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It’s a verb, not a noun

What a great day! I get to spend the entire day at the Kansas Council for History Education annual conference. I love talking history and what better way to do that than with 100 other history people?

The day started with Don Gifford, the history/government specialist from the Kansas Department of Education, sharing his vision of history education in the state. I go to know Don several years ago when he was a history teacher at Washburn Rural HS outside of Topeka. During visits to his classroom, I saw an expert in his element. And it’s great for Kansas history educators to have a former classroom teacher in that position.

Don talked about a variety of things but one thing really stuck with me. He asked us to define the word “history.”

Where does the word come from?

Most talked about how the word is based on the Latin word “historia” meaning “story or account.” It’s a noun.

But Don suggested that we also should look at the Greek version of the word. The Greeks defined “historia” as meaning “learning by inquiry.”

When we rethink how we define the word it can help us start to change how we plan what happens in our classrooms. When we start thinking about history in terms of verbs instead of nouns, we start to change the way we teach. We stop giving kids stuff to memorize and start giving them problems to solve.

There’s got to be a t-shirt in here somewhere:

History is not a noun

History: It’s an action verb

What else you got?

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