Vanessia Wilkins' Mini-Course


ETAP 623 Fall 2016 Vanessia Wilkins' portfolio page



Reading Like a Historian curriculum turns students into historical investigators. The purpose of the lessons are to help students recognize skills of historical inquiry they already practice everyday, such as reconciling conflicting claims and evaluating the reliability of narrative accounts. By using real-life situations, students are challenged to apply these skills while reading which will prepare them to do inquiry using primary and secondary sources.

Please watch this video on "Why Historical Thinking Matters!"

Instructional Problem

History teachers have the daunting task of changing students’ perception of learning history from memorizing dates and facts to understanding the importance of the interconnectedness of history and present day. In order to accomplish this goal, educators have to teach students historical thinking skills through activities such as ‘Reading Like a Historian’ to better equip them to think critically. Puteh (2010) argues that “History provides opportunities to teach process skills, such as critical thinking, data analysis, making or identifying generalization, discovering biases, and recognizing perspectives” (p. 89). Although some people can answer questions about historical dates and facts, they are unable to understand the complexities of the past and its correlation to the present. Levesque affirms that “Historical thinking is our mental toolkit for engaging critically with the multiple stories of the past we encounter in our daily life” (p.6).

Cabiness et al., (2013) asserts that the National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS) advocates that an effective social studies curriculum will provide students with the skills to be competent and productive members of this society and that historical thinking skills are vital to the sustainability of the democratic society. By teaching these skills, teachers are not only becoming experts in their field, they are also preparing students to think holistically about human culture. Levesque (2016) argues that “Students who develop historical thinking skills are better able to question the value of historical narratives, examine their own preconceived historical ideas and sense of belonging, and ultimately generate their own stories of the past based on scholarly rules of argument” (p.89). Therefore, it is the responsibility of the teacher to use the appropriate resources, approaches, activities, and to think like historians in order to guide students to success.

What is to be Learned

Educators will learn the value of historical thinking skills and effectively teach their students how to analyze and think critically in everyday situations which will lead to a greater understanding of history and the use of high order thinking skills.

Performance Objectives

Given background information and materials, learners will evaluate various explanations for actions or events and determine which explanation best accords with textual evidence, acknowledging where the text leaves matters uncertain by completing accompanying worksheet.

Given primary and secondary sources, learners will identify aspects of a text that reveal an author's point of view or purpose by evaluating an author's premises, claims, and evidence by corroborating or challenging them with other information.

Given primary and secondary sources, learners will compare the point of view of two or more authors for how they treat the same or similar topics, including which details they include and emphasize in their respective accounts.

Given background information and materials, learners will evaluate authors' differing points of view on the same historical event or issue by assessing the authors' claims, reasoning, and evidence.

Given background information and materials, learners will distinguish among fact, opinion, and reasoned judgment in a text by assessing the extent to which the reasoning and evidence in a text support the author's claims.

Unit 1: Lunchroom Fight

A fight breaks out in the lunchroom and the principal needs to figure out who started it. But when she asks witnesses what they saw, she hears conflicting accounts. Why might these accounts differ? As students wrestle with this question, they will hone the ability to reconcile conflicting claims, consider multiple perspectives and evaluate the reliability of sources. Not only does this lesson engage students, it helps to lay the foundation for historical thinking throughout the year.

Unit 2: Snapshot Autobiography

What is history? And why do historical accounts differ? In this lesson, students create brief autobiographies and then reflect on the process to better understand how history is written. Why are some events included and others not? How does their version of events compare to others’ versions of the same event? Why do two historical accounts differ when both sides believe they are telling the truth? How would students prove that their version of events was true? Exploring these questions will give students insight into the nature of history and will prepare them to engage in historical thinking in future lessons.

Unit 3: Evaluating Sources

Are all historical sources equally trustworthy? How might the reliability of a historical document be affected by the circumstances under which it was created? In this activity, students sharpen their ability to source documents and learn to think critically about what sources provide the best evidence to answer historical questions.

Featured Article

This article explores a six-month intervention in five San Francisco high schools. Students using the Reading Like a Historian curriculum showed statistically significant gains in historical thinking, mastery of factual historical knowledge, and general reading comprehension.