Announcing #SSChat Summer Session 2019!

Wondering what the next #SSChat discussion is going to be this summer? We have your answers!

Here is a calendar for all of the discussions that we will be having this spring! We made it to be easily shareable and easily printable (if you post it at your school – send us a picture)!

If you are interested in leading an #sschat discussion in the fall, apply here! If you have an idea for a discussion, but do not want to lead it – leave a comment and we can help recruit for the topic!

SSChat Summer Session 2019.png


Indigenous Studies Facebook Takeover Posts (January 14-18, 2018)

#sschat Facebook Takeover

During the week of January 14th to 18th, Drs. Leilani Sabzalian (Alutiiq) and Sarah B. Shear took over the #sschat Facebook page. If you missed it, you can find all their posts below, but you have to go to to see all the comments and questions too.

indigenous studies facebook takeover

Promo Post (Sunday): We have a new feature on #sschat! We are going to have different educators and scholars “takeover” our Facebook page for a week to provide their go-to resources, ideas, and approaches to teaching different topics!

We’re starting off with an Indigenous Studies Takeover! Dr. Leilani Sabzalian (Alutiiq) is Assistant Professor of Indigenous Studies in Education at the University of Oregon (@leilanisabz) and Dr. Sarah B. Shear is Assistant Professor of Social Studies Education at Penn State University-Altoona (@SBShear). They are  featured in Vision’s of Education Episodes 15, “Indigenous (Mis)Representations in U.S. history with Sarah Shear” and Episode 95, “Affirming Indigenous Sovereignty with Sarah Shear, Leilani Sabzalian, & Lisa Brown Buchanan” (links below).

Check back every day this week for new posts! Add ideas and questions in the comments for Leilani and Sarah to answer!

VoE Episode 15:

VoE Episode 95:

POST 1 (Monday):


Our first #sschat post focuses on resources from scholars and organizations working to prioritize Indigenous voices & experiences in P-12 curriculum & teacher education:

— Teachers should read Dr. Debbie Reese’s (Nambe Pueblo) blog, American Indians in Children’s Literature. AICL offers teachers lists of books w/ Indigenous characters recommended and NOT recommended for P-12 learners. Another excellent resource for teachers and students alike is Dr. Reese’s post, “Are we ‘people of color’?” Follow Dr. Reese on Twitter, @debreese

— Along with resources based on their past and current exhibits, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian offers P-12 social studies teachers inquiry-based lessons centered around Indigenous ways of knowing and being. Follow NMAI on Twitter, @SmithsonianNMAI NMAI also offers a variety of educational videos, such as Nation to Nation ( and The “Indian Problem” (, as well as the online exhibit “Nation to Nation” ( to support student understanding of treaties and tribal sovereignty.

— In addition to resources for justice-oriented curriculum, Zinn Education Project supports teachers in rethinking how Indigenous peoples and Native nations are taught in P-12 schools. Their “Abolish Columbus Day” program is one you should definitely check out! Follow Zinn Project on Twitter, @ZinnEdProject

— Indigenous educators have pushed states to examine their state standards in light of Indigenous peoples’ experiences, perspectives, and histories, as well as current issues tribal nations face. We recommend you take a look at the lessons and resources offered by Washington’s “Since Time Immemorial” and Montana’s “Indian Education for All” Though specific to each state, the Essential Understandings provide educators with foundational knowledge on Indigenous identity and sovereignty, among others.

– Drs. Leilani Sabzalian (Alutiiq) & Sarah B. Shear


POST 2 (Tuesday):


Today’s #sschat post highlights resources from organizations working to promote and protect tribal sovereignty around the world. We hope educators use these resources w/students in their learning about government-to-government relationships and the responsibilities of citizens:

— The National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) provides an accessible introduction to tribal sovereignty, nationhood, governance, and treaties. Follow NCAI on Twitter to stay up-to-date on current events related to tribal sovereignty. Follow NCAI on Twitter, @NCAI1944

Not all tribal nations are recognized, but tribal sovereignty is inherent. “Promised Land” documents the Duwamish and the Chinook nations’ pursuit of federal recognition, and their efforts to have their treaty rights honored.

