Today, Jesse Peters (@jjpeters) discussed how she uses Sam Wineburg's Open up the Textbook (OUT) strategy. This strategy can both deepen students' knowledge of historical content and provide them with opportunities to practice using historical thinking and reading skills as they compare a short selection from the textbook with a few carefully chosen primary and secondary sources.
I'd like to try to use this approach the next time I write a lesson. I will need to select a few paragraphs from the textbook. In Jesse's example, she included a visual source as well, and she pointed out that if you can include a visual, you should. Historians, after all, "read" a variety of sources, not just written documents.
The OUT strategy is not just about reading for information. By using this approach, you show students that the textbook is just one of many sources making assertions about the past. And, it is important to remind students that since textbook assertions are almost always left without citations readers have to make a decision; are they going to accept without question the textbook's assertions, or are they going dig deeper?
Remind students that a hallmark of historical writing is citing one's sources. This is how authors disclose to readers the basis for their claims. When presented with uncited information, the burden is on the reader to do their homework. Historical thinking and reading skills are powerful because they equip students with the tools to handle information and the conflicting claims often embedded in this information.
Each time students are confronted with a textbook selection, especially if they are assigned to read many pages of content and take notes on it, there is a strong chance that they will approach the content simply as material to be learned. Students' (and teachers') epistemological posture is one of receiver (or dispenser) of content. Students are viewed as empty vessels to be filled with knowledge.
The OUT strategy is powerful because it forces teachers and students to view content and sources differently, more like an historian does.