Teaching with Historic Places in Real Classrooms: Paul LaRue, using the 'Fort McHenry' lesson plan (Part 1/3)

Less is More: Teaching Strategies Using TwHP Lesson Plans

By Paul LaRue, History Teacher Washington High School , Washington Court House, Ohio

The Reality: Today’s classroom demands that teachers focus on state content standard and testing, as well as time management. In the past, taking three weeks to teach the Underground Railroad (which might be of particular interest to the instructor or community) may have been possible, but current time restraints make it difficult. Many states have divided the U. S. history curriculum content into separate components. In Ohio, it is broken up so that colonization through 1876 is taught in eighth grade and 1877 through the present is taught in high school. Also there is a major emphasis on global education in U.S. History. With the added strain of genuine assessment and classroom management, teaching social studies can seem daunting.

The Challenge: Considering the aforesaid reality, the challenge is to fulfill the state requirements, while continuing to engage the learner. The Teaching with Historic Places (TwHP) lessons offer a unique way to expand learning past the textbook while still following the content standards. With the limited amount of time in the classroom, knowing how to use the tool efficiently is crucial.

The Solution: Do not let time constraints stop you from utilizing helpful sections from the TwHP series of lesson plans to help support your classroom activities. The TwHP lesson plans are a fantastic resource, but let me tell you a secret: I have never used an entire lesson in my own classroom. Coming from an author of two TwHP lesson plans, this might sound strange, but the issue is time management. I may have one class period to introduce, teach, and discuss a topic. Large units of in-depth material may contain valuable information, but time limitations make it impossible for me to cover a whole unit, therefore, making them unusable unless I can pick and choose pieces to incorporate into the classroom.

Here are a few ways to implement TwHP lessons into the classroom. I’ll utilize the TwHP Lesson, "The Rockets’ Red Glare”: Francis Scott Key and the Bombardment of Fort McHenry, to illustrate my solution. My suggestions are organized according to the standard TwHP lesson plan format.

I. Sections of the TwHP Lesson Plan

A. Getting Started: Inquiry Question

  1. Great brain teaser at start of lesson or class period
  2. Photo with an accompanying question
  3. Makes a nice 5-10 minute intro
  4. Getting Started Example

B. Setting the Stage and Determining the Facts

  1. Both parts are 1-2 page readings
  2. Great for reading samples
  3. Can be discussed (class or small groups)
  4. Use accompanying questions
  5. Student can be asked to do short written response
  6. I’m always looking for good short non-fiction reading samples
  7. Setting the Stage Example

C. Locating the Site

  1. Map skills are always in need of practice
  2. Use the map with questions provided
  3. Add mileage scale for practice calculating distances
  4. Take map data and create bar or pie graphs and charts
  5. Map skills are critical on state testing.
  6. Locating the Site Example

D. Visual Evidence and Determining the Facts

  1. Both sections are wonderful samples of primary documents
  2. Have students examine Determining the Facts (the readings) or Visual Evidence
  3. Discuss or have students write about differences between this information
  4. Students can write short responses describing aspects of primary documents
  5. Determining the Facts Example
  6. Visual Evidence Example

E. Putting it All Together: Activities

  1. This sections has several structured activities designed to follow the lesson
  2. Activities can be used free standing
  3. Putting it All Together Example

F. Supplementary Resources:

  1. Nice selection of on-line and other quality resources
  2. Supplementary Resources Example

II.Times to Use the Lesson Plans

A. All lessons are organized by theme, state, time period, etc.

B. Can be helpful to bolster a lesson that needs extra emphasized (ex. Industrialization)

C. Theme based lessons (great around Holidays) Example: Maritime History or African American History. Lesson activities reinforce these themes.

D. Friday: after a quiz or end of a unit (for something interesting and different)

The TwHP Lessons provide a valuable resource. Understanding the component value of the TwHP Lessons is vital to using them successfully. If time is an issue the lessons can be broken up into separate units and used just as effectively as a whole lesson. Less can truly be more in today’s fast paced classroom.

Read Case Study #1 for Using Primary Documents and Critical Thinking Skills

Read Case Study #2 for Teaching Outside the Traditional History Lesson

Last updated: December 5, 2015