— To examine global Indigenous issues, and how Indigenous peoples work to sustain & protect their homelands, languages, customs, and governments, educators can explore the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).

— Tribal sovereignty is not just about self-governance, but also self-representation. We recommend teachers visit tribal nations’ websites so that they can learn about these nations from their perspectives. Many tribal nations, such as The Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde (, have websites that provide information on their government, history, culture, and current events and issues. Other sites, such as the Haudenosaunee Confederacy ( can provide Indigenous perspectives on governance, land rights, treaties, and cultural misconceptions (among others).

— Indian Land Tenure Foundation (ILTF), a national, community-based organization assisting Native nations recover their rightful homelands. ILTF works “to promote education, increase cultural awareness, create economic opportunity, and reform the legal and administrative systems that prevent Indian people from owning and controlling reservation lands.” ILTF also provides P-12 lessons and resources for teachers on their “Lessons of Our Land website,”

– Drs. Leilani Sabzalian (Alutiiq) & Sarah B. Shear


POST 3 (Wednesday):


Today’s #sschat post builds on the resources we shared on Monday and Tuesday to include text recommendations for critical Indigenous histories we hope educators find useful for their own learning. Teacher educators may also find these texts useful for their courses:

In An Indigenous People’s History of the United States, Dr. Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz unpacks U.S. history and policies designed to deny tribal sovereignty and eradicate Indigenous peoples. The YA version is coming this summer! Follow Dr. Dunbar-Ortiz on Twitter, @rdunbaro

— The edited book, Why You Can’t Teach United States History Without American Indians, rethinks history in light of Indigenous peoples, and recasts college courses using themes like settler colonialism, nationhood, and global Indigeneity.

— Red Pedagogy by Quechua scholar Sandy Grande (@RedPedGrl) illustrates how Indigenous social and political thought challenges the Eurocentric foundations of Western critical theory and democracy, and forwards an Indigenous vision for education

— Drs. Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz & Dina Gilio-Whitaker’s (Colville Confederated Tribes) “All the real Indians died off” & 20 Other Myths bust Columbus, Thanksgiving, sport mascots and more! This is a very resource to counter social studies curriculum. Follow Dr. Gilio-Whitaker on Twitter, @DinaGWhit

– Drs. Leilani Sabzalian (Alutiiq) & Sarah B. Shear


POST 4 (Thursday):


Today’s #sschat encourages P-12 teachers and teacher educators to keep up on contemporary issues and current events related to Indigenous peoples and Native nations:

Educators can follow Native news sources like Indian Country Today for up-to-date stories & commentaries about events unfolding in tribal communities. Many of the stories aren’t covered by “mainstream” media, so these are vital outlets for news! Follow Indian Country Today on Twitter, @IndianCountry Another news outlet educators is Native News Online! You can also follow them on Twitter, @Native_NewsNet

— Another way to learn about current events is to follow Native organizations working to protect the health and well-being of Indigenous peoples today. The National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center (, Native Youth Sexual Health Network (, Center for Native American Youth (, Indigenous Environmental Network (, Honor the Earth (, etc. Following these sites on social media will update your news feed with a variety of current issues, and positive ways Indigenous peoples are creating social change.

— Today, Native nations are bringing to light several contemporary issues, and are working tirelessly to redress centuries of colonial violence. One current example is the documentary “Dawnland,” which follows the first truth & reconciliation commission (TRC) in the U.S. that gathered testimony on the impact of Maine’s child welfare system on Maliseet, Micmac, Passamaquoddy, and Penobscot communities. The website includes a teaching guide! Be sure to follow “Dawnland” on Twitter, @DawnlandMovie

Organizations like the National Indian Education Association are dedicated to promoting Native languages and cultures in schools and improving schools for Indigenous children. NIEA’s website has lots of resources & info for educators! Follow NIEA on Twitter, @WereNIEA Many states, such as Oregon, also have organizations like the Oregon Indian Education Association ( We encourage teachers to learn about the local Indigenous education communities in their own states.

