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Monday, April 30, 2018

Opening Up the Textbook

Last week I wrote about using primary sources for focus activities. Especially in middle school and high school, primary sources can also help in opening up the textbook. According to TeachingHistory.org, "Opening Up the Textbook, developed at Stanford University, is one method of using the textbook to help students learn how to think historically and read critically."

Opening Up the Textbook moves the textbook from its position as the one true story about the past to one historical account among many. Intended to help students slow down, read closely, and critically evaluate their textbook, this is not a strategy that fits well with reading lengthy textbook passages or chapters.

TeachingHistory.org lists six ways to Open up the Textbook. The two that work best with primary sources are
  • "Direct Challenge: Using primary documents to challenge textbook facts or interpretation" and 
  • "Vivification: Breathing life into a text that only mentions, or omits."
The other suggestions are
  • "Comparison: Comparing two textbook accounts—e.g. U.S. to non-U.S, old to new."
  • "Narrativization: Where does a textbook begin to tell the story, where does it end it?"
  • "Articulating Silences: Who is left out of the textbook's narrative? Try bringing in voices of the silenced or moving issues of narrative choice to the surface." 
  • "Close Reading: Careful, attentive focus on word choice, including adjectives, titles, and the like."
Opening Up the Textbook teaches students to question what they read and that "an authoritative tone ... does not necessarily convey the full or exclusive story." It asks them to compare and integrate multiple historical accounts (CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.9) and to consider sources' perspective and purpose (CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.6). 

Have you tried it? What sources did you use/topic did you address? And how'd it go? (I'd love to know!)


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