Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Resources for teaching and assessing "Historical Thinking" (and, incidentally, meeting Common Core standards)

To prepare for a workshop I’ll be giving in Billings February 6-7 on Literacy in Social Studies and the Common Core, I’ve been haunting a website called “Beyond the Bubble.” 
Created by a Stanford University professor, “Beyond the Bubble” suggests ways teachers can use primary resources to create “innovative assessments that gauge historical thinking in easy-to-use, classroom-friendly ways.”
Historical thinking is a big buzzword these days. It basically means “reading, analysis, and writing that is necessary to develop our understanding of the past.”

Beyond the Bubble’s assessments require students to demonstrate both “historical thinking” skills and historical content knowledge by asking them to perform the following tasks:
  • Sourcing (asking students to consider who wrote a document as well as the circumstances of its creation. Who authored a given document? When? For what purpose?)
  • Contextualization (asking students to locate a document in time and place, and to understand how these factors shape its content.)
  • Corroboration (asking students to consider details across multiple sources to determine points of agreement and disagreement.)
All of their assessments align with the Common Core—and provide interesting models that I think can be adapted to create assessments for Montana history classes—or any history class.
Those of you teaching American History might also want to check out Stanford’s Reading Like a Historian curriculum, with 75 lessons, each revolving around “a central historical question” and featuring “sets of primary sets of primary documents modified for groups of students with diverse reading skills and abilities. This curriculum teaches students how to investigate historical questions employing reading strategies such as sourcing, contextualizing, corroborating, and close reading. Instead of memorizing historical facts, students evaluate the trustworthiness of multiple perspectives on issues from King Philip's War to the Montgomery Bus Boycott, and make historical claims backed by documentary evidence.”
You may also want to check out the Historical Thinking Matters website, which offers four investigations of central topics from post-civil war U.S. history, with activities that foster historical thinking and encourage students to form reasoned conclusions about the past. 
P.S. It is NOT too late to register for the Billings workshop, where we’ll be delving more into historical thinking and literacy in social studies. The deadline has been extended to this FRIDAY, January 25 for both the Billings workshop and our sister workshops in Helena (focused on fracking to address literacy in science and technical subjects) and Missoula (focused on health—also to address literacy in science and technical subjects.) Requirements for bringing a partner have been waived—and there’s sub money and other perks—so check it out and join us if you can.

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