From Annenberg to You (with Love)

Looking for a way to incorporate an intelligent and cohesive way to teach U.S. history? Overwhelmed by the many websites out there, each with one or two valuable texts or resources? Well, you are in luck. If you are reading this review, you now have access to a comprehensive online curriculum for teaching U.S. history, divided into periods, with excellent primary sources to illustrate key themes and points as well as excerpts from texts written by historians that will give you, as teacher, an in-depth understanding of each period.

Annenberg’s “America’s History in the Making” curriculum is quite simply a treasure. Divided into 17 units which follow U.S. history from pre-Columbian times to the present day, each unit is organized into themes that summarize the important developments and concepts needed to understand a particular historical period. These themes both encapsulate key ideas and help teachers and students alike understand the cause and effect relationships among the events. Consider, for instance, the unit entitled “Industrializing America“:

Theme One: After the Civil War, the development of improved industrial methods and the arrival of masses of immigrants eager for factory jobs launched a new era of mass production in the United States.

Theme Two: Fleeing religious and political persecution and poor economic conditions, millions of people began to move about the globe, with a high concentration coming to the United States.

Theme Three: Industrial expansion and the influx of new populations brought about major changes, including the rise of a labor movement and the emergence of women’s organizations as important agents of social and political reform.

Accompanying each theme are primary sources and excerpts from books by historians that provide both factual information and analysis for the teacher. This is a sophisticated approach to teaching history, as multiple perspectives are included and America’s history is set in the context of global developments.

Illustration of the Bessemer Process - primary source from Industrializing America
Illustration of the Bessemer Process – primary source from Industrializing America
Steel Production by the Bessemer Process, 1869–1899 - secondary source from Industrializing America
Steel Production by the Bessemer Process, 1869–1899 – secondary source from Industrializing America
Migration to the U.S., 1860-1910 - secondary source from Industrializing America
Migration to the U.S., 1860-1910 – secondary source from Industrializing America

Consider this section from the unit entitled “The New Nation”:

Faces of America

Tecumseh became one of the most determined Shawnee opponents of white settlement and played a critical role in an creating unprecedented political alliance among Indian nations.

Richard Allen became a Methodist at age 17 and gained his freedom soon after. He left a Philadelphia Methodist church over racial discrimination and in 1794 started a church that would become the foundation of a new denomination.

Judith Sargent Murray grew up in a prosperous Massachusetts family and was unusually well educated. She wrote many books and articles, many of them arguing for women’s education.

This unit, the New Nation, also leads teachers and students through a “tour” of the many revolutionary movements taking part in different areas of the globe at this time, putting America’s development in an international perspective.

We Are Now Masters - excerpt from The New Nation
We Are Now Masters – excerpt from The New Nation
Tribal Nations on the Western Frontier, 1789 - secondary source from The New Nation
Tribal Nations on the Western Frontier, 1789 – secondary source from The New Nation

While I have not used these materials in classroom teaching yet, they did form the basis of the ELA-Social Studies Teacher Leader Institute held in November 2015. The Institute session focused on Post-War America, and teachers were divided into groups to construct lessons around the primary sources included in the “Postwar Tension and Triumph” unit. Some teachers focused on the baby boom, post-war prosperity and its effects; another group developed a lesson on effect of the atom bomb; another presented a lesson plan to help students understand the ideological struggle between capitalism and communism; and a fourth group focused on redlining and its effects.

It is obvious that the curriculum developers intended it as an educational tool not only for students but for teachers as well, since each unit includes a Facilitator’s Guide (example from Unit 2: Mapping Initial Encounters) which outlines a series of steps for teachers to follow in reviewing the materials and trying out key practices such as analyzing maps and primary sources.

This is an extremely rich set of resources and it’s free. If you teach social studies, I urge you to take a deep dive into the materials, and to download them to your computer. This is a really valuable resource.

A list of units follows:

Pre-Columbian America
Mapping Initial Encounters
Colonial Designs
Revolutionary Perspectives
The New Nation
Contested Territories
Antebellum Reform
A Nation Divided
Reconstructing a Nation
Taming the American West
Industrializing America
The Progressives
A Growing Global Power
By the People, For the People
Postwar Tension and Triumph
Egalitarian America
Global America

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About Kate Brandt

Kate Brandt is a Professional Developer in the adult literacy field in New York City and she loves her job. She loves her job so much that she commutes 2 hours per day, from her suburban home in Shrub Oak, New York, to get to work. She loves working in adult literacy because she gets to work with people who are smart, kind, and dedicated.

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