If you have not yet been introduced to Joy Hakim, don’t delay. Hakim is the author of a U.S. history series entitled A History of Us. This series, told in a lively, engaging way, was written for middle school students, but it is also a great way for adult students to learn about U.S. history and prepare for the TASC. The PBS website features free webisodes, showing the video documentaries that were made by PBS, based on the book. These webisodes can be shown in class or watched at home by students. Each webisode comes with a teaching guide, a glossary, and a quiz, so the videos can be used in class, but students can also work on their own. There are also quizzes and games that students can play to review what they have learned. While some of the games may be too focused on children, the quizzes can be useful.
But there’s much more here than webisodes for both students working on their own and for teachers. The site is not only focused on internet resources and video, but also on the book series itself, which makes it especially helpful for teachers. For those teachers who can get their hands on the books, there is a very useful curriculum developed by the Center for Social Organization of Schools at Johns Hopkins University tied directly to the books and full of great teaching suggestions. The lessons were not developed for adults but are very applicable to adult students. These lesson plans also offer glossaries and lists of trade books, both nonfiction and fiction, that can be used to supplement the lessons. There really is a wealth of high quality teaching resources stored here.
Another especially helpful feature for teachers wanting to review or augment their knowledge of history is the historical primers that are attached to each episode. These are one-pagers that provide essential information and facts, “framing” particular historical eras for teaching as they prepare to teach. While some of these are at a more advanced reading level, there is also a synopsis of each webisode which can be printed out and used as a classroom text.