History 420 - Dr. Gayle Olson-Raymer

History Teachers: What makes a great history teacher?

roadsign "follow your passion"

Introduction: Today we begin the second unit of the course - Understanding the responsibilities of teaching really good history. In so doing, we will shift our focus from the content that we teach to the questions about methods used by really good history teachers. We will emphasize the awesome responsibility of teaching history - by acknowledging that only one out of five of your 8th grade U.S. history students will learn more early American history and only one out of five of your 11th and 12th grade history students will learn more modern American history. In other words, for the vast majority of your students, you will be the last person to teach them ANY history - much less GOOD history!!

Discussion Goals:

  1. To critically think about the characteristics of really good history teachers.
  2. To discuss thematic teaching and how such a strategy requires both teachers and students to use analytical thinking
  3. To examine some useful classroom management strategies.
  4. To discuss professional opportunities for history teachers.
  5. To discuss what Loewen has to say in Chapter 2, "Expecting Excellence" and what Childress has to offer about teaching good history.

Cold Call: 4th cold call on required reading - Goal #1 in today's discussion guide.

Goal #1: To critically think about the characteristics of really good history teachers.

history teacher characteristics

Good history teachers..

  1. Know history, are life long learners, and search for new research and resources to enliven their classroom discussions. Such teachers continue to search for and incorporate new and diverse historical content and innovative teaching methods into their classrooms and revise their beliefs about history as they learn more content.
  2. Are passionate about history, about teaching history, and about young people.  Such teachers demonstrate a genuine interest in and concern for students and an ability to convey a love of history in the classroom setting.
  3. Create respectful classroom environments.  Such teachers hear their students and respect their voices, allow them to freely express their intellectual thoughts and personal opinions, encourage students to respect and listen to diverging viewpoints and attitudes, and continuously use new teaching methods that fit student needs.
  4. Understand and use the social sciences in their classrooms. Such teachers especially incorporate geography, political science, sociology - as well as music and art - in their lessons. Image of six types of historical thinking
  5. Teach their students to think historically.Such teachers teach students to establish historical significance, use primary source evidence, identify continuity and change, analyze cause and consequence, take historical perspectives, and understand the ethical dimension of historical interpretations. When taught together, these concepts link historical thinking to historical literacy - gaining a deep understanding of historical events and processes through active engagement with historical texts.
  6. Celebrate diversity, model democracy, and teach for social justice.  Such teachers create a classroom in which students learn about the multicultural makeup of the American people, teach about democracy and model democratic values, and  help students understand that they do their best work when they strive to make society more just.
  7. Collaborate with colleagues.  Such teachers engage in discussions with colleagues, ask for advice and mentoring, and talk with teachers at other school sites, educators at professional conferences, and with fellow subscribers to professional journals and on blogs.
  8. Are reflective.  Such teachers ask themselves what worked in their classrooms and what did not, listen to students' positive as well as negative critiques of their teaching, and then make necessary changes in both content and method.
  9. Are storytellers who make chronological connections between the past and the present and who use carefully crafted themes to emphasize their story.   Such teachers show students how the present is illuminated by the past, develop and teach from a list of overall course themes that provide "bottom line" messages for their students, create lessons that illustrate the themes, and encourage students to demonstrate their knowledge of the themes, as well as critique and create new themes of their own.
  10. Raise the intellectual bar in their classrooms. Such teachers - all of whom recognize when history is dummied down - create curriculum that encourages their students to excel in the classroom and to think analytically about important intellectual topics and themes.
  11. Use carefully crafted themes to convey historical content.  Such teachers develop a list of overall course themes that provide “bottom line” messages for their students, create lessons that illustrate the themes, and encourage students to demonstrate their knowledge of the themes, as well as critique and create new themes of their own.

Now, let's look more closely at two of these characteristics: thematic teaching and how such a strategy requires both teachers and students to use analytical thinking; and useful classroom management strategies.


Goal #2: To discuss thematic teaching and how such a strategy requires both teachers and students to use analytical thinking

Political Cartoon "war is hell"

A theme is your bottom line message about a topic - the most important thing you want your students to actually understand about the lesson. Themes are different from topics in two specific ways:

For instance, let's say you want to write a theme about war.

Your themes will be directly linked to your grade level standards. Read the 10th grade U.S. History Standards 10.5 - 10.9. Now, let's ask the two important questions: What TOPIC jumps off the page? How can we turn this topic into a THEME?

