Teaching history to middle and high school students.
“Open the manuals.” In fact, as I write this, I can hear the majority of my students mutter, protest, and moan in a unique expression of youth solidarity. I quickly discovered, as a middle school social studies teacher, how frequently this age group of students expresses disinterest.
Relationship-focused educators frequently identify student interests in order to establish context and increase student engagement. However, I came to the conclusion that adolescent and adolescent dislikes are just as crucial to student engagement as are student interests. Sometimes what appears to be complaining can actually refocus the class, provide students with the content and skill relevance they need, and foster the curiosity necessary for deep learning.
This is how I used my class’s dislike of textbooks to teach literacy and close reading skills.
Perceive the innate worth of understudy resistance It shouldn’t come as a shock that understudies unequivocally loathe reading material. As I began to address my students’ concerns regarding the use of history books, I learned a lot. As I pressed my students to elaborate on their claim that “textbooks are boring,” I listened as the class expressed concerns regarding the relevance and quality of textbook-based instruction.
“You should be teaching us, not forcing us to use the book,” “Teachers give us work from the text books because they really don’t care about teaching,” The book is a hoax. Why mightn’t we anytime look into certifiable history?”
Adults think we can’t deal with the real things that happened in the past. You underestimate how smart we are.
These discussions gave me three things:
(1) An excessive use of textbooks suggested to some students that the instructor was unable or unwilling to give the class the necessary effort;
( 2) Others communicated an extreme absence of confidence in the substance of history books;
( 3) A great deal of children felt that the reading material provided them with a watered-down variant of history for the “raw sense of taste” of young people.
The gist of the argument was made abundantly clear: The book was pretty much the same as an antagonist in a Wonder movie for the vast majority of children. It was inevitable before I understood how to join the class against our new normal enemy once I started to see this.
I started teaching my students that textbooks and other secondary sources frequently present history as a predetermined narrative with an organized beginning, middle, and conclusion. An article in The Atlantic served as the basis for this. The actual writing of history, on the other hand, is historiography. With many different points of view, it is a rich conversation and occasionally a contentious argument.
To illustrate the point at which a student’s class behavior allegedly warranted a call home, I offered a hypothetical scenario:
How likely is it that the student and teacher’s versions of the story are identical?
What would happen if you were in the classroom at the time the troubled student happened? Do you believe that the student or teacher’s stories would be the same?
“What are some of the possible factors that could influence the differences between the different versions of the story?”
Additionally, just in case: What number of you could see your folks or watchmen a rendition of the story that could make you look less blameworthy or less liable?
By identifying the author’s voice, purpose, tone, and bias, student responses always reveal key literacy concepts in the work that is done ahead of time for the class. Additionally, the responses elicit lively discussion. Students also begin to understand how primary and secondary sources relate to one another and what sets them apart fundamentally.
Compare Primary Sources to the Textbook Armed with a comprehension of historiography and the class’s unanimous opposition to the textbook, we were prepared to look for bias and errors in both primary and secondary sources. I asked the class to identify where the social studies book used tone to influence a particular view of history and where the textbook was lacking.
For instance, as a class just starting our study of American history, we carefully read portions of Christopher Columbus’s journal. The students then independently examined the history textbook’s account of Columbus’s first voyage. Surprisingly, the same students who had resented textbooks so vehemently were now reading through their own carefully.
Witnessing a child’s eureka moment is the best thing a teacher can do for themselves. Students would be amazed when they connected the dots between the material from the primary source and the repackaged secondary source as they compared history to historiography. More often than not, understudies were astonished more by what was forgotten about than by how tone helped shape point of view.
Due to this exercise, the class frequently inquired as to why:
“Why don’t history books include important events?”
“Do they think we can’t handle it?”
“Why would they disregard this part?”
These questions demonstrated the students’ inherent curiosity, which I worked to cultivate, and opened the door to further learning. In addition, this activity helped students understand my expectations regarding class discussion and close reading. Tricking students into meaningful close reading of primary texts and, so to speak, thoughtful discussion is not an easy task. Moving interest is possible during this exercise.
We sometimes want to know more about what we like, which is why we are curious at times. When we start a new series on one of our preferred streaming platforms, for instance, we want to learn as much as we can about the actors, the original material, the locations, the characters, and any upcoming episodes or sequels. Things we don’t like sometimes make us curious. When a topic that divides us becomes a social media trend, we go down a different kind of rabbit hole. Our students are the same way. It is our responsibility to foster curiosity in our classrooms in every way possible in order to engage a new generation of students. Sometimes, having a criminal to fight against is helpful.