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US History - 8th grade

Jess Henze

I teach 8th grade US history in Madison in a full inclusion, team based setting. This coming school year, we will have a chunk of time after lunch set aside for both LA and SS integrated (that's the hope, at least) We will have about 45 students for 3 teachers, and we can flexibly group them as needed.

I would LOVE to do PBL, but don't have a clue on how to start. We are required to teach the big topics between exploration and reconstruction: exploration, colonization, Declaration of Independence, Rev War, Constitution, Wisconsin Native American Tribes, Slavery, and the Civil War. (Not to mention all the other social studies things like economics, behavior sciences, political science, and geography).

Last year, for our slavery unit, I had students research modern forms of slavery and create a project and presentation to compare and contrast modern vs. "old" forms of slavery. For the most part, students enjoyed the concept, and the projects were pretty cool.

But, this doesn't really sound like PBL to me. I've seen questions, such as "What would America be like without Democracy?" and such, but is this really PBL?

Not to mention I've heard the question "Why do we have to learn this?" at least a million times.

So I'm looking for some great resources, guiding questions, lesson plans, ANYTHING, that can help me on my attempt to "revamp" US history for kids.

Thanks in advance for any suggestions.

Jess Henze
Sherman Middle School
Madison, WI

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social media and marketing manager of startup

Resources for PBL

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Hi Jess,

I would first recommend that you join #sschat on Twitter and also use them to support your teaching. Second we have a social studies group that just formed on Edutopia. Also a great resource. There are more than 50 members now. Last we have tons of resources on PBL. Check out our resources on Project Maine to kick off your PBL. We also have many blogs also.

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