of The Center for Teaching History with Technology and Edtechteacher, and taught together at the Noble & Greenough School in Massachusetts. Tom taught history for over fifteen years and for seven of those years taught in a laptop classroom, and Justin is now pursuing a doctorate at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. The lessons and projects below have been drawn from their teaching experiences.

  • “Great Debate of 2008″ wiki and online social network
  • “Day in the Life of a Hobo” podcast
  • “Social Mobility in America” audio blog
  • “Interview a Boomer” Oral history with iPods
  • “Race in America” Google Pages student web site
  • 1920s multimedia magazine project
  • U.S. History Research Project
  • World History “Visual Evidence” Project
  • Beacon Hill Phot Hunt
  • Sarajevo Times Newspaper Project

Great Debate of 2008

Tom created a wiki and a private online social network for the “Great Debate of 2008″ project, an exploration and discussion of issues and candidates surrounding the 2008 presidential election. The project represented a wonderful opportunity for students to connect with other students around the country in a private online social network to share information and ideas related to the 2008 presidential election. It also helped to develop research, critical-thinking, and communication skills. Moreover, the project required little technical expertise and only a few class periods to participate.

Participating teachers provided Tom with a list of students and email addresses and he subsequently invited them to edit the wiki and join the online social network. Since minors were involved, access to the project was restricted.

Students posted information on the wiki about select campaign issues and partook in online discussions and surveys with other students in the private online social network.

Students had to abide by the Student “Code of Conduct” on the wiki and teachers had the Teacher Handout.

“A Day in the Like of a Hobo”

This interdisciplinary creative writing/historical simulation activity called on students to research the plight of homeless teenagers during the Great Depression and then create their own fictionalized account of a day in the life of a Hobo. Students posted their stories on their blogs and read each other’s work. Students commented by stating what they liked about the stories that they read — and what made it seem authentic. The blogs provided a public forum for presenting and sharing student work. Students were then interviewed in character and recorded as part of a “1930s Radio Show” podcast.

Excerpts from a past student story:

When you’ve gotta worry ’bout starvin’ and freezin’ to death you forget to keep track of what day it is, but I’d estimate today’s the 15th of December, year 1932. It took me near three weeks to get here. “Here” is Lancaster, California. I left home in Abilene, Kansas when Dadi told me he’d got word from Aunt Sarah in California. “Aunt Sarah’s got a place for you to stay with her and she’s found you a good job in a shop downtown Lancaster,” he said. “You go put your things in the bag that I’ve left you upstairs and I’ll take you to the train in the morning…

I made quick friends with a hobo ’bout my age named Jim. He warned me ’bout the bulls and told me where the camps that made the best mulligan stew were on the way from Kansas to California. I spent ‘near three weeks ridin’ the rails, walkin’ on route 66 to get from station to station and stoppin’ at hobo camps in between. Pretty much ‘came a ‘bo myself…

Background Reading for Students:

“Social Mobility” Audio Blog

Tom’s group audio blogging activity called on students to compare social mobility and social inequality in America today with the “Gilded Age” of the late 19th century. Students read assignments on the issue and interviewed one of their parents or guardians before recording their thoughts into into VoiceThread, a Web-based program that enables users to upload pictures, record accompanying audio or video commentary, and invite others to record commentary as well.

“Interview a Boomer with iPods”

Tom directeded his students to find and interview a “likely but unsuspecting” Boomer — a parent, teacher or family friend born between 1946 and 1964. Equipped with a mic-enabled iPod, each student asked their interviewee ten questions — five required and five of their own design — about their perceptions of America during the 70s and 80s. After the interview, students turned in their audio file to Tom and blogged about the interview. With the audio files in hand, Tom was able to create a podcast “radio show” of the interviews. Many students interviewed parents and it in many cases it provided them with personal, and sometimes suprising, perspectives on the topics covered in class.

“Race in America” Google Pages Student Web Site

Tom created a collaborative project using Google Sites where small groups of students were responsible for developing their respective sections for a web site on race in America.

Tom created this set of instructions for other teachers:

Registration

  1. Break class into small groups (2-3 students) and have one from group sign up for a Google account and share ID & password with other — and you.
  2. Group then logs in to www.pages.google.com to begin using with Google Pages. (Only one from group can log in at a time.)

Creating a Page

  1. Groups Create a New Site and are prompted to enter a URL. Try to use a consistent naming convention, e.g. “hhcpakistanlee,” “hhcirelandlee,” etc. and avoid spaces or capitalizations.
  2. Groups click Create Page in the Site Manager area. You are prompted to enter a name for the page. That name will appear at the top of the web page. -As a class, we selected Change Look and Change Layout on our pages and selected a uniform template for all pages. I suggest you choose a template with a white background and the ‘2 columns – left’ layout. Use the column on the left to put navigational links to each others web pages.
  3. Hit Publish page button. View it live.
  4. Kids and you exchange web page URLs so you can link to each others pages.

Text links

  • Highlight the word(s) on the page to turn in to a link
  • Click Link button.
  • If linking to an external web page click Web Address and add URL. Click OK.