– Drs. Leilani Sabzalian (Alutiiq) & Sarah B. Shear


POST 5 (Friday):


For educators who want to deepen their understanding of settler colonialism and Indigenous studies in social studies, this post contains some of our go-to readings! Some articles are open access while others require library access:

— The edited volume “Native Studies Keywords” provides an overview of Indigenous Studies’ major keywords… sovereignty, land, Indigeneity, nation, blood, tradition, colonialism, and Indigenous epistemologies/knowledges…giving educators key background information to critically teach Native studies.

— In “Uncovering settler grammars in curriculum,” Dolores Calderón (Mexican/Tigua) makes colonization explicit in ss curriculum, critically interrogating colonial tropes, such as the US is a “nation of immigrants” or the lands here were “empty.”

Dr. Jeanette Haynes-Writer’s (Tsalagi/Cherokee) “Broadening the meaning of citizenship education: Native Americans and tribal nationhood” helps educators rethink Eurocentric civics education to include tribal citizenship.

Drs. K. Tsianina Lomawaima (Mvskoke/Creek) & Teresa McCarty’s “When tribal sovereignty challenges democracy” urges us to learn from Indigenous students’ experiences to challenge standardization and advocate for a more just multicultural education

Drs. Eve Tuck (Unangax) and K. Wayne Yang’s “Decolonization is not a metaphor” teaches us that decolonization is specifically the “repatriation of Indigenous life and land,” not a catchall phrase for the types of educational changes, including social justice, that teachers may want to make in their classrooms, schools, or communities. Follow Dr. Tuck on Twitter, @tuckeve

–”Yakama Rising” by Michelle Jacob (Yakam) offers case studies of Indigenous grassroots activism and cultural revitalization. Her portraits of Yakama decolonizing praxis offer social studies educators (and high school students who read them) powerful examples of decolonization.

The Native American & Indigenous Studies Association is an interdisciplinary, international organization of scholars working in the field of Indigenous Studies. NAISA publishes Native American and Indigenous Studies and hosts a conference every year. Follow NAISA on Twitter, @NAISA Teacher educators should also check out academic journals, such as the Journal of American Indian Education ( and Decolonization: Indigeneity, Education, and Society ( that feature Indigenous analyses of education and society.

– Drs. Leilani Sabzalian (Alutiiq) & Sarah B. Shear

Special Announcement! Fall 2017 #SSChat Schedule

Wondering what the next #SSChat discussion is going to be? We have your answers!

Here is a calendar for all of the discussions that we will be having this spring! We made it to be easily shareable and easily printable (if you post it at your school – send us a picture)!

If you are interested in leading an #sschat discussion in the summer, apply here! If you have an idea for a discussion, but do not want to lead it – leave a comment and we can help recruit for the topic!

SSChat Fall Session


Announcing the #SSChat Spring Session!

Wondering what the next #SSChat discussion is going to be? We have your answers!

Here is a calendar for all of the discussions that we will be having this spring! We made it to be easily shareable and easily printable (if you post it at your school – send us a picture)!

If you are interested in leading an #sschat discussion in the summer, apply here! If you have an idea for a discussion, but do not want to lead it – leave a comment and we can help recruit for the topic!

SSChat Spring Session.jpg

Announcing the #SSChat Winter Session!

Wondering what the next #SSChat discussion is going to be? We have your answers!

Here is a calendar for all of the discussions that we will be having this winter. We made it to be easily shareable and easily printable (if you wanted to post at your school – if you do, send us a picture!).

If you are interested in leading an #sschat discussion in the spring, apply here! If you have an idea for a discussion, but do not want to lead it – leave a comment and we can help recruit for the topic!

SSChat Winter Session.jpg

Note: The last Monday of every month is a joint effort with #EngChat and occurs on the hashtag #EngSSChat.

