The Monthly Roundup – Loves, Links, Reads, and Reviews

Welcome back to another Loves, Links, Reads, and Reviews – the monthly link roundup where I post my best Social Studies related finds from the internet and discuss all that I’ve been up to in the past month. (It’s still freezing outside, but I picked an image that has the appearance of warmth.)

The True History Behind the Gilded Age – Although the new series on HBO has received mixed reviews, I’ve really enjoyed the history that’s intertwined with the fictional story. Although this isn’t a series I could show in class, I certainly appreciate the history behind the writing. I also love using screenshots as slide backgrounds, and I’m sure I will snatch a few from this one.

Revising America’s Racist Past – Unless you’ve been living under a rock, I’m sure you’re aware of the current controversies surrounding Social Studies education. This article takes a broad view and examines the context of the controversy that has developed from the perspective of several state case studies.

When Cities were Cesspools of Disease – This video discusses the era when disease permeated cities. It would serve as a great introduction to the Gilded Age.

National Geographic – Online Courses for Educators – Speaking of National Geographic – these courses for educators looks so interesting!

How did the Olympic Games Begin? – This website from the BBC offers a short introduction into the history of the Olympic games. (There are some cute games linked, but it looks like they only work if you’re in the UK.)

Two different links popped up that discuss the wealth disparity in a way that students will find engaging.

Spend Bill Gates’ Money – This website just calls on students to try and spend as much money as possible. They’ll soon discover that it’s practically impossible.

Wealth Shown to Scale – This website is a visual representation of how much money Jeff Bezos really has. Kids can pull up the websites on their phones and just scroll.

Both of these websites would serve an as excellent introduction into the wealth gap.

Peacefield History posts from this past month…

I posted on my Instagram page about the new book releases for middle grade and YA historical fiction and non-fiction. You can preview the offerings below and shop through these links on

New Peacefield History Resources

I’ve been working on resources discussing the Progressive Era and I’m really enjoying working with these topics. I have three new resources and if I say so myself – they’re really good! You can find each of the three resources linked below.

An Introduction to the Progressive Era – This lesson is meant to serve as an INTRODUCTION (not an overview) to the Progressive Era. Students will learn about how the issues of the Industrial Era led to the Progressive era by re-examining the issues of Industrialization. They will examine the longevity of those issues and then learn about the types of people who joined the Progressive movement and the Progressive presidents. There’s also a fun quiz about Teddy Roosevelt. This lesson was written for students who have never studied the Progressive Era previously, and who need a  discussion about what Progressivism was about before delving into the specific leaders or ideals.

Progressive Era Stations – This stations activity addresses 8 of the major issues surrounding the Progressive Era.

As this unit has been created for students at the middle school level, some of the more unwieldy details related to this era have been removed and/or condensed for clarity. The goal with this unit was to introduce the topic of the Progressive Movement to students at a comprehensible level so that they could also effectively and critically think about the time period. 

Students will complete stations that discuss the issues the Progressives were attempting to address and the possible solutions, laws, and amendments that came out of this time. (There are two separate station activities). As an assessment, students will complete a Progressive Era report card that determines the relative success relating to three of the major topics.  

Progressive Era Word Wall – Help your students build and retain key vocabulary terms with a visually appealing word wall. This resource includes 32 word wall terms related to the Progressive Era, vocabulary review strategies, and a review puzzle to support your students’ learning.

Reads and Reviews

This month I was only able to read three new books (I actually read a fourth that I quite loved, but it was one of those books that didn’t really teach me anything, so I decided not to add it here. It was super fun however, so if you’d like a nice beach read, you can check it out here. It’s called the Islanders.)

With that said, I REALLY enjoyed my pics this month. I’m getting better at picking books that just sink in my brain for the duration of my reading experience. You can check out my reviews below, and you can help support the blog by clicking through the links.

