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Top Ten Posts of 2016 #8: “Teaching History Beyond the Textbook” Yohuru Williams and investigative strategies

I’m sure most of you are doing the same thing I’m doing right now. Spending time with family and friends, watching football, catching up on that book you’ve been dying to read, eating too much, and enjoying the occasional nap.

But if you need a break from all of the holiday cheer, we’ve got you covered. Between now and the first week in January, you’ll get a chance to re-read the top ten History Tech posts of 2016. Enjoy the reruns. See you in a couple of weeks!


I had the chance to hear Dr. Yohuru Williams speak last Friday at the National Council for History Education national conference. He started by sharing three things:

  • the Civil Rights movement is more than 1954-1968
  • the Civil Rights movement is more than just the South
  • the Civil Rights movement is more than just securing political opportunities

He continued by using what he calls #BlackLivesMatter moments – events that shape the movement and impact all of us – to frame the conversation. Need an example or two? Jackie Robinson was court martialed in 1944 as a result of refusing to move to the back of a military post bus. Little Rock Nine member Melba Beals started 1958 by resolving to “Do my best to stay alive until May 29.” Jimmy Lee Jackson protecting his family in Selma. Triangle Shirtwaist factory fire. Love Canal. Flint, Michigan.

Seriously powerful stuff.

And while I knew of Dr. WIlliams, I wasn’t that familiar with his background and books. So when a quick Google search turned up a book titled Teaching U.S. History Beyond the Textbook, of course I had to order it.

teach us history beyond the textbookIt showed up Monday and after a quick breeze through it, I’m now digging in for more details. Though it was written before the Common Core and the NCSS C3 Framework began encouraging the incorporation of historical thinking skills into our instruction, the book still sits well alongside such books as Lesh’s Why Won’t You Just Tell The Answer, Wineburg’s Reading Like a Historian, Monte-Sano’s Reading, Thinking, and Writing About History, and Loewen’s Teaching What Really Matters.

The book proves that Williams is more than just a passionate speaker. He’s also got the teaching chops.

Teaching U.S. History Beyond the Textbook uses a mystery approach to history, highlighting six powerful strategies that tap into your kids natural curiosity and investigative instincts. Each unit turn students into history detectives, improving critical thinking skills through primary and secondary source analysis. Strategies include using a traffic intersection as a metaphor for exploring historical turning points, mock trials of Supreme Court cases, examining evidence to solve historical “cold cases,” and using ESP (economic, social, and political) to predict historical outcomes. Each ready-to-use technique:

  • Demonstrates how students can use primary and secondary sources to solve historical mysteries
  • Includes sample lessons and case studies for Grades 5–12
  • Features review questions, reflections, and Web and print resources in every chapter for further reading

Seriously powerful stuff.

And if you’re new to his world and curious, Dr. Yohuru Rashied Williams is a professor of history at Fairfield University. He’s also written Black Politics/White Power; edited A Constant Struggle: African-American History from 1865 to the Present; and edited of In Search of the Black Panther and Liberated Territory: Toward A Local History of the Black Panther Party.

Williams started his career as a high school history teacher in Washington, DC, where he first began to develop many of the ideas included in Teaching U.S. History Beyond the Textbook. After earning a PhD in history from Howard University, Williams served as director of social studies education at Delaware State University before moving to Fairfield.

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