Teach Them: On Parents and Civic Duty

This is a guest blog post written by: Amber Coleman-Mortley @MomOfAllCapes
Many current events highlight the failings of parents as civic educators… Whether it’s the death of an endangered zoo animal; the passing off of a rape as a frivolous, “boys will be boys” sexual encounter; to even the ways in which we interact with each other around controversial issues… the media has been inundated with stories about the inability of young adults and children to respectfully and productively participate in the world around them.  What responsibility do parents have in releasing good citizens into the wild?
We think of civic education (or the lack thereof) as the sole responsibility of our already crumbling education system… But kids spend a vast majority of their time watching their parents. And although we cannot guarantee that parents can cultivate a completely tolerant, loving, compassionate, and civic minded person, we can at least try to ensure that we build mindsets in our children that can hopefully combat their primal urges of selfishness.

Parents, Picture

Don’t be afraid to teach your kids right and wrong. To undo any “rights and wrongs” you learned from your own parents that don’t apply today…

Don’t be afraid to teach your children…
Teach them about respect…
Respect for boundaries, bodies, ideas, time, effort, voices, and differences

Teach them about the post office, the capital building, NASA, the NSA, the water treatment plants, landfills, museums and other public entities that guide our daily lives.

Teach them about why states rights and federal mandates are important tensions to thoughtfully consider when issues like Flint, Michigan arise.
Teach them to learn from the past.

Teach them how to vote on issues and not with party.
Take them with you to the poll booth
Teach them HOW our government works,
Who does what, and how it effects change.

Teach them that marching and using hashtags are nothing without micro-solutions
Teach them to feed the poor, to clothe the naked, to heal the sick
Teach them that one person can make great positive or negative change.
Teach them that they can be that person. It’s up to them to make that choice.

Teach them that their mayor and school board are more important than the president on the majority of the days in their lifetime
Teach them that the community they live in is a direct result of the income you make, the people you vote for, the allocation of tax dollars…
And that citizens can change that significantly with petitions, meetings and voting booths.

Engage them in debate
Have them question family values and religious beliefs
Show them what forgiveness is
Emulate compassion.

Teach boys to be loving, strong men, but not in opposition to or replacement of femininity
Teach girls to be strong, loving women, but not in opposition to or replacement of masculinity
Teach them that the way we treat each other is a reflection on how much we love ourselves
Teach them that kindness is a democratic religion not the result of religious dogma.

Teach them that boundaries are necessary for all of us to survive safely
Teach them that everyone deserves to be heard but not everyone will get their way

Teach them about violence and where it leads
Teach them that fear is easier than love but decisions rooted in love are everlasting.

Teach them that the garbage man is just as important as the governor
And that both are respectable, important members of an effective society.

Teach them to listen…
Teach them to challenge their beliefs by listening to people with opposing vantage points
Teach them to bring everyone to the table
Teach them that giving rights to everyone does not take rights away from anyone.

Teach them that the media is an entertainment vehicle but not necessarily an educational platform
Teach them that we lose some stories in one-sidedness
Teach them that many histories exist at once
And that all stories have multiple truths

Don’t be afraid to Google what you don’t know, using judgement to discern fact from fiction
Don’t be afraid to say you were wrong
Don’t be afraid to look back with shame
Don’t be afraid to feel for someone who looks and lives nothing like you
Don’t be afraid to boldly stand up for what is best for our society even if it’s not best for your family
Don’t be afraid…


And when all else fails…. we all must remember that we all live here together. For now, the earth is our home.

The future is placed on the backs of our children. All of our failed policies, wars, environmental destruction, and political mistakes are their burden… All of our victories are their future ways of life. We must create individuals who are strong enough to hold society high above their heads and walk boldly together into the light without fear.  But first, you must teach them.