Some themes are so universal they could be used in almost any history class you teach. Let's take our theme, "war is hell" and look at the 8th grade standards - especially Standards 8.1, 8.5.3, 8.8.6, 8.10, 8.11

How do we teach thematically?

  1. As you become more familiar with the standards for your class, you will gradually be able to discern the big TOPICS that can then be converted into 5 or more THEMES. Nancy Henkel's themes
  2. Each day you teach, you must integrate one of more of your themes into the lesson
  3. Each assignment, you must require your students to demonstrate how the reading and the course material illustrates one or more of the themes, and/or, you ask students to demonstrate how and why they agree or disagree with your themes.
  4. Each exam, you must require your students to provide specific examples from the class and the reading to illustrate the themes and/or to create their own theme.

What are the advantages of teaching thematically?

  1. Students have a focus for their historical studies – a focus they can take with them when they leave your class.
  2. Students understand that you are telling a story that emphasizes the course themes.
  3. Students learn to really think about and understand the discussion and written class materials in a way that requires true analysis.  They must relate everything they learn to a theme.
  4. Students have a very difficult time cheating.  They can’t go online and find an essay about the American Revolution, or research about the American Revolution that illustrates one or more of your course themes.

What are the disadvantages of teaching thematically?

  1. Teaching thematically is rarely modeled in history classrooms; most history teachers continue to teach facts and dates that do not connect the dots through larger themes and a larger story. 
  2. Teaching thematically requires a strong understanding of the topics you are teaching, passion and interest in the topics you are teaching, and your interpretation of the grade level standards.  In other words, themes do not always jump out at you.
  3. Teaching thematically requires you to tell a story into which your themes are carefully integrated.
  4. Teaching thematically is hard; none of these things are easy - but they are well worth the trouble.

Methods Discussion: Group work is most effective when students have a puzzle to work out. In this case, your group will try to come to a clear understanding of what is a theme and then will attempt to create several themes. Follow these steps:

 


Goal #3: To examine some useful classroom management strategies.

To access the discussion on classroom management strategies, go to http://gorhistory.com/hist420/respectfulclass.html

End of 9/10 discussion

Goal #4: To discuss professional opportunities for history teachers

Professional Journals and Websites. While there are literally hundreds of professional journals and websites available to teachers, these are the ones that my former students and I have found to be tried and true.

1. The Bill of Rights in Action.  Prepared quarterly for teachers by the Constitutional Rights Foundation, each issue takes a theme for both US and World History and follows it through with a sample lesson and activity.  Free to teachers. http://www.crf-usa.org. For great lesson plans to teach the nationally mandated Constitution Day every year on September 17th, see http://www.crf-usa.org/constitution-day/constitution-day-lesson-plans-kindergarten-middle-and-high-school.html

2. Teaching Tolerance.  Published twice by the Southern Poverty Law Center, each issue is devoted to teaching examples both in the U.S. and internationally that promote tolerance in the classroom environment, contains a variety of idea exchanges from teachers as well as teaching tools suggestions, and reviews new literature dealing with various issues related to tolerance.  Available free of charge to educators by contacting the Editor, Teaching Tolerance, http://www.splcenter.org/center/tt/teach.jsp

3.  California EducatorPrepared for teachers by the California Teachers Association, the magazine can be ordered for $10 a year, or it is available online.  http://www.cta.org

4. The New York Review of Books. This may be the single most important and consistent source of academically-rich information about political, social, cultural and historical topics that you read. It is published 20 times a year and contains the writings of experts in every field, historiographical approaches to historical and political topics, and investigative journalism about contemporary topics. It is expensive at $69 a year, but worth every penny. Subscription services: nyrsub/nybooks.info

5. Rethinking Schools.  Published quarterly for teachers interested  in school reform, with a focus on issues of equity and social justice.  Each issue contains dozens of articles that help teachers promote social justice and social responsibility in their classroom, as well as information for educators about current social justice issues and problems.  You may subscribe to the journal for $15 a year. http://www.rethinkingschools.org

6. Smithsonian. Published 11 times a year, this excellent magazine of history provides you with a a magazine worth reading cover to cover. Several times a year, subscription is just $12.00 which also includes the free iPad edition and membership in the Smithsonian Institute. You can also ready many of the articles only. For online access and subscription information, contact http://www.smithsonianmag.com/

