We the Teachers

Teaching the American Founding and the Constitutional Convention

Over the course of 100 days in 1787, American history would be made in a boisterous and sweltering Independence Hall. While the 55 delegates who showed up thought they were “just” going to revise the Articles of the Confederation, they ended up delving into so much more, eventually arguing for, and writing a final draft of, the U.S. Constitution.

These are the basics, of course, but they can seem so far removed from your students’ daily lives. In order to help them understand the intellectual and political depths of that historic summer, you need to help them see, hear, and feel the lively drama of the Founding of the United States. By exploring the core documents of that time, you can bring the Convention to life.

The TAH American Founding and Constitutional Convention Core Document Volume and Toolkit is designed to bring you and your classroom into Independence Hall alongside the spirited voices of those delegates. Imagine your students experiencing the Convention through these engaging resources:

  • Educational background, Continental experience, economic interests, and personal details of each delegate
  • The Convention organized as a four-act drama to help students understand how the story of the Founding unfolded
  • Correspondence among delegates and family members, linked to specific days throughout the “script”
  • Charts and tables, including an interactive Attendance Record that helps students visualize daily events and delegate attendance throughout the Convention
  • Menus, entertainment, and other fascinating “non-political” details that bring personality to the historical
  • Interactive maps and artwork
  • Multimedia resources, including videos corresponding with each of the acts.

You can use some or all of these Toolkit resources, tailoring them to your curriculum, schedule, and students’ needs. When you plan a lesson around a Core Document or corresponding resource, you will start to see your students making connections, light bulbs going off as the Convention, in a way, teaches itself.

Accessing the Core Documents and Toolkit is easy. Just click on the link below and find everything you need to bring Philadelphia, 1787, into your classroom today!

American Founding & Constitutional Convention Core Document Volume and Toolkit

 

Core American Documents: The American Founding

 

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The American Founding, which took place from 1776-1791, is book-ended by the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights.

The first volume of the American History and Government Core Documents Collection – the American Founding – is now available on iTunes, Kindle, and PDFHard copies are also available for $10 each – email dmitchell@tah.org if you would like a copy. You can also buy it on Amazon!

Each Core American Documents volume will contain the following:

  • Key documents on the period, theme, or institution, selected by an expert and reviewed by an editorial board
  • An introduction highlighting key documents and themes
  • A thematic table of contents, showing the connections between various documents
  • Study questions for each document, as well as questions that refer to other documents in the collection
  • Notes on each document to identify people, events, movements, or ideas to improve understanding of the document’s historical context.

When complete, the series will be comprehensive and authoritative, and will present America’s story in the words of those who wrote it – America’s presidents, labor leaders, farmers, philosophers, industrialists, politicians, workers, explorers, religious leaders, judges, soldiers; its slaveholders and abolitionists; its expansionists and isolationists; its reformers and stand-patters; its strict and broad constructionists; its hard-eyed realists and visionary utopians – all united in their commitment to equality and liberty, yet so often divided by their different understandings of these most fundamental American ideas.

The documents are all about this – the still unfinished American experiment with self-government. There is no better place to begin to understand that experiment than with these documents from the American founding.

Core Documents: The Great Depression and New Deal

 

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The Great Depression and New Deal can be more easily understood by thinking of it as a story in six parts.

Today’s interview is with Dr. John Moser, Professor of History at Ashland University and editor of the Core Documents volume on the Great Depression and New Deal. A complex and multi-faceted event that played out over a more than a decade, it can be understood by thinking of it as having taken place in six parts, chronologically:

  1. Hoover and the Great Depression
  2. Hoover vs. Roosevelt: The Election of 1932
  3. Roosevelt First New Deal, 1932-1934
  4. Criticism of the New Deal
  5. Roosevelt’s Second New Deal, 1934-1936
  6. The New Deal in Decline, 1936-1938

John talks about how he went about selecting documents to fit this model, how the documents fit together, and how using these documents can greatly improve the quality and interest level in a unit on the Great Depression and New Deal.

The second volume of the American History and Government Core Document Collections – the Great Depression and the New Deal – is available on iTunes, Kindle, and PDFHard copies are also available for $10 each, which can be accessed through our Facebook store. Email dmitchell@tah.org for more information.

Sign up for early access to each volume!

The Benefits of Team Teaching American History and Literature

It’s impossible to separate a culture’s literature from its history, yet every day, in classrooms across the country, the two subjects function in isolation. It’s easy to understand why: with an ever-increasing list of requirements and standards, teachers often find themselves scrambling to deliver basic instruction of their subject, let alone combine with another class. However, with the right planning, American history and literature teachers can team up to cohesively teach units. In the end, combining curriculum can give your students more educational bang for their buck. Making connections between two disciplines drives home the “how” and “why” questions of both.

