Resources for Educators: The Stanford History Education Group

For our Social Studies Education 5-12 alumni and students — and other grads who are teaching history in high schools…

If you’re not already familiar with it, get to know the website of the Stanford History Education Group, directed by the award-winning historian Sam Wineburg. You’ll find many resources there, free of charge and available for download, including:

Beyond the Bubble, “a new generation of history assessments” that draws on the digital archives of the Library of Congress.

Historical Thinking Matters, a free curriculum “designed to teach students how to critically read primary sources and how to critique and construct historical narratives.” It features four “Student Investigations” on the Spanish-American War, the Scopes Trial, Social Security, and Rosa Parks.

• And its newest, most popular resource, Reading Like a Historian, which provides a full set of 76 lessons in the U.S. history curriculum and an initial list of 15 lessons for World History. The lessons can be used as a set, or as stand-alone supplements.

Reading Like a Historian lessons follow a three-part structure: establishing background knowledge and posing a central historical questions; student interaction with primary sources (using techniques like “Structured Academic Controversy” and “Cognitive Apprenticeship”); and an all-class discussion of the central question.

It’s featured in the newest issue of Stanford’s alumni magazine: (H/T John Fea)

Apparently the program has struck a chord. In school districts from red states and blue, New York City and Chicago to Carmel, Calif., history teachers are lining up for workshops on how to use the materials. The website’s lessons have been downloaded 800,000 times and spawned a lively online community of history educators grateful for the camaraderie—and often desperate for help….

Sitting back at his desk after the bell rings, [California history teacher Will] Colglazier says he can’t imagine teaching history any other way. “It’s so powerful to give these skills to students at a young age,” he explains. “I easily could have told them in one minute that the Dust Bowl was the result of overgrazing and over-farming and World War I overproduction, combined with droughts that had been plaguing that area forever, but they wouldn’t remember it.” By reading these challenging documents and discovering history for themselves, he says, “not only will they remember the content, they’ll develop skills for life.”

As Wineburg notes in the website’s book counterpart, “the practices historians have developed can be used to make sense of the conflicting voices that confront us every time we turn on Fox News or MSNBC. Put simply, the skills cultivated by Reading Like a Historian provide essential tools for citizenship.”

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