Blog post written by: Amber Coleman-Mortley @MomOfAllCapes

See more at: 

The [Epic Rap] Battle of Teaching History written by @WilliamABerry11  

 June 26, 2014

Seeing as the US History teachers at my school are about to move into their World War I unit, I’ve been looking into specific resources and interesting media for this particular topic. It’s been an opportune time to search for these materials, as Michael Gove’s recent comments about the Great War and the public controversy and the discussion that has followed has been very interesting to read.

I majored in History in college, and although we did not have to formally choose a concentration area, I took a large number of courses in World War I. This event has piqued my interest in learning history like no other topic. Growing up, I’d always been interested in learning about wars and battles as my family’s vacations and weekend trips often focused on visiting the Civil War battlefields in and around Richmond, Virginia, but learning about World War I was different. What made it so different was that for the first time in my educational career, my teachers used art, fiction, movies, and pop culture to help teach historical content. Granted, reading Sassoon, Owens, Graves,Remarque and watching Paths of Glory does not provide a full picture or unbiased explanation of the war. But, to balance these sources, we ready plenty of textbooks with dissenting opinions, and analyzed a number of first hand accounts and other primary documents. World War I is the reason I became a history teacher. The use of fiction, art, and pop culture made the war “real” to me and encouraged me to go out question, explore, and find new information on my own. These experiences have shaped the way that I teach– personally, I believe that fiction has an important place in a history classroom and can engage and engross students in a way that the majority of non-fiction cannot accomplish.

So here’s where I’m going with this…I think there needs to be a showdown between Michael Gove and “The War Poets.” And what better showdown format than “EPIC RAP BATTLES OF HISTORY!” I think the showdown should not only focus on the Gove controversy (Of course, any good rap battle is going to use whatever it takes to win), but the ultimate “conversation” should focus on art, pop culture, and fiction’s role in a history classroom.

I think it would be great for the students complete some research of their own for this topic, but I think you could provide them with a variety of documents/sources as a starting point.

Here’s a short list:

  • Michael Gove’s original comments.

  • BBC News video on the Gove controvery and fiction’s role in history.

  • Textbook accounts of a World War I. When I say textbook, I’m not just talking about a class text, but instead something like John Keegan’s “The First World War” or Gary Sheffield’s “The Chief” (which I have not yet read, but stumbled upon thanks to reading about this whole Gove controversy.

  • Newsreel/original footage from the battlefield.

  • War poems and stories from Owen, Sassoon, and others.

  • Excerpts from Remarque’s “All Quiet on the Western Front” (or clips from the film version).

  • First hand accounts of the war from individuals who weren’t necessarily artists: (Database 1, Database 2).

Possible Unit/Lesson Structure:

1. Explain to your students that the culmination assignment for this lesson/unit will involve their opinion on how fiction, art, and pop culture should be used in a history classroom. They should think carefully about the type of documents they encounter throughout the unit, and the effect that these different types of documents have on their understanding of history.  Before watching the following video, discuss the following with your students:

  • Is it possible to learn history through art/fiction/pop culture?

    • What are some examples of history that you learned through art/fiction/pop culture?

    • Are art, fiction, and pop culture an effective method of teaching history? Why or why not?

After watching the video, discuss the following with your students:

  • What are some arguments for using art/fiction/pop culture to teach and learn history?

    • What are some arguments against using art/fiction/pop culture to teach and learn history?

    • What role do you believe art, pop culture, and fiction play in a history classroom? Why?

2. Introduce the causes of World War I through several different historian’s takes on the backdrop of World War I and the assassination of Arch-Duke Franz Ferdinand.

3. Explain America’s entry into the war by providing them with first hand-accounts of the Lusitania sinking, and the full text of the Zimmerman Telegram.

4. Discuss trench warfare and new technology of World War I through real film footage, movie footage, and fictional accounts and poems.

5. Discuss end of the war and America’s 14 points through an analysis of the original documents (14 Points, Treaty of Versailles) and several historians accounts of the war’s end.

6. Introduce the Gove controversy. Explain the “Rap Battle” concept by playing a clip or two. It’s hard to find a completely clean “Epic Rap Battle,”  but this one is relatively school appropriate and you could cut the best clean clips using this tool.

