Continental Congressional Law & Order: How I Intend to Use the Declaration of Independence (Next Year)

While some may want a time machine to witness seminal moments in history, I just want to go back a month ago. It was a simpler time back then, a younger Michael Milton went to begin teaching a unit that would lead his class to the American War for Independence. And I want very much to travel back to stop him.

It’s not that my unit went off track.

I’m proud of the fact that I added in a lesson that discussed ways in which enslaved workers protested – which included looking at the Dunmore Proclamation where enslaved workers in Virginia could fight with the British military in exchange for their freedom (which is referenced in the last of the grievances listed in the Declaration of Independence).

It’s that I think I know how to make the unit better.

And in doing so, I would make one of the most important pieces of our history as the centerpiece.

I figured it out while preparing and updating  an activity for my World History class. For this class, my students are looking at the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and of Citizen to decide which of the sacred rights of man that Robespierre violated during his Reign of Terror. I call it, “Law & Order: French Revolution.” [Here is a link to the piece that I wrote about this a few years ago.] Continue reading

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History Investigations: Voices from the Past

As I have begun to mentor an aspiring educator, I’ve been thinking about my various roles as a teacher. At any given moment I am a mentor, a guide, a sources of knowledge, a hero, a villain, a supporting player, a taskmaster, and a cheerleader. I am an ever-shifting presence in the lives of my students until I become a memory.

In addition to my metaphorical hats, I also have many physical hats that I don to embody different historical characters. I play Napoleon, Charles Knight (author of The Working-Man’s Companion), Otto von Bismarck, and a variety of generic roles from different periods of history. I often find myself on Amazon thinking, “seriously, how have I lived 35 years without owning a Victorian era top hat?” As a teacher, you try many ways to make learning more engaging and the smattering of characters is simply one of those ways.

Over the past few years, I have been trying to create opportunities for my students to interact with history. Sometimes ideas for this hit you at the oddest moments. One snowy day during winter break, I was myself watching one of the Mission: Impossible movies when I heard…

“Your mission, should you choose to accept it is to…”

My mind began racing…

Could I use this as an assignment set up in the classroom? 

The idea delighted me as I imagined myself sending self-destructive assignments to my students.

What if it wasn’t me who assigned the students a project but a rather a voice from the past?

This led me to, over a year or so, develop several Voice from the Past assignments. I am sharing three in this post that while are formatted differently and use varying levels of technology, they all have a similar set up. One is about the Lewis and Clark Expedition, one of an investigation into the assassination of Franz Ferdinand, and the final is a look at the origin of the Mexican War.  Continue reading

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Preparing for Exams like a Conspiracy Theorist

My favorite tools to prepare students for midterms is not an app or notecards (although both can absolutely be useful) but rather kitchen twine and Gorilla tape.


A few summers ago, I read Making Thinking Visible: How to promote Engagement, Understanding, and Independence for All Leaders which, I feel, leveled me up as a teacher. The crux of the book is that to help students develop their as critical thinkers, we must name and explain the types of thinking routines. [I can lend out my copy, but I have written all over it and as I reference it regularly I’d need it back.]

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Hamilton vs. Jefferson: Using Hamilton the Musical in the Classroom | Discovery Education

Below is the start to my post for Discovery Education about using Hamilton the Musical in the classroom! Check it out!

“And the world’s gonna know your name –
What’s your name, man?

Alexander Hamilton.
My name is Alexander Hamilton.
There’s a million things I haven’t done
But just you wait. Just you wait…”

For the past four years, I have used Lin-Manual Miranda’s performance at the 2009 White House Poetry Jam to introduce my students to Alexander Hamilton. And every year, they demand a second viewing. Lin-Manual’s ability to tell Hamilton’s story through hip-hop is absolutely amazing and my students often sang the song weeks later.

Lin-Manual Miranda is the genius behind Hamilton the Musical, the hit musical that tells the story of the first treasury secretary and of our young nation. When tickets for the production went on sale I immediately bought them. I cannot explain how amazing the show is. Mr. Miranda not only does a remarkable job bringing Alexander Hamilton to life, he breathes life into the founding of our nation. After seeing it, I could not wait to bring it to my class.

While Act 1 does an amazing job focusing on Hamilton’s experience during the War of Independence, as a classroom teacher it is the second act that I feel could help illuminate the differences between the Jeffersonians (Democratic-Republicans) and the Hamiltonians (Federalists). Two of the songs in particular, “Cabinet Battle #1” and “Cabinet Battle #2” directly highlight the foundational differences between the beliefs of Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson.

For this lesson, I am going to focus on “Cabinet Battle #1” which focuses on core economic differences between the two secretaries. In this rap battle, President Washington mediates a discussion regarding Hamilton’s economic plan. The lyrics are fast and full of history! As my students would be overwhelmed with this at first, I need to back up and discuss the differences between the two men.

Source: Hamilton vs. Jefferson: Using Hamilton the Musical in the Classroom | Discovery Education

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Shining a Light on the Unknown: Helping Students Understand ISIS and the Syrian Civil War | Discovery Education

My new post for Discovery Education!

