HistoryQuest8 Videoconference: Wikispaces Archive

Since Wikispaces is closing down, I’m moving my collaborative videoconference projects over to my blog for archiving. Great project formats can still be used and adapted!

An 8th Grade US History Project

Choose your focus:

  • Revolutionary War
  • Civil War

This project is designed for 8th grade students studying US History. Through video conference technology, students are able to meet other students while learning about United States history. Prior to the video conference each classroom will create a presentation with clues about a mystery person, event, invention, issue/problem or section from a document. The other classrooms, using maps, the Internet, textbooks, and other resources, will try to discover the history mystery presented by each participating classroom.

Flyer: historyquest8flyer

New Short Agenda

  • 1 min: Intro & Directions by Janine
  • 20 min: 4 classes do 5 min presentations or (25 min for 5 classes)
  • 15 min: Research and solve (students can use computers from the start)
  • 3-5 min. Each classroom presents their guesses to the clues.
  • 3-5 min. Correct history mysteries revealed by each classroom.

Credit: This project is modeled after the Where in the USA project by Learning Space (1996-2004).


Sample Visuals

Note: Some of these samples are from geography MysteryQuests.

Visual clues can really make a difference in note taking if we have audio problems. Often students read clues too fast and quiet for other students to write them down. So the best solution is to include visual clues to accompany your presentation. This is HIGHLY recommended.


 Posters are the easiest way to share a visual clue but can also be the most difficult to show effectively in a videoconference. In presentations where the other class is taking notes, clear posters are crucial. Even in presentations where the partner class is listening, it is still very frustrating when posters aren’t clear. Placing a poster on an easel keeps the poster still and is therefore easier for the other class to see it. Make sure the font is large and easy to read.

• Your poster should only include information that is needed to answer the HistoryQuest questions. All extra information should be presented separately.

• Bottom Line: Large text, strong contrast with no light colors for lettering, and very large pictures or drawings. Huge thick lines for drawing and writing are best. Test your poster by holding it up; across the room to see if you can still read it. Have students read their part off of the back of the poster instead of the front. This makes it easier to hold the poster still (if not using and easel.)

Use the VC Poster Handout to give to your student groups to assist in making their posters.

The last clue is: “No one sinks ‘em better”. Can you think of what revolutionary war ship this would be about?

Document Camera

Many videoconference systems include a document camera. You can put 8 1/2 by 11 pages (landscape) on the document camera to share clues. Ask your distance learning or technology coordinator if you have access to a document camera. You may want to consider setting presets so that you can switch between the students and the document camera.

With the document camera, it comes through best if you stack the clues and then pull the top one off. This reduces the blurry transition time.


If you’re really up for using technology, ask your distance learning or technology coordinator if you can hook up a computer to your videoconference equipment. Make sure you use large letters. Avoid red. Dark backgrounds with contrasting light text works best. If possible, test the PowerPoint ahead of time to make sure it can be read.

You may want to consider some plan so that we can see the students, then the PowerPoint, then the students again. Or show the PP as a review at the end of your presentation if there is time in your allotted 5-7 minutes.

Background Sets

Some classes like to design elaborate sets for their presentations, which are very visually appealing. Here are some examples:

Organizing Your Research Time

These pictures are from Pine River Elementary. They give a great flavor of what the research portion is like in the classroom. I especially like the picture of this strategy of having a wall or whiteboard or place to write the guesses for all the schools. It gives a focal point to the research. See how the students are working there.

[Wikispaces conversion note: Images were removed from the Pine River website and are no longer available.]

Revealing Your Answer

A visual aid for revealing your answer is also a nice touch and reinforces the learning.

Involve All Your Students
During a videoconference, it’s wise to include as many students as possible. Here is a suggested list of jobs to assign students.

