I’m Back! Benjamin Franklin Video and Activities

So, I’ve decided to start the blog up again. I don’t have plans to resume the podcast any time soon though, because it is too time-consuming. After stepping away for a while and working on some other projects, I think I can carve out a chunk of time here and there to write a post. I don’t know how often I’ll write. Originally, when I stared the podcast, I tried to make sure I posted every ____ days. I didn’t like that, though, because it felt forced. So, now I’m doing it more for fun, and when I get inspired. The good news is that inspiration has been steadily creeping back in over the last few weeks. I’m preparing to teach a class called American Inventors for my homeschool co-op and I’ve come across some fun resources that get me excited and make me want to share with someone. And to save my non-history-loving mom friends from my rantings about history, I will share my thoughts here.

Speaking of which, the video below from the History Channel is a good one to show when you are studying Benjamin Franklin. You know, that time when Benjamin Franklin stood out in a thunderstorm with a kite and got struck by lightning? Oh yeah, that didn’t happen! At least, it didn’t happen the way so many people think it did. This is a good video for clearing up the myths surrounding his famous lightning experiment.  (Don’t forget to look below the video for classroom uses!)

Classroom Uses:

  • You could do a quick K-W-L before the video to see what your students know. (If you don’t know what a K-W-L is, this sheet gives the basic idea.)  A K-W-L is good to use with a topic that your students already know about or have misconceptions about.
  • Watch the video and create a two-column chart comparing the myth vs. the reality of the experiment.
  • Use the video to reinforce the importance of Franklin as an Enlightenment figure.
  • Use the video at the beginning of class to get your students interested in Franklin before a lesson on the Enlightenment in the US.

Another great activity to use when studying Franklin is a word web.  Word webs are great to use with people who are multi-faceted and/or have many different roles in US history.  After you have discussed Franklin, divide students into groups and have them create word webs about him.  (Make sure you show them an example of what a word web is.  Here’s an easy Halloween word web that your students would easily understand.)  You may need to prompt them or give hints as to how to divide up his life.  Here’s a very quick example of how a word web about Franklin might be structured.  Also, a simple word web could also be used as an exit ticket to reinforce content at the end of class.

Maps…They’re Not Just For Geography

Did you know that I could once name and locate all of the countries in Africa?  How many people can say that?  (Well, you might be able to if you teach Geography, but even most social studies teachers don’t know them unless they end up teaching a geography class.)  How did I do that?  It was quite simple.  I had a really good college professor that loved geography and made African geography interesting.  One of the most helpful and yet simple activities we did in class was to color and label a map of Africa.  Yes, we colored…in college…and it worked.  I know that adult coloring is all the rage right now, but when I was in college most people would have looked down on a professor that resorted to coloring to teach a college class.  I have a very distinct memory of myself sitting in class at Clemson University coloring maps and LOVING it!  It seemed simple, but coloring maps appealed to various learning styles of the students in the classroom and enforced the content multiple ways.

So, what does that have to do with US History?  Oftentimes, we talk about land acquisitions without ever showing students a map of the result of said acquisition.  Yes, the Louisiana Purchase made a HUGE impact on the size and natural resources of the US; but you don’t really get an idea of just how huge it was until you show it on a map.  Did you remember the size of the Louisiana Purchase from your high school classes?  Probably not.  But how many maps were you shown?  How many did you color and label?  Probably none.

You get my point.  Give your students blank maps and have them color and label important historical events, acquisitions, or information.  Don’t think you have time?  Some maps will only take 5 minutes to complete.  You can always set a time limit and whatever the students don’t finish in class must be completed for homework.  Some maps, such as a map showing land acquisitions of the US, would serve as excellent end of course review material!  See some examples of assignments below:

American Colonies Map – Use the map found here.  Have students create a map of the 13 colonies.  Students must label each colony and color the three main colony divisions:   northern, southern, and middle colonies (or mid-Atlantic).  Students must also insert symbols for economic activities and religious groups.  Students must create a legend to go with their map.

Civil War Map – Use the map found here and tell your students to create a map depicting Union and Confederacy states and capitals.  You can also have students label Fort Sumter, important battles, or other items (the Mississippi River).  Explain the anaconda plan and have students label elements of the plan on their map.

Western Trails Map – Use the map found here.  Have students trace and label the route that they would take to go west.  They must label cities in which they would start and finish.  On the back, you can have students explain which route they chose and why.

Land Acquisition Map – Use the map found here.  Have students label and color all of the major US land acquisitions.  Have them include the year we got each piece and who we got each piece from.

I actually found two products on Teachers Pay Teachers that give you almost all the maps you might want for US History.  There are two different packages based on time period.  Each is $9.95.  Click here and here to learn more.  If $20 seems a little steep to you, just Google a map you want and you should be able to pull it up.  You may have to do a little copying, pasting, and resizing, but only once per map.  Save it and use it again and again.  The return on time invested will be worth it.

Create a Twitter Page for a Historical Figure

Can you imagine what it would be like if John Wilkes Booth had a Twitter page?  Or Adolf Hitler?  What would they say?  Well, now your students can have fun figuring out what these (and many more) historical figures would say on social media.  I have finished my most recent curriculum project for US History, and I’m so excited to finally put it in my Teachers Pay Teachers store!

My new product “Create a Twitter Page for a Historical Figure” includes:

  • A blank printable Twitter template for students to fill in
  • A digital Twitter template for students to complete
  • 46 assignments covering various historical figures from the colonies to Ronald Reagan
  • Detailed student and teacher instructions
  • Optional rubric
  • PowerPoint slides to display the assignment on the board
  • An example of a filled in template

In each Twitter assignment, students will have to create the following for their historical figure:

  • Basic biographical information
  • A unique, creative username
  • Up to 6 historically relevant tweets
  • Up to 3 suggestions as to who they should follow on Twitter (ties to other figures of the time period)
  • Up to 7 trends (historical relevance)
  • A small profile picture
  • A header image

Wouldn’t your students rather do something like this than complete a worksheet?  Click here to purchase or find out more!  You get 46 assignments for less than $0.18 each!  That’s 46 new ideas for your US History class!  You can also use the template for other classes, like World History.  Check it out!

Columbus Day Video

Here’s a great four-minute video from the History Channel that you can show your students on Columbus Day, if you aren’t out of school (and if you are, show it when you get back).  It does a great job of explaining the purpose of Columbus’s mission and how it is linked to the holiday.

LTH 002 – Jamestown

In this episode, I’ll give you activities to help you start, enhance, and wrap-up a lesson on the Jamestown colony.

Show Notes and Resources:

Bell Ringers & Exit Ticket

Article on Roanoke

What is a Freewrite Slides

Important Terms

Jamestown Powerpoint

Jamestown Powerpoint (Problems & Solutions)

Jamestown Founded in 1607 – History Channel Video (5 min.)

Pocahontas – History Channel Video (3 min.)

America, The Story of Us:  Life in Jamestown – History Channel Video on YouTube (3 min.)

America, The Story of Us DVD

Discovery Education (ask your media specialist if your school has a free code)

10 Jamestown Assignments and Activities

9 Bacon’s Rebellion Assignments

Packing a Trunk for Jamestown Activity

Jamestown Parody Song of Shut Up and Dance

Exit Tickets – Zip file

Photo STC 22790, Houghton Library, Harvard University, Public Domain
Intro music clip of “I Dunno” by Grapes CC BY-ND 3.0
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