China, Japan, and Explanatory Turtles

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About a month ago I wrote a post about China and Japan’s different responses to Western imperialism, and how that made a perfect Question Three puzzle. (You can read that post here.) Today I’m circling back to that topic because I recently had a conference about it with student, and I think the conference was… Read more »

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What Are Final Exams For?

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Our school gives collegiate-style final exams. At the end of June, when regular classes are done for the year, we schedule students for 90 minute exam blocks in each of the major academic subjects. All students, even the 9th graders, come in just for exams and otherwise study or sleep or wander where they will.… Read more »

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If you’re a serious student of history and the social sciences you know that data presentations can be very powerful. (Think of national debt curves, or social class pyramids, just to name two.) But knowing that data presentations are powerful, and knowing how to actually make the kind of tables, charts, and graphs that make… Read more »

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Taking Claims Seriously

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We’re taking our 9th graders to a new building next year. It’s an old building, actually, but it’ll be new to them, and to the faculty team who will teach there for the next two years while our main campus undergoes renovations. We’re taking this opportunity to launch some new common practices. During a series… Read more »

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China, Japan & The West: A Q3 Puzzle

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Question Three (“Why Then And There?”) is the most difficult of the Four Questions. It’s the most abstract, and the thinking it requires is generally unfamiliar to those of us not rigorously trained in one of the social sciences. (As a history major, I know this struggle personally.) It helps to remember that Question Three… Read more »

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Explaining Things

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In my first or second year of high school teaching — my memory is hazy on timing — I had an exceptional sophomore named Anna. Anna was a political radical, or so she said. She was an articulate critic and, for an unskilled teacher, kind of a pain. She wasn’t loud or disruptive, but she… Read more »

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Sequential & Episodic Narratives

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In a recent post in this blog, I wrote about how curriculum planning is a team sport. Developing the Four Question Method has been the ultimate curriculum planning project, and it is certainly a team sport. Gary and I argue constantly about how to teach history to young people, and our arguments are a key… Read more »

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Taking Questions Seriously

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History teaching is hard to do well. But it’s relatively easy to describe: teach your students to tell true stories and make reasonable arguments about the human world. You can do that by teaching them to ask and answer the Four Questions. Teach them this method, and how to recognize when others are doing so.… Read more »

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Curriculum Planning Is A Team Sport

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This year Gary and I have been working with the history lesson planners for the Uncommon Schools network, a charter network that operates over fifty schools in New York, New Jersey, and Massachusetts. We’ve introduced them to the Four Question Method, and we’re helping them to revise courses, units, and lessons so that they are… Read more »

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Two Types Of Stories

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Some stories are easy to tell. An identifiable person or group of people does something overt and instigating, which triggers other people to react. One manifest action leads to another, and before you know it, something New and Notable has happened in the world. King Louis XVI called the Estates General. Before you know it,… Read more »

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