  1. Art crew-design backdrop and paint.
  2. Directors-(usually one girl and one boy).
  3. Stage hands-move props.
  4. Lighting and sound crew-turn on and off lights/adjust microphone.
  5. Narrators-(usually good readers and who are not shy to speak in front of the camera).
  6. Actors
  7. Costume and make-up-help put together costumes and help with make-up.
  8. Writers-help write and edit script-help with timing and what scenes can be deleted or added.
  9. Cue card holders-hold up cards with lines on them for anyone who might get stuck-hold up scene or act cards during a transition.
  10. Question and Answer team-These will be the ones who answer and ask questions to the other class at the end of the conference.
  11. Judges-These students watch the performance by both schools and write down any changes that might improve the conference for the next time-we must always learn from our mistakes.
  12. Take Down crew-cleans up after conference.

This student job list was presented by Kim Pearce, Gatesville Intermediate School, Language Arts 6th grade teacher, at the 123 Jazzing Up Your Curriculum Workshop Summer 2006. Used by permission.


Preparation Resources

Preparing Your Classroom Presentation:

  1. Choose one mystery person, event, invention, issue/problem or section from a document to present. Four history mysteries total will be presented. Do NOT choose a history mystery that students should know by memory if they have studied the Revolutionary War / Civil War. They should not be able to guess while listening to the presentation.
  2. Email your mystery right away to Janine Lim so she can check for duplicates.
  3. In the presentation, give the required clues in your presentation. Do NOT give dates, as these are too easy to Google and find the correct answer. If you really want to give a date, give it in the form of a math problem or other creative two-part clue instead of just the date to copy down.
  4. Prepare a visual to reveal the answer to your presentation.
  5. Provide paper for taking notes for each student in the class. (Suggestion: if you have each student takes notes on each presentation, if a team figures out a mystery quickly they can help another team.)

Tips for shorter preparation time:

  • Have all your sections do the same history mystery
  • Use the same visuals (posters/PowerPoint) for all your sections
  • Teacher tip: “My 8th graders of mixed abilities, took about 50 minutes to create 2 different History Quests. I broke students into 2 teams, they took a “divide and conquer” approach. One student manned the Powerpoint station, while the other researchers discussed and developed the clues in a business meeting format.” -Monica M. Kwiatkowski,Cuba-Rushford Middle/High School, Cuba, NY

Fast Transitions

  • Know the schedule and have your students up at the mic ready to go.
  • When you’re about to present, have some kids taking notes and the others getting ready to go.

Helpful Resources from Other Projects

Required Clues

Questions to Answer
Be sure to keep the presentation to 5 minutes or less.

Revolutionary or Civil War
Make sure your presentation fits with the session you registered for. We run Revolutionary War in the fall and Civil War in the spring.

Developing your Clues:
When developing your clues try to make sure each one is challenging. The other classes should not be able to determine your history mystery just from hearing one or two clues and not doing any research. For example, if you were presenting a clue for George Washington, you would never want to come out and say “he was the first president of the United States.” Also, you would not want to give a clue that the other classes can Google and find in the first few search result descriptions.

Do NOT give dates, as these are too easy to Google and find the correct answer. If you really want to give a date, give it in the form of a math problem or use other creative two part clue instead of just the date to copy down. Make the other class use their knowledge of the Revolutionary War or Civil War to figure it out. It should take them longer than 5-10 minutes to figure it out.

History Clues:
Give at least 5 clues in your presentation, using these as suggestions of what information to give.
Somewhere in your presentation, give the following required clue in a creative interesting manner.
1. Which type of history mystery is it? (person, event, invention, issue/problem or section from a document)
1. What main events in history surrounded this person?
2. Why is he or she familiar to us?
3. Why do, or should we, study about him or her?
1. What is the setting of the event? (North, South, East, or West)
2. What were some causes of the event?
3. Who were some major characters involved in the event?
4. What were some results/outcomes of the event?
1. Give a range of dates for the invention.
2. Give a clue about the immediate or long term impact this invention had on the nation.
3. Give a clue about obstacles or controversy surrounding the invention.
4. Give a clue about background information leading up to the invention. (a need, accidental discovery, etc.)
Issue or Problem
1. What caused this to be an issue or problem?
2. Who or what created or contributed to this issue or problem?
3. What were some actions taken to solve this issue or problem?
4. Give a clue about major characters involved in this issue or problem.
5. Give a clue about this issue or problem’s immediate or long term impact on the nation.
Section from Document
1. Give a clue about the creators of the document.
2. Give a clue about the surrounding events inspiring this section of the document.
3. Give a clue about the immediate or long term impact this section of the document had or has on the nation.


