Wednesday, May 20, 2015

History Objectives -- Because They MATTER

Next year, I'm in charge of my daughter's history instruction. I could just buy a curriculum, but I know myself: I would get annoyed at what I don't like about it and only end up using about half of it, doing the rest myself anyway. I'm too frugal to spend my money on something I'm not going to use well.

Thus, my inclination is to come up with something myself. Cuz I'm one of those arrogant teaching types who always thinks she can do it better and that's just what I do.

So, as I'm considering next year, I'm doing the Good Teacher thing and starting with my objectives. What are the specific things I want my daughter to come out of her history class knowing and doing? (And may I pause and mention that the Good Teacher thing of establishing and teaching to OBJECTIVES is something that more teachers need to do? But I digress.)

And this is the rub for history, because there is so darn much to know!! I mean, history, people. It's been going on for a long, long time. A lot of stuff has happened. I can't expect her to learn it all! So, how do I narrow down to what, specifically, she needs to know to get "credit" for a "World History II" class at a high school level?

Well, for me, one of the first objectives would be that she can place major historical events on a general timeline. The industrial revolution happened in the 19th century (not in the Middle Ages). The Civil War happened in the 1860s (not in the 1680s, before the U.S. was even a country). World War 2 happened after World War 1 and the Great Depression and before the Cold War, and they all happened in the 20th century. That right there would put her ahead of much of the general population.

Secondly, I want her to be able to give a good general description of what those major historical events were about. Not every detail -- not a bunch of names and dates, necessarily -- but a decent-sized essay's worth of information explaining the important things about that event. Enough that, if the topic were to come up in conversation, she would be able to follow what someone is saying. Or if a show comes on TV about the event, she knows enough to be able to understand what's going on and fit new information from the show into the paradigm she already has.

Third, I want her to know the relationships between events. What connections might there have been between the Industrial Revolution and the Great Depression? How were World War 1 and World War 2 similar and different? These discussions are important because this is where we learn the lessons from history that we need to apply to what's happening in the world today. (This is also where I feel the least knowledgeable, unfortunately . . . )

But the fourth goal is more elusive, at least for me. Actually, it's more time-consuming, mainly. You see, history is a story. When you read a good book about the real story of a historical event or historical figure -- or when you hear a great teacher who loves her subject telling the stories of a time period -- it comes ALIVE. It becomes fascinating! And I want my daughter to be fascinated by history. But as much as I enjoy history, I am not informed enough to be that great teacher, and while we will read books, I don't know if we will have time to read enough to really light that spark.

I'm thinking I will require her to pick at least two topics to really dig deep on. Get to know all the major characters. Look at all the details. She read Bill O'Reilly's Killing Lincoln this semester for her independent reading selection in English, and she said it was probably the best book she's ever read. I know that's because it met this fourth objective.

Is it weird that I love having these conversations with myself? What are my objectives . . . how will I meet them . . . man, I eat this stuff up.

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