Well, we have a newly adopted textbook that has turned out to be....boring. Does anyone have any great ideas or units for 8th grade American History? I would LOVE to make my classroom more interactive, and I would also love to have some sort of project that links the year together. Vague, I know, but I am really disappointed with the textbook--it's quite horribly written and goes from way to technical to over-simplified in a paragraph.

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Give the kids the option of making up their own version of the Preamble rather than memorizing the school house rock version. Have them make a rap version or a nursery rhyme version.
Let them act out a seen from the civil war, or the emancipation proclamation speech. Have each of them literally become some one who helped shape america in the past 200 years. Have them research the person, make a costume, along with a poster including pictures and a time line of the person's life. Have them present it to in class and then on a parent visit day.
Hi Jennie, I've been working on a project called "The Plantation Letters" that provides primary source documents from the antebellum period, to teach students about the life of underrepresented persons on southern plantations--slaves, women, and children. We're just getting started on a rather large digitization undertaking, but the goal is to include lessons that involve students in analyzing the documents through various web 2.0 tools. For example, using Google Maps to recreate historic travel modes/routes as extracted from details in letters, using Google Docs to write short pieces of historical fiction based on facts extracted from letters, etc. Historic content + new tools = reflection/higher-level thinking. 8th grade is one of our target grade levels. Would love to hear your thoughts about merging web 2.0 tools with primary source documents in our collection or others. Footnote and Voicethread are other tools of interest in terms of students annotating/reflecting on specific letters.
I use a lot of influences from pop culture in class. Rather than use the textbook or consider it a research tool...I find that students enjoy a hands on approach. Consider a class version of "History Idol" where your students have to judge answers to questions using a panel of judges. Be sure it does not get shallow. Students should always expand answers with "why" and add their own facts/insight. I also do a version of the "amazing race." We race through the constitution complete with detours, yields ,physical and mental challenges and solving clues along the way. Podcasting, blogging, and mini movies have made a great impact as well. Don't be afraid to take risks. I have many more really cool interactive/cooperative learning ideas. If you need clarification just send me an email and or check out my web site.

Do you have an example of your amazing race? That sounds awesome. I am in the process of trying to create something for our talented and gifted students and this may be something that they could actually create. What is your website that I could check out.

The Gilder Lehrman Institute website offers a variety of primary source lessons and resources that I use as well Digital History. I find that these go beyond the simplified version of primary source study that the book offers. The use of these websites and others break up the monotonous of the book. Also this site on slavery provides an insightful and powerful look into the life of slaves.

I use Joy Hakim's series of narrative U.S. History texts

Your middle school students would really like these texts as opposed to the typical boring textbook. There is also a web site with the text -- http://www.pbs.org/wnet/historyofus/

Something else to tie your units together is to use themes. I use the following: change, conflict, diversity, growth (improvement), leadership, liberty, justice, and power. Students do their reading and select one theme that best represents their interpretation of the reading. They may also use the opposite of each theme -- injustice or misuse of power.

To allow for different learning styles, I have students prepare a "product" after each unit. It's there way to show what they have learned. Here's my web page.

On the left panel you'll find a link to "Product help page" -- here you can find a list of products and some examples.

Good luck,
Mike Rothamel
What text is it? We adopted Holt's American History two years ago and it is absolutely awful. I teach 7th grade with the Holt book and use it only twice a month for instruction at most.

My main focus in on world history but a colleague and I have put together a list of roughly 50 creative (and mostly fun) activities that will work with any history level or topic. They can be found on my website at http://www.mrroughton.com

Also you can download my notes or see my note videos to get an idea of how to make a class work without the textbook. As far as individual lessons for 8th I recommended checking out History Alive. They have some wonderful stuff.
Wow! What a website! I fought tooth and nail against Holt and won. Then I changed jobs and have to use it for 8th grade. I teach 7th every other year and loop with the kids for both years. I'm 8th this year trying to write interesting stuff for that. I love your menu of assignments, will definitely steal from it. What format is your website? Is it a wiki? I'd like to make something as cool for my class. I love the idea of The Fridge. Thanks for sharing.
I didn't realize how old this thread was when I replied to it :p

Thank you for the kind words. I use Microsoft's OfficeLive service for my web building/hosting. It is all done in templates so it is quite easy.
It's interesting. I noticed that back in 2007, I posted a comment saying that Google Earth would be helpful.

Well, today, I have started a small publishing company that has developed five U.S. history based Google Earth units that are aligned with standards. These units are on a variety of different topics. For more information take a look at our website: http://www.pass-ed.com.
I am looking for a class that is interesting in a skype long distance debate with my class this semester. I teach 8th grade U.S. History. Last year we debated against Terry Parent's class out of Hollywood, California. The topic was Democratic Republicans vs. Federalists. I would like to repeat this event yearly. Perhaps even more than once a year. Anyone interested...especially a class in a time zone that is closer to us, please email me at susan.gorman@gcisd.net. I am in Central Time Zone. The time zone is important to consider because working with the class in California (I am in Texas) was a "juggle." Although, it was worth all of the effort.

I would be interested in trying to figure out a project along these lines. I think it would be awesome. Email me if you would like to pursue this with my classes. We are in Bettendorf, Iowa so the time zone would work well.



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