Note: I am not maintaining these links. They are here for reference and history only.

Revolutionary War

The Civil War

Resources in Detail within the Units for the Michigan Citizenship Curriculum

Presentation Preparation Links


Michigan Social Studies 8th Grade Level Content Expectations

U3.3 Creating New Government(s) and a New Constitution
Explain the challenges faced by the new nation and analyze the development of the Constitution as a new plan for governing. [Foundations for Civics HSCE Standard 2.2.] Note: Expectations U3.3.1–U3.3.5 address content that was introduced in Grade 5, but ask for explanation and analysis at a higher level than expected in Grade 5. They are included here to support in-depth discussion of the historical and philosophical origins of constitutional government in the United States. (U3.3.6)

8 – U3.3.1 Explain the reasons for the adoption and subsequent failure of the Articles of Confederation (e.g., why its drafters created a weak central government, challenges the nation faced under the Articles, Shays’ Rebellion, disputes over western lands). (C2)
8 – U3.3.2 Identify economic and political questions facing the nation during the period of the Articles of Confederation and the opening of the Constitutional Convention. (E1.4)
8 – U3.3.3 Describe the major issues debated at the Constitutional Convention including the distribution of political power, conduct of foreign affairs, rights of individuals, rights of states, election of the executive, and slavery as a regional and federal issue.
8 – U3.3.4 Explain how the new constitution resolved (or compromised) the major issues including sharing, separating, and checking of power among federal government institutions, dual sovereignty (state-federal power), rights of individuals, the Electoral College, the Three-Fifths Compromise, and the Great Compromise.
8 – U3.3.5 Analyze the debates over the ratification of the Constitution from the perspectives of Federalists and Anti-Federalists and describe how the states ratified the Constitution. (C2) (National Geography Standard 3, p. 148)
8 – U3.3.6 Explain how the Bill of Rights reflected the concept of limited government, protections of basic freedoms, and the fear of many Americans of a strong central government. (C3)
8 – U3.3.7 Using important documents (e.g., Mayflower Compact, Iroquois Confederacy, Common Sense, Declaration of Independence, Northwest Ordinance, Federalist Papers), describe the historical and philosophical origins of constitutional government in the United States using the ideas of social compact, limited government, natural rights, right of revolution, separation of powers, bicameralism, republicanism, and popular participation in government. (C2)
U4 USHG ERA 4 – Expansion and Reform (1792-1861)
U4.1 Challenges to an Emerging Nation

Analyze the challenges the new government faced and the role of political and social leaders in meeting these

