Accelerating Student Learning and Motivation in Your U.S. History Classroom

General Strategies

Why Study U.S. History?
Using the Standards
Standardized Exams
Developing Themes in U.S. History
Historical Stories and Unit Hooks
Using Primary Sources in the Classroom
General Strategies
Alternative Assessments
Rubrics and Scaffolds
Long Term Projects
Additional Resources
Kevin Williams: Contact and Information

King Andrew

1.  Compare and Contrast


Rationale: An excellent strategy to introduce topics is the classic compare/contrast. This can be done using images or documents. The key is to choose sources that do represent opposite viewpoints but are from the same time period.  Use this strategy when disagreement or conflict existed over specific issues or events.  Choosing images or documents from the same time period will give students the feeling that they are seeing or reading about the conflict.


Compare /Contrast Topics and Sources:


The Colonization of North America

Theodore De Bry, The massacre of the settlers in 1622

Unknown Woodcut, DeSoto’s Conquest of Indian Communities


The Colonization of North America

Theodore De Bry, Preparing for a Feast, 1591

Unknown Artist, How Tupi Indians Roasted Their Meat


Slavery in Cartoon (18th Century)


Anti Slavery Cartoon (this image can be found in American Spirit: Volume I)

Pro-Slavery Cartoon (this image can be found in American Spirit: Volume I)

Pro-Slavery Cartoon - Harry T. Peters Collection - Smithsonian - This is an "all in one" image as it shows how Southerners saw their system of slavery vs. the wage-slavery system of the industrial world.


Andrew Jackson and the War on the Bank of the United States

Henry Clay sewing Jackson's Mouth Shut - not included in handbook, but an excellent addition (especially if you need to teach the election of 1832)

Downfall of Mother Bank

Jackson Defeating Bank Hydra

King Andrew (see image at right)


Diversity in late 19th Century America

Thomas Nast, Uncle Sam’s Thanksgiving

Magic Washer Adverstisement


Differing Views of the Roaring 20s

John Sloan, 6th Avenue Elevated

Edward Hopper, Automat


Videos and the 1920s

Snub Pollard - "It's A Gift"

Charlie Chaplin - "Modern Times"

Amalgamation Waltz

2.  Propaganda Analysis

Rationale: Students are constantly bombarded with propaganda. What better place than the history classroom to introduce them to the EIGHT techniques of propaganda?  History affords us the opportunity of letting them see propaganda in practice!


Eight Types of Propaganda:  This website was inspired by the ground-breaking Institute for Propaganda Analysis, created in 1937.  Click on the various links under the headline "Common Techniques".





Online Sources:


Civil War Propaganda

University of the Poor.  “Amalgamation Waltz” (see above image)

Harper’s Weekly, “American Political Prints 1776-1876” - All of the Civil War propaganda cartoons listed below came from the website.  To access the original cartoon, click the link above, then click on "Browse".  Choose the year that the cartoon was produced, and click on the link that says "See a Full Text List of These Prints". 


"Union and Liberty and Union and Slavery," 1864

"Columbia Demands Her Children",  1864

"Congressional Surgery", 1860

"Confederate Anthem", 1862

"Flag of Our Union", 1851

"Columbia's Noblest Sons", 1865

"God and Our Union" 1860

"The Southern Confederacy a Fact" 1861

"Freedom's Immortal Triumph" 1865


World War One Propaganda


"Beat Back the Hun"

"Sugar Sinks Ships"


World War 2 Propaganda

Rosie the Riveter (Rockwell's original)

We Can Do It (Rosie the Riveter)

Private Joe Louis

United We Win

Don’t Let That Shadow Touch Them

Hitler Carpool

“Waiting for a Signal from Home”

“Weapons for Liberty”

“Strong in the Strength of the Lord


Cold War Propaganda

Another lesson of propaganda during the Cold War.


Additional Resources

The Civil War Music Store. “Civil War Songs”

Civil War Music - Authentic History - contains music as well as speeches and other reenacted sounds of the civil war

World War Two Music - Authentic History – contains an amazing collection of WWII songs including “You’re a Sap, Mr. Jap” by the Andrews Sisters!!  Great source for your WWII music!  Soon, Authentic History will have Homefront as well as other WWII music.


3. You be the Judge
Rationale: An easy way to allow students to put themselves inside history is to let them judge history, using the rules of the day.  It is important NOT to allow students to judge history using their OWN values, but rather, using the values of the time period. It’s fine to let them determine whether they would have allowed something to happen in today’s world – after all, we do want them to learn from their mistakes; however, they must understand that it’s not fair to judge history by today’s standards.
Sources / Case Summaries:
About Agnoticism/Atheism, “Supreme Court Decisions on Religious Liberty”
For a information and images related to the Sikh Kirpan example discussed in the seminar click:  You Be The Judge - Kirpans and Free Exercise

"Young America Rising at the Ballot-Box and Strangling the Serpents Disunion and Secession"

4. Teaching Relative Significance
Note:  This topic is also discussed in the Alternative Assessments section of the workbook and this website.
Rationale: A very important skill, but one that is difficult to teach, is the skill of determining relative significance.  While it is difficult to teach, you will find that few activities engage the class as much as  this one.  Students love to argue and discuss and this activity will certainly allow them the leeway to do this. 


The question often rises during wars:  Which cause was the most significant?  This is a question of relative significance.  Students must weigh evidence and decide, based on the significance of other causes, which were most important.  This requires them to balance their opinion using ALL THE EVIDENCE.  This is why it is an outstanding strategy – it allows the teacher to assess a wide range of knowledge, and it is intrinsically interesting to students.


Possible Topics for a discussion of relative importance: 
a.  Which failures of the Articles of Confederation leading to the Constitution were most significant?
b.  What was the most significant cause of the Civil War?
c.  How Progressive was Progressivism (this is the relative significance lesson we discussed at the seminar).  Click above link for lesson.
d.  What aspect of the 1920s was most responsible for its image as ROARING?
e.  What was the most significant information used by President Truman when he made the decision to drop the atomic bomb in 1945?

TV Ad for the 1940s

5.  Advertisements


Rationale: What better way to combine the aspects of a couple of strategies – relative significance and propaganda, than an advertisement?  Students can create advertisements for many events in U.S. History.  Some examples include:

(Click to go to larger version of image)

6.  Trials in American History


Rationale: Often, a great way to learn about a theme is to study a trial that had significant relevance to the theme.  These series of lessons focus on three trials:

a.       Boston Massacre

b.       The Trial of Susan B. Anthony   

c.       Sacco and Vanzetti


By researching these trials we can learn:

a.       How difficult history can be to decipher.  Who caused the Boston Massacre?  This trial can help students see that not all history is black and white.

b.       How difficult it can be to change history.  The Women’s Rights Movement began long before the Trial of Susan B. Anthony, but the Trial of Susan B. Anthony occurred long before the 19th amendment was passed.  This trial can help students see that the battle can be won, but often it can be long.

c.       How trends in American society can affect other groups.  Americans became anti-immigrant in the late 1910s and early 1920s.  This trend directly affected the lives of immigrants – in this case Sacco and Vanzetti.


The strategy outlined in the workbook combines ideas from “Reader’s Theater” with a more active student response in the form of a trial. 
Click the following link for Famous Trials in American History
For further sources on Sacco and Vanzetti go to:
1.  Court TV's website:  The Trial of Sacco and Vanzetti
2.  Authentic History link to a speech by Michael J. Musmano, Member of Defense Team in Sacco & Vanzetti Trial Reflects on The Trial, 1957.