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Reading Like a Historian: Teaching Literacy in Middle and High School History Classrooms―Aligned with Common Core State Standards 2nd Edition
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“All educators who want to promote deeper understanding should read and use this wonderful book.”
―Linda Darling-Hammond, Stanford University
“The focusing questions, the teaching tips, and the primary sources make it possible for any teacher of history and social studies to help students become more interested, careful, and effective in handling information.”
―Grant Wiggins, president, Authentic Education
“What a great resource for teachers of history! This book explains how teachers can help students bring a critical eye to history, teaching ways of thinking that they can use in all of their studies.”
―Diane Ravitch, New York University
About the Author
Sam Wineburg is the Margaret Jacks Professor of Education and Professor of History (by courtesy) at Stanford University, and author of Historical Thinking and Other Unnatural Acts. Daisy Martin is the Director of History Education at teachinghistory.org, the National History Education Clearinghouse funded by the U.S. Department of Education and housed at the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media at George Mason University. Chauncey Monte-Sano is associate professor of education at the University of Michigan.
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I have spent years teaching and providing instructional coaching in classrooms where students range in reading level from primary through college. And I have spent hours combing through primary sources in search of ones that will be compelling and accessible to my students, and hours more doing my own background reading to determine the major issues for a given event. There have been plenty of times when I've run classes that only do part of what I want to do, or only do what I want to do for some of my students.
If this sounds familiar, this book is for you. Reading Like A Historian is easy to use, but not in the "follow this script" way. The authors assume that teachers are knowledgeable in their content area and about their students, and provides tools teachers can use flexibly to meet the needs of their classrooms. Reading Like a Historian also assumes that, as a teacher, your goal is not one or two interesting activities but rather a course that engages students consistently and supports them in becoming independent readers, writers and thinkers.
Each unit includes all of the pieces you need -- an essay that provides an overview of the historiography of the event, and situates the sources provided within that historiography; suggestions about the disciplinary questions that drive a unit; several lesson "plans" for how you might use the resources; primary source documents -- both an adapted version suitable for middle school readers and the original for stronger readers; and tools that support students as they read the documents (graphic organizers, focus questions, writing prompts, etc.). The units can be used alone, but using them together will help students develop proficiency with the tools of a historian - analyzing images, corroborating sources, citing evidence, etc. The tools and lessons would also be easy to adapt for use with other topics and materials, and the authors suggest this as a way to further build students' abilities to think like historians. Each chapter provides a list of skills developed by the activities and documents in that unit.
Most importantly, this work offers teachers at ALL levels a flexible interface to engage in this type of approach to student learning. As Wineburg himself says, he wants students to develop their historical thinking skills so that they are educated consumers and citizens. Too often, those of us in the ivory tower have tried to get our students to read and interpret history just like we do. With the exception of our best students, that just isn't realistic or even possible. In fact, they often do it on our own because they arrive on our door step with their toolkits in hand.
Even students reading below grade level can benefit from Wineburg's approach. Furthermore, the authors do not throw the baby out with the bathwater. Instead, they demonstrate for teachers and students how to use a textbook as one of many sources. No matter your individual opinions about textbooks, they are a fact of life for most classrooom teachers engaging their student in the study of history. And school administrators, school boards, and parents expect them to be used. This book gives them the opportunity to more effectively utilize these extant classroom materials.
Reading Historical Thinking and Other Unnatural Acts: Charting the Future of Teaching the Past (Critical Perspectives On The Past) laid the foundation for what Wineburg and his team at the Stanford History Education Group and, later the National History Education Clearinghouse that he co-founded, do with this text and is also well worth consulting.
Even if you have little or no background in historical literacy, you can easily pick up this book and understand the approaches identified by the authors. Their experience in a variety of diverse classrooms along with their ability to do heavy-duty research worthy of the National Science Foundation is clearly illustrated here. This is what research dissemination is all about if we ever want to make a positive difference in students' lives and our own futures.