8 – U4.1.1 Washington’s Farewell – Use Washington’s Farewell Address to analyze the most significant challenges the new nation faced and the extent to which subsequent Presidents heeded Washington’s advice. (C4)
8 – U4.1.2 Establishing America’s Place in the World – Explain the changes in America’s relationships with other nations by analyzing treaties with American Indian nations, Jay’s Treaty (1795), French Revolution, Pinckney’s Treaty (1795), Louisiana Purchase, War of 1812, Transcontinental Treaty (1819), and the Monroe Doctrine. (C4) (National Geography Standard 13, p. 169)
8 – U4.1.3 Challenge of Political Conflict – Explain how political parties emerged out of the competing ideas, experiences, and fears of Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton (and their followers), despite the worries the Founders had concerning the dangers of political division, by analyzing disagreements over
• relative power of the national government (e.g., Whiskey Rebellion, Alien and Sedition Acts) and of the executive branch (e.g., during the Jacksonian era) (C3) (National Geography Standard 13, p. 169)
• foreign relations (e.g., French Revolution, relations with Great Britain) (C3) (National Geography Standard 13, p. 169)
• economic policy (e.g., the creation of a national bank, assumption of revolutionary debt) (C3, E2.2)
8 – U4.1.4 Establishing a National Judiciary and Its Power – Explain the development of the power of the Supreme Court through the doctrine of judicial review as manifested in Marbury v. Madison (1803) and the role of Chief Justice John Marshall and the Supreme Court in interpreting the power of the national government (e.g., McCullouch v. Maryland, Dartmouth College v. Woodward, Gibbons v. Ogden). (C3, E1.4, 2.2)
U5 USHG ERA 5 – Civil War and Reconstruction (1850-1877)
U5.1 The Coming of the Civil War

Analyze and evaluate the early attempts to abolish or contain slavery and to realize the ideals of the Declaration of

8 – U5.1.1 Explain the differences in the lives of free blacks (including those who escaped from slavery) with the lives of free whites and enslaved peoples. (C2)
8 – U5.1.2 Describe the role of the Northwest Ordinance and its effect on the banning of slavery (e.g., the establishment of Michigan as a free state). (National Geography Standard 12, p. 167)
8 – U5.1.3 Describe the competing views of Calhoun, Webster, and Clay on the nature of the union among the states (e.g., sectionalism, nationalism, federalism, state rights). (C3)
8 – U5.1.4 Describe how the following increased sectional tensions
• the Missouri Compromise (1820)
• the Wilmot Proviso (1846)
• the Compromise of 1850 including the Fugitive Slave Act
• the Kansas-Nebraska Act (1854) and subsequent conflict in Kansas
• the Dred Scott v. Sandford decision (1857)
• changes in the party system (e.g., the death of the Whig party, rise of the Republican party and division of the Democratic party) (C2; C3) (National Geography Standard 13, p. 169)
8 – U5.1.5 Describe the resistance of enslaved people (e.g., Nat Turner, Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad, John Brown, Michigan’s role in the Underground Railroad) and effects of their actions before and during the Civil War. (C2)
8 – U5.1.6 Describe how major issues debated at the Constitutional Convention such as disagreements over the distribution of political power, rights of individuals (liberty and property), rights of states, election of the executive, and slavery help explain the Civil War. (C2) (National Geography Standard 13, p. 169)

U5.2 Civil War
Evaluate the multiple causes, key events, and complex consequences of the Civil War.
8 – U5.2.1 Explain the reasons (political, economic, and social) why Southern states seceded and explain the differences in the timing of secession in the Upper and Lower South. (C3, E1.2) (National Geography Standard 6, p. 154)
8 – U5.2.2 Make an argument to explain the reasons why the North won the Civil War by considering the
• critical events and battles in the war
• the political and military leadership of the North and South
• the respective advantages and disadvantages, including geographic, demographic, economic and technological (E1.4) (National Geography Standard 15, p. 173)
8 – U5.2.3 Examine Abraham Lincoln’s presidency with respect to
• his military and political leadership
• the evolution of his emancipation policy (including the Emancipation Proclamation)
• and the role of his significant writings and speeches, including the Gettysburg Address and its relationship to the Declaration of Independence (C2)
8 – U5.2.4 Describe the role of African Americans in the war, including black soldiers and regiments, and the increased resistance of enslaved peoples.
8 – U5.2.5 Construct generalizations about how the war affected combatants, civilians (including the role of women), the physical environment, and the future of warfare, including technological developments. (National Geography Standard 14, p. 171)

