By Curriki Guest Blogger Amy Scheuer
Teachers are often faced with the challenge of making teaching and learning history more engaging. Here are some techniques to increase engagement in the history classroom, paired with resource suggestions from a newly curated American History collection on Curriki that is comprised of materials spanning from colonial America to the modern era!
1. Treat history as the opportunity to tell a greater story and convey a narrative, rather than the relaying of disjointed names, dates, and events. The use of media can be a great mechanism for accomplishing this goal, and the CrashCourse video collection provides an entertaining and educational method of exploring major topics in history. The videos sequentially focus on issues, events, or developments, considering causes, effects, and key players in relation to the greater American History narrative.
2. Allow students to become a part of the historical narrative by carrying out simulations, role-playing activities, and enacting historically accurate discussions or debates. The EDSITEment collection includes extremely detailed American History lessons, ranging from the colonial period to modern America. Every lesson has a unique makeup, possibly including activities, primary source analysis, simulations, and discussion/debate topics, providing endless opportunities for students to jump into an historical time period for in depth exploration.
3. Utilize art and imagery to appeal to visual learners in your classroom and provide students with a snapshot of the past. The National Archives provides an excellent place for teachers to search for primary sources. Teachers can access thousands of images, photos, speeches, letters, and other primary sources, and can then build interactive activities while learning how to best utilize historical documents in the classroom!
4. Incorporate music to help students understand the cultural context of a certain time period. Throughout history, many musicians have composed songs that reflect conflicts, changing attitudes, or cultural developments around the world, and students can engage in historical analysis by listening to these songs and interpreting the lyrics. This comprehensive list of songs at Curriki can be used as a great guide for incorporating music into the classroom.
5. Differentiate instruction between teacher-facing, student-facing, group, and individual activities. The Digital History collection is a gold mine for teachers, as it allows one to search by era, topic, resource, or reference, with the ability to make use of the full textbook, online exhibitions, learning modules, and primary sources. Digital History is a great tool to aid teachers in planning creative lessons such as jigsaws, problem-based learning projects, webquests, visual or audio activities, or engaging lectures.
6. Leave ample time in the curriculum to delve into modern topics, allowing students to contemplate the varying and continually changing perspectives surrounding political, economic, religious, and cultural trends and occurrences of the era. This content is often particularly relevant and interesting to students, and can be a great opportunity for oral history or experiential projects, as students are able to ask parents, grandparents, and community members about their experiences living through a particular event or time period. The United States History: 1945 – Present curriculum guide provides a great outline of important topics of the last half-century in American History, and is segmented into units by decade, each with sample lessons.
Amy is a graduate of Vanderbilt’s Peabody School of Education and taught History and Psychology at the high school level before joining up with Curriki to promote educational access at the global level.