One method I used to make my lessons memorable and easy to understand was having students act out short plays or skits.
In February of 2005, I presented two straight days of skits about tariffs, John C. Calhoun, Daniel Webster and Henry Clay. I can vaguely remember that the first skit did not go as well as the second, because it was not written as a script. I gave my students character notecards with the most important points on them and had them improvise. Part II had a script and focused mostly on the debate over protective tariffs between Calhoun and Webster.
Later, my department chair gave me a skit about the first two political parties. It was basically a Federalists vs. Anti-Federalists debate pitting Alexander Hamilton vs. Thomas Jefferson. I rewrote the skit to inject a little humor and write it in a conversational tone that my students would understand better.
Finally, as a review heading into the TAKS, I basically took a list of important figures we were reviewing (George Washington, Lewis and Clark, Eli Whitney, Robert Fulton, Andrew Jackson, James Monroe and Henry David Thoreau) and created a talk show where they explained their significance. It isn't my best work, but it was certainly better than the alternative (boring notetaking).
Everything is on Google Docs:
- A Short Play About Tariffs, Part I
- A Short Play About Tariffs, Part II
- Graphic organizer for notes on slavery, sectionalism, states rights, and protective tariffs
- Political Parties Debate (Hamilton vs. Jefferson)
- Political Parties graphic organizer for the student and for the teacher
- "Mr. D's Time Machine" (feat. The Texas 8th Grade U.S. History TAKS All-Stars)
Take a sheet protector and run twine between the top and bottom holes, long enough so that it will hang at chest level. Slip the paper with the character's name into the sheet protector. Write it with a big permanent marker or use a really big font and landscape mode in your favorite word processor.