Chris Butler

United States - Illinois - Champaign
Chris Butler
253 votes
"A lie will travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes"--Mark Twain
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Mantua is a role-playing simulation set in fifteenth century Italy at the start of the Renaissance. In it students are divided into teams to play the five major Italian city-states of the time (Milan, Venice, Florence, the Papal States, and Naples)
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Entire unit on Chinese history from beginnings to the end of the 20th century. The Unit includes student text and teacher's notes in MS Word, color flowcharts in GIF files, extra , and powerpoints in which the flowcharts unfold one box at a time. A
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For the last 34 years, I have taught at University High School, in Urbana, Illinois. During this time I have created a 4-year world history curriculum that breaks down as follows: Subfreshmen (7th and 8th grades combined): Prehistory and ancient civilizations, including India, China, and Japan. Freshmen: Western civilization and the Islamic world to 1500 Sophomores: World history from 1500 to 1945 Seniors: the world since 1945. All of these, except the senior course are required. The elective senior course is consistently filled to capacity of 30, usually with a waiting list.


At heart, I'm a story-teller and have always put a premium on making history as fascinating to my students as I found it while growing up. However, history is more than stories, so at the core of my teaching is a cross-referenced series of some 245 color flowcharts I've developed over the years. These graphically organize and break down the subject matter into a format that helps students see how the forces of history occur and relate to one another. The flowcharts contain the core message of what I believe are the vital lessons of history. Conceptually, I think they should be accessible to most high school students, since they break down the process of historical events step by step into individual boxes of information. Each box is simple in itself, while the progression of information from one box to the next is logical, simple, and fairly easy to understand. It's hard to pinpoint one grade level for which my Powerpoints are geared. While I've developed them for honors high school or college survey courses, most of them are so image driven that I think some are appropriate for any level from 7th grade up. There are three main components to them: the conceptual flowcharts, the visuals (pictures, maps, etc.) and the expanded notes. However, students can get psyched out if they are introduced to entire flowcharts before understanding the logic on which they have been constructed. The key is to introduce them gradually so they can build a foundation upon which understanding later flowcharts can be built. My experience has been that even students who have initial difficulty with flowcharts will get them after a few weeks. Their lasting impact became evident when many of my former students came back to tell me they continue taking notes in other classes by constructing their own flowcharts. My favorite story is how one of my former students constructed a series of her own flowcharts to make sense of a particularly difficult course. Using these, not only she, but the rest of her study group, which consisted mainly of football players, earned an A on the final. Since 2000 I've had a multi-media classroom that has allowed me to create a very visually oriented approach to teaching. The core of this is still the system of flowcharts which unfold box by box using Powerpoint. Interspersed in the presentation are lots of pictures and maps to illustrate the topic being covered to keep the lesson interesting and help visual learners. For art and the more tragic/epic events in history, such as wars, I have created timed slide shows that tell the story through pictures and text. Making this especially effective is accompanying it with somewhat somber music to set the proper mood. The excellent documentaries that Ken Burns has done for PBS are the primary inspiration for this. The major difference is I have had to condense these lessons so teachers can present them in one class period. When I first tried this approach, I was surprised at how much my students liked it. Therefore, I've applied it to my lessons on the Byzantine Empire, the Crusades, the disastrous colonization of Africa, and virtually all my lessons on art and major wars. It can be run as a timed presentation on its own, presented slide by slide for discussion, or integrated into your other lectures. For a suggested song list, feel free to email me at To provide more variety for my classes, I also have developed several games recreating different periods of history. The most fully developed of these are "Oligarch and Democrat" on ancient Greece, "The Waters of Babylon" on ancient Mesopotamia, "Age of Kings" on Europe in the 1600s, and "Nuclear Risk" on modern diplomacy and economics, including the impact of nuclear weapons. I hope to offer these in the near future. Recently, my main projects have been to take video clips from Hollywood historical epics and include them in my presentations. Typically, Hollywood does a poor job in accurately portraying history, but even such disasters such as Troy can provide 17 seconds of footage that are useful for class. For more information on my flowcharts, ipad app, and approach to teaching history, please go to


• Beveridge Family teaching prize awarded by the American Historical Association at its national convention in 2001 for excellence in teaching history (grades K-12) • WICD TV's Golden Apple award • Who's Who of American Teachers • Uni High Teacher of the Year (voted on by the seniors) • Uni High commencement speaker (voted on by the seniors)


1973- Bachelor's degree in history from the University of Illinois 1975- Masters degree in secondary ed. from the Univ. of Illinois


1981-94- Took students to Ancient Lifeways, a hands-on camp exploring ancient lifestyles and technologies 1995-2002- chaperoned students on foreign trips to Russia, France, Spain, Greece, and Japan 2003, 2004, 2006, 2008, 2010- Took student groups to Greece and Italy

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