Category Archives: Teaching

Thinking About the Shaw Memorial and Civil War Memory

Tomorrow morning I will be spending some time online with a group of 7th and 8th graders, who are attending a Civil War institute that my friend and fellow teacher, Chris Lese, put together in Milwaukee. This guy is doing amazing things in the classroom and I am thrilled to be a part of it. Continue reading

Hey AP History Graders, This Year Share the Best of the Best

It’s that time of the year when historians and history teachers from across the country gather to grade the A.P. History exams. Over the past few years the grading process has become something of a public event as participants share the best of the worst responses to Free Response and DBQ questions. I know that this sharing is done by goodhearted people who ultimately care about education and the future of our discipline, but I have to admit that it leaves me feeling just a little depressed. Continue reading

Why the Civil War Matters (according to Ta-Nehisi Coates)

Update: Check out this insightful interview of Coates by Bill Moyers.

Somehow I am going to find a way next year to use Ta-Nehisi Coates’s brilliant essay on reparations in both my U.S. History survey and Civil War courses. My classes covers a good chunk of the history discussed in the essay. It’s not that I expect or even want my students to agree with Coates’s conclusions; in fact, part of the goal of any lesson would be for students to critically analyze the connections made between claim and evidence. Even more important than the argument itself, I want my students to experience what I believe to be one of the best examples of what it means to struggle with the past and why history ultimately matters. Continue reading

Holding the Line on the Traditional Research Essay

My classroom has not been the happiest place in recent weeks. It’s that time of the year when students are finishing up their major research essays. I take them from soup to nuts, from thinking about a narrow topic and framing research questions through the development of a thesis statement, outline, rough and final drafts. They learn how to search and assess sources and, most importantly, students learn how to make a claim about the past and defend it with the written world. For some students it is a grueling process and I would be lying if I didn’t admit that it takes a certain toll on me as well – hours on end of reading and correcting, meetings with students and, on occasion, a few tears. Continue reading