U6.2 Investigation Topics and Issue Analysis (P2)
Use the historical perspective to investigate a significant historical topic from United States History Eras 3-6 that also
has significance as an issue or topic in the United States today.
8 – U6.2.1 United States History Investigation Topic and Issue Analysis, Past and Present – Use historical perspectives to analyze issues in the United States from the past and the present; conduct research on a historical issue or topic, identify a connection to a contemporary issue, and present findings (e.g., oral, visual, video, or electronic presentation, persuasive essay, or research paper); include causes and consequences of the historical action and predict possible consequences of the contemporary action. (National Geography Standards 9 and 10, pp. 160 and 162)
Examples of Investigation Topics and Questions (and examples from United States History)
Balance of Power – How has the nation addressed tensions between state and federal governmental power? (e.g., Articles of Confederation, U.S. Constitution, states’ rights issues, secession, others)
Liberty vs. Security – How has the nation balanced liberty interests with security interests? (e.g., Alien and Sedition Acts, suspension of habeas corpus during the Civil War)
The Government and Social Change – How have governmental policies, the actions of reformers, and economic and demographic changes affected social change? (e.g., abolitionist movement, women’s movement, Reconstruction policies)
Movement of People – How has the nation addressed the movement of people into and within the United States? (e.g., American Indians, immigrants)

Facilitator Resources

Confirmation Letter


This confirmation is for the following session:
##EVENTLOCALTIME## (your time)

Please read below for technical and teacher information.

Technical Contacts (##EQUIPMENTCONTACT##):

According to our records, you will be participating with this equipment:

If this is incorrect, please let me know.

Test Call

The test call window for this event is on April 16 from 1:00-3:00 EST / 12:00-2:00 CST.
Your dial in number for the event and test call is:. If you cannot dial this, we can probably call you. Please discuss further by emailing .

If you have problems during the connection or test call, please call me at .

Assist Your Teacher

If possible, please help your teacher understand the distance learning room setup and the options available for presentation (document camera, computer hook up, mic locations, etc.). Find out if they need/want computer access during the research portion of the event. Note that it is highly unlikely that People Plus Content / H.239 / DuoVideo will work for this conference.

Connection Day

The connection will be open for you to dial in 15 minutes before the start of the program. Please dial in as soon as possible. We aim to have
every site connected by 10 minutes before the start of the program.

Teacher Information (##PARTICIPANTNAME##):

CRITICAL: If you haven’t already done so, please email me with the history mystery your class will present. One way to do this is to have students
vote for top choices and submit the top three to me without telling the students the top votes. Then after checking with me, give them the
selected mystery.

Detailed information about this project can be found at:
Note especially the questions your students should answer in their presentation.

The teacher preparation materials can be found at:

Video Taped Presentations

Please do NOT prepare a taped presentation. Taped presentations are very difficult to understand when sent over compressed video. Please present LIVE!

Video Releases

The event may be recorded by Berrien RESA for improvement of the project, as well as illustrations to post on the web for next year’s project. In addition, many schools tape the program they participate in. Because of this, please make sure the students who appear on camera have permission from their parents/guardian. (Some schools have a video/photograph release form built into their registration process. Here’s a Word file sample you can use.
Please leave the credit at the bottom of the form.)

If you have any questions, you may call me at  or email me. Thank you.

Instructional Technology Consultant
Berrien RESA

HistoryQuest8 Presentation and Test Call Reminders

HistoryQuest8 Teachers and Contacts:
A few reminders and items I want to emphasize as you’re preparing your presentations!

Test Calls
The test call windows are this week: [date & times here]
The IP is [IP here]. If you can’t do the extension, try just the IP.
I’ll be taking only 3 sites at a time for testing, so if you get a busy signal, try again in a few minutes.
IMPORTANT: If you plan to present with the computer, please be ready to test the computer connection.
If you have trouble during the test or the program, call .

