Monday, January 24, 2011

Activities For Historical Thinking

The standard that I plan to focus on this semester is in the discipline of Social Studies and covers Historical Thinking for grades 5-8. The standard is listed below:

Content Standard 1: Students will develop historical thinking skills, including chronological thinking and recognizing change over time; contextualizing, comprehending and analyzing historical literature; researching historical sources; understanding the concept of historical causation; understanding competing narratives and interpretation; and constructing narratives and interpretation.

I chose to focus on Historical Thinking mainly due to my belief that understanding the history of different peoples and seeing how different belief, social, and political systems were created is one of the best ways to understand why the world is the way it is. To really understand why wars are being fought, why people oppress other people, why we live under theocracies, democracies, or dictatorships, we really need to know how they came to be, and why they developed the way they did. Content Standard 1 appears to allow a wide range of methods for discussing and addressing these issues.

As for how I would link different learning styles to this standard I will focus mainly on the auditory, visual, and tactile learning styles. Being totally new to teaching Social Studies I will be making this up as I go along.

I would imagine that an effective method for teaching the causes of genocide to 6-8 graders that were mainly visual learners could involve everything from map-making to analyzing old newspapers, to critiquing propaganda. There is a huge amount of visual material relating to genocide, from the faces of the citizens marked for reeducation by the Khmer Rouge, to the anti-Semitic propaganda that preceded the holocaust, to the maps and diagrams detailing the slave trade. By analyzing the visual history of these atrocities students would be able to see how these events came to be, from the propaganda that lead to the hatred and the killing, and then to how the tasks were planned and carried out. An interesting project might involve researching how Africans were visually represented by those seeking to enslave them and how similar stereotypes are still used today.

For auditory learners, the speeches of Hitler, Stalin, and the spirituals sung by the slaves would provide a great illustration of how hate can be spread and what it was like to live though such an experience. Audio clips of Huey P. Newton or Martin Luther King Jr. describing the effects of racism would be good ways to show the long-term effects of certain genocides.

For tactile learners, tips to museums or in class social experiments would help to illustrate the subject. I remember one particularly effect example of this from 5th grade. For a couple days half of the class wore large paper stars on our shirts. We didn’t go out for recess, we ate lunch by ourselves in a corner of the classroom, and we were forced to sit on the floor during lessons. It was an extremely effective example of what it’s like to live in a repressive society. These are but a few examples of the ways in which Historical Thinking could be taught to people with different learning styles.


  1. Great - I think you will have lots of opportunities to create projects for this class that connect with historical thinking.

    I am looking forward to your digitally manipulated image which should be posted to your blog already. Please post a Photoshopped image that supports historical thinking, as well as your UDL concept map.

  2. Hi Dr. Langran,

    Sorry about not having the digital image and the concept map. I thought I had posted them. They should be up now.

    Also, thank you for the comments. I have really enjoyed the ideas I have learned so far.

  3. It's been a pleasure having you in class & reading your blog!


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