Working Like a Historian


Social Studies Middle School Working Like a Historian
Students watch a video explaining what history is and how historians work. Next, they learn about historians’ ways of using time, such as timelines and chronological periods. Then, they compare and contrast history and other social sciences and study examples of historical thinking, particularly cause and effect. Finally, they examine the relationship between history and culture.

This learning experience is designed for device-enabled classrooms. The teacher guides the lesson, and students use embedded resources, social media skills, and critical thinking skills to actively participate. To get access to a free version of the complete lesson, sign up for an exploros account.

1:1 Devices
Teacher Pack

The Pack contains associated resources for the learning experience, typically in the form of articles and videos. There is a teacher Pack (with only teacher information) and a student Pack (which contains only student information). As a teacher, you can toggle between both to see everything.

Here are the teacher pack items for Working Like a Historian:

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Overview

In this experience, students watch a video explaining what history is and how historians work. Next, they learn about historians’ ways of using time, such as timelines and chronological periods. Then, they compare and contrast history and other social sciences and study examples of historical thinking, particularly cause and effect. Finally, they examine the relationship between history and culture.

This experience contains a lot of content. You may choose to teach it over two sessions in order to spend adequate time on the various elements of working like a historian.

The experience-wide resource Intro to Historical Thinking in the Teacher Pack includes five downloadable classroom posters that spell out the critical thinking skills of this content area. You will need to register for a free account to download them. 

Objectives

  • Describe what historians do and how their interpretations vary.
  • Describe the methods, language, and tools that historians use.
  • Describe how history transmits culture and heritage.


Everyone agrees that World War I began in Europe in 1914. But there are lots of ideas about why it began. Knowing what and when and where is only part of being a historian. Knowing why and how is the challenge—and it’s the interesting part. You’ll learn more about that deeper thinking in this experience.

Objectives

  • Describe what historians do and how their interpretations vary.
  • Describe the methods, language, and tools that historians use.
  • Describe how history transmits culture and heritage.




Causes of World War I


Notice the caption on the political cartoon: “Causes of World War I.” Then look at the rest of the cartoon. Generally speaking, what do you notice?



Discuss student responses. Guide students to the conclusion that the cartoon reveals that there is no single cause for World War I. Ask students to apply this more broadly to history. Point out that studying history is a lot more complicated than studying facts. 


Historians have their own way of thinking about the past. Being a historian is like being a storyteller, a scientist, and a lawyer all in one. Watch Thinking Like a Historian for a close-up look. Begin at 3:31.


As you watch, use the following table to jot down points that strike you as especially interesting or important.



In the video, what was the “aha” moment for you, when you understood something about history that you hadn’t before? Explain your reasoning.

Post your answer

Review your classmates’ posts and respond to at least two of them with a question or a positive comment.


The video clip focuses on the scientific and argumentative aspects of historical thinking. The earlier portion of the video focuses on the storytelling aspect. Recommend the entire video to interested students. 


When everyone is ready to continue, unlock the next scene.

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The Complete List of Learning Experiences in Foundations of History Unit.
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