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See also Recommended Reading for Teaching University

Recommended Reading for Teaching History

The titles and annotations listed here represent my short list of recommendations (mostly books to keep it brief). While the intended audience of many of these publications are high school teachers, college professors, who have limited exposure to pedagogy, could definitely benefit. At the least, they can help college professors articulate what it means to study history. (I have a separate web page dedicated to recommended reading for teaching university.) These titles have had a profound impact on how I think about the art of teaching history and historical cognition, that is how history is learned. If you find some suggestions "dated", please realize that as a historian, I reject the notion that only the most recent publications are the most worthwhile. Do not allow the tyranny of timeliness to discount some of the titles below. As time passes, this list will evolve. (updated 12 Aug 2019)

Bain, Robert. "Into the Breach: Using Research and Theory to Shape History Instruction." In Knowing, Teaching, and Learning History: National and International Perspectives. Eds. Peter N. Stearns, Peter Seixas, and Sam Wineburg, 331- New York: New York University Press, 2000, 331-352.

Bain brings together the experience of teaching high school history with the advanced study of educational psychology and history. He shares how he introduced the nature of historical knowledge to his students during the academic year. In doing so, he was able to get his high school students to think about history as something more than a series of facts to be memorized.

Brown, Peter C., Henry L. Roediger III, and Mark A McDaniel. Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Belknap Press, 2014.

Have you ever taken a test or written an essay, and could recall little after the fact? Why? Drawing upon the most recent science about learning, the authors challenge us to use this science oflearning to help our students develop effective study habits. Best practices for learning should also interest high school teachers, who can help high school students discover how practicing retrieval and interleaving can make lead to successful learning. Compare to James Zull, The Art of Changing the Brain

Donovan, M. Suzanne, and John D. Bransford, eds. How Students Learn: History in the Classroom. National Research Council of the National Academies. Washington, DC: National Academies Press, 2005.

Explains the psychology of learning and how history teachers can leverage this information to teaching.

Dweck, Carol S. Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. New York: Ballantine, 2006.

This is a just a good read. Dweck shares research on the psychology of success. From the publisher: "Dweck explains why it’s not just our abilities and talent that bring us success – but whether we approach our goals with a fixed or growth mindset. She makes clear why praising our children’s intelligence and ability doesn’t foster self-esteem and lead to accomplishment but may actually jeopardize success. With the right mindset, we can motivate our kids and help them to improve in school, as well as reach our own goals, personal and professional. Dweck reveals ... how a simple idea about the brain can create a love of learning and a resilience that is the basis of great accomplishment in every area." Dweck has a website, where one can take a survey that indicates whether or not you have a growth mindset, then provide a link to encourage you purchase: Mindset.

Evans, Ronald J. The Social Studies Wars: What Should we Teach the Children. New York: Teachers College Press, 2004.

Is teaching history different from teaching social studies in your school district?  Knowing the historical context in which social studies has developed allows you to explore a number of essential questions.  Should history be taught to promote citizenship?  What makes a good citizen? Should history or social studies focus on memorization or problem solving?  Does history become marginalized by teaching social studies?  These topics and many others are explored by Evans through an exploration of the history of social studies since the late nineteenth century. 

Gerwin, David, and Jack Zevin. Teaching U.S. History as Mystery. Second Edition. New York: Routledge, 2010.

Makes a case for using mysteries to hook students and illustrates ways to create mysteries that engage students.

Golden, John. Reading in the Dark: Using Film as a Tool in the English Classroom. Urbana, Illinois: National Council of Teachers of English, 2001.

Techniques on how to encourage students to analyze films for English courses could easily be adapted for history.

Golden, John. Reading in the Reel World: Teaching Documentaries and other Nonfiction Texts. Urbana, Illinois: National Council of Teachers of English, 2006.

Techniques on how to encourage students to analyze documentaries for English courses could easily be adapted for history.

Grant, S. G., and Jill M. Gradwell, eds. Teaching History with Big Ideas: Cases of Ambitious Teachers. New York: Rowman and Littlefield, 2010.

The editors define ambitious teachers as individuals who "understand their subject matter and they actively seek ways to connect that subject matter with the lived experiences of their students." The samples found in this book from high school teachers illustrates how "big ideas" can frame units and history courses.

Holt, Tom. Thinking Historically: Narrative, Imagination, and Understanding. New York: College Entrance Examination Board, 1995.

Argues against the claim that facts must be learned before higher-order thinking is possible. So it's crucial to teach students to think like historians. Holt outlines what that means before explaining how he teaches history.

Hunt, Lynn. History: Why It Matters. Medford, MA: Polity Press, 2018.

While Hunt is a European historian, she helps American practioners of history articulate why history matters in this age of controversies about monuments and misleading textbooks. She is very readable and her work is an excellent entry point into the subject of making the case for why history matters.

Kobrin, David. Beyond the Textbook: Teaching History Using Documents and Primary Soruces. Portsmouth, NH: Heineman, 1996.

Provides numerous examples of how to use documents and how to help students decipher documents to teach history.

Leinhardt, Gaea, et al. Teaching and Learning in History. Hillsdale, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum, 1994.

Lesh, Bruce A. "Why Won't You Just Tell Us the Answer?" Teaching Historical Thinking Grades 7-12. Foreword by Ed Ayers. Portsmouth, NH: Stenhouse Publisher, 2011.

Bruce Lesh's high school history teaching experience brings credibility to his argument that it is possible to teach historical thinking in high school. After introducing readers to what is meant by historical thinking and how he reinvented his classroom, the bulk of chapters offer illustrative examples. The final chapter suggests how to overcome barriers to change. Inspiring ideas.