7. Zinn Education Project. http://zinnedproject.org/. The Zinn Education Project promotes and supports the teaching of people’s history in middle and high school classrooms across the country. According toe the site, "Our goal is to introduce students to a more accurate, complex, and engaging understanding of United States history than is found in traditional textbooks and curricula. The empowering potential of studying U.S. history is often lost in a textbook-driven trivial pursuit of names and dates. People’s history materials and pedagogy emphasize the role of working people, women, people of color, and organized social movements in shaping history. Students learn that history is made not by a few heroic individuals, but instead by people’s choices and actions, thereby also learning that their own choices and actions matter." The website offers free, downloadable lessons and articles organized by theme, time period, and reading level. The Zinn Education Project is coordinated by two non-profit organizations, Rethinking Schools and Teaching for Change. For information about the project, see https://zinnedproject.org/. To explore the teaching materials, see https://zinnedproject.org/teaching-materials/

8. "History by Era" sponsored by the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History. Each of ten identified eras are written by distinguished scholars offering unique interpretations of American history. Within each of these scholarly writings are the following resources for teachers: primary sources supported by a historical introduction, images, and transcripts; multimedia presentations, from five-minute responses to important historical questions to full-hour lectures by leading historians; and lesson plans and other classroom resources created by master teachers. https://www.gilderlehrman.org/history-by-era

Professional Organizations


Goal #5: To discuss what Loewen has to say in Chapter 2, "Expecting Excellence" and what Childress has to offer about teaching good history.

Cold Call: Fifth cold call on required reading - Loewen, Chapter 2, "Expecting Excellence" AND "17 Reasons why football is better than high school"" at http://seventhgradeenglish.com/better.html

Now, let's talk a bit about what I DID NOT require you to read in Loewen - Chapter 1, "The Tyranny of Coverage." In this Chapter, Loewen attempts to explain how to prevent overwhelming your students with too much information about history - history as illustrated in your textbook. I believe he has one very good tactic as well as a useful illustration about how to achieve such an approach - but I also believe that the rest of the chapter is not very useful. his good point is this -

"Unfortunately, the more teachers cover, the less kids remember ... Our goal must be to help students uncover the past rather than cover it. Instead of 'teaching the book,' teachers must develop a list of 30-50 topics they want to teach in their U.S. history course." (p. 19)

His illustration is also quite useful. Loewen proposes that each student try to write such a list - asking them to raise two key questions with each topic they add to their list:

He then suggests that you need to make sure all the topics you want to teach align with the themes you have designed for your class. So, let's see if we can do this.

Methods Discussion: We have already learned to use a Think/Pair/Share activity. Now, let's modify it's usage so that you begin with indvidual thinking, move into a group, and then share your group's response to the assignment. So, please take the following steps:


 

Goal #2: To understand why football is better than high school and how we can raise the intellectual bar in our classrooms

Raising the bar in our classrooms means that we as teachers must have high Carl Sagan quote about dumbing downand achievable academic expectations of our students.

Let's see an example of how some teachers have raised the bar in their classroom with Popular Culture at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Jba5HsWDsA How and why is this Popular Culture teaching technique an example of "raising the bar?"

Now, to our 4th cold call review - "17 Reasons why football is better than high school" and Loewen, Chapter 2, "Expecting Excellence."


Goal #3: To discuss thematic teaching and how such a strategy requires both teachers and students to use analytical thinking

A theme is your bottom line message about a topic - the most important thing you want your students to actually understand about what they are learning in class throughout the entire school year. Themes are different from topics in Political Cartoon "war is hell"two specific ways:

Some teachers use topics as themes - but this is not as effective as creating a real theme - a sentence that captures an idea that you want your students to remember after they leave your class.Consider ...

Some themes are so universal they could be used in almost any history class you teach. Could we use "War is Hell" in a 7th grade world history course? An 8th grade U.S. history course? A 10th grade world history course? An 11th grade U.S. history course?

How do we create themes for our classes?

  1. As you gain more and more expertise on the subject you are teaching as well as the state standards required for for the course, you will gradually be able to discern about 10 big TOPICS that you must teach.
  2. Once you identify and understand your 10 big topics, think carefully about how you can turn each into a theme.
  3. Create your curriculum around your 10 themes.
  4. Your themes may change from year to year, but the topics will probably remain the same.