7. Watch the students have fun and discuss history in a way that they never have before.

This post orginally appeared on:

William Berry is currently an Instructional Technology Resource Teacher in Henrico County, Va. Former US History Teacher (6th and 7th grade) “My work habit ain’t no habit, I do it on purpose. I push myself to the limit so my talent will surface.” Follow him @WilliamABerry11

Kids Are Capable of More Than You Think by @AnnieWhitlock

June 19, 2014

I have spent a lot of time lately researching and writing about some pretty complex topics–  social entrepreneurship, microfinance loans in developing countries, and international human rights documents. What surprises most people when I discuss my work is that I research teaching these topics to elementary students.

I taught middle school social studies for several years and have had other classroom experiences working with elementary students as young as Kindergarten. I also spent many years consulting with elementary teachers about social studies instruction. In my work, I came across lots of people that doubted what young students could do regarding social studies–so much so that they were hesitant to teach the subject at all. I heard so many comments like “These students can’t work in groups”, or “No way will these students understand [fill in the blank historical event” or “My students can’t….”

You get the idea. In my opinion, some of these statements were a bit unfounded. Sure, a lot of the students in these classrooms had very little experience with social studies but that shouldn’t be a reason to NEVER give them that experience. I’ll never forget one teacher saying that she couldn’t teach social studies in Kindergarten because her students had no background knowledge. They’ve only been on the earth for 5 years! Of course they have very little background knowledge! Instead of the attitude of “I need to give these students the background knowledge and experience”, she used their inexperience as a reason to avoid social studies. In these teachers’ defenses, however, many of them have had very little experience learning social studies themselves. When it requires some work, knowledge, and guidance to help your students learn social studies and you are out of your comfort zone providing this, it makes sense that this becomes a very scary endeavor.

But let’s not project this discomfort on students when making claims about what they can or can’t do. I came across this quote from Sheldon Berman last year as I was writing my dissertation:

“Our conception of the child as egocentric, morally immature, uninterested in the social and political world, and unable to understand it has effectively deprived young people of the kind of contact they need to make society and politics salient. Young people’s distance from politics and their lack of interest may be the effect of our misconceptions, our ignorance of their potential, and our protectiveness (Berman, 1997, p. 193).”

Berman understood that sometimes young children’s perceived or actual inabilities are because of our own projections of what they can do. In my work, I set out to show teachers and students that are doing amazing work to highlight what students CAN do, and I am continually impressed but not surprised when young students rise to the challenge.

Most recently, I worked with a group of 5th grade students at Lanley Elementary. I engaged these students in a project-based unit centered around economics, but also integrating math and literacy as well. The students learned about entrepreneurs and what they need to start and run successful businesses through concepts of revenue, cost, profit, loans, interest, and price. They also learned about how some entrepreneurs start social businesses that address community needs and that some people in developing countries need small loans to get these businesses off the ground.

In teams, the students started social businesses that addressed a community need that they chose– helping raise awareness of child abuse victims. The students received a loan to create and sell products like homemade calendars with inspirational messages, and a variety of children’s toys that were royal blue, the color of child abuse victims awareness. Together, we found an organization working to build a homeless shelter specifically for children and teenagers. Because we had learned about human rights, the students made the connection between homelessness and child welfare. By the end of the project, the students had more than $700 to donate to this shelter. They created a final presentation that they gave to the entire school that described their work and presented the shelter with their profit money.

I faced the same problems as many teachers do when I began the project: the students had trouble working together in groups and they had little to no background knowledge on economic concepts. But we kept at it, and yes, even though this project took a while and was very challenging at times, the students rose to the occasion. That paragraph above doesn’t do justice to all that they learned about economic concepts and math concepts. It doesn’t do justice to all of the amazing literature they read through the unit and the practice they had reading complex informational text, like the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. More importantly, in my opinion, the project gave the students experience making a positive impact in their community. After one successful experience making a difference; whose to say that they won’t be inspired to do more now that they have done it once before?

