Get the Kids Moving: White House Rallies, IPad Movies, Classwide Twitter and Philosophical Chairs.... In One Unit!!!!

Friday, April 5, 2013
It's Friday night and oh my..... I deserve a weekend! This week was one of those where the kids were AMAZING but the job was stressful. I have certainly earned some blogging time, some Netflix and a glass (or two) of wine!
As I've mentioned in past posts, I just finished a huge unit on foreign policy. Although we don't actually have the History Alive! Series at my school, through the wonders of technology, I have stumbled upon all the resources online. I used this unit last year and this year I really owned it, reworked it and put my spin on it. The unit presents students with a foreign policy dilemma for the first five presidents. Students are given four different scenarios to choose from as they consider how they would have acted if they were president. Students work in groups and once they decide how they would have reacted they are to complete a processing activity. The book has them protesting in front of the White House for every dilemma and although I loved the idea, last year the kids got bored of the protest quickly. So here is what I did:
1. Dilemma 1: What should John Adams do about the French and the XYZ Affair?
Using my cheap whiteboards, the kids had to come up with a slogan that they would chant at a protest rally. I told them that at the rally they would be interviewed by the press and would have to tell the reporter what they think John Adams should do and why he should do it. I gave it a CCSS flare by telling them for their reason they had to cite textual evidence. I projected the White House onto the Smartboard, split the class in half and interviewed them. They looooved it! One kid told me it was his favorite lesson all year. My favorite slogan was, "Don't hate....negotiate!" I videotaped all the segments so I could make a full foreign policy movie at the end of the unit.
2. Dilemma #2: What should Thomas Jefferson do about the Barbary Pirates?
The kids had the same directions and options but instead they had to make 30 second commercials urging the president to listen to their foreign policy advice. I used iMovie to put all these movies together, with the protest and showed the whole thing at the end. I would show you these but I'm really a stickler of showing my kids' faces. Take my word for it..... They are hysterical!
3. Dilemma 3: What should James Madison do about the British impressing our soldiers?
This time, the kiddos took part in an analog Twitter conversation. As a group, the kids came up with a Twitter handle and hashtag that would explain their stance on involvement with the British. They then wrote a Tweet about their opinions. After this, each student was given three sticky notes. They had to comment on the group before them, the group after them and a group of their choice. They had to agree or disagree using textual evidence.
This really turned out to be a great way to process. They were able to work together and then process individually. After we did this I felt like is till needed to spend some time on the War of 1812 so I showed the kiddos this.....
OMG..... The kids giggled all thought this. To show them how perspective plays a major role in the story of us, I showed them this....
They loooooved this!
4. Dilemma 4: What should James Madison do about the new Latin American countries?
For this, I tried my hand at Philosophical Chairs and I was so proud of my kiddos. I had four corners of the classroom, one for each option they could choose from. They each went to the corner and started to defend their cases with textual evidence. Whenever they stopped believing with their side, they were able to move to a new corner. For the first time, I though this went so well. I can't wait to use it in other debates as well. I love the simplicity of it and the lack of set up. The kids loved that I let them sit on the desk. It's the simple things:)
All in all, it was one of those units that you poured your blood and soul into and in the end it returned the feeling threefold. And of course, there was this......

Click here for the foreign policy activities.
Click here for the reading.


  1. I would LOVE to access this information, however, when I click on the links provided, Google is sharing that they have been deleted?? Is there any way you could email them to me? I LOVE coming to your site and gaining new ideas for getting my kids engaged in history. Ever since I tried your interactive Boston Massacre, I have been hooked ;0) Email

  2. Hi there! I would love to access these files. My email is