Teaching Materials
Ask a Master Teacher
Lesson Plan Gateway
Lesson Plan Reviews
State Standards
Teaching Guides
Digital Classroom
Ask a Digital Historian
Tech for Teachers
Beyond the Chalkboard
History Content
Ask a Historian
Beyond the Textbook
History Content Gateway
History in Multimedia
Museums and Historic Sites
National Resources
Quiz
Website Reviews
Issues and Research
Report on the State of History Education
Research Briefs
Roundtables
Best Practices
Examples of Historical Thinking
Teaching in Action
Teaching with Textbooks
Using Primary Sources
TAH Projects
Lessons Learned
Project Directors Conference
Project Spotlight
TAH Projects
About
Staff
Partners
Technical Working Group
Research Advisors
Teacher Representatives
Privacy
Quiz Rules
Blog
Outreach
Teaching History.org logo and contact info

Exploring Historical Texts in a Discussion-Based Class

Learning from Others: Learning in a Social Context from Annenberg Media is a video made up of two sections, the second half of which documents the practice of Avram Barlowe, a high school history teacher at the Urban Academy in New York City. (Go to Session 7 and view video from 13:58–25:55.)

This video provides examples of two promising practices:

  • Helping students use textual evidence to support their claims
  • Leading a productive discussion in the history classroom by asking open-ended questions and restating student answers
Black Codes

The subject for the class discussion is a set of discriminatory Southern laws known as Black Codes. The laws were passed by Southern state legislatures in the wake of the Civil War and reflected the efforts of former Confederates to reassert control over the recently emancipated black population.

Returning Students to the Text

The classroom discussion is grounded in primary sources. Students are asked to look at examples of Black Codes and answer the following questions:

  • What were the laws designed to do?
  • How might such laws be defended by the people who wrote them?

Having asked students to form interpretations based on these texts, the instructor is diligent about reminding students to return to the texts during their discussion. "Let's look at what the law says," he instructs at one point, reinforcing his desire that they work with the evidence to develop their ideas.

Leading Discussion

A major part of managing a successful class discussion, this video makes clear, is asking open-ended questions that students can answer in a variety of ways. This approach makes the class discussion more accessible for all students and can engage them in using evidence to support their claims.

The instructor in this classroom also works to put students in conversation with each other. He does this by restating and clarifying the claims made by students, as well as by pointing out areas of agreement and disagreement in their comments.

What's Notable?

Discussions are a common feature in many history classrooms. What makes this class unique, though, is the approach taken by the instructor. First, the video documents the practice of consistently returning students to the text in discussions, asking them to use evidence to support their claims. Second, it reveals a successful approach to promoting deeper historical understanding by asking open-ended questions and restating student answers.

Post new comment

  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd> <b> <i>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

More information about formatting options

Image CAPTCHA
Enter the characters shown in the image.
 
Content