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April 2011 Archives

Why Won't You Just Tell Us the Answer?

This common refrain heard in social studies classrooms is the title and subject of a new book, written by CHE Lead Master Teacher, Bruce Lesh. Lesh, who has taught for the CHE since 1999, has refined a method of teaching history that mirrors the process used by historians, where students are taught to ask questions of evidence and develop historical explanations. Research has shown that when students are actively engaged in investigating the past, they find that history to be challenging and fun. As a result, they learn better and retain more information.

Each chapter focuses on a key concept in understanding history and then offers a sample unit on how the concept can be taught. By the end of the book, teachers will have learned how to teach history via a lens of interpretive questions and interrogative evidence that allows both student and teacher to develop evidence-based answers to history's greatest questions.

"Why Won't You Just Tell Us the Answer?" is available through Stenhouse Publishers at http://www.stenhouse.com/shop/pc/viewprd.asp?idProduct=9337.

History Labs

Teachers in Baltimore County Public Schools and the Howard County Public School System are participating in "History Labs," a new instructional project, funded by the United States Department of Education's Teaching American History Grant Program. Through History Labs, teachers engage their students in classroom learning experiences on a range of historical topics through the process of historical inquiry.

The History Labs developed by participant teachers will include all necessary information and tools for implementation, including the central questions, source materials, and step-by-step procedures for teaching and assessing student learning.

Each History Lab is based on an overarching question that guides the instruction and study of the topic. Through critical analysis and interpretation of evidence, students learn the content and develop historical thinking skills.

During the History Lab, students discuss the lead question and determine the information needed to formulate a response. Source materials are analyzed for authorship and purpose, significance, context and subtext, and multiple or conflicting perspectives.
Students then synthesize this information to construct evidence-based responses to the overarching question. History Labs can be taught in parts or in their entirety, and can be adjusted for different knowledge and ability levels. The student work products take the form of written narratives, oral presentations and debates, or multi-media projects.

The first of these teacher-created History Labs are available at
www.umbc.edu/che/historylabs. Check back as more History Labs are added.

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