As a fifth grader during the Gulf War, I distinctly remember Mrs. Spina helping to calm our fears about the war. After giving us a background on the war, Mrs. Spina brought us to a large world map to show us how far away the fighting was from our small town in Massachusetts. I remember going home and feeling more confidant talking about the war with my parents. While I did not fully understand the entire situation, I understood the war a bit better. When I started to watch the news on my own that background proved invaluable as I could follow along with the news anchor.

While we all have metrics and curricula to get through, as teachers we must help our students understand the world around them. The unknown is scary. As teachers, we help shine a flashlight on the unknown. We empower students through knowledge.

When ISIS attacked Paris on Friday evening, I knew that whatever lesson I had originally planned for Monday was out the window. I spent much of the weekend reading about the attacks, about ISIS, about the Syrian Civil War, and about the refugee crisis. I thought about the lesson from Mrs. Spina and while I could not show them a map about fighting far away to assuage their fears, I could help them understand more about what is going on in Syria.

When class began on Monday, my students were very concerned. We began just talking about the bombing in general – both in Paris and Beirut. Listening to them and their concerns helped guide the next few days as I sought out resources to use with them.

With this post, I am going to share resources that I have gathered and my final activity for discussing American involvement in the Syrian Civil War.

For more, click on the link!

Source: Shining a Light on the Unknown: Helping Students Understand ISIS and the Syrian Civil War | Discovery Education

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Historical Digitally Altered Image Project

As many of you have might have seen on my website, I have been digitally altering movie posters and other images to tell a new historical story. The results are often silly but have been a fun outlet for me personally.

How George Got His Groove Back

How George Got His Groove Back (and the original poster prior to my alteration)

For instance, How George Got His Groove Back popped into my head after researching and then visiting Washington’s Crossing. I simply had to make this when I got back to my hotel that night!

This summer my friend, occasional writing partner, and one of my #sschat co-moderators Dan Krutka suggested bringing my students in on the fun. Together, we created the framework for an inventive project in which students altered images based upon what we cover in class to demonstrate their understanding and to eventually serve as review material. Continue reading

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Honoring Our Veterans: Using Inquiry to Discuss Veterans Day | Discovery Education

I’ve recently begun blogging for Discovery Education! My first assignment was to create a lesson for Veterans Day and I am really excited to share this with you!


“My name is Michael K. Milton, and I am a US and World History teacher at Burlington High School in Massachusetts. My classroom is a place where my students and I get to experiment! As students explore history, they reflect, draw connections, inquire, discuss, debate, and seek out more knowledge about the world in which they live. Like my students, I love to learn, question, debate and inquire with my peers. In this, my first blog entry for Discovery Education, I want to share what Veterans Day means to me, and how I incorporate meaningful reflection into my classroom.

Inquiry-Based Lesson

In addition to honoring the past, I want students to grapple with how our society has treated returning soldiers historically, and how we treat them today. For an initial lesson, I might focus on the time period following World War II and compare it to how soldiers are treated today. My big question is, are we honoring our returning troops? Creating an inquiry-based lesson in which students are asked to evaluate historical circumstances allows them to research, discuss, debate, evaluate, and ultimately formulate a position and support it with evidence.”

For the complete article, visit the below link!

Source: Honoring Our Veterans: Using Inquiry to Discuss Veterans Day | Discovery Education

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Interactive Self-Paced Presentations with Google Slides

With Google Slides, you can create activities that allow students to move at their own pace! Utilizing the “link to different page” in Google Slides, you can create a little “choose your own adventure” for your students.

I made this one night for my students to get background on the Stamp Act while I was at a meeting for most of a period this week. Though my goal with sharing it is not to have everyone use this presentation (although feel free), but rather to show off how the technology can be used.

Here is the presentation and below it will be more of a “how to create” these presentations on Google Slides. Note: You can do the same with PowerPoint.

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“Rare Unearthed George Washington’s Christmas Card 1776”

What if on Christmas day in 1776 while preparing for the epic Battle of Trenton, George Washington took the time to write an annual holiday letter? It might look something like this…

It's not often when you find Washington's Christmas Card from 1776!

What an exciting find!

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Non-Linear Google Slides Presentations: Weimar Republic Political Parties

Last spring in my Digital Literacies and Emerging Technology grad class, we were asked to create a non-linear experience using PowerPoint or another similar tool.  In addition to the non-linear format, there had to be a place for discussion. My professor called it a “Branched Simulation” and I called it the bane of my existence. There were many false starts and initial sketches until I found my way forward.

This is probably one of the most exciting things that I have done recently. Not because of the content, but because of the method and the possibility. This is what I’d like to do more with in the future.*

For this interactive experience, I used a lesson from Facing History about the political parties during the Weimar Republic. The lesson looks at the political platforms of the Communist Party, the Social Democratic Party, and the National Socialist German Workers’ Party. In this experience, students were job seekers attempting to help the political parties recruit. In the plan, students utilize TodaysMeet  to participate in a discussion regarding the parties and also respond individually.

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