We the Teachers

When ‘I Have a Dream’ Is Your Textbook: How Teaching Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Actual Speech Changes the Way Your Students Learn

I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.” The opening of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech reminds us that these words grew out of a major event, not a textbook. It is August of 1963, and hundreds of thousands of Americans are crowded before the Lincoln Memorial as part of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Near the end of the day, Dr. King addresses the hot, tired, but invigorated crowd with some of the most resonant words in our nation’s history. Shouldn’t the words themselves receive the greatest attention?

Digging Deeper

While virtually all U.S. history curricula cover Martin Luther King Jr.’s accomplishments, they often give no more than a glance to the speeches themselves. Most students learn that “I Have a Dream” is one of the most famous speeches in history. But what do they learn about the speech itself? What can they recite aside from the title’s refrain, the ending reference to the Negro spiritual, or perhaps “they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character”?

As important as these lines are, they represent just a fraction of the orator’s richness of thought. By digging into his words, rather than a textbook summary of his ideas, students can appreciate King’s rhetorical strategies:

  • Different modes of persuasion (ethos, pathos, and logos)
  • Figurative language
  • Historical and religious allusions
  • Sentence structure and punctuation
  • Diction
  • Tone

Practicing What King Preached

Because Martin Luther King Jr. was a preacher who believed in the power of the written and spoken word, communicating was not just a means to an end. The words themselves were art and truth, meant to inspire just as much as his actions. As students will learn by studying his speech, King refers to numerous other speeches, songs, religious texts, and political documents, understanding the weight and influence of these original sources.

Without studying the entirety of King’s speech, students miss on his truly indelible mark on America’s Civil Rights movement and intellectual history. Bring Martin Luther King Jr. to life in your classroom this year by living among his very words.

Access “I Have a Dream,” lesson plans, and other core documents today at TAH.org.

 

Teaching America’s Founding

How do you make a country from scratch? Leaders during the American Founding, the  period from 1776 through 1789, would dedicate themselves to pursuing the answer until bringing their plan to fruition with Washington’s inauguration. Along the way, they would wrestle with defining, expressing, and applying what Jefferson would call “The American Mind” to their goals.

For today’s students, it’s hard to imagine America as a new idea, as a radical experiment in democracy. But for the people fighting a revolution, attempting to govern  a group of disparate states, and finally creating the Constitution, it was uncharted territory. By transporting students to that era with original documents, American history teachers can begin to help them understand the incomparable drama of this exhilarating time.

Transform Your Classroom Experience with the Teaching American History American Founding Toolkit

The Teaching American History American Founding Toolkit, centered on original documents, is designed to bring you and your classroom into lively conversation with the Founding Fathers.

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 that bring the Colonial era to life.

Accessing the American Founding Toolkit is easy. Just click on the link below and find everything you need to bring the Colonial Era into your classroom today!

Access the American Founding Toolkit

SYNOPSIS: Add original documents, speeches, and dynamic lesson plans into your high school American history with this Founding era curriculum.

The Declaration of Independence: Full Reading

 

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TAH.org is doing a trial run of making recorded readings of essential original documents available online. These documents, selected from our library and various documents collections, are read verbatim from our collection, meaning that students can follow along, word-for-word. Each document will be preceded by a short introduction identifying the author, and providing some background information to help contextualize the piece.

This first recording is of the Declaration of Independence, among the most important documents of the American Founding, but also of American political principles. Be sure to read Thomas Jefferson’s original draft, from which several sections were deleted before it was accepted, most notable of which were Jefferson’s comments on African slavery.

Feel free to use this audio in any way you see fit, and let us know what you think by taking a moment to answer three survey questions.

Teaching the Civil War and Reconstruction

The country was divided. A “nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal” was struggling to define that equality in light of slavery and calls for emancipation. Questions stalked the minds of political leaders and citizens alike: What was the nature of the federal union and Constitution in relation to state sovereignty? How would the war progress and end, and how would the nation rebuild? As a teacher of American History, you know there is nothing remotely boring about the Civil War and Reconstruction.

But for students in the 21st century, the era conjures up images of muskets and southern belles–if any images at all–making it difficult for them to connect with the real human emotions and events experienced during the time. The Teaching American History Civil War and Reconstruction Toolkit, centered on original documents, is designed to bring you and your classroom face to face with the realities:

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 that bring the Civil War to life.

Accessing the Civil War & Reconstruction Toolkit is easy. Just click on the link below and find everything you need to bring the drama, voices, and complexities of the Civil War into your classroom today!  

Access the Civil War & Reconstruction Toolkit

SYNOPSIS: Add original documents, letters, and dynamic lesson plans into your high school American history Civil War era curriculum.

