Today marks the 100th anniversary of “The War to End All Wars.” In an attempt to guide high school history students toward a world in which that moniker rings true, Christian Mann (Walker Valley High School - Cleveland, TN) obtained a Fund for Teachers grant to experience across French battlefields and museums the centennial commemoration of World War I. He explains his motivation below:

“I teach World History, US History, and Contemporary Issues to 11th/12th grade. For them, WWI is arguably the least understood of struggles in a long and heinous history of human conflict. There was no "bad guy,” no rabid political dogma, no genocide; only a war responsible for combined civilian and infantry deaths of 16 million. A war which laid waste to the landscape of a centuries-old people, a war which had no logical beginning and an end assuring future conflict. How do I, as an educator, make any sense of WWI?

This guiding question motivated Christian’s historical quest for one week in June. His fellowship began where the conflict ended - Versailles, France, followed by a walking tour of related monuments in Amiens. The Somme battlefields constituted the next step of his research, where he studied archives, photographs, postcards and other documents at the Museum Historial de la Grande Guerre in Péronne and the Musée Somme in Albert. He also completed a 40 mile self-tour called the “Circuit of Rememberance,” with an MP3 audio-file description of multiple battles, memorials and cemeteries. His fellowship concluded in Ypres researching several seminal events: the first use of chemical weaponry in the history of war, the final major battle of 1914 and the Race to the Sea and the Christmas Truce.

This fellowship presented an opportunity to put a face to my lesson, to see history through new eyes. To interact with people, stories and the land and forge new connections with the events I know inside and out. Direct access to multiple primary sources tailored to the specific areas I visited now necessitates a complete revision of my curriculum. Hands on examination of documents, meaningful discussion with experts and interactions with communities still recovering from war and desolation dramatically increased my (and will consequently increase my students’) personal connection with the facts. A wealth of first hand experiences and increased frame of reference paves the way for a more extensive repertoire of knowledge from which to base content-rich, common-core focused.”

This fall, Christian plans to transfer these experiences to his students through multiple activities, such as:

  • Analyzing primary source data he collected to compare/contrast WWI attitudes with current sentiments on technological use/innovation;
  • Composing a lyrical narrative in any musical style discussing a related topic;
  • Engaging in cross-curricular readings of Tolkein and C.S. Lewis to study their fantastical re-telling of WWI experiences; and,
  • Conducting Skype chats with contacts Christian made during his fellowship.

“I have read and assigned many lessons on “The Great War” from pasteurized textbooks, but these do not always make it personal for a student within the sterile vacuum of a classroom,” said Christian. “My aim is to improve my ability as an educator, a story-teller and a facilitator to empower students towards empathy armed with an understanding of global interaction and their role in the world.”

You can follow Christian’s fellowship through his blog that he maintained while in France and Belgium.

Christian has taught social studies in Cleveland, TN, for 12 yrs. His passion is to use history as a vehicle to challenge the ideology of status-quo with which many students enter the classroom, allowing them a safe environment in which to stretch and grow as both US and world citizens. When not teaching, Christian is also married and a father to three “amazing” children. On the side, Christian is a musician, writing and performing in Chattanooga and uses music in the classroom regularly.

At #EdCampHBG with @historyfriend from #sschat :)  One of the best parts of an EdCamp is getting to meet people face-to-face with whom you have communicated and shared resources with over time.  Molly Smith often participates in Social Studies chat on Twitter on Monday Evenings from 7:00pm - 8:00pm.  Her insight and resources are often invaluable.  EdCamps give us the opportunity to solidify such professional relationships and promote the notion of an open learning environment.

Like other groups with shared interests, from epidemiologists to James Joyce fans to locked-out N.F.L. players, teachers are turning to Twitter to collaborate, share resources and offer each other support.

Many, in fact, are using it to take professional development into their own hands, 140 characters at a time.

Each week, thousands of teachers participate in scheduled Twitter “chats” around a particular subject area or type of student. Math teachers meet on Mondays, for instance, while science discussions happen on Tuesdays, new teachers gather on Wednesdays and teachers working with sixth graders meet Thursdays. (Jerry Blumengarten, Twitter’s @cybraryman1, posts this helpful list of educational chats.)

Introducing Low-Income Students to the "Land of Liberty"

“As an educator in the low income, inner city area of Houston, I am charged with the task of instilling an appreciation of our nation’s history with our youth. The greatest challenge I face is presenting the state expectations and curriculum in a manner that is engaging, makes real and meaningful connections and is relevant to my students’ lives. Many of the students I teach are facing daily trials and hardships that the average adult would find insurmountable. The hardships my students are facing at their young age range from living well below the poverty line, being involved with drugs or in gangs and teen age pregnancy. Despite these obstacles, we work tirelessly to ensure student success while consistently raising the expectations and standards. For many of our students, they struggle through and only meet the minimum standards if at all. As a public servant, I find this to be unacceptable and in order to promote student growth and learning, it is imperative that I better educate my students by furthering my own education and deepening my own understanding of the curriculum I am charged with teaching.

