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.
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.
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.
How often do you step away from your social studies curriculum to get to know your students? Once a week? Once a month? Do you ever make specific plans or set aside specific time in your lessons to build meaningful, appropriate relationships with your kids?
Early in the school year, students often ask me, “why do I need a history class?” They go on to say they know why science, math, and English are taught, but they don't know why they need to learn so many random dates and historical facts. They are skeptical about memorizing facts from the past and its relevance to their future. I generally respond by saying something along the lines of, “you don’t need to memorize everything,” because a vast amount of information is readily available to today’s students online, but I emphasize that there's more to history and social studies than just dates and figures.
There is a lot of information out there about inquiry-based learning: what it is, how effective it is, and so on. However, a question that many have is, “how can inquiry-based learning be used with digital activities?” Let’s look at some examples of how to combine inquiry-based and digital learning.
International Women’s Day is March 8, 2019, and presents an opportunity to celebrate women from throughout history. Humanities curricula and history books are often dominated by United States presidents, world explorers, and cultural elites, who are mostly male. This year, teach your students about the women activists, suffragettes, and trailblazers who paved the way for equality across the world. Here are some activities to use in the classroom.
The history of ordinary people and everyday life appeals to students. However, teachers struggle to squeeze it into a social studies curriculum dominated by stories of wealthy elites and political chronology.
How does a teacher narrow down over 5000 years of human history and culture for the classroom? Use essential questions!