Fourth Volume of Core Documents Collections – World War II Now Available!

The fourth volume of the American History and Government Core Documents Collections – World War II – 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!

This volume begins its story – focused on the experience of the war in America, but not neglecting the experience of Americans who fought – in 1935, as Americans expressed their wariness of involvement in another European war by passing a neutrality act. It recounts the debate over neutrality as conflict approached and then overwhelmed Europe. All such debate ended with the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, but new issues arose as the war churned on, including internment of Japanese Americans; the treatment of African-Americans in the United States and in its Armed Forces; the role of women in the war effort and how this might change their lives after the war; and the principles that should shape the post-war world. These issues and the two events with which the collection ends – the Nuremberg trials and the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki – foreshadow the world the war helped bring about.

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!

Third Volume of Core Documents Collections – The Constitutional Convention OUT NOW!

The third volume of the American History and Government Core Documents Collections – the Constitutional Convention – is now available on iTunes and PDF. Hard copies are also available for $10 each – email dmitchell@tah.org if you would like a copy, or you can purchase it directly from Amazon.

Sign up for early access to each volume!

This collection of documents on the Constitutional Convention is part of our extended series of document collections covering major periods, themes, and institutions in American history and government. This is the second of four volumes that will cover the Founding of the United States. The American Founding, already published, is the capstone of the four. The others – this collection, and volumes on the ratification of the constitution and the Bill of Rights, which will follow it – tell aspects of the founding story in more detail.

The documents in this collection explain why the constitutional convention was held and illustrate the ideas of government and politics that the delegates carried with them to Philadelphia, ideas wrung from their reading and, more important, from the extensive experience of self-government the colonists had enjoyed. Its pages recount the Convention’s critical debates over the purpose and powers of government, the nature of representation, and the relation between the states and the central government. They recount as well the way that slavery and the interests of the various states shaped those debates. Together, the four volumes on the Founding provide the essentials for understanding the Founding as the Founders understood it.

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!

Find Free Resources for Your American History Classroom!

If you’re like most teachers, you can’t help but put your students first. In fact, during lean budgetary times, you may even make sacrifices with your wallet. According to AdoptaClassroom.com’s 2015-2016 survey of 1,800 teachers, the average teacher spent $600 of their own money on supplies. When expenditures extend beyond pens and pencils to cover books and resources, that amount can easily go into the thousands. Many new teachers are told that if they want their students to be fully engaged with the curriculum, they’ll be spending personal money (and countless hours).

But it doesn’t have to be that way. Teachers of American History can cut their resource spending by 100% by accessing free resources that also happen to be the best for their students.

The Power of Primary Documents

TeachingAmericanHistory.org believes in the power of our country’s rich heritage of original documents–declarations, speeches, letters, and other materials that tell the complex story of the United States better than any textbook or worksheet. While these public domain works can always be searched and accessed for free, TAH saves you much more time and money by curating the documents for you, writing associated guiding questions, and providing multimedia resources in American History Toolkits that can be taught as self-contained units:

  • The American Founding
  • Expansion & Sectionalism
  • Civil War & Reconstruction
  • The Progressive Era
  • The Great Depression & World War 2
  • Civil Rights

What’s more, you can align your free curriculum to state and Common Core standards by using a simple Standards Search Tool that allows you to search from standard to document or document to standard, ensuring that your resources are not only engaging, but on target for your instructional requirements and goals.

Professional Development That Won’t Break the Bank

Think you have to spend your own money on classes and professional development, too? TAH.org believes in providing American History teachers with free opportunities to learn, grow, and get inspired. We offer seminars to K-12 teachers in public, independent, parochial, and charter schools. These half and full-day events, offered at no cost to the participant, model sound and engaging teaching by using primary documents as the foundation for learning. At the end of the program, you will receive certificate for the hours you spend with us for the day. You also have the option to earn one graduate credit from attending a seminar and creating your lesson plan based on documents and ideas discussed in the program. Provided in partnership with Ashland University, this option costs just $200.

Good teachers don’t have to empty their personal bank accounts in order to engage their students. With TAH resources, you can work smarter, not harder, and spend nothing in the process.

New Resource: First Volume of Core Documents Collection Now Available!

TeachingAmericanHistory.org is excited to share another resource for American history,  government, civics, and social studies teachers. While you may be familiar with our 50 Core American Documents book, we are launching a new 35-volume document collection.

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, or you can purchase it directly from Amazon.

Sign up for early access to each volume!

This collection of documents on the American Founding inaugurates a new series of document collections from TeachingAmericanHistory.org.

Each Core American Document 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.

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!

Third Annual Roots of Liberty Essay Contest!