For the last several years, I have taught the curriculum as intended and have interjected engaging activities to the best of my ability, but I have always felt as if a piece was missing. I share my passion of history with my students but it seems to be slightly stale since I myself have not experienced traveling our great nation and visiting the nation’s most influential landmarks. I know exactly what my students are missing because I too am a graduate of my current school district. I can relate personally with my students but I struggle to make the connections just as authentic between them and the standards they need to master.

My fellowship will cover the span of approximately two weeks and over 4,000 miles to bring the most significant historical landmarks of our “Land of Liberty” back to my students. During my experience, I plan to video tape and take photographs to include in each unit of study. Sites will include the Capital, national monuments, historical sites of significance, the Liberty Bell and the Statue of Liberty. In order to best document my experiences, I will create an e-manual that provides teachers on my campus, as well as throughout the district with activities, photos and videos aligned with the state standards. The video tape, photographs and alignment e-manual will be shared on our school’s common drive, district website, as well as posted on-line for teachers across the nation to access. By posting on my blog, teachers throughout our district, as well as other districts across our state, will have access at their convenience to materials aligned with our state standards. I will also have the opportunity to share electronic interactive lessons developed around the historical landmarks covered during my fellowship. These lessons will be posted to an on-line global resource sharing ground called Promethean Planet. By uploading lessons, teachers from across the country and even the globe can download and benefit from the knowledge and experiences the fellowship will provide me and my students.

After several years of following the same curriculum guide, it is time to modify the curriculum in my classroom. In order to make it engaging, connect to my students and still meet state expectations, it is imperative that I utilize technology to guide the modifications needing to be made. I need to grow as a teacher and one of my greatest weaknesses is technology. This fellowship will push me to use technology in new and innovative ways on my campus. I want to master loading videos on the web, creating a blog, hosting a website, creating a photo gallery, linking engaging videos to the curriculum guide and essentially “flipping” the classroom altogether. To “flip” the classroom, I am going to have to provide direct instruction via the World Wide Web that students will access prior to coming to class. These taped “chats” will be created throughout my fellowship. Students will access these prior to a unit of study to give them a chance to build some prior knowledge and make some connections before coming to class.

This practice should empower children to be responsible for their learning as well as being prepared for class discussions and activities. I can monitor the video views, answer questions and make any necessary adjustments based on their questions or misconceptions. Once every unit has a “preview video,” I will develop a blog for students to discuss the unit and post assignments. The resources acquired on my fellowship will supplement my classroom instruction, provide hands on activities and allow me the opportunities to develop internet based inquiry lessons. My students will become part of a global community of learners using skills and media that are necessary to the 21st Century learner. Not only are they necessary for engagement but they are skills and media that are necessary for students to be proficient in in order to be successful in higher education and/or the work place. I want my students to be prepared not only for our state exam but for life.”

Michael Luster, Jr.                         
Olle Middle School - Alief, TX

One of my favorite books, a real eye-opener on the realities of the latter period of the 1960s & 1970s Civil Rights Era.  Below is one of my favorite passages from the book

The sugar-coated confections that pass for the popular history of the civil rights movement offer outright lies about most white Americans’ responses to the freedom movement instead of reminding us how profoundly it challenged American practices of justice and democracy.  No one, in the rosy glow of our hindsight, was opposed to this movement except potbellied, tobacco-chewing racist rednecks in Mississippi.  And thank God for the federal government, who in these fantasies rode over the hill like the cavalry to iron out these little difficulties on the frontier of American society.  Polling data revealed that the majority of white Americans in 1963, prior to the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts, believed that the movement for racial equality had already proceeded “too far and too fast.”  North and south, whites avoided social contact with black people and strongly objected to integrated housing and schools. 

Secondary Social Studies: Digital Content, Not the Devices, Drives Student Achievement

Hear how Discovery Education Social Studies Techbook made teaching and learning in Rock Hill School District an unforgettable experience.

Aggie Alvez, vice president of Discovery Education moderates as Queenie Hall, ELA and social studies instructional specialist, and  Harriet Jaworowski, associate superintendent for instruction and accountability, both of Rock Hill School District, Rock Hill, S.C., discuss how digital contentcan:

  • Save teachers time in planning lessons,

  • Help teachers differentiate instruction, and

  • Strengthen students’ literacy and critical thinking skills.


Join the conversation on October 23, 2014, at 2 p.m. ET !