Lesson Plan:  What is History and why do we study it?

Date: Early in a US History Course

Objectives: The students will

I.  define the term history and identify America's place in it.

II. Create a timeline of the major periods in American history.

II.  outline the historical method and compare it to the scientific method.

III.  evaluate the importance of history in understanding today's world.
Warm Up Activity (Anticipatory Set):  Today's "History Mystery"

A) Discuss the meanings of the terms BC and AD. 
Inform students that current trends have changed the designations to "Before Common Era" and "Common Era" (BCE and CE)

B) Have students make up alternate names. When discussing what the students came up with, point out the historical background regarding the Christian calendar. Define the terms "ethnocentric" and "religiocentric."

Main Activity (Instructional Input): The Importance of History

A) Present the method of historical inquiry to students. Compare it to the scientific method using a T-chart format.


Method of Historical Inquiry The Scientific Method
1) Recall: History is what we choose to remember about the past.

2) Interpret: History involves explaining people and events.

3) Apply: Use what we know about the past to understand the present.

4) Analyze: History involves figuring out complicated situations.

5) Synthesize: History involves making sense out of jumble of facts.

6) Evaluate: History involves making judgments about people and events.

This section of the chart can be downloaded as a PowerPoint presentation.

Adaptation: Download this adapted version of the PowerPoint presentation and print it in handout form with 3 slides per page. Allow your students to fill in the blanks as you present the information rather than writing down all of the text in the presentation. Here is a Word version with fill-in-the-blanks of the PowerPoint that you can use with your students. Right click on the link and "save target as" to the folder of your choice.

  1. Observe some aspect of the universe.
  2. Invent a theory that is consistent with what you have observed.
  3. Use the theory to make predictions.
  4. Test those predictions by experiments or further observations.
  5. Modify the theory in the light of your results.
  6. Go to step 3.

From Sci.skeptic FAQ
by Bill Latura <blatura@xnet.com>

Screen shot: Printing PowerPoint in handout form.

Adapt your PowerPoint Presentation for lower level students.

 Examples (Modeling): Using Quotations

A) Display the following quotations on the board or overhead. Using partner pairs or teams, have students discuss among themselves their own interpretation of the quotations (you can assign one or more quotation to a group).

"I know of no way of judging the future but by the past." (Patrick Henry)

"The present contains nothing more than the past, and what was found in the effect was already in the cause." (Henri Bergson)

"We are tomorrow's past." (Mary Webb)

"The future bears a great resemblance to the past, only more so." (Faith Popcorn)

B) After several minutes of discussion, have the groups present their interpretations to the class. Discuss.

Check For Understanding: Writing Your Own Quotation

A) Have students write their own quotation or saying that reflects their view on history or the importance of the past. They can add illustrations if they wish.

B) Have students post these on the board or on poster board.

Wrap-Up Activity (Closure): Skills Development

Creating a Time Line

A) Place the following units of American history on the board using moveable strips of paper.

1) The Colonial Period
2) The American Revolution
3) Westward Expansion
4) The Coming of the Civil War
5) The Civil War
6) Reconstruction
7) the Industrial Revolution
8) The Progressive Period
9) World War I
10) Economic Expansion
11) The Great Depression
12) World War II
13) the Cold War
14) The Post Cold War Period

B) Display the transparency entitled Timelines. Distribute corresponding worksheet.

C) Have students place the units in their correct chronological order using their textbooks.

D) Have groups create timelines on their worksheets with at least five major events within their units.

Homework (Independent Practice): History and the News

A) Have the students choose a current news story.

B) Instruct the students to write a paragraph using the following prompt:

Suppose you are an internet newspaper reporter in the year 2100 (there will be no more paper newspapers in 100 years). Write a one- to two paragraph editorial sharing your opinion on the historical event that happened 100 years ago (in or around the year 2000). Include comments that show how future historians (in your time period) believe the event came about and what they believe the importance of the event is on their time's society. 

Example: You could write about the 1998 Clinton impeachment from the viewpoint of a writer in 2098. The writer may feel that the impeachment was just a grab for power by the Republican Congress. Such an event would never have taken place in 2098 because the President knows he can't lie under oath. technology exists in 2098 that automatically detects when someone is lying. Besides, presidents of the future would never cheat on their wives anyway.

Evaluation: The lesson will be evaluated by:

I. the accuracy of student's written responses;

Scoring rubric:

A =  Student identified a current news story and converted it into a historical event. The writer showed how it came about and stated a judgment on how important the event was in history.

B = Student identified a news story and commented on it from the viewpoint of a future historian. Comments were general rather than specific.

C = Student identified a news story and told about the story as though they were writing from the viewpoint of a person living in 2100. No serious commentary was made.

D = Student identified a news story but did not role-play as though he or she were writing from a viewpoint of someone in the year 2100.

F = The assignment was not attempted.


II. student's scores on future tests and quizzes.

George Cassutto's Cyberlearning World

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