Field trips were a frequent component of Andrew's class, to various historical landmarks. The community was used as a resource, in this case the city of New York. Students traveled to lower Manhattan to take a walking tour of historical sites of colonial New York and to the Museum of the City of New York. As well as such engaging assignments, Andrews also met frequently with other teachers and school administrators over the course of the year to ensure that her lesson plan continued to satisfy state standards. She used a variety of means of assessment and instruction, including but not limited to simply circulating around the classroom, rather than anchoring at her desk during assignments; scheduling individualized meetings with students and their parents; using progress reports, rubrics, and setting clear expectations; offering creative assignments like imaginary role plays and creative 'what if' prompts; and she also scheduled review periods to examine what the students had learned and what they needed to work on (Multiple means of assessment, 2009, NCREST). Students were intensely involved in the assignments -- for example, during the role-plays they interviewed one another, and quizzed their fellow students on what their partner had learned.
Through this intensive methodology students learned critical thinking skills as well as facts about history, such as how to compare and contrast different things or to read between the lines of an author's bias. Reasoning is a critical skill that is ideal to sharpen through the tools available in a history classroom. For example, students can compare and contrast life as a member of the upper, middle, or lower class during a particular time period, Athens vs. Sparta in ancient Greece, or life as an enslaved African in the American South vs. A factory worker in the North. Students are never too young to be encouraged to question their textbook as omniscient authorities of history, and history provides a wonderful way to teach students about evaluating bias, slanted language, and rhetoric. "Even when your students have learned historical thinking skills like sourcing and close reading, they may fail to apply them in other contexts, and especially with sources they have learned to view as unquestionable authorities," like their textbooks (Bain 2006).
Using the textbook as a starting point than proceeding onto news sources is helpful because of the familiarity yet presumed objectivity of the textbook. Beginning with the familiar is always helpful. Studying the ordinary details of the past and then evaluating the 'artifacts' of primary sources and material objects, to see what they say about the historical period that created them is another hands-on technique students enjoy.
Just as students are encouraged to think critically about their own history and assumptions, good teacher must constantly engage in an inventory of their teaching methods. Making use of the Internet as a source of information, instructing students how to view the information they receive through the Internet in a critical fashion and creating WebQuests are all ways in which teachers have used the new medium effectively. Teachers must also remain cognizant of new viewpoints of the history they teach, and the need to create a multicultural and inclusive dialogue within the classroom. Continued professional study of teaching methodology and history is essential.
Bain, R.B. (2006). Rounding up unusual suspects: Facing the authority hidden in the history classroom. Teachers College Record. 108(10): 2080-2114. Excerpt at NCREST website available February 10, 2009 at http://teachinghistory.org/best-practices/teaching-textbooks/20571
Hartzler-Miller, Cindy. (2001). Making sense of the 'best practice' in teaching history.
Theory and Research in Social Education. 29.4: 672-695. Excerpt available on American
History Education website February 10, 2009 at http://cehs.unl.edu/ushistory/research/hartzler.html
Hoge, John. (1988, March). Teaching history in the elementary school. ERIC Clearinghouse for Social Studies/Social Science Education. Retrieved February 10, 2009 at http://www.ericdigests.org/pre-928/history.htm
Teaching historical context before and during role-playing activities. (2009).The National Center for Restructuring Education, Schools, and Teaching (NCREST). Retrieved February 10, 2009 at http://teachinghistory.org/best-practices/examples-teaching/14947
Multiple means of assessment. (2009). The National Center for Restructuring Education, Schools and Teaching (NCREST) Retrieved February 10, 2009 at http://www.tc.edu/ncrest/teachers/andrews/assessment.htm
The planning process. (2009). The National Center for Restructuring Education, Schools and Teaching (NCREST). Retrieved February 10, 2009 at http://www.tc.edu/ncrest/teachers/andrews/planning.htm