Monday, December 12, 2005

Videos in the American History Classroom

Hello. I have several ideas for a podcast and plan to record one in the next couple of days but I have also been thinking a lot lately about adding more blog entries to "Speaking of History" that would interest other American History teachers. I would like to do a future podcast on some of the best videos and movies used to teach history. I know that social studies teachers get a bad rap when it comes to showing movies but I'll be the first to admit there are several movies I really love to show my students because they generate excellent discussion and do an amazing job of showing the time period.

One of the movies I think every history teacher should consider showing it class is "The Crossing". This movie describes George Washington's crossing of the Delaware River to attack the Hessians at Trenton, New Jersey on Christmas Eve, 1776. "The Crossing" was produced in 1999 by A&E and is available as on DVD and VCR tape. I would recommend the DVD since it also includes several special features you may want to share with your students. I love showing this video to my students because it shows George Washington as a person with flaws and yet his men believed in him. I think Jeff Daniels does an excellent job of playing George Washington. This video is a favorite of my students every year. We are currently in the middle of the movie and will finish it up on Monday. My students find it so incredible that not a single colonial soldier was killed in the actual fighting at Trenton - that is why I always tell them that many times history is more incredible than anything Hollywood could write as fiction.

E-Mail me and let me know what movies you love showing your students and how you use them in class. I will share my favorite movies for teaching history in a future podcast and would enjoy hearing about your favorite movies in the classroom. Send e-mail to


  1. I love shows that use primary sources to piece together history. Two shows / episodes I've used are: Scientific American Frontiers: Unearthing Secret America. This show investigates the unearthing of Jamestown and how Monticello kept slavery at arm's length. For a more CSI-esque approach, I used Unsolved History: The Boston Massacre. Kids loved seeing what a musket ball would do to a human body. Don't watch that one before lunch.

  2. I just rented and viewed "The Crossing" for the very first time last week. This was just AFTER I finished the Revolutionary War with my 8th graders. Next year, I will be chucking "The Patriot" in exchange for "The Crossing".

  3. Anonymous6:57 PM

    I just showed "Friendly Persuasion" with Gary Cooper to my 5th graders. I was wanting to show them how Quakers believed, and lived and this movie does the trick. It has enough comedy in it, to keep the kids attention. The best part is the color is fabulous and I didn't have to worry about any inappropriate language or scenes! I just wish the movie took place before the American Revolution instead of the Civil War, but it still worked. They also saw how long it took for a person to load a black powder gun. (Something we talk about in class about how the Am. Rev. War was fought.) I had excellent feedback from the kids and of course, everyone loved Samantha the goose!