Helping Students Contextualize

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A few weeks ago I wrote about the historical thinking skill of “contextualization.” Contextualization is most often employed when we’re working with a document, although the College Board also gives a point for it on their no-documents Long Essay Question, acknowledging that we can (and should) contextualize historical events, people, and ideas as well as… Read more »

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Project Planning and Storytelling

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I wrote a couple of times last year (on 1/6/19 and 5/19/19, to be exact) about my school’s plans to create a temporary 9th-grade academy. My department took that opportunity to revisit our 9th-grade World History course, which was badly in need of an overhaul. We call our new course WHISP, for World History: Identity,… Read more »

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What Temperature is Your Classroom?

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There are a bunch of ways a history lesson can go wrong. One way is deceptive, and perniciously common: students are “engaged” in an activity that they “enjoy.” I don’t mean to sound like a grouch, but so what? The money question is: what are students thinking about? Even better: what are they *learning* to… Read more »

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Teaching “Contextualization”

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In the United States the big players in the “historical thinking skills” space are the College Board and the Stanford History Education Group (SHEG). Both identify “contextualization” as a key skill that history students should learn, and at 4QM Teaching, we agree. But we think we’ve got an easier way to make that thinking skill… Read more »

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How To Start A Unit

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How do you start your units? Do you hook them?  Textbooks, and textbook teachers, start their units with tasks. Make a map. Copy the vocab. Memorize the main “causes.”  Don’t do it. Start with a hook. If you’re introducing a new unit, hook the story that frames the unit. Something new and notable happened. British… Read more »

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4QM and “The Writing Revolution”

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If you’re a regular reader of this blog, or if you’ve attended one of our workshops, you know that we believe that good history teaching starts with teaching the story first, and you know that we believe that you should make time to formatively assess your students’ abilities to tell the story you taught them.… Read more »

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Formatively Assessing Historical Narrative

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In a post on 11/12/19, “What New Teachers Need,” I mentioned that Jon and I had created a lesson-planning playcard. For each of our Four Questions, the playcard lists teaching techniques and formative assessments. This week, we’re heading back to Newark to work with our friends at the Uncommon charter network. We’ll be unpacking and… Read more »

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If you’re a regular reader or have been to one of our workshops you know that we believe that almost all historical scholarship and debate can be described by our Four Questions. I recently came across a great example of a scholar making a classic 4QM style argument in J. C. Sharman’s short and polemical… Read more »

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A Storyteller’s Valediction

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The most charismatic teacher in my department, Robert G., retired last year. I’m not sure he was ready to go, but his spouse got a great job outside of commuting distance. And as Robert said at the time, quoting an African proverb, “a change is as good as a rest.”  Robert started at my school… Read more »

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The Q2/Q4 Problem

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Gary and I stack up blog post ideas in brief notations of one or two phrases to come back to later, and this week an experience in my tenth grade AP World History class brought me back to a file labelled “Q2/Q4 Problem.” This is a very common problem that happens in discussion classes and… Read more »

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