particular genre of historical writing, a self-assessment of a project, or an annotated bibliography of sources used in developing an interpretation. Jeanette, for instance, might require students to include an argument for the importance of one of the events on the time line they developed, while Ruby might ask her students to include their pictures of "for sure" facts about Johnny Appleseed.
Assessment portfolios also provide a good opportunity for teachers to conduct conferences with students about their work. Abby Mott, one of the teachers you will meet again later in this book, goes over the assessment portfolio with each child, discussing strengths and areas that need to be worked on in the coming weeks. Her students write up a set of goals for the upcoming grading period; the goals are then put in the learning portfolio as a way to organize for the next grading period. Besides the obvious advantage of emphasizing evaluation as an opportunity to plan for the future, these conferences allay student fears about report cards. By the time the report cards are distributed, there are rarely surprises. The students have a pretty clear understanding of their progress to that point and what they can do in the upcoming term. Abby has found that these conferences not only reassure students and promote more accurate self-assessment, they provide another opportunity for children to engage in historical talk--to return to ideas introduced earlier in a study and to discuss them one-on-one with an interested and informed adult.
When students help develop their own portfolios, they have a clearer understanding of their own performance.
Portfolios help structure student-teacher conferences.
Although each encounter with history may not transform every child in quite the ways James Baldwin suggests, cumulatively, in-depth historical study is more likely to encourage children to recognize themselves as historical participants rather than passive recipients of the past and unwitting victims of the present. As have others before them, they can change both the present and future. Simply telling students the same myths and stories over and over again will not have this effect. As Oscar Wilde once noted, "the one duty we owe to history is to rewrite it." In-depth study invites students to critique the myths, rewrite the stories, and tell multiple stories. It asks them, not just to memorize someone else's interpretations, but to develop their own; not just to accumulate information, but to ask themselves and each other, "So what?" What difference does this information make in the world? What does it say about what it means to be human in other times and places and right now, in our world? If students cannot enter imaginatively into the past, if they lack in-depth information about the world around them and its myriad possibilities, they are also less likely to understand the people next door.
Wilde ( 1982)
Baldwin ( 1988)
Degenhardt & McKay ( 1988)
History organized around imaginative entry into the past, in-depth studies of enduring themes and questions, focused on tasks that have relevance beyond the classroom and tied to students' prior knowledge may seem an overwhelming task. Certainly communities of historical inquiry don't just happen; they require careful planning on teachers' parts, time to build a foundation of mutual trust and respect, and freedom from some of the constraints of "coverage." The following chapters provide specific research-based suggestions involving a variety of classrooms in magnet schools, urban, suburban, and rural schools, schools where many children are bilingual (or becoming so)--where doing history is intellectually invigorating for both teachers and students.
Alderman C. L. Annie Oakley and the World of Her Time. Macmillan, 1979.
Barboza S. Door of No Return: The Legend of Goree Island. Cobblehill, 1994.