Teaching What Historians Do

How historians think about the past, and use primary sources to offer interpretations of key movements, events, and ideas, is often hard to convey. This seminar focuses on two exercises which introduce students to historical thinking. The first, an exercise particularly well-suited to the beginning of a unit, asks students to interpret primary sources to build a story, then compare their stories and puzzle out where (and why) they differ. The second uses drawing (no artistic talent needed) to convey the ways in which the authors of primary sources might see similar events from radically different perspectives. Together, these activities ask students to think about biases, cultures, perspectives, and other influences that shape the sources they read and the historians from whom they learn.