Loewen, James W. Lies my Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong. New York: New Press, 2005.

Originally published in 1995, sociolgist James Loewen researched how history was taught and found that teachers rely heavily upon textbooks that misrepresent, lie, or lie by omission. The title may appear to condemn teachers but in fact Loewen shows great empathy towards the challenges high school history teachers face.

Loewen, James W. Teaching What Really Happened: How to Avoid the Tyranny of Textbooks and Get Students Excited about Doing History.

James Loewen argues that it is impossible to "cover" all the history in textbooks so high school teachers should prioritize 30-50 topics (and most likely these will be relevant to curriculum as well). And that we use these topics to teach history skills, that is doing history. After setting forth a case for this approach, several chapters are dedicated to showing how we can get stduents to learn history by deconstructing the errors found in textbooks.

Maher, Jan, and Doug Selwyn. History in the Present Tense: Engaging Students Through Inquiry and Action. Portsmouth, NH: Heineman, 2003.

Argues that we need to make connections between the world and our students, that facts can easily be forgotten if not made significant, and suggests ways to make those connections.

Mandell, Nikki, and Bobbie Malone. Thinking Like a Historian: Rethinking History Instruction. Madison: Wisconsin HIstorical Society Press, 2007.

Written by high school teachers, outlines the elements of historical literacy and how to teach it. The authors' framework can help you articulate what it means to think like a historian in order to take a more intentional approach to your curriculum and to explain to others why history matters. Equally important, the authors show how we can use documents to teach historical thinking skills.

Marcus, Alan S. Scott Alan Metzger, Richard J. Paxton, Jeremy D. Stoddard. Teaching History with Film: Strategies for Secondary Social Studies.New York: Routledge, 2010.

Films should not be used to teach facts, but can create an opportunity to explore authorship, filmmakers' motivations, and their interpretations of the past. In addition, the authors suggest that film can create "historical understanding," "develop empathy," to visualize the past, and teach controversial issues. Presents ways for teachers to model "how to recognize, describe, question, and analyze the historical interpretive elements of many kinds of historical documents." While their film examples will become dated, the teaching methodology is useful.

Monte-Sano, Chauncey, Susan de la Paz, and Mark Felton. Reading, Thinking, and Writing about History: Teaching Argument Writing to Diverse Learners in the Common Core Classroom, Grades 6-12. Foreword Sam Wineburg. New York: Teachers College Press; Berkeley, National Writing Project, 2014.

The Common Core movement inspired these authors to explore how help develop students' reading and writing skills through history classes by breaking free from textbooks and making greater use of documentary evidence to teach. The authors advocate a "cognitive apprenticeship, which makes expert thinking and literacy practices visible to novices through teacher modeling." Introduces two scaffolding process IREAD and H2W (How to Write Your Essay) to help novices learn how to read and write historically. The authors worked with students and teachers in grades6-12.

Stearns, Peter N., et al., eds. Knowing, Teaching and Learning History: National and International Perspectives. New York: New York University Press, 2000.

Tosh, John. Why History Matters. 2nd Ed. London: Red Globe Press, 2019.

Definitely makes the case for why history matters within the context of how history is practiced. Argues that historians can make history relevant without falling into the presentism trap. The examples to illustrate chapter themes are largely informed by British history; perhaps a novice might struggle to understand the examples, yet Tossh successfully contextualizes. Perhaps best for thinking of how to articulate the theme to high school or history teachers, and graduate students.

Wiggins, Grant, and Jay McTighe. Understanding by Design. Second Edition. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, 2005.

Wiggins and McTighe introduce K-12 teachers to Backward Design, and I would recommend this book to teachers in higher education. This was my first encounter with the concept, and I found it mind-blowing. Why? They argue that we should not "cover" content, but teach it for learning. They compel readers to articulate why they teach, that is we must be able to always respond to the question: "teacher why do I have to learn this?" If we begin with big questions that make content relevant and meaningful to our students years later, we can more clearly determine what kinds of assignments will get students to address the big questions, then determine how to teach. In history, perhaps a big question that could drive a year-long course: what is the power of individual agency? Not surprising, the book also advocates active learning strategies.

Wineburg, Sam. Historical Thinking and Other Unnatural Acts: Charting the Future of Teaching the Past. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2001.

Having conducted research on a small sampling of high school history Advanced Placement students and history college professors, Wineburg illustrates what it means to "read historically" and explains how historical cognition forces us to "navigate the tension between the famliar and the strange". Wineburg, applies the psychology of learning to help readers understand historical cognition. Thinking historically can help us process complexity and interpret in context.

Wineburg, Sam. Why Learn History (When It's Already on Your Phone). Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2018.

After challenging decades of complaints that students are ignorant of history, we might be relieved to know that now history is easily accessible through the internet. Yet Wineburg notes, "The reality we inhabit now is very different. The Internet has obliterated authority." Therefore, we need to help students learn to make use of the internet, and historical thnking "provides an antidote to impulse by cultivating modes of thought that counteract haste and avert permature judgment." Wineberg will compel history teachers and professors to ponder how they can teach historical thinking in order to help students navigate historical "facts" on the web.

Zull, James. The Art of Changing the Brain: Eniriching the . Sterling, VA: Stylus, 2002.

So, this is not specific to teaching history, yet it is crucial that we understand how we learn. In this groundbreaking work, Zull explains in laypersons terms what occurs to our brain when we learn, that intrinsic motivation is key, that testing must be formative, and how teachers can use the psychology of learning to make teaching choices. See also Peter Brown, et al. Make It Stick