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Conversations Across Time: Teaching American History Through Interactive Analysis of Primary Sources

A 2010 survey indicates that only a small percentage of U.S. history teachers in these Idaho districts currently place a significant emphasis on chronology, primary sources or connecting historical events with broader themes. Due to budget limitations, few teachers have had an opportunity to participate in history-related professional development over the past three years, and most would be interested in strengthening their knowledge of primary sources and interacting with historical experts. This project offers summer and daylong institutes during the school year featuring renowned national historians and twice-monthly half-day Saturday online workshops led by history faculty from Idaho's four institutions of higher education. The teachers will be organized into four cohorts of 10 based on location. Each of the three years, they will study a different chronological phase of American history, focusing on significant issues, episodes and turning points. They will use primary sources to learn how the words and deeds of individuals have determined the course of history, and create lesson plans using backward design and one of five teaching strategies: Binary Paideia, haunted history, content scene interpretation, cause-effect generalizations and cognition strategies. The teachers will produce four lesson plans for each unit. An academic advisory board will select the best teacher lesson plans and student products for inclusion on a consortium Web site. In addition, the online workshops will be recorded and made available as QuickTime movies.