Tag Archives: U.S. History

What does PBL look like in U.S. History?

I team teach American Studies, an integrated class of U.S. History and 10th grade ELA in a full time PBL environment. We have a daily, two hour block and students get two credits for it. This past year was our third year of this class. I often get asked about scope and sequence of the class. So I made a table overview of our class projects to give other teachers ideas of how to teach a thematic, PBL social studies class.

This is not meant to give out every detail of the projects, but rather to give ideas of themes, DQ’s, products, and audiences that others can adapt to their own local situation. I have also included some links to blogposts and other resources about certain projects. This is also my projects from last year only. My projects for next year will have some repetition and some new ones. I like to keep projects that go well and especially ones with good community partnerships. But I don’t like to keep everything the same as that gets boring for both me and students. Also the students change every year and there needs to be voice and choice each year.

Questions? PBL Consulting?  I can be found at my blog michaelkaechele.com or@mikekaechele onTwitter.

Trivia Crack-Education Version

trivia-crackAt NovaNow last weekend I was part of an interesting discussion on assessment. Someone brought up the fact that she did not know what was going to be on the standardized state tests. A friend of mine in the room was very surprised that any teachers did not know what was on the tests (I believe because it was her primary job to make sure that teachers in her district were prepared for them).

I raised my hand and said that I had no idea what was on the state test. I think that I surprised my friend. I teach American History. The truth is that I do know that there are 40 multiple choice questions covering three years of social studies: World, American, Government, and Economics. So there are roughly 15 questions on my entire year of class.

The larger truth is that I just don’t care about the tests. In our class we look at the over arching themes of history: growth of democracy, especially for women and the Civil Rights Movement; America’s role in the world through the various wars and foreign policy; economic trends including the Great Depression, the prosperous fifties, stagflation, and current trends. We look at how America has grown as a country and how it has stayed the same. We look at all of these things and compare them to current events and policies.

But the state tests, ah the tests. They are like Trivia Crack. I swear that they were written by some history professors who ask the students about some minuscule fact or date. I feel like they are trying to trick students and make sure that I “cover” everything and don’t miss any details. The emphasis is on trivial facts of history that can easily be looked up in a million places.

I prefer to teach students how to think critically, see an event from multiple viewpoints, use the past to evaluate current trends and decisions, and to see the overarching trends of how America got to be what it is today. Those ideas are hard to turn into Trivia Crack questions. Until the state tests assess those kinds of things I just can’t worry about them. I refuse to sacrifice time spent challenging my kids to consider history deeply to force them to memorize facts.

Don’t get me wrong I love to play Trivia Crack and am pretty good at it. History is my best category with 82% correct. But I would hate to have myself evaluated by that score. Trivia is fun, but it is not what a history class should be about. History is meant to be studied in context to teach about our values and progress (or lack of it).

I guess what it comes down to is we can stress out about how our students will do on the tests and adjust our methods to things that we know are not beneficial to kids or we can teach kids the right way and chose not to worry about them. I have made my choice how about you?


1929 Stock Market Crash Simulation

Simulations of the stock market have been around for decades usually focusing on understanding how stocks work and used in an economics or personal finance class or to teach fractions. I wanted to create a short (1 day) simulation of the famous 1929 Stock Market Crash. The goal of this simulation is to get students to feel the lure of over investing when the stock market grows at a fast, unrealistic rate and then to see how fast they can lose it all when the market drops. I wanted them to feel excited about investing and making money so that they would go all in and then crash when the market lowered.

I used this with 10th graders in an American Studies class. There were a couple of bugs with my formulas and designs that I have fixed (you can’t have a good program without some field testing). Here is the spreadsheet and here is the DOW Average inputs that I used. Rather than try to explain it all here I made a screencast tutorial for how to use it with your class.

Creative Commons License
1929 Stock Market Crash Simulation by Mike Kaechele is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

A few other hints are to take it slow at first but don’t take too long explaining it. The best way for students to figure it out is to just start playing it. After a few rounds, stop and ask the class who is making the most money and then have students share strategies. All it takes is for a couple of students to figure out that they can make tons of money buying on margin to get the class excited. Be sure to ask how many are still making money after the market crashes.

I like to show them the graph that I have linked in the DOW Average Inputs and lead a discussion about the history. The quotes are also priceless and show that economists believed that they had solved the boom/bust cycle of capitalism  It should lead to the question of “Why did the stock market crash?” and that is when I turn them loose on research. This simulation could also be a good entry event.

PS: If you try this simulation drop me a comment and let me know how it went with your students.