“Every Primary Source Is Biased”

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If you’ve been teaching secondary school history for a while you’ve probably encountered students who tell you that “every primary source is biased.” Some kids really like this phrase, and the idea it represents, because they think it makes them seem sophisticated. As in, “When I was in grade school I believed everything I read.… Read more »

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My “expanded second edition” of Understanding by Design, the classic guide to unit and lesson planning by Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe, is copyrighted 2005. Today the major premise of the book, that teachers should decide what learning goals we want students to achieve, design assessments to determine student mastery of those goals, and then… Read more »

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Mastering The Research Essay

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We’re entering research season at my high school. Every student in every one of our required classes will write a research essay in the next couple of months. With various degrees of independence, each student will choose a topic, find and read relevant and reliable sources, formulate and defend a thesis, and produce an essay… Read more »

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Writing Clear Essay Questions

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One huge benefit of the Four Question Method is the clarity it provides to teachers and students about what intellectual task is on the table at any given time. When teachers plan and teach with the 4QM, everyone in the classroom knows whether they are narrating, interpreting, explaining, or judging. Recently I’ve been experimenting with… Read more »

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How to Tell a (True) Story

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Our mantra at 4QM Teaching is Story First! Students who rush off to make arguments about things they can’t yet narrate make a mess of things. If you want your students’ oral arguments and written essays to make sense and represent real thinking, first things first: make them answer Question One, What Happened? Stories Take… Read more »

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A Classic Bad History Question

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We history teachers often ask bad questions, and this blog post is about a particular type of bad question that is very common in our field — I used to ask them myself with alarming frequency. Here’s an example: “Were the causes of the American Revolution primarily political or primarily economic?” Questions like this are… Read more »

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A Killer Week of 4QM History Lessons

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Up until last Friday, the rhythm of my units worked like this: opening days are for Question One: What happened? Story first! Then, maybe a couple of days in, when we get to an interesting interpretive puzzle, we dig in and answer Question Two: What were they thinking? Then, after some close reading, back to… Read more »

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The Power Of Pictures

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People who study memory know that drawing a picture is one of the best ways to remember something. But how often do history teachers use this powerful memory tool with their students? Most of us don’t do it often enough. An intentional use of student-generated images can help students to remember important historical events much… Read more »

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What’s The Question, Reader?

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When I was a brand new high school teacher — at age 39 — a colleague gave me some excellent survival advice. It had two parts. First, kids love moral dilemmas. Whenever you get a chance to introduce one into a lesson, do it. Second, the textbook is your friend. When you’re not sure what… Read more »

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