Yesterday I spent most of the morning talking with a group of K-12 teachers in a small, rural district about how the many changes taking place in western culture impact kids and education. That conversation led us to basic overview of what we as educators can do to add a wide variety of instructional strategies to our tool kit.

I always enjoy this sort of discussion but cross-grade level, cross-content from kindergarten to high school is always, well . . . interesting. Everyone’s needs are so different in those sorts of groups. I’d much rather be in front of a group of history or social studies teachers. And in a perfect world? Middle school teachers.

I mean, these are my people. Who doesn’t love middle level history geeks?

So I was pumped when a teacher started a conversation by sharing that she was the new 6th World History teacher in her building. Turns out she’s never taught World History before. She’s a bit panicked because kids show up tomorrow and she’s struggling to find helpful resources.

I quickly gave a her list of places she can go for some fast help:

But I wanted to give her something specific for the lower grades and was drawing a blank. So last night I spent some time browsing the inter-webs and discovered a pretty handy site called Throughout the Ages.

Throughout the Ages is a visual educational resource from the New York State Archives that focuses on using historical records as learning tools in pre-K-grade 6 education. And while the site is specifically designed to help New York teachers, there’s some awesome stuff here that we all can use.

The site offers more than 500 digital images of historical photographs, letters, broadsides, maps and paintings and incorporates a cool feature called “Build Your Own Worksheet.”

The images are organized by topics, which are divided by subtopics. I ran across Throughout the Ages because it has some nice ancient world history for you 6th graders But US history is also included for other grades and is divided into subtopics that include Native Americans, Colonial America, Civil War, etc.

Each image is accompanied by a caption, and about half of the images also include prepared historical background information, focus questions, key ideas, a historical challenge, interdisciplinary connection activities and a list of additional resources. Images accompanied only by captions provide teachers with the option of writing in their own historical background information and questions.

I’m not a big fan of anything called a worksheet so I’m wishing that the site creators would have selected a different title then “Build Your Own Worksheet.” But the option does allow you to print out what I will call a “customized educational activity handout” for each image. You can select or deselect exactly what information you want to include along with the image.

For example, you can choose to print a portrait of Abraham Lincoln with the caption, historical background information, and questions that are provided. Or you can customize the printout by including only certain portions of the information from the website. I like that you can also edit and/or write in your own caption, historical background information and questions for each image.

So don’t let the word “worksheet” throw you. This customizable feature allows you to combine historical records and technology to promote the development of critical thinking skills, reading and writing skills and understanding of historical content and context.

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