What does historical thinking look like?
Mmm . . . I get this a lot. Especially over the last few months as we’ve rolled out the new proposed social studies standards document for Kansas.
The current document is all about content – with specific indicators that must be taught because they will be on the state-level multiple choice test. And we’ve done a great job over the last decade or so of training our teachers to only worry about whether or not their kids have memorized the tested indicators. The pendulum swung way over to foundational knowledge at the expense of critical thinking.
Since beginning its work, the writing committee for the proposed standards has concentrated on creating a document that balances out the need for foundational knowledge with the need for historical thinking skills. You can’t have one without the other.
But because the system has been so focused on specific historical data points, many teachers – especially the ones that have entered the classroom in the last five or six years – are struggling with the idea of what this historical thinking stuff looks like.
I’ve shared some ideas about this before but the pendulum is swinging back. There are more and more very good resources springing up around the Interwebs that can help. So to help anyone who is looking for some examples of what historical thinking looks like, check out these sweet resources:
- The Stanford History Education Group has tons of useful tools, curriculum, and materials. One of their cool tools is called Introduction to Historical Thinking Activities.
- This Google Doc has a ton of teacher-submitted Document Analysis strategies.
- The Library of Congress has a very helpful Teaching with Primary Sources quarterly journal. The Winter 2010 issue explored how teachers can use primary sources to help students develop historical thinking skills.
- In this award-winning activity, kids take on the role of “history detectives” to investigate what really happened at the famous 1621 Thanksgiving celebration.
- The Historical Scene Investigator give students experiences that closely resemble the work of a real historian.
- This PDF document highlights a wide variety of activities that focus on using primary sources to build historical thinking skills.
- Historical Thinking Matters provides high school students with a framework that teaches them to read documents like historians.
- This series of interactive activities introduces and models the Historical Thinking Skills defined by the National Center for History in the Schools. The interactives each model a specific skill or set of skills, such as analyzing historical artifacts or using primary sources to develop a thesis.
- When we ask students to work with and learn from primary sources, we transform them into historians. Use the cool National Archives DocsTeach site to help.