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Student websites are history in the making

By: Maria Allard | Mount Clemens - Clinton - Harrison Journal | Published June 3, 2015

 The U.S. history students used a number of designs, photos and texts to build their websites.

The U.S. history students used a number of designs, photos and texts to build their websites.

CLINTON TOWNSHIP — For anyone interested in what Mike Ward’s 10th-grade students in U.S. history at Clintondale High School learned this year, check out the website

As part of their class assignments, the students built websites to document what they studied about American history, including a unit on the Great Depression and World War II.

To create each website, Ward’s classes used a variety of texts, images, videos, photos, music and designs to log the historic lessons that were part of their course work. Many students worked in pairs.

“Everything content-wise is aligned to our state curriculum, which is the high school content expectations,” Ward said. “Each of the expectations are broken up into eras, geography and U.S. history.”

In Clintondale Community Schools, Ward said the historic content is divided into nine eras. Students study eras one through five at Clintondale Middle School. Once they enter high school, era five is reviewed, and the students then advance to eras six through nine, which cover different time periods. Era six, for instance, focuses on industry and power.

Ward and the students are looking for professional feedback on the websites they made on Chromebooks, which are like laptop computers. Each student has a feedback page located somewhere in their navigation bar that contains a survey. Students already have received reviews from their classmates and other teachers in the building, but they want to hear from people outside the CHS community, too.

Honors U.S. history sophomore Dalia Ali-Khan has enjoyed learning about history via the website projects.

“It’s easier than learning the traditional way,” she said.

“We’re learning for the sake of learning rather than learning to pass a test,” her website partner,  Annika Christiani, said. The 10th-grader said she really enjoyed learning about history minus wartime, feeling that there were other ways in which to resolve conflict.

The Cold War, the civil rights movement and domestic policy are among the other topics that Ward exposed the students to in the class.

At the beginning of honors U.S. history class May 27, the students were required to read two current event stories on a site called Newsela, which is a leveled reading program for grades three through high school. It contains current news stories that are rewritten to correspond to different levels of reading complexity.

One news story, from the Dallas Morning News and adapted by Newsela staff, centered on 10-year-old Mikaila Ulmer, chief executive of BeeSweet Lemonade, which she launched at age 4 1/2, according to the article dated May 22, 2015.

The other story, dated May 5, 2015, began with the headline “In German town, Allies helped, no love for new war refugees,” and was written  by Matthew Schofield, McClatchy Foreign Staff, in Troeglitz, Germany.

After reading the stories, the students took a four-question test to see if they comprehended what they had just read.

“We have a choice to pick the reading level,” student Daniel Green said. “The higher the level, the more difficult the questions. It’s a good way to help comprehend what you’re reading.” 

Ward has a way of acknowledging students who get a 100 percent on the Newsela test by taking their picture and adding them to the 100s Club via social media.

“I post this on Twitter and send it then on Twitter,” Ward said. “(The tests are) preparing them for the SATs next year while encouraging literacy and delivering it through technology.”

When the students finished the assignment, they returned to working on their websites.