What is History Teaching?, pp. 9 of 10

Students create "identity cubes" to illustrate elements of their personal histories. Then, the class works together to define history and archaeology and to learn archaeology terms (substantive concepts) and methods. Presented with artefacts and representations of fossils, students begin the process of questioning, classifying, drawing, and describing (using artefacts as evidence).

On day two of the lesson, students bring in heirlooms -- family artefacts, for example -- they might want to pass on. Then, students draw and describe the meanings of their heirlooms and present them to the class (using artefacts as evidence, and timeline).


History is not just about telling stories. In teaching history, our goal is helping our children develop historical understanding through learning the substantive and syntactic concepts. It is important for students to understand and practice the process of historical inquiry. In the process of constructing their own historical account, students would have had the opportunity to apply syntactic knowledge. While reading the sources, they should read with an empathetic mind, analysing and making judgements of the sources and the events and people under investigation in the time and place of the people, not based on a presentist view, as the context of the time, our values and beliefs are different from people of an earlier era. Depending on the investigation, students may need to make judgements about whether things have changed over time, or continued from the past. If the investigation is about why certain things happened, students would then have to apply causal reasoning, deciding whether certain causes are underlying, latent, long term, short term, or immediate. Thus, in doing history, students would go through the inquiry cycle using the syntactic knowledge that all historians use that would help them to derive the substantive knowledge. In this way, it is hoped that students would acquire a set of skills that would make them valued members of their community.

An Inspiring Quote

"[Open-mindedness] includes an active desire to listen to more sides than one; to give heed to facts from whatever source they come; to give full attention to alternative possibilities; to recognize the possibility of error even in the beliefs that are dearest to us."

~ John Dewey, How We Think

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