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  • The article, What Does It Mean to Think Historically and How Do You Teach It examines critical thinking skills using inquiry and exploratory projects to expand the gap in history knowledge and new acquisition of information. It suggests looking at the cognitive aspects. Identification, attribution, perspective judgment, and reliability.


    Teaching historical thinking involves opportunities to engage, learning how to assess their status, building and writing their own interpretation to feel a sense of ownership of the project. Teachers should ask questions that transform their thoughts.  Allowing tolerance for a different prospective. Using evidence based research to determine the final interpretations.


    What Does It Mean to Think Historically? This article looks at examining the five C’s of historical thinking. The concepts being change over time, causality, context, complexity, and contingency. Determining the difference in primary and secondary sources.  Using these skills to evaluate resources for research projects and to engage purposeful thought in teaching and learning.

  • What Does It Mean to Think Historically...and How Do You Teach It?

    I liked how the author broke down the process into four cognitive acts (identification, attribution, perspective judgment, and reliability assessment. I appreciated the brief definitions of each cognitive act. I agree that we should not presume that students are not capable of thinking historically. 

    This article validates for me that when students read a passage, find a source, and look at artifacts from the past that they too can formulate an opinion or response based on their own interpretation rather than imposing our own or a textbook author's interpretation as the only one. While we are able to embrace our student's interpretation, we also need to teach that in their search, they should remember that there are distortions, bias, exaggerations, partisanship, and ideology in their reading as well. I also liked Bruce A. VanSledright's statement that "reducing an entire American history survey course to thirty-seven multiple choice questions" is a constraint.

    He further states that "having students commit one fact after another to memory based on history textbook recitations and lectures does little to build capacity to think historically".  I think this is important and agree with him that it could "retard the development of historical thinking".

    The article did leave me wondering about strategies and techniques for teaching exactly HOW to teach it in the classroom, though he mentions this in the title, I found little evidence of application for this.

    Reflection on What Does It Mean to Think Historically to follow in separate post.

  • History is a critical thinking skill. Our students benefit by thinking.  Using source documents allows our students to think critically.  When teaching we should decide how we will include source work with identification, attribution, judging perspective, and reliability assessment in our instruction.  The 5 C's listed in the article by Andrews and Burke also includes great points to promote critical thinking.  As a teacher, I will continue to promote primary source documents to promote student critical thinking.

  • In reading "What Does It Mean to Think Historically...and How Do You Teach It?" it reminds me of the same criteria we use in library when teaching how to evaluate resources for research projects.  We teach students to go above and beyond Wikipedia when searching for sources and ask them to look at identification, authorship, voice, and reliability of a source whether it be in print or digital format.  

    This article was written with Social Studies in mind but it shows these assessment tools can be used across curriculum.   In any school subject, a student can be taught to use these tools (identifying the work media, authorship expertise, the author's point of view, and are there other sources validating the original work) no matter the media when working on assignments.  If they are taught these four steps early enough in their educational career it will become second nature to them so that they will always use this evaluative approach with all school assignments.  Hence...alignment as the new Superintendent is so fond of.     

  • The articles, What does it mean to think historically and What does it mean to think historically… and how do you teach it, are both relevant readings in today’s educational climate.  Authors Andrews and Burke bring the focus of their discussion to the five C’s of historical thinking: Change over time, context, causality, contingency, and complexity.  The conclusion of the article brings to light how important those skills are for students to master in order to be critical thinkers and more importantly how difficult it is for teachers to teach this style of thinking without it digressing into a checklist of information and facts.

    Bruce VanSlidright, with his article: What does it mean to think historically… and how do you teach it, clearly articulates the frustration and contradiction that the academic world and the classroom creates when trying to cultivate the skills that are necessary for young minds to expand. I feel VanSlidright’s conclusion is accurate when he articulates the need for a shift in the curriculum that will allow students practice with this type of analytical thinking and research based instruction.  Historical thinking is a complex skill that should focus more on process instead of finding the singular answer and it appears that the focus on academics in today’s world is on high stakes testing which many feel is the antithesis of historical thinking.



    When I reflect on the two readings I find myself thinking about teaching my fifth graders.  It is always my intent to teach children “How to Learn” rather than them knowing only the right answers.  As stated, “Consider what good historical thinkers can do.  They are careful, critical readers and consumers of the mountains of evidentiary source data….” in “What Does it Mean to Think Historically….and How do you Teach It?” it relates directly to my belief in teaching students.  Using source work will allow them to use critical thinking, help them to identify, judge and use other higher level thinking strategies. Elementary students are very able and excited to go through the steps to learning to think historically. 


    “What Does It Mean to Think Historically?” was  a  very interesting reading  to think about the impact of the “five C’s of historical thinking” with children.  I can see how Change over Time would be the easiest to understand and may be the one that we as elementary teachers spend too much time.  I love the idea of story telling, yet find myself thinking about the problems that could arise from the reenactments that we may do in the classroom.  Again I like that the idea is to teach students to think more critically and to ask important questions.   Jane von Birgelen

  • What Does It Mean to Think Historically... and How Do You Teach? By Bruce A.VanSledright

    This article reminded me of when I tried to figure of out most of my family tree.  Some of the resources on ancestory.com were factual, some varied and overall it engaged my interest because it was applicable to an understanding of my families history.  I had several sources and they didn't all match, I had several websites, my parents information and their written resources.  I had to prove the resources to myself and I had to double check facts like birth dates.   In a similiar perspective, it taught me to be a historical investagator. I like how the article "What Does It Mean to think Historically... by Bruce Van Sledright," mentions that not all historical information is available."  Hopefuly, my decendants will have more ancestorial information available for their family trees.

     I agree with the article that it is important to give students those opportunities to read through historical resources and to apply the reasoning skill sets of understanding facts, perspectives and how to use the resources to gain further understanding.

    What Does It Mean to Think Historically? By Thomas Andrew and Flannery Burke

    When I grew up memorization was the focus and I agree that it is important to contemplate history and to encourage critical thinking about historical information through the inclusion of the five C's (as the article mentions).  I remember creating my own time line in school and without knowing it, I was learning about changes in time.  Imaginative play is often a part of preschool and this gives me some ideas of how I could bring history into our play. Overall, I gained more of a whole approach to helping students think historically.

  • These articles were perfect for me.  I took a class last semester and my professor kept questioning my sources (I still do not understand why...but they were from the internet and not pulled from a printed book).  The article, What does it mean to think historically...and how do you teach it?, stated: "As a result, it can be difficult to know what it means to teach it."  I think when we talk about "sources," many of us are saying something different (this may include the definition of primary versus secondary or historical versus contemporary).  By sharing the understanding that sources provide: identification, attribution, judging perspective, and reliability assessment; there can be a better context towards understanding. "Good historical thinkers are tolerant of differing perspectives because these perspectives help them make sense of the past."  I can see that I will need to spend more time on understanding sources and how I want to use them as either a teacher or a student!

    The next article, What does it mean to think historically? outlined the "five C's" of historical thinking (change over time, context, causality, contingency, and complexity).  "These concepts offer a fluid tool for engaging historical thought at multiple levels, but they can easily degenerate into a checklist."  As teachers, we need to remember to focus student attention on the purpose and not the memorization.  It will be interesting to integrate the "five C's" into a lesson and see if it helps students organize what they are learning!

    ----- Evelyne Tunley-Daymude

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