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 Learning Our Community's American Lore

Doing History: What Historians Do

Historians, Students and Teachers Doing History--Version: January, 2005

Choose | Locate | Examine | Interpret | Understand context | Draw conclusions | Present

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What historians do when they "do history" What students do when they "do history" What teachers do to help their students "do history"
  • In response to current events, their own previous research, or new publications or findings by colleagues, historians decide to investigate a historical topic.
  • Select a topic in history about which they can contribute knowledge to the public discourse in a way that informs their community’s understanding of the meaning of this person, place, or event.
  • Start with a question and then revise that question in light of the documents they find so that their final research question emerges out of a dialogue between their interests and the documents available.
  • In response to experiences provided by their teacher, students choose from a selection of historical events, locations, persons that provided them by their teacher.
  • Write a list of anything they know about this event already (not every little detail, but the large ideas)
  • Build background knowledge
  • Discern issues in the event(s), location(s), person(s)
  • Decide upon the focus of their inquiry
  • Pick a number of event(s), location(s), person(s)in local American history that they find interesting
  • Identify for themselves why they find these events, locations, people meaningful.
  • Provide students with experiences to provoke interest, deeper questions.
  • Make topic(s) compelling by relating it to students’ lives.
  • Identify the larger themes that are found within – identity, justice, idealism vs. realism, etc
  • Do background research on the theme or period in American history and its local connections.
  • Help their students to choose a topic in American history.
  • Help them to find out enough about a series of events, locations, people with local connections to make an informed decision to find out more about one in particular.
  • Align their choices with the state history standards.

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