I'm a big fan of Common Craft videos.

This is the third year I've done these videos as a mid-unit project with my 7th graders during their unit in Roman History and the project has evolved significantly over that time:

The first year I did the project, I was just happy to get through the project; there were a lot of elements to it and just juggling everything was something of a triumph. I discovered though, that given too much freedom in picking their topics, all 7th graders will turn their videos to the topic of stabbing someone. I made a note to myself to narrow the potential topics to stab-resistant subjects.

The following year (last December), I realized that my 7th graders need a lot more scaffolding than my 8th graders. Students' instructions need to be very explicit; they tend to do exactly what they are told - no more, no less. I was also frustrated by the old problem of group-work. Less motivated students would leave the diligent students to do most of the work, then share the same grade.

This year, I made it a point to write very, VERY detailed instructions. I wrote a rubric that graded the research and preparation parts of the project much more heavily than the actual movie, which had the double advantage of keeping students on track and being more fair, in terms of group-vrs.-individual work.

[Click below to download my project instructions and rubric.]

Actually, I think this video speaks for itself.

In the State of New Hampshire, all students - regardless of whether they are in kindergarten, 8th grade, graduate school or auto mechanic school - are required to study the Constitution in some way on Constitution Day, September  17th. Because the 17th falls on a weekend this year, the New Hampshire Department of Education announced that we teachers could teach Constitutional material on the Friday or Monday closest to the 17th at our discretion. 

While being told what to teach on a particular day is a little annoying to me on a philosophical level, it's really not that big a deal in practical terms. My 8th graders are in the middle of our Constitution Unit at the moment, so they are covered.

After some thought, I decided to address the Constitutional lesson with my 7th graders by showing them the video below, a rap about the life of Alexander Hamilton. Both classes I showed it to begged me to show it again immediately and asked me to post a link to it on our class blog.

It's that good.

Two Other Videos Which, While Not Being QUITE So Awesome, Are Still Pretty Awesome:

This one about the Declaration of Independence:

And this one about William Howard Taft, the 27th President of the United States. (History has not been kind to Taft, who had a truly remarkable career and was, by all accounts a decent and kind man with a razor-sharp intellect. Unfortunately, he was our fattest president and is best remembered today for having once gotten stuck in a bathtub.)