Tip: If groups create more than one web page, have them create a (bulleted) link to any additional page in the left navigational column. To illustrate, look at the left column of the Immigration section my students did: http://daccordimmigration08.googlepages.com/home

Uploading Images

  • Insist on public domain images. Attached is an extended list of public domain sources. Favorites include Creative Commons, Flickr, Wikipedia, the Library of Congress, and the National Archives
  • Save image to computer
  • Put cursor on page where image will go
  • Click Image button
  • Browse to locate image on computer and select
  • Click Add Image button

Embedding Video

  • Find public domain video from sites like YouTube or TeacherTube.com
  • Find Embed code (usually to right of) video you’re watching
  • Click Embed code (automatically highlights it) and copy
  • Back on Google Page, click edit html link (bottom right)
  • Paste in embed code where desired and click Update button
  • Publish page and view live

1920s Multimedia Magazine Project

Tom’s students created a multimedia magazine that covered aspects of culture, politics, arts, music, and lifestyles from the 1920s

Student Instructions: “Your job as a class is to create a magazine covering aspects of culture, politics, arts, music, lifestyles and the like from the 1920’s. In small groups you will create a magazine whose content is reflective of the time period. Your magazine will be published and you will each receive a copy.

HHC Visual Evidence Project

Project Purpose: The HHC project was designed for several reasons.

  1. To provide students with a culminating opportunity to research, select, interpret and present historical and visual evidence in areas related to their coursework.
  2. To teach the skills of information literacy, iMovie and presentation.
  3. To provide a group learning experience that asked students to collaborate on research projects, and then to be responsible for each others work.
  4. To provide a body of evidence that helped students review for the final exam.

Project Description: Each HHC section was divided into four or five groups of three or four students. Each group was assigned to one of the following subject areas: (1) Mesopotamia and Egypt (2) Greece (3) Rome (4) Renaissance/ Reformation Europe.

The instructor provided each group a cluster of linked questions. Each group member was  then responsible for researching and writing a five-page essay in response to one of these questions. Each student then researched and interpreted visual or cultural sources that accompanied, complemented and illustrated their paper. In groups, the students then incorporated their visual and cultural sources into a group slide presentation with a companion audio track. Groups then presented and defended their slide/audio shows to the class. Students drew on these papers and shows for the final exam.

Beacon Hill Photo Hunt Rules

Justin designed this activity to help his students better understand the influence of Greek architecture on America, specifically Beacon Hill, Massachusetts.

Directions to students:

  1. Each group must consist of three/four students from the same section
  2. Each group will have one digital camera, one scavenger hunt list, and one record sheet
  3. Each group will have approx. 30 minutes to accomplish the hunt. Groups who are late to the return spot will be penalized 1 point every two minutes.
  4. Groups need to photograph each of the design elements or other items described on the list. Each photograph must be recorded on the record sheet, or creating the final PhotoPage will be very difficult.
  5. Each photograph MUST be from a different building. Cheating will result in disqualification, and you will really irk your teachers.
  6. Once you take a picture, record the picture number, design element and address.
  7. At our next class meeting (9th period for Justin’s group, Wednesday for Louis’ group) each group will download and organize their photos for submission.
  8. Each correctly labeled photograph will be worth one point. In the event of a tie, the collection of photographs of the highest quality will be judged the winner.
  9. Prizes will be awarded to the best group. The prizes will be really great.

Beacon Hill Photo Scavenger Hunt List

Each photo must be from a different building

  • A column or pilaster from the Doric Order
  • A column or pilaster from the Ionic Order
  • A column or pilaster from the Corinthian Order
  • A balustrade
  • A pediment
  • A cornice
  • A cupola
  • An arch inspired by Roman arch/triumphal arch
  • A wrought iron fence
  • A fan window/Palladian window
  • A building done by Charles Bulfinch
  • A building done by Alexander Parris
  • Centering stone over a window
  • A building which was free standing, but is now part of row housing
  • Row houses built in the 19th C
  • A historical marker plaque
  • Building with horizontal white lines
  • Church in the Federalist style
  • A 20th century building with Federalist design elements
  • A view of the Charles from Beacon Hill
  • A photograph taken from 1630 shore of the Charles
  • Neoclassical design without red brick
  • A wooden house in the neighborhood
  • Any garden area or small green-space
  • A slim stone chimney on the edge of a roof
  • A 20th C. house on Beacon Hill with no federalist elements
  • Your whole group in front of a house you like
  • A unique detail on a house
  • A Beacon Hill native
  • A Beacon Hill dog
  • Fan Window
  • Palladian Window

Sarajevo Times Newspaper Project

Justin designed this project to improve his students research skills with electronic databases:

In January of 1993, two negotiators, Lord David Owen representing the European Union and Cyrus Vance representing the United Nations, presented to the warring parties in Bosnia the Vance-Owen Peace Plan. This plan called for the division of Bosnia into 10 separate cantons, or provinces. Each national group, the Serbs, Croats and Muslims would control three provinces and the tenth, Sarajevo, would remain multi-ethnic. Provinces would be connected by a weak central government and power would largely rest within the provinces.

Students were told that they would represent the editorial board of a newspaper in Sarajevo, and that they have decided to prepare a special section for March 1, 1993, which was the day negotiations on the Vance-Owen planned resumed after a break in the talks in February. Their job was to create a special section for the daily paper dedicated to a discussion of the Vance-Owen plan. This section needed to be a combination of News Articles and Editorials, and these two parts had to be clear and distinct from one another.