Sunday, April 4, 2010

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Monday, March 1, 2010

Another fun way to use Historybusters’ Presidential Concentration card deck…

In order to celebrate President’s Day this past month, I decided to put the images from our Presidential card deck up on our corkboard. I chose to post the cards that had logos on the back, and I had the kids help me figure out their order by using the mnemonic phrases included in the card deck. Here are two of them showing off their work…

We even had a small space left after Obama, so I cut some yellow construction paper to size and created a flip card. On the outside of the card is a giant question mark. Inside the card, I taped a small mirror, implying that the next president could be any one of my students. My younger kids just loved it, and kept calling out “It’s me. It’s me. I am the next president.” Here is one of my older students looking in the mirror…

Next, I wrote out the mnemonic phrases on construction paper and posted them near the bottom of the corkboard. I then tossed the second half of the cards on a small table and challenged any kid who came in to put the cards in order. Here we have the first young man to accept my challenge.
Let’s just say that the activity has proven very popular. Whenever a group of kids has put the cards in order, they bring them to me and we check them together by saying the mnemonic phrases out loud. Lately, when I do so, everyone in the room chants with me. I see them checking out the board and phrases when I am not looking. Yesterday, I think I checked those cards every ten minutes. It was such a pleasure hearing third and fourth graders quietly arguing about why Cleveland has two cards, and why Tyler came next, not that “guy with the beard.” They were causally using obscure presidential names—names that many adults I know wouldn’t recognize.
I have slowly begun adding challenges to the game for the older kids. I talked earlier this week about the eight presidents who had died in office and why. (We even marked the four presidents who had been shot with "bullet holes," one of the kid's ideas, not mine) I have also begun challenging them to separate out individual cards and tell me how they died. Consequently, players have begun reading the back of the cards. I have also started to ask kids if they can point to the presidents who were alive during the Revolution, the Civil War, the Spanish American War, WWI, WWII, the Korean War etc. You get the idea. We have had a number of great discussions about each of those events because the kids begin to ask questions in order to answer my original question.
How much will sink in and last? Who knows, but it is a delight to find them interested.

Click here to access the card deck I used.

Give it a try, and as always, Happy Historybusting…

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

On this day in history....

The 28th Regiment of the 5th Marines took Mount Suribachi and raised the American Flag
while the battle for control of Japanese-held Iwo Jima raged on. The moment was captured in a Pulitzer Prize winning photo by AP photographer Joe Rosenthal.

Here are some links that honor this event:
My favorite:

Some other nice links:

A wonderful Historybusting movie...

Children of Huang Shi is a 2008 film based on the life of George Hogg, an independent journalist for the Associated Press during the Second Sino-Japanese War. I should warn you right now, the film is rate R. But then again, what movie that takes its viewers into the heart of Civil War China on the eve of World War II could not be rated R. The film's few scenes of the Japanese occupation and the Nanking Massacre were brutal and all too accurate. However, this film is about much more than Nanking. It is about a man who takes it upon himself to save over sixty orphaned boys from the terrors of that time by attempting a 700-mile march along the Silk Road.

As with all films, it is an abridged and altered version of his true story. The film has been criticized for ignoring the role of Rewi Alley, a Communist New Zealander celebrated in China's revolution. The film also turned real life New Zealander Kathleen Hall, who was associated with Alley, into an American without a past. Their romance adds to the story but is inaccurate. Several other inaccuracies occur within the film. Perhaps the most blatant inaccuracy occurs near the end of the film. At the risk of giving a bit too much away, let’s just say that the cut he received in the movie while fixing the truck didn’t happen. In truth, aftering bringing his boys to safety, Hogg stubbed his toe while playing basketball with them in July 1945. However, the events following that small injury were accurate. Overall, this film is destined to become one of our Historybusing favorites, and lucky, George Hogg left a first hand account of his life—an autobiography entitled I See a New China.

Click here for the film’s official website

Monday, February 22, 2010

Need to cite your sources???

The dreaded day comes to all serious students when they are asked to write a research paper complete with citations and bibliography. Here are some excellent links that should help your students through their dread...

Rules for citing sources:

The rules of citation vary depending upon your purpose, teachers, and discipline. The one rule that never changes is “Always Cite Your Sources.” Citing your sources adds validity to your reports and ensures that you do not plagiarize. Here are two excellent websites about how to cite your sources:

Your teacher will most likely ask you to use MLA (Modern Language Association) for your citations; it is used in college level literature and the humanities papers. Here are some great websites to help you format both your footnotes and your bibliography.

All for now...

Friday, January 29, 2010

A historybusters' tirade...

Kamehameha V and Wikipedia:
A failure to fact check or proof read

I have tutored many history students whose teachers have told them “not to cite Wikipedia as a source,” yet they seem shocked when I explain to them why.

Recently, I spent quite a lot of time on Wikipedia, doing research for a set of Historybusters’ educational card decks. I needed the public domain images available on their site, but once again I was distressed by the quality of the site’s content. For those readers who are unfamiliar with Wikipedia, it is a volunteer, community-edited, free, on-line Encyclopedia. Any member of the Internet community may sign up to write articles, expand articles, or edit mistakes. Writers are expected to cite sources to primary documents in order to support any facts they include in their articles. A community of volunteer editors works to police new articles and ensure that additions meet Wikipedia’s expectations. This experiment in community editing has proven quite popular, and the site is usually the first link offered up on search engines like Google whenever students type in research word strings. Sadly, the site doesn’t always catch its mistakes or cite its contributor’s additions, which is why most educators tell their students not to use it.