How do we teach thematically?Nancy Henkel's themes

  1. Each day you teach, you must integrate one of more of your themes into the lesson.
  2. Each assignment you write, you must require your students to demonstrate how the reading and the course material illustrates one or more of the themes, and/or, you ask students to demonstrate how and why they agree or disagree with your themes.
  3. Each exam you write, you must require your students to provide specific examples from the class and the reading to illustrate the themes and/or to create their own theme.

What are the advantages of teaching thematically?

  1. Students have a focus for their historical studies – a focus they can take with them when they leave your class.
  2. Students understand that you are telling a story that emphasizes the course themes.
  3. Students learn to really think about and understand the discussion and written class materials in a way that requires true analysis.  They must relate everything they learn to a theme.
  4. Students have a very difficult time cheating.  They can’t go online and find an essay about the American Revolution, or research about the American Revolution that illustrates one or more of your course themes.

What are the disadvantages of teaching thematically?

  1. Teaching thematically is rarely modeled in history classrooms; most history teachers continue to teach facts and dates that do not connect the dots through larger themes and a larger story. 
  2. Teaching thematically requires a strong understanding of the topics you are teaching, passion and interest in the topics you are teaching, and your interpretation of the grade level standards.  In other words, themes do not always jump out at you.
  3. Teaching thematically requires you to tell a story into which your themes are carefully integrated.
  4. Teaching thematically is hard; none of these things are easy - but they are well worth the trouble.

Goal #4: To discuss professional opportunities for history teachers

Professional Journals

1. The Bill of Rights in Action.  Prepared quarterly for teachers by the Constitutional Rights Foundation, each issue takes a theme for both US and World History and follows it through with a sample lesson and activity.  Free to teachers. Contact the Constitutional Rights Foundation, 601 South Kingsley Drive, Los Angeles, CA 90005  (213) 487-5590.  http://www.crf-usa.org 

2. Teaching Tolerance.  Published twice by the Southern Poverty Law Center, each issue is devoted to teaching examples both in the U.S. and internationally that promote tolerance in the classroom environment, contains a variety of idea exchanges from teachers as well as teaching tools suggestions, and reviews new literature dealing with various issues related to tolerance.  Available free of charge to educators by contacting Editor, Teaching Tolerance, 400 Washington Avenue, Montgomery, Alabama  36104  (334) 264-7310 http://www.splcenter.org/center/tt/teach.jsp

3.  California EducatorPrepared for teachers by the California Teachers Association, the magazine can be ordered for $10 a year, or it is available online. Contact California Teachers Association,1705 Murchison Drive, Burlingame, CA  94010   (650) 697-1400.  http://www.cta.org

4. Radical Teacher.  Prepared tri-annually by the Institute for Critical Education, Inc., the journal publishes articles and reviews books that contain radical critiques and visions of K-16 education.  Subscriptions are $35 but there are part-time and unemployed rates available. Contact Radical Teacher, Box 383316, Cambridge, MA  02238  http://www.radicalteacher.org

5. Rethinking Schools.  Published quarterly for teachers interested  in school reform, with a focus on issues of equity and social justice.  Each issue contains dozens of articles that help teachers promote social justice and social responsibility in their classroom, as well as information for educators about current social justice issues and problems.  You may subscribe to the journal for $15 a year, or access it at Rethinking Schools, 1001 East Keefe Avenue, Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53212  (800) 669-4192 http://www.rethinkingschools.org

6. History Now. Published quarterly by the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History.  This online journal for American history teachers and students was launched in September, 2004. You can access their most recent journal as well as 80 lesson plans designed around the national standards and created by great level at http://www.gilderlehrman.org/historynow/06_2010/index.php

Professional Organizations


Goal #5: To determine what Loewen means by "the tyranny of coverage" and think about how we can change this reality

Assignment #2 due - Discussion of Loewen, Chapter 1, "The Tyranny of Coverage"

Class Activity: You will work in two groups - those who selected an 8th grade curriculum and those who selected an 11th grade curriculum. Once in your groups, please do the following:

  1. Share your lists of topics in any way that works for your group. Your end goal after 15 minutes is to have a list of 25 topics upon which you can all agree MUST be taught as well as another list of 5 topics that you might all like to include if you had the time to teach them.
  2. Now, compare your themes. Your end goal after 15 minutes is to have a list of 10 themes for your class upon which you can all agree.
  3. Elect a spokesperson for your group who can share your results with the entire class.