Story Lovers

For today’s teens, popularly referred to as Generation Z, it’s all about story. They post their stories on social media. They shop brands that invest in marketing their own digital narratives. Their common literature is viral videos. And although today’s teens consume most of these stories on screen–whether through YouTube, Snapchat, or Twitter–they’re still spending the better part of their days immersed in story.

For students who love story, history can come alive through literature. According to a 2017 article in Forbes, “Gen Z students tend to thrive when they are given the opportunity to have a fully immersive educational experience and they even enjoy the challenges of being a part of it. For instance, 51% of surveyed students said they learn best by doing while only 12% said they learn through listening.” Learning history through story–for example, the Salem Witch Trials as portrayed in Arthur Miller’s play The Crucible, is a much more immersive experience than taking notes. By reading and visualizing characters and situations (or even better, acting out scenes), students participate in making meaning. The facts, and more importantly, how those facts influenced the evolution of American society, become embedded in a story many students will remember for life.

History Buffs

What about those students who prefer history to English class, the ones who do like memorizing dates and names but can’t seem to concentrate on a novel? For those who love the nuts and bolts of American history, the right literature can be a doorway to appreciating good storytelling. Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, for example, is both a memoir and a treatise on the abolition of slavery, drawing readers into this dark portion of American history through detailed personal experience. This engaging autobiography can lead more reluctant readers to sample other historical narratives, such as The Jungle by Upton Sinclair, or Tim O’Brien’s semi-autobiographical The Things They Carried, which explores the personal horrors of fighting in the Vietnam War.

Bringing the Two Together

Team teaching American history and literature can be a powerful experience for both teachers and their students. Even when two classes aren’t able to team up throughout the year, just one or two special cross-curricular units can electrify key themes with unique literary voices. If you’re a history teacher working alone, you can still deliver content through the vehicles of narratives, poetry, plays, and essays as a way to enrich your students’ learning.

Teaching American History is offering two Summer History & Literature Seminars designed to help teachers of American history and American literature to examine historical documents and literary texts through the lenses of both disciplines. Each seminar will be taught by a historian or political scientist teamed with a literary scholar. Get inspired by history and story this summer, and learn how to inspire your students as well.

Register for Seminars in July

SYNOPSIS: When American history teachers and American literature teachers team up in the classroom, history and story are both enriched to create a dynamic learning experience great for every student.

Core American Documents: World War 2

 

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Today’s podcast includes and interview with Dr. Jennifer Keene, of Chapman University and president of the Society for Military History. Dr. Keene is the volume editor for our new World War 2 Core American Documents volume, and has some interesting things to say about how she went about selecting documents, trying to keep the number and length manageable, while trying to do such an enormous event as WW2, from multiple perspectives, the justice it deserves.

This volume of  our Core American Documents Collections – World War 2 – is now available!

Get your copy on iTunesKindle, and PDFHard copies are also available for $10 each – email dmitchell@tah.org if you would like a copy. You can also buy it on Amazon!

Sign up for early access to each upcoming volume!

As in the other volumes, each Core Documents volume will contain the following:

  • Key documents on the period, theme, or institution, selected by an expert and reviewed by an editorial board
  • An introduction highlighting key documents and themes
  • A thematic table of contents, showing the connections between various documents
  • Study questions for each document, as well as questions that refer to other documents in the collection
  • Notes on each document to identify people, events, movements, or ideas to improve understanding of the document’s historical context.

When complete, the series will be comprehensive and authoritative, and will present America’s story in the words of those who wrote it – all united in their commitment to equality and liberty, yet so often divided by their different understandings of these most fundamental American ideas.

In sum, our intent is that the documents and their supporting material provide unique access to the richness of the American story. We hope that you will find this resource to be intriguing and helpful for your classroom.

Please contact Daniel Mitchell if you have any questions or would like more information about using the Core Documents Curriculum in your classroom.

Thank you for all that you do!

TAH.org Podcasts Now Available on Stitcher!

The TAH.org podcast, already available through iTunes and our RSS feed, and now with over 120 separate programs as of today, is now available through Stitcher, an outstanding podcast directory and app. We will continue to find new, easy ways to bring our content to you, in the apps and on the devices you’re using.

During June and July of 2018 we will be publishing two podcasts each month, on the 6th and 20th, featuring interviews with selected editors of our new Core American Documents Collections readers. The first of these will be on 6 June, the 74th anniversary of D-Day, and will be with Jennifer Keene, editor of our recently-released World War II volume.

Talking Politics and Religion in the American History Classroom

In today’s national conversation, which lately seems more like a countrywide schoolyard brawl with citizens hurling insults and memes, it can be challenging to explore complex ideas. Politics and religion, especially, can raise hackles of anger where there should be openness and understanding. Many teachers try to steer clear of these “touchy” topics in the interest of keeping the peace. But ignoring and avoiding events that have formed–and continue to shape–our country’s history only postpones the inevitable debate. We need a way to discuss our history without rancor.