Since I now am responsible for working with pre-service teachers, I need to somehow get it across to them not to underestimate their future students either. This will involve me getting them more comfortable with teaching elementary social studies to break this cycle. It’ll be a lot of hard work and effort on my part, but I’m pretty sure pre-service teachers are more capable than one would think as well.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has” – Margaret Mead

Written by: Annie Whitlock is an Assistant Professor of Elementary Education at the University of Michigan-Flint. She teaches elementary social studies and writing methods. @AnnieWhitlock

The Enlightenment Meets Social Media

June 17, 2014

Original Blog Post Written by Michael Milton

Full Published Article in the Ohio Social Studies Review Written by Daniel Krutka and  Michael Milton

What better way to make the Enlightenment come alive than to have my World History students create Blogger sites and set up a conversation on Twitter!

In our activity, students were hired by a consulting firm to bring the ideas of the Enlightenment to a modern “tech-savvy” audience. In small groups, they assumed the identities of various philosophers (Voltaire, the Baron De Montesquieu, John Locke, Thomas Hobbes, Mary Wollstonecraft, and Jean Jacques Rousseau) and wrote a blog post to reintroduce themselves to the world and to discuss how their ideas were incorporated into the United States of America. The posts were then shared under a common hashtag and students, as the philosophers, began interacting with one another.

For the next step, I wanted students to extrapolate the ideas of their philosophers into other historical situations. For instance, a question for Rousseau might be, “What are your views on communism and how it worked in Russia during the reign of Stalin?” To answer this question, students not only have to research communism, specifically communism under Stalin, but they also have to figure out how Rousseau would view both. Now, I could have simply asked the questions myself, but I felt that my students would get more excited to do this research if they were answering to a larger audience. I shared this assignment with my colleagues and my PLN (who then shared it with their PLN’s).

My students really got into the activity, particularly when they realized that they were playing for a larger audience. For 83 minutes (a long block) my students were in research and publication mode. Engaging with those outside of the classroom, as well as each other. I played the role of the facilitator ensuring that all students were engaged.

Overall, my students were able to form a deeper understanding of the philosophers of the Enlightenment and were introduced to both Twitter and Blogger.

Lesson Plan


Students will be able to:

  • articulate the ideas of Enlightenment philosophers and reflect upon their modern day relevance
  • conduct targeted research to answer questions about modern society
  • extrapolate the ideas of philosophers into other modern situations
Common Core State Standards
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.11-12.7 Integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information presented in diverse formats and media (e.g., visually, quantitatively, as well as in words) in order to address a question or solve a problem.
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.WHST.11-12.4 Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.WHST.11-12.6 Use technology, including the Internet, to produce, publish, and update individual or shared writing products in response to ongoing feedback, including new arguments or information.
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.WHST.11-12.7 Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects to answer a question (including a self-generated question) or solve a problem; narrow or broaden the inquiry when appropriate; synthesize multiple sources on the subject, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation.
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.WHST.11-12.9 Draw evidence from informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.
 Instructional Materials and Resources

  • iPad/Computer
  • Primary Documents
  • Blogger/Blogging Site
  • Twitter

Instructional activities and tasks


“You have been recently been hired by a consultant firm to bring the ideas of the Enlightenment to reach the modern “tech savvy” audience of the 21st century. While this is a rather large job, you have been put on a team to complete this task. Your job is to create a blog for a specific Enlightenment thinker and enter into a discussion via Blogger and Twitter with other Enlightenment thinkers educate the public on the views of the Enlightenment. While this technological aspect may be new or seem daunting, you will not be alone ~ you will be guided by Mr Milton throughout the process.”

Part I: The Initial Blog Post and Twitter After familiarizing yourself with Twitter and Blogger, you are first tasked with creating an initial blog post written from the perspective of your philosopher. First start with some background – where you are from, when you lived, major works that you have composed, and notable life events. Then outline your beliefs and how they came to be. Finally, write about how your views have impacted the modern world. Make sure to provide sources for all of your information!

