I can’t lie friends, Historical Thinking and Other Unnatural Acts is becoming one of my favorite reads. Ok, I know what you are likely thinking “Phil you are such a nerd” and you are correct. However, that does not take away from how fantastic this book is, and how great this past chapter was to read.
Chapter 7 talked about teaching history. As a history ed major, obviously I was very interested in seeing the examples of two great teachers. On the one hand, there was a teacher who created three groups in class, 1 group were the judges, and the other two groups were the differing sides of an argument over taxation of America by Britain. The class spent a few days researching the context and the arguments, and then a great debate was held. At the end of it, the judges made their verdict on the debate.
Let me just say, I love the idea of class debates. They give the students a richer understanding of course content — as Wineburg affirms — because they get deeply involved in the texts, and understanding why people thought what they thought. Plus, I also like helping develop students’ abilities to express their thoughts in a professional/semi-professional way.
The other example was of an electifying teacher who passionately portrayed his content through vibrant diction and gestures. Whether he was laughing along with the students, pacing the room, or just simply lecturing, the way he held himself made the students wanting more. I appreciate how he would ask questions that the students easily knew to help develop their confidence and get them involved in learning. I think when teachers do not ask these kind of questions, students are not as confident to answer deeper, more complex quesitons, because they do not have the confidence.
Truly, I hope to be able to portray both of these examples. I want to have times where I can sit back, and allow the students to help teach each other. I also hope that during my lectures, I am able to excite my students about the history that they are learning.
Neither of these teachers made the textbooks the centerfold of the class time. Certainly the textbook made up a component of the background knowledge. But these teachers encouraged the students to think beyond the textbooks, and to figure out what the events mean. Certainly the students have to know certain facts and information, but in these particular classrooms they also had to learn what those things do and mean. These are the types of teachers that I hope to model my own style after.