Stanford History Education Group: Reading Like a Historian


Reading Like a Historian… it’s honestly my main curriculum I use in my classroom. It’s the best thing out there. Every high
school should be doing this. It’s met every expectation and beyond. I think I’m a believer. Teachers have commented, they’re like, “I wish this way I would have learned history.” I looked at the sourcing first, and then I closely looked at the document. The first thing that this program does that’s very different is that it turns history into a series of questions, rather than a series of answers. A Reading like a Historian lesson would provide students with a series of primary source documents. Students would work together and ask
themselves questions like “who wrote this?” “What else would I need to know to make a considered and valued judgment?” The source isn’t specified. And so if it was economics, they don’t talk about economics… You do engage the facts and the dates and the personalities but in a much more meaningful and deeper way. Nothing has happened yet, so he has no reason to go to war. History is often taught as if it’s settled and for me to tell them this isn’t settled, you have to figure it out, is empowering. Who is this guy? We know that most of our students will not go on to become professional historians, but we hope that they will learn a set of
skills that are applicable in life. This isn’t just memorizing that you’re figuring out how to evaluate all the information that you’re getting. With the focus on ELA and math and
science and STEM, history is kinda being pushed to the wayside. And by using these materials we can help teach kids skills to make them successful. We can help make history relevant again.
We can help with these Common Core objectives. With the Common Core State Standards there is a big push for the use of primary and secondary source documents. The Stanford History Education Group does that legwork for you. All the online materials are free, you can’t get any better than that, right? Especially, especially when they’re meaningful, well-thought-out materials. You’re going to read that document, then answer the questions. The Read Like a Historian approach really has a tremendous potential to transform history classrooms. We tested the Reading Like a History curriculum in five San Francisco high schools, and we found that
students in Reading Like a Historian classrooms outperformed their counterparts. When we started utilizing it, I saw dramatic changes in behavior, in interest, in confidence. It’s a lifesaver for teachers that these resources are available and are so phenomenal.

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