Skip to content

Posts from the ‘historical thinking’ Category

A framework for teaching American slavery – from Teaching Tolerance

After a quick six hour visit to the the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture yesterday, it just made sense to stop in at the #NCHE2019 session by Maureen Costello, director of Teaching Tolerance. Maureen shared Teaching Tolerance resources that can help you effectively teach issues surrounding the history of slavery in the United States.

“History is not the past. It is the present. We carry our history with us. We are our history.”

James Baldwin
Black English: A Dishonest Argument

Maureen started by sharing that most of our students leave high school without an adequate understanding of the role slavery played in the development of the United States – or how its legacies still influence us today.

Slavery’s long reach continues into the present day. The persistent and wide socioeconomic and legal disparities that African Americans face today and the backlash that seems to follow every African-American advancement trace their roots to slavery and its aftermath. If we are to understand the United State and the world today, we must understand slavery’s history and continuing impact.

Unfortunately, research conducted by the Southern Poverty Law Center in 2017 shows that our schools are failing to teach the hard history of African enslavement. They surveyed U.S. high school seniors and social studies teachers, analyzed a selection of state content standards, and reviewed 10 popular U.S. history textbooks. The research indicates that: Read more

History is a bunch of grass. And we need to let our kids play on it.

Bob Edens had been blind since birth. Fifty-one years of darkness, sounds, smells, and touch followed. But after a remarkable laser surgery, Bob can now see. For 51 years, Bob had imagined what things looked like based mainly on the descriptions of others and what he could feel.

I never would have dreamed that yellow is so . . . yellow. But red is my favorite color. I just can’t believe red.

He’s now seeing for himself what he had only imagined.

Grass is something I had to get used to. I always thought it was just fuzz.  But to see each individual green stalk . . . it’s like starting a whole new life.  It’s the most amazing thing in the world to see things you never thought you’d see.

Sometimes I think we do this with kids. We tell them about history and have them read about history but we never let them experience history. They never get to actually “see” the individual people and events and details – students rely on us to describe those things for them. We can forget that history is supposed to be a verb, not a noun – especially at this time of the school year when we’re trying to make sure to “cover” everything.

So . . . how can we help our kids see history? Read more

Advise the President. Cause you’re just that smart.

Okay. Not that president. Other presidents. You know, from history.

Like Truman, Eisenhower, and Reagan. And they need your help. Even better, they need your students to help. The National Archives have put together something called Advise the President. And like everything else the Archives do, it’s awesome.

Throughout history, every president is faced with having to make difficult decisions. The Advise the President series gives you the chance to bring the deliberation process surrounding these historic decisions to the classroom. Each booklet focuses on a significant topic during the administration of a specific president.

There are currently five problems and presidents that you and students can work with: Read more

So you need a compelling question? How about a couple hundred?

For whatever reason, I’ve gotten into a ton of conversations lately around the topic of compelling questions. Some of the conversations have focused on the creation of quality sample questions as part of the ongoing revision of our current state standards. There’s been discussions with schools and individual teachers as they continue to develop quality curriculum designs and instructional units.

And while there always will be – and should be – conversations about the differences between compelling, driving, essential, and supporting questions, the point remains the same. If we’re going to help our kids become knowledgable, engaged, and active citizens, they need to be solving problems and addressing questions. So quality questions of all kinds are something we need to be incorporating into our unit and lesson designs.

But what can they look like? Read more