History is rarely at the top of polls of “favorite subjects in school.” While a magical cure for history aversion has yet to be discovered, the following three tips for connecting the past to the present can make history lessons more relevant to students’ lives.
As teachers, we all want a way to make history a fun and engaging subject for our students. We want them to grasp the historical events that we teach about with the same passion that we have when we are planning the lessons. As educators, we want them to hear all the amazing stories from the past that will help them understand their role in the world they live in today.
Many students have trouble understanding the geographic context of United States history even though they can often relate the themes to their lives. When teachers move to world geography, the problem of relating to the content is compounded many times over. Students rarely have the background knowledge or geographic literacy to understand where things happened in the past. Thus, making the connection between distant places and history to modern society and their own lives can be very difficult.
While globalization has been a relevant topic for years now, it's not actually a new concept! Globalization occurred in the ancient, medieval, early modern, and industrial ages. Providing students with a solid understanding of modern globalization in comparison to historical examples makes the past relevant and clarifies current events.
Think back to a moment when you as a student sat in a social studies class and struggled to spit out a memorized date of an important event your teacher said would be integral to remember. Were those moments as dreadful for you as they were for me?
Cemeteries are trendy destinations. Cemetery tours feature the rich, the famous, the macabre, and ghosts. However, cemeteries can teach students about primary source artifacts and several other important social studies themes.
Adult Learning Theory understands that adults have their own, unique way of learning. In childhood and adolescence, self-concept is still developing, but for adults who learn in the workplace or at professional development seminars, they are more independent and learn best when they draw on experience. Seeing a direct connection between what they are learning and their day-to-day activities tends to help adults learn as well.
Internet ads, YouTube videos, social media posts, blogs, emails, and TV infomercials feature questionable and downright dangerous health advice, treatments, and cures. These quacks didn’t just appear in the modern era of broadcast and electronic media. Quacks have been around for centuries, successfully adapting their misleading message to the newest form of media – from word of mouth, to print, to broadcast, to electronic formats.
Interpreting political cartoons can be a real challenge for many students in the classroom. Students struggle to recognize the people, symbols, and events without context, making deducing the message of the cartoonist nearly impossible. Create a political cartoon scavenger hunt activity to help your students identify who and what is depicted. With this basic knowledge, interpreting the larger message conveyed by the cartoonist becomes easier.
Think back to when you were a young child, trying to connect the numbered or letter dots to figure out what the mystery image would be. You would carefully plot where the next line would go so the picture would come out just right. Using essential questions is very much like that dot puzzle, trying to figure out what the major piece of the mystery concept is. As teachers, our job is to help develop questioning skills in our students so they can successfully uncover the hidden picture, to help them develop the skills of inquiry to fit all the pieces of the lesson together.