If you haven’t yet sent me the mystery you are presenting, please do so as soon as possible. One way to choose is to have students vote for top choices & submit the top three to me without telling the students the top votes. Then after checking with me, give them the selected mystery. We do this to make sure there are no duplicate presentations.

Make It Hard!
We want to make sure the students really challenge each other. Make sure that you can’t just type a clue in Google and get the answer. Some classes get really creative in writing clues that have to be solved before you can find the answer. For example: http://blog.janinelim.com/?p=504 Lately in these programs we’ve had much more a challenge getting hard enough clues. So challenge each other!

Two part clues work better, where you have to solve one part to know the full clue to find the answer (i.e. he won a medal at the battle of what is now Jersey City). Also do not give full dates for events. It should take the other class at least 10 minutes to solve the history mystery.

Clearly Present Clues
Remember that the goal of your presentation is to clearly communicate the clues to the other classes, not to confuse them so they can’t guess. Here are some ways we highly recommend:

*Avoid taped presentations, as the quality of the tape gets degraded when sent over videoconferencing. Plus students will be better prepared to answer questions if their presentation is fresh in their mind.

*Prepare visuals to reinforce proper names and figures that are important to locating your mystery. Visuals for clues can be a “life saver” if we have technical difficulties or audio problems. Use this worksheet to assist your students in making clear posters or PPT slides:

*Have students practice speaking slowly, loudly, and clearly! Practice those communication skills!

*Have students read clues off notecards instead of paper so that we don’t have the noise of paper rustling.

Double Check your Clues
Check to make sure you are presenting all the required clues and the correct number from each section

Double check your visuals and make sure what the other class should write down is the LARGEST.

Revealing the Answer
Please prepare a visual for revealing the mystery you presented.

I know it can be crazy getting prepared and ready for this event, but relax! Enjoy the process. It should be fun for everyone involved and a great learning experience too!

As always, you can email me or call if you have any questions or want to discuss your presentation or the event.


HistoryQuest8 Countdown (sent Friday before event)

Subject: HistoryQuest8 [war] [date & time]
Greetings HistoryQuest8 Teachers & Contacts!

Just a few more days til our HistoryQuest8 event! In anticipation of that, here are a few notes for:
[date]: [start & end time in all represented time zones]

Number of Groups
We have [xxx] classes participating, so you should divide your
students into [xxx] groups for researching the other presentations.

Please connect at least 15 minutes early so we can start on time.
IP: [connection info here]
If you have trouble, call me at .

Order of Presentations
Classes are assigned a number by when they sign up. The assigned
order is:
Classroom 1 Teacher:
Classroom 2 Teacher:
Classroom 3 Teacher:
Classroom 4 Teacher:

Things to Bring
*All materials needed for your presentation.
*Research notes from the presentation in case another school has specific questions about your country or city.
*Any print materials for students to use in their research (books, maps, globes, etc.).
*If desired, arrange for the use of computers/Internet connection during the research portion of the event.
*Blank sheets for note taking.

Note Taking
Plan to have all students take notes on all presentations. This will help keep them involved, give them practice taking notes, and groups could help each other during in the research process if needed.

If you are using computers for this event, please do the following:
1. Do not allow students to use them during the note-taking. They should be practicing taking notes and being a good listening audience. Remember it’s possible you are the school the presenting school is looking at when they present. So be an attentive audience!

2. During the research portion, only use computers as a last resort. This event is about map skills, group skills, research skills. Some clues could give the answer quickly in Google and we’d rather have students really work to use maps etc. to discover the answer.

I’m excited about this wonderful learning opportunity for our students and look forward to a great event!


Post Project / Evaluation Reminder

Thank you for participating in HistoryQuest this week. Please take a moment to complete the evaluation so that we can continue to improve the program.

Also, I have added your email to my HistoryQuest8 listserv. Please let me know if you don’t want to be on the list. I am hoping to run another HistoryQuest8 on the Civil War in April/May….

Thank you for your feedback and we hope you can join us for another HistoryQuest in the future!


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