Case in point:

According to the Wikipedia entry for Hawai’i’s King Kamehameha V, he “fell deeply in love with his cousin, Abigail Maheha at the Royal School. He was only 5 years old when he was caught sleeping with Abigail She became pregnant with his child when he was 15 and she 13. On February 4, 1846 when she was 6 months pregnant, she was removed from the Royal School, separated from Lot Kapuaiwa and forced to marry Keaupuni a commoner from Koloa Kauai, the gardener of her adopted mother Miriam Kekauonohi. These events could have led the young Prince to his renounce marriage for the rest of his life, including that to his adopted sister Bernice Pauahi Paki. She eventually married Charles R. Bishop.”

Now, I won’t even mention the poor writing quality with its passive construction and missing puntuation marks. Ooops, I guess that I just mentioned them. Ahh well. What I really wanted to point out is the lack of primary source references within this article. When I broke out my family copy of The Hawaiian Chiefs’ Children’s School by Mary A. Richards, which contains first hand accounts of her Grandparents’ experiences as the school’s teachers, I discovered that Miss Abigail Maheha was indeed “excused from the school activities,” on January 18, 1847, and on February 4, 1847, she was married to the commoner Keaupuni—“a scholar of the High School, but without any diploma.” I guess that I can forgive an online encyclpedia for getting the year off by one, after all, what is one year in the life of a nation. However, The Hawaiian Chiefs’ Children’s School makes no mention of Lot Kamehameha’s involvement in the event. It does however mention Lot’s brother Moses Kekuaiwa, who was expelled from the school over that same period because of ceratin “escapades, but lightly touched upon in his written confession.” It seems that Lot’s older brother was the lad who had the affair with little Abigail. So what is the big deal? Well, consider the rest of this particular Wikipedia entry:

“Rumors has it that (Lot) ask's Bernice to take the Throne. As Lot laid bedstricken, he answered those that came to visit him while preparations for his birthday celebration was underway: "The Good Lord cannot take me today, today is my birthday". He was steadfest, (onipa'a) he believed till the end that he would recover, meaning he never proposed the Throne to Bernice! What is true is that a rumor of such could be of great help in conniving everyone to believe that Bernice should inherit thru Princess Ruth the Bulk of the Kamehameha Lands. Today, the 300 plus descendents of Lot Kapuaiwa Kamehameha and Abigail Maheha thru their only daughter Keanolani, are the only Direct Lineal Descendents of the Kamehameha Dynasty, for Lot was the last of the Kamehameha's to sit upon the Throne, therefore making his Branch the Lineal Branch. All other branches are either collateral or issued of a branch that was not the last of the Kamehameha's to rule . About 150 of then still live on the island of Kauai with about 100 of them in or around the Town of Hanapepe.”

If you can get past the use of an exclaimation point in an encyclopedia entry without throwing your hands up in disgust, you can see that this entry wishes to claim that “the only Direct Lineal Descendents of the Kamehameha Dynasty” belongs to a family on Kaua’i and that the “Bulk of the Kamehameha Lands” should not have gone to Bernice Pauahi Bishop as they did. Now, I am not going to write a history paper explaining why such a claim seems totally unfounded to me. I will simply enourage you to research the lives of King Lot Kamehameh V and Bernice Pauahi Bishop on your own, without relying on Wikipedia or any seconday source. You might just discover the deep repect and affection they held for each other. You might also discover that Lot never “renounced marriage for the rest of his life,” he simply gave his blessing to Bernice’s choice of husband, releasing her from their expected royal betrothal with the words, “She is to good for me.”

Now don’t get me wrong. Wikipedia has its uses. I use it to find public domain images and remind myself of names or dates that I might have forgotten. I also have found some wonderful primary source websites by visiting the external links providied at the bottom of each Wikipedia entry. However, just as often, I have found patently commercial links that are full of specularion, gossip, opinion, and regurgitated wives’ tales. So if you do allow youself, or your young scholars, to use Wikipedia, teach them to be skeptical and always double check all Internet facts with multiple primary source materials.

A few people that I have shared this story with have suggested that I become an editor for Wikipeadia. I remind them that Wikipedia recruites a volunteer army. Editing and fact checking for Wikipeadia is a full time occupation, and I have my own wars to fight. Indeed, the volunteer army that Wikipeadia has asembled has done an amazing job. I simply suggest that we as participents need to be familiar with their fight, so we will not be misinformed by any of their overlooked battles.

I also suggest that when you do research, you try out the educational websearch available on our members' site. Here is the link:

As always happy historybusting...

New Historybusting card decks for your kids

Kids love games, unfortunately most history related games, on and off line, resemble trivia contests, so they only test what kids already know. I have been looking for games that can actually teach kids new information. While considering the problem, I stumbled upon an old idea, cards. Couldn't I design a card deck, which would let kids play all of their favorite games while giving them a little history at the same time? The following card decks are the result.

Please give them a try and let me know what your kids think. I know that with my own group of first through third graders, they loved playing war with the deck and the players all understood how BC and AD dates worked within one afternoon, and I barely had to explain a thing.

So without further ado, here come the cards:

Card Decks
Classical Conquest Deck
HTML, Word
Medieval Conquest Deck
HTML, Word
Renaissance Mind Deck
HTML, Word
Reformation Conquest Deck
HTML, Word
Hawaiian Conquest Deck
HTML, Word
Not a member?
I have also posted a copy of Classical Conquest just for you. Here are the links:
Classical Conquest