Doing History: Investigating with Children in Elementary and Middle Schools

By Linda S. Levstik ; Keith C. Barton | Go to book overview
Students learn connected networks of knowledge, skills, beliefs, and attitudes that they will find useful both in and outside of school. In addition to learning to access information from print sources, students learned to use interviews, the built environment, and different types of maps. They gained experience in forming connected networks of knowledge and skills in putting together their presentations, as well as in reflecting on the process of inquiry.

Newmann et al. ( 1995)

"Skills" are learned in context and through teacher modeling.

Teachers model seriousness of purpose and a thoughtful approach to inquiry and use instructional strategies designed to elicit and support similar qualities from students. Throughout the unit, Dehea modeled the practices she wanted students to learn and use. She also made sure that there were multiple opportunities for students to put these skills into action. Note taking, for instance, was not an exercise to be used at some future date. It was learned in a context where it was needed.

Students need to learn to discuss, agree, disagree, and support their ideas.

Teachers show interest in and respect for students' thinking, but demand well-reasoned arguments rather than opinions voiced without adequate thought or commitment. A constant refrain throughout the community study was the emphasis on giving "facts and reasons to support your opinions." In addition, students were taught ways to agree and disagree that nurtured discussion rather than attacked individuals.

Historical study does not have to be organized chronologically over the school year.

Historic study puts current issues in historical context.

Connecting historical and current issues can help students develop a sense of agency.

Clearly, history was a primary focus of the class' study. In fact, all but one of the group presentations were historical. Unlike studies of one period, however, this study shuttled between past and present. Sometimes this presented problems for children whose time sense was tenuous, but we think the benefits are considerable. First of all, students recognized the continuities in their community as well as the changes. They discovered that certain problems--flooding, for instance--persist over time. They were also able to make comparisons between current and historic issues such as crime and punishment. This helped put currently controversial issues into historical context. The constant comparison between past and present also encouraged students to determine historical significance at least in part on the basis of an event's impact on later times. Finally, we think the connections made between controversial issues, both historic and contemporary, and civic action are more likely to encourage students to see themselves and others as having historical agency--the power to make history. The next chapter deals more explicitly with issues of conflict, consensus, and historical agency in the history classroom.


CHILDREN'S LITERATURE FOR COMMUNITY STUDY

Art and Architecture

Gaughenbaugh M., & Camburn H. Old House, New House: A Child's Exploration of American Architectural Styles. Preservation, 1994.

Manning M. A Ruined House. Candlewick, 1994.

Wyeth S. D. Something Beautiful. Delacorte, 1998.


Community Issues

Anderson J. Earth Keepers. Gulliver Green, 1993.

Grossman P. Saturday Market. Lothrop, 1994.

Kent P. Hidden Under the Ground: The World Beneath Your Feet. Dutton, 1998.

Nichelason M. G. Homeless or Hopeless? Lemer, 1994.

Showers P. Where Does the Garbage Go? HarperCollins, 1993.


Communities Through Time

Ayoub A., Binous J., Gragueb A., Mtimet A., & Slim H. Umm El Madayan: An Islamic City Through the Ages. Houghton, 1994.

Dorris M. Guests. Hyperion, 1994.

Fix P. Not So Very Long Ago: Life in a Small Country Village. Dutton 1994.

-104-

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