Blog Week Thirteen – Brooke Christie

Globalizing the Curriculum & Potpourri (Teaching Empathy, Revisiting Lesson Ideas, Building an Inquiry Classroom)

Teaching history is a complicated task if you are trying to get the most information out in a single block of time and have students memorize many names dates and facts without meaning or purpose behind them. Students don’t learn history by memorizing a timeline. Some peers I have worked with in previous history courses say they do not have a strong mental timeline of historical events. I don’t think most people do. This is a challenge found in classrooms all over. Students have trouble connecting information to bigger picture ideas because they traditionally are not taught in a way that allows them the freedom to efficiently organize the information they do learn from history. What Laufenbern says in Pitfalls of Chronology about creating shelves for information students may then organize is a great alternative to memorizing in chronological order. This brings in the strategy of thematic teaching. Thematic teaching takes a theme such as The American Dream, Revolutions, or War and Politics and separates curriculum into these theme boxes. Thematic teaching helps organize information for students in a way that doesn’t seem daunting with the density of facts and names. Students might find this approach more appealing than traditional history teaching styles. What if a student found a love of politics and law because that theme from their high school history class introduced that topic of study?

As well as helping catalog information effectively, the thematically styled curriculum may expand the areas of focus and build a more globally knowledgeable class. I think many people would agree to look at different perspectives in history is essential to learning anything about history. Why then, are world history classrooms or even American history classrooms lacking in teaching more global perspectives? By implementing thematic curriculum students have the possibility to learn about a theme using historic case studies from anywhere in the world and at multiple different time periods.

When students gain these skills of connecting ideas and asking questions, they learn to interpret their own worlds through this lens of history.

For example: What are the causes of war? Why is x war happening right now? looking at bigger broader implications of speech, government, and conflict. As a teacher, you could even connect this with chronologic learning by asking students to look at the changes in war over time. Chronologic thinking doesn’t have to be something terrible and impossible to learn from if it has a purpose.

Students, when they sit down in a social studies classroom want to know the purpose of what they read, what details they are taught, and the events discussed. They should be given the opportunity to examine the global histories and contextualize history in a relevant way to their lives. This is what I think thematic teaching does best for both teachers and students.