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  • Shannon Bontrager

AHA Article: Professional Skills, Historical Thinking Supplement

Updated: May 6, 2021

Greetings! I have had a few requests for additional information regarding my Microsoft Teams classroom column at the AHA Perspectives Daily website. In response, I have listed the assignment description from my syllabus below. I use this in a F2F class but over the summer I used it in an online class. It could easily be adapted to F2F, online, hybrid modules. A couple of caveats: 1) This is designed for an undergraduate class (mostly freshman and a few sophomores) and so the students are learning how to do historical research as the produce their historical work. They have all given consent to have others view their work, which I think is very courageous on their part but I also think they have created high quality histories. I am sure you will agree. 2) This design is a work in progress for me too so I am sure this project will evolve over time. Let me know if you some good ideas to share! If you would like to talk more about this format. I tweet @STBontrager and my email is You can also find me on LinkedIn and Facebook under Shannon Bontrager. There are a ton of short "how to" videos on how to use Microsoft Teams in the classroom that you can easily find using google.

Group Project:

This is an opportunity to simulate real life working situations while using historical methods to learn about the past. Students will be split into groups on Teams. Each group must meet at least twice per week in Teams. Groups should not meet in real life. Each group will create 3 scenes in a historical screenplay that will be historically accurate, based on primary and secondary sources, and documented (using Chicago style citation system).  There will be other aspects of this assignment including an Annotated Bibliography, a digital Timeline, and a Pecha Kucha project. The project will be worth 500 points for the group with the Screen play being worth 200 points for the group. In addition an extra 200 points will be awarded to each individual based on the individual student's ability to successfully fulfill their respective role in the project.

Group members will choose respective roles. The Director will receive a chance to accumulate 50 extra credit points. The Project manager will receive a chance to accumulate 35 extra credit points, Associates will receive an opportunity to receive 15 extra credit points. Extra credit points may or may not be awarded at the sole discretion of the instructor but the instructor will seek input from all of the group members. Students will use Teams to chat, edit, and otherwise collaborate on all the aspects of the project. Individual grades will be assigned based on what each student demonstrates within Teams. Those who are not contributing in chat or in editing, etc. will not be able to maximize their individual score line.


Director will contribute to project content and also be responsible for making final decisions about the screen play, about delegating work assignments, and about content and direction. They will be in charge of organizing the planner and making final decisions on who should complete specific tasks.

Project Managers will control specific projects (1 manager will oversee the Annotated Bibliography, 1 will oversee the Timeline, and another will oversee the Pecha Kucha Project). Project managers will delegate work assignments, and make final decisions about content and direction. While the Director controls the planner, each Project Manager should make recommendations as to which person should be assigned specific tasks.

Associates will contribute ideas to all phases of the project and collaborate with each other and the Director and Project Managers to produce successful work. They will be responsible for peer review and critical thinking and completing assigned tasks on time.

Annotated Bibliography

Each group will produce an Annotated bibliography for their screenplay(see assignments page for more details). Students will choose a topic from the “Born Into Slavery”collection and then build an annotated bibliography around the topic. The bibliography must have at least 15 sources. At least 5 sources must be scholarly and must come from JSTOR, at least 5 sources must be primary sources that come from the Library of Congress Slave Narrative collection, and at least 5 sources can come from the following contemporary sources (1619 Project, the New American History, Bunk, and American Panorama. Sources can only come from these collections. One image must accompany each annotation that helps the reader visualize the source. Images must be fair or free use. Each annotation should be approximately 250 words and will have to source, contextualize, corroborate, and read the document closely (see historical thinking chart). See the rubric for how annotated bibliographies will be graded. Each individual must contribute to the bibliography and each group will do all of their work inside of Teams and build their bibliography together within Teams. When completed, each group will post the digital copy of their annotated bibliography in Teams by the date listed in the syllabus. This assignment will make up 100 points of the group project.

Fair and Free Use Resources: Open Source Locations to consult: Public Domain Sherpa: Flickr Commons: Library of Congress--American Memory Project Facts on File via Galileo Native American History Online Women’s History Online African American History Online American History Online Digital Public Library Online via Galileo


Each group will have the opportunity to build a digital Timeline out of their bibliography using Timeline JS from KnightLab. Timelines are valuable tools for visualizing order of events and can help viewers develop a thesis and a narrative that focuses on a cleaer chronological order. Each group will produce 15 to 20 slides using the images they curated in the annotated bibliography assignment. The Timeline will use a google spreadsheet found in Timeline JS and will be posted to Teams under their respective group channel. Images must be fair or free use. Each group member must contribute to the Timeline. This assignment is worth 100 points of the group project and will be due on the date listed in the syllabus.

Student Example

Pecha Kucha

Pecha Kucha is a style of presentation that originated in Japan. Each group will compose a presentation that has 20 slides and will spend approximately 20 seconds on each slide. The entire presentation will be 6 minutes and 40 seconds. The focus on this group presentation will be based on the topic chosen, and research performed, for the Annotated Bibliography Assignment. The presentation will have an introduction, thesis, body, and conclusion. It will stress less the history of the topic and more about the “behind-the-scenes” work that went into building the screen play. What were the basic assumptions group members had before doing research and how did those assumptions change after doing research on this topic? What goals do the group members have for this project? What ideas are group members trying to illustrate with their research? What choices were made and why were those choices made by the group? How will these choices benefit the overall historical quality of the screen play? How will these sources help bridge the line in their screen play between history and fiction? Images must be fair or free use and must compliment the text or spoken word of the presentation. Students can collaborate simultaneously and build their presentation together in Teams.

To make your presentation, go to YouTube and create a profile. If you have a google identity, you can use this to create your channel. Create a script that will last twenty seconds per slide and prepare for twenty slides. Choose twenty images to insert into your video. These images must be Fair Use or Free use images (see guide above). Images cannot violate the copyright of the image maker. Use a video producer such as Microsoft Video Editor or Apple iMovie to insert your images and overlay your voice. YouTube also has a video maker and editing tool as does the Pecha Kucha website free of charge. Other film making software that students have used includes Filmaker Pro/Filmaker Pro Editor, Animotica, Animoto, loom, or others. There are many user friendly videos describing how to use each of these services. Once complete, publish your video on YouTube and copy the link to the group channel post board by the dated listed below to be viewed by the instructor and fellow students. Students will be evaluated on their presentation’s ideas, organization, presentation style, and overall appearance. This aspect of the project is worth 100 points for the group.

Student Examples:

The Screen play will be a historical narrative of at least 3 scenes that will be documented and cited using footnotes and the Chicago Manual of Style citation system. It will use at least 3 sources from the Slave Narratives collection at the Library of Congress. While the screen play will have a historical narrative (tell a story) it cannot entirely be a work of fiction and must be based on historical sources used in the annotated bibliography. The group must produce and show the evidence that supports their narrative. The screenplay will be built collaboratively in Teams and completed by the date listed in the syllabus. All members of the group must participate in building the screen play. The group will be graded according to the quality in which they used primary source as evidence to construct a narrative. The narrative should be historically accurate, include three scenes, and use excellent grammar and word choice.This includes sourcing each primary source by considering its authorship, audience, credibility, and reliability of each source. The play should contextualize each scene with historical evidence and should used at least 10 sources from the Annotated Bibliography project. These sources should be of excellent quality and cited correctly using Chicago Manual of Style. The sources should be used well to support the ideas in the text. Evidence that the group collaborated efficaciously with excellent teamwork and support among members will also be evaluated. The team should demonstrate very strong, innovation and cooperation.

screenplay final
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