Your group will also be required to create a Twitter account for the Enlightenment Thinker. Please personalize it. Send out some introductory posts using our #MrMHWH hashtag! Tell everyone who you are and how you feel about the world today.

Once this is complete, share your blog post on Twitter using the hashtag #MrMHWH. This should be posted by the end of the first day.

Part II: The Discussion Go ahead and read the profiles of the other Enlightenment thinkers. Agree with someone, respond to their post! Disagree with someone, do the same. You should respond to at least three posts.

Now we are going to expand the walls a bit! You will begin to field questions from other teachers and historians not only from our school, but around the US (and potentially the world). People will ask you specific questions about how your philosopher would feel about recent world events. For instance, Voltaire may be asked about hate speech, or Rousseau may be asked about Communism under Stalin. To answer these questions, you must do research on the questions premise (and learn more about your Enlightenment thinker.  After a question is asked (via the Twitter hashtag #MrMHWH) you will write a response on your blog (sharing your post via Twitter). Each group will respond to at least two questions. You will then read and respond to the other philosophers at least two of the other philosophers (either as a response on their blog or directly through Twitter). As this is an intensive activity, we may spend a few classes in this discussion.

Part III: The Reflection Following this discussion, you will write a one page reflection discussing what you have learned about your Enlightenment thinker, the other “participants”, as well as how their ideas are or are not present today.


15 Points – Initial Blog Post (the post should be free of spelling/punctuation errors and address the prompts fully and clearly)

25 Points – The Discussion (posts and response tweets should be well thought out and accurately reflect the ideals of your Enlightenment thinker. You are required to use at least two sources per question answered.)

10 Points – The Reflection (should be free of spelling/punctuation errors and address the prompts fully and clearly).

50 Points – Total

About the Author:  Michael K. Milton teaches social studies at Burlington High School in Burlington, Massachusetts. In the classroom, he strives to make learning relevant and to further develop his students’ critical thinking  skills. He serves on the Content Committee at the Edward M. Kennedy Institute creating opportunities for students to experience the US Senate. Prior to teaching, Michael managed AmeriCorps members and remodeled the training program for City Year Rhode Island. He can be contacted on Twitter @42thinkdeep.

“Learning to Look with the National Portrait Gallery” Summer Teacher Institute

June 17, 2014

Integrating portraiture into the classroom provides exciting opportunities to connect students with history, biography, visual art, and many other subjects. The National Portrait Gallery collection presents the wonderful diversity of individuals who have left—and are leaving—their mark on our country and our culture. The museum portrays poets and presidents, visionaries and villains, actors and activists whose lives tell the American story. The Summer Teacher Institute will take a broad look at the Portrait Gallery’s collection. During the institute, the museum’s curators and historians will provide in-gallery content lectures, introducing the collection. Utilizing an interactive approach, NPG educators will model a variety of “learning to look” strategies—unique ways to hook and engage students when they look closely at portraits. Participants will learn how to “read” portraiture and use the art as a springboard into a more in-depth discussion about biography and history. Teachers in grades kindergarten–12 may apply as individuals or as part of a team. Priority will be given to social studies, English/language arts, and visual arts teachers.

The institute will be held twice during summer 2014:
July 7–9
July 28–30

Institute participants will:
• Gain expertise from museum educators, curators, and historians through gallery talks, discussions, and hands-on activities
• Learn to use portraiture in the classroom, identifying and analyzing key components of a portrait and relating visual elements to relevant historical context and significance
• Make interdisciplinary connections among portraiture, social studies, and English/language arts
• Develop and share lesson ideas with colleagues

To ensure participation, a nonrefundable program fee of $100 per person is due upon acceptance into the teacher institute. Participants are responsible for travel and lodging costs. Each participant will receive a stipend of $200 at the conclusion of the workshop.

Visit to apply.

Please direct queries to or 202-633-8503.

Application deadline is April 15, 2014.