The American History classroom, rather, should be an engaging and robust place to explore these ideas. And when teachers introduce primary sources into the conversation, the dynamic changes dramatically.

When structuring conversations around primary documents, teachers allow students to use their critical thinking skills to draw their own conclusions. While contemporary opinion pieces, satire, and viral social media phenomena can teach us a lot about our culture, foundational historical documents lead us to the roots of our national identity and should be at the core of any student’s education about religion and politics in the United States.

Imagine the impact these primary sources, unfiltered by social media and news outlets, can have on today’s students:

  • Sermons, poetry, and artwork that chronicle the diverse religious experiences of immigrants and religious liberty.
  • Excerpts of colonial law that grapple with the relationship between religious establishment and toleration.
  • Excerpts of founding documents that set the stage for the American political experience with religion.
  • Court cases that document the revolutionary, and often tenuous, separation of church and state.
  • Documents, addresses, and sermons that address the political-religious relationship with morals, evolution, communism, fundamentalism, liberalism, philosophy, education, and the Bible.

By studying primary documents, students will learn that while the United States was founded on the separation of church and state, politics and religion have been closely intertwined. They will also learn that it is not just acceptable to discuss religion and politics in the classroom but appropriate and timely, given our history.

As an instructor, you may feel somewhat ill at ease with addressing these documents, but TeachingAmericanHistory.org offers plenty of support so that you can feel empowered to provide your students with the resources they need to develop informed opinions and grow into thoughtful, engaged citizens.

Register for our Religious Freedom Seminar in July to immerse yourself in this subject or download the 25 Core Documents in American History and Politics for adaptation in your classroom. You can also find more resources on Politics and Religion in America at https://religioninamerica.org/.

SYNOPSIS: Using primary documents in your American History classroom lesson plans can help you break through the buzz of fake news and introduce challenging conversations at the heart of politics and religion.

Documents in Detail: A Time for Choosing

 

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Click for a full video of the 1964 speech

The last episode in TAH.org’s 2017-18 Documents in Detail webinar series, focused on Ronald Reagan’s 1964 “A Time for Choosing” speech. Often referred to as “The Speech,” is was a persuasive, articulate, and powerful endorsement of then-Republican presidential candidate Senator Barry Goldwater, and despite Goldwater’s loss that November, helped to propel Reagan to the forefront of national politics, keeping him in the public eye as he sought and won the governorship of California, went on to unsuccessfully challenge sitting Republican President Gerald Ford for his party’s nomination in 1976, and eventually win the presidency in 1980.

Access the full episode archive

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Core Documents: 2 Volume “Documents and Debates” now available

 

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The latest volumes of  our Core American Documents Collections – Documents and Debates – are now available!

TAH.org and professors Rob McDonald and LTC Seanegan Sculley from the History Department at the United States Military Academy at West Point worked together to create a two-volume set of documents readers, which starting in Fall 2018, will be used by all West Point cadets in their two-semester American History survey course. These volumes are structured around a series of topics, each based on a debatable question. For each topic there is a collection of documents that, together, form the basis of argument over that topic – from those who debated it at a given point in American history. For example, students will have the opportunity to understand why and how FDR and his administration made a case for Social Security, and will also read reasoned arguments against the program. The goal is to explore a series of critical moments in American history by asking questions for which there are not simple yes/no answers, but instead call for informed discussion and rational debate – where answers can be said to be valid, but not necessarily wrong or right.

These readers also include appendices of additional documents, and together are a perfect fit for any American History survey course, including AP United States History.

Available Now!

Volume 1: 1493-1865: iTunes, Kindle, and PDF.

Volume 2: 1865-2009: iTunes, Kindle, and PDF.

Hard copies are also available for $10 each – email dmitchell@tah.org if you would like to place an order.

“Learning about history is not only about learning content – it’s about learning skills…” Listen to today’s podcast:

 

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As in the other volumes, each Core Documents volume will contain the following:

  • Key documents on the period, theme, or institution, selected by an expert and reviewed by an editorial board
  • An introduction highlighting key documents and themes
  • A thematic table of contents, showing the connections between various documents
  • Study questions for each document, as well as questions that refer to other documents in the collection
  • Notes on each document to identify people, events, movements, or ideas to improve understanding of the document’s historical context.

When complete, the series will be comprehensive and authoritative, and will present America’s story in the words of those who wrote it – all united in their commitment to equality and liberty, yet so often divided by their different understandings of these most fundamental American ideas.

In sum, our intent is that the documents and their supporting material provide unique access to the richness of the American story. We hope that you will find this resource to be intriguing and helpful for your classroom.