Reads and Reviews - January 2022
How to do Nothing

How to do Nothing

Odell's book focuses on the distraction of social media, however, she approaches the topic from a philosophical perspective that goes way beyond the social media realm. Her book isn't really about "doing nothing." Instead, the book focuses on the rise of social media, and how the constant updates and check-ins on social media have changed the way we interact with the real world. She also addresses how the distraction of social media has distanced us from the lives we actually live, and how a constant diet of news headlines, FOMO, and awareness of the latest "whatever" hasn't really contributed positively to the daily experience. Instead, the neediness of the attention economy just manifests more anxiety and sleep deprivation. Odell's book is full of historical context. She incorporates the words of Greek philosophers, artists, the environment, the demands of capitalism, and her own observations into a book that is rich with detailed and thoughtful observation. 
I have been continually re-analyzing the way that I interact with social media, and this book gave me a lot of questions to mull over. The points Odell makes in this book really hit close to home. After listening to an interview with the author, I decided to make some changes. I still have social media - it's not a platform I intend to completely remove from my life. However, I was certainly guilty of the mindless scroll, and I know that I gave myself more anxiety by doing so. I deleted Instagram and Facebook off my phone and I deleted the login information also. Now, I have scheduled times of the week where I check-in on both platforms. They still exist in my life, but I am intentional about how I interact in those spaces. Immediately, I've felt such a relaxation in my thoughts. I'm more focused, and I don't find myself reaching for my phone every five minutes - really because there's not much to engage my attention besides my Spanish language app or the weather. 
If you don't have the time to read this book full at the moment (it is a dense read), I highly suggest checking out Odell's interview with Jon Faveau from the Offline Podcast.
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Station 11

Station 11

Station 11 takes place in a post-pandemic world. In this case, 99.9% of humans have been killed off by a strain of the flu, and those who survive must literally claw together a new reality. Both the show and the book follow a myriad of characters, all who are connected by their relationship to a comic book called Station 11. This review is unusual in that I watched the TV show based on the novel first. Then, I proceeded to read the book afterwards.

I was absolutely mesmerized by the show. The writing was unique and creative, and it envisioned a post-pandemic world that didn't rehash the typical tropes. Instead of a world overwhelmed by constant fear, murder, and survival, there is art, there is Shakespeare, and there is a realistic outline of trauma that rises above just generic sadness.

The book and the show were so different that it actually proves difficult to compare the two. It's as though two authors were given basic plotlines, and then told to submit their version of the story. While some of the details are similar, they really are distant cousins of each other. The book includes most of the same characters, though the characters are given different circumstances and plot lines. The major emotional arc of the show - the relationship between Kristen and Jeevan - isn't present in the book at all. The book does add some richness to the story from the show, however, honestly, I think the show was the superior of the two. Maybe I would have felt differently if I had read the book first. Regardless, I think both hold merit, and I would suggest reading the book and watching the show for the richest experience.

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Beautiful Country

Beautiful Country

Beautiful Country is a memoir by Qian Julie Wang. Wang revisits the painful years of her early childhood growing up as an undocumented immigrant in New York City. Her parents left China (first her father, then Wang with her mother), and came to the United States with absolutely nothing. In those early years, her family faces extreme poverty and racism - all while living with the constant fear that they might be deported. Wang's story recounts the difficulties of those years with excruciating detail. While New York City seems enormous to most of us, Wang's world was actually very small. She knew little beyond the walls of her family's cramped apartment and that world was colored vividly by her parent's fear and real insecurity. 
Qang struggles with malnutrition, her parent's sadness and frustration over the circumstances, and every day is eked out from the smallest strands of support. Wang is just a few years younger than me, and I found myself comparing the circumstances I grew up in to her stark experience just four hours away. Amazingly, Wang never seems hopeless. She learns to read and speak English on her own, and she scavenges together means for her own survival. In all, the book strikes a hopeful tone.
While the full text is too long to assign, I could definitely see using sections of this book as part of a class. Even an excerpt would explain how terrifying the world can be for immigration children. and how one's undocumented status can take over everyday life. 
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