Doing History: Investigating with Children in Elementary and Middle Schools

By Linda S. Levstik ; Keith C. Barton | Go to book overview

Preface

In the first edition of Doing History, we invited readers to take a mental journey with us--to picture primary students debating whether Christopher Columbus should be considered a hero or eighth-grade students producing a video to examine whether a historic document--the Bill of Rights--speaks to current issues. We asked readers to further imagine classrooms where students regularly, and actively, do history--frame questions, gather data from primary and secondary sources, organize and interpret that data, and share their work with different audiences. Finally, we asked readers to imagine a history curriculum that reflects the rich diversity of people in the United States and around the world.

We have been fortunate to spend a number of years working with teachers and students in just such classrooms. We have seen powerful historical study in classes where many of the children were recent immigrants, as well as in classes where children's families have lived in the same area for nearly 200 years. Some classes are full inclusion programs where the special education and "regular" teachers collaborate; most include students with special needs, at least for social studies. The classrooms range from urban and suburban to rural settings. But despite their many differences, these communities of inquiry have several things in common. In each one, even the youngest children describe historical study as interesting and important. Moreover, historical study in each of these classrooms deals with important historical content and engages students in authentic historical inquiry. All students are invited to be historical participants. Throughout the book, we draw on these classrooms to provide models of instructionally sound, thoughtful, and thought-provoking history teaching with students from a wide variety of backgrounds. Most chapters also begin with a vignette from one of these classrooms.

Many of the teachers cited in this book worked with us on research related to the development of historical thinking. Some continue to do so. We met others through our work with teacher education programs or through professional meetings throughout the country. All of them generously shared their time, ideas, and classrooms. Although we would prefer honoring each of them by using their real names, confidentiality agreements sometimes preclude that possibility. Many appear under their own names--Amy Leigh, Dehea Smith, Jeanette Groth, LeeAnn Fitzpatrick, Rebecca Valbuena, Rhoda Coleman, Ruby Yessin, and Tina Reynolds--whereas others are identified by pseudonyms. Similarly, all children's names are pseudonyms except where we had permission to credit a child for a specific piece of work. Again, we wish we could identity all of the students who so generously indulged our curiosity and answered questions that often must have seemed foolish, who lent us their

-xi-

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