Please contact Daniel Mitchell if you have any questions or would like more information about using the Core Documents Curriculum in your classroom.

Thank you for all that you do!

Sign up for early access to each upcoming volume!

Saturday Webinar: Iran Hostage Crisis

 

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TAH.org’s last Saturday Webinar for the 2017-18 school year, today we focused on the 444 day long crisis in which 52 American embassy workers were taken hostage by Iranian revolutionaries and held for over a year, bringing to a head conflict between that country’s new rulers and the United States, and likely contributing to the downfall of President Jimmy Carter. Relevant to the ongoing friction and sometimes hostility between the quasi-theocracy of Iran and the United States, this crisis ended with Ronald Reagan’s inauguration as president in January 1981, and has had ripples and repercussions since.

Access the archive page here

iTunes Podcast

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Documents in Detail: MLK’s “I Have a Dream” Speech

 

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Today’s Documents in Detail webinar focused on Dr. Martin Luther King jr.’s “I Have a Dream Speech,” which was delivered on the heels of a Congressional filibuster that had been started to block civil rights legislation. With input from our two scholars and moderator, we explored the ideas expressed in the speech, language employed, reception and meaning of the seminal piece, and took a number of interesting questions from our teacher audience.

Access the full program archive page

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Fifth Volume of Core Documents Collection – The Cold War Now Available!

The latest volume of  our Core American Documents Collections – the Cold War – is now available!

Get your copy on iTunesKindle, and PDFHard copies are also available for $10 each – email dmitchell@tah.org if you would like a copy, or you can buy it on Amazon.

Sign up for early access to each upcoming volume!

What does the man on the moon and high school teachers having to take loyalty oaths have in common? Listen to today’s podcast and find out…

 

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Today’s podcast includes a conversation with David Krugler, Professor of History at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville about his work as volume editor for our newest Core American Documents volume, the Cold War. In it, David talks about the Cold War, the documents he selected and how, and some interesting experiences he had in the creation of the volume.

As in the other volumes, each Core Documents volume will contain the following:

  • Key documents on the period, theme, or institution, selected by an expert and reviewed by an editorial board
  • An introduction highlighting key documents and themes
  • A thematic table of contents, showing the connections between various documents
  • Study questions for each document, as well as questions that refer to other documents in the collection
  • Notes on each document to identify people, events, movements, or ideas to improve understanding of the document’s historical context.

When complete, the series will be comprehensive and authoritative, and will present America’s story in the words of those who wrote it – all united in their commitment to equality and liberty, yet so often divided by their different understandings of these most fundamental American ideas.

In sum, our intent is that the documents and their supporting material provide unique access to the richness of the American story. We hope that you will find this resource to be intriguing and helpful for your classroom.

Please contact Daniel Mitchell if you have any questions or would like more information about using the Core Documents Curriculum in your classroom.

Thank you for all that you do!

Saturday Webinars: Watergate

 

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TAH.org’s 7 APril 2018 Saturday Webinar was about Watergate, and the ensuing political and seeming constitutional crisis that ensued. Panelists discussed the background of the break-in that led to the crisis, but also talked a great deal about Nixon’s background, his views on Democrats and other Republicans, and how his experiences and personality contributed to his actions as president.

Questions from teachers included those about presidential powers as related to subpoenas, how precedents established played out during the Clinton impeachment incident in the late 1990s, and some about pardon powers and their extent. And how to Congressional investigations differ from criminal ones?

Access the full archive page here.

iTunes Podcast

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Core American Documents Volumes Introduction

 

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TAH.org is publishing over 40 individual volumes in our Core American Documents series, with four volumes already available as of today. In addition to the individual volumes, we are going provide a companion podcast interview of the editor of each volume, in which we’ll talk about the sorts of documents that were included, things to look out for among them, and commentary on the topic at hand. To kick off this series of interviews, which will be published through our podcast feed (iTunes and via RSS) at least monthly, we have today an interview with Dr. David Tucker, General Editor of the series, who talks about how the series is being put together, what can be found in each volume, and how teachers and students can access the volumes in different formats, both print and digital.

Document in Detail: The Long Telegram

 

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Wednesday 21 March’s webinar focused on the Long Telegram, the famous George Kennan communique from Moscow in 1946, on which so much of American foreign policy after World War 2 was based. Scholars discussed the origins of the telegram, the context around events in Moscow and Washington in the year after the war, and why Kennan wrote it in the first place. They discussed how the U.S. government received the news from Kennan, as well as how Kennan framed and explained himself over time, even to the point of seemingly contradicting commonly-held views of the meaning of his point.

 

Access the program archive page here

iTunes Podcast

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50 Documents That Tell America’s Story

Required reading for students, teachers, and citizens.

Access Now

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