As I wrap up Sept., I’d like to spend some time reflecting on some classroom experiences with my ninth graders, as I try to create a history class that focuses on multiple perspectives and rich historical source work, while at the same time prepping them for any common assessments that come their way. As I’ve previously mentioned, these common assessments are weighted heavily and tend to focus on lower levels of Bloom’s taxonomy.
When you teach students that history is complicated and can be looked at from a variety of perspectives, you then need to work really hard to expose them to complexity and multiple perspectives. In the past, I would talk about complexity and perspectives, but I didn’t expose my students to it. Now I am. In fact, a big part of my planning time now involves me looking for sources and adapting them for classroom use (There is a lot to say about adapting sources. I will blog about that in future posts).
Finding sources that you can ‘package’ into a ‘document set’ is essential.
In the past, I used to expose students to a primary source every once and a while. It was often after we had worked with powerpoint slides, the text, and various worksheets. Whether stated or not, the message to students was that this type of work was on the periphery, somewhat disconnected from real classroom work that occurred on most days at most times.
One of the goals that I set for myself at the start of this school year was to put source work in the forefront of my classroom. I started the year wanting my students to learn the language of historical thinking. So some of the first terms I taught them were the following: perspective, source, sourcing, interpretation, inference, evidence.
At this point, I think my students know that to say anything about the past, you must have some basis for your assertions. This basis, or evidence, is found in the sources.
Here are some handouts I have used with my students to help them to learn how to think more like an historian and less like a sponge. Sponges try to remember and absorb all content. Historians ask questions, analyze, make inferences, construct and defend interpretations.