TAH.org is once again pleased to support the third annual Roots of Liberty National Essay Contest. This is an excellent opportunity for a high school teacher to sponsor an outstanding student essay. The contest asks student to build a thoughtful essay about the following:

In If Men Were Angels, No Government Would Be Necessary, law professor Stephen B. Presser argues that, “[f]or the Framers of the Constitution the practice of politics was all about how to distribute power within the government in order to preserve private property, individual rights, and the rule of law which secured both.”

Has the Constitution succeeded in preserving the interests of those outside the majority?  If so how and why?  If not, how and why?  A thoughtful response will include at least one historical example (18th, 19th, 20th centuries) and one contemporary example (21st century.)

The winning student essay will received a grand prize of $5,000, plus a trip to D.C. for 2. The teacher who sponsors the winning student will receive a prize of $1,000. Additional cash prizes are available. Find prize and rule details here. The essay contest deadline is Friday, December 15, 2017.

*Essay responses are limited to 3,250 characters (approximately 500 words).

Philadelphia Travel Resource

Are you planning on visiting historic Philadelphia, either yourself or with students? Our Constitutional Convention exhibit has resources about the Convention itself, and also an interactive map of 1787 Philadelphia, with information about sites related to the Convention and those who attended it. You can also download a PDF copy of the map and the entries on it and carry it on a tablet or some other device while walking around the city.

Another great resource to consider as you put together lessons about the Founding is our American History Toolkits, specifically the section about the American Founding. Our Toolkits will help you transition from relying on textbooks to using original documents and documents-based resources only.

Documents in Detail Webinar Archives

TAH.org has completed the pilot season of Documents in Detail, with five episodes now available in our archives. Teachers, students, and citizens from around the country have downloaded podcasts or watched the YouTube videos from these five episodes a combined total of over 1200 times since January. Consider looking back at this last season and listening to or watching some of the programs you missed, or even ones you attended. Think about how you could use the documents for each with your students. Many teachers from around the country are using archived webinars with their students, in some cases flipping their classrooms by having students read some of the documents and watch the programs themselves outside of class, reserving class time for Socratic discussions and other activities.

We will begin our 17-18 season of Documents in Detail on 30 August, with the Declaration of Independence.

Register for the 2017-18 Season

New Resource on TAH.org

Incorporating the Federalist Papers into American Government and American History courses is both important and challenging, given the complexity of the language. Doing the same with Anti-Federalist writings is compounded by the vast and varied collection of essays, speeches, and articles that can be categorized as fitting under that heading. This is further complicated bythe fact that most Antifederalist writings are barely mentioned by name in contemporary history and government texts.

TAH.org has added a resource to the Federalist-Antifederalist Debates exhibit that aims to make it easier for teachers to use the words of the Federalists and Antifederalists to help get to the root of the major differences between those broad camps: those who supported the Constitution and those, for whatever reasons, did not.

Take a look at the Purpose, Structure, and Powers of government and you’ll find a list of key issues from 1787-1788, with essential Federalist and Antifederalist writings chosen for each. For example, if you would like to learn about the two sides’ positions on the role of the executive, it is suggested that you read Federalist 71 and An Olde Whig V.

Use this new resource to help your students read Founding era documents for a purpose, and to help them understand the ideas that animated the debates between Americans at the Founding, and how many of these issues are still being debated today.

Second Roots of Liberty National Essay Contest is Underway!

TAH.org is once again excited to support the Roots of Liberty National Essay Contest. This is an excellent opportunity for a high school teacher to sponsor an outstanding student essay. The contest asks student to build a thoughtful essay about the following:

“In To Make Their Interests Coincide With Their Duty: How the Constitution Leads Public Officials to Make Good Decisions, law professor Robert T. Miller argues that the brilliance of the American Constitution is that it “creates a system of procedures for selecting public officials and ordering how they make decisions that are in the best interests of society.” Analyze one consequential presidential decision to determine to what extent, if any, the Constitution leads presidents to make good decisions.

The winning student essay will received a grand prize of $5,000, plus a trip to D.C. for 2. The teacher who sponsors the winning student will receive a prize of $1,000. Additional cash prizes are available. Find prize and rule details here. The essay contest deadline is Friday, December 15, 2016.

New TAH.org Site Feature: Enhanced Sitewide Search

TeachingAmericanHistory.org has a new feature: a simple, enhanced search tool embedded on every page of the site. If you look in the upper-right corner of any page you’ll see the Search box that’s always been there – but now you have the ability to select whether you want the search term to be applied to whole site, or just our Documents Library. If you select Documents, you’ll be able to search the titles and contents of our 2300+ primary documents, providing easier, faster access to the information you want.

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50 Documents That Tell America’s Story

Required reading for students, teachers, and citizens.

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