Alternate Methods for Teaching History

Read biographies and historical books. Include short stories and novels from specific time periods. Let the Authors Speak can help pinpoint time periods.Put up a blank time line on the wall. Fill it in with strips of paper to signify a person’s life. Write on the strip things that they did according to the time line. If you read a wide assortment of books, do just scientists, or women, or other categories one at a time. This will show who lived at the same times, where lifetimes overlapped, how the progress of inventions, etc. came along. Have strips for each student’s life, the parents, grandparents, etc. Even fictional characters from historical novels can be included, or when reading fiction, find where the person in the story would have fit if they were real. (Use color, shape, symbol, etc. to signify that fictional characters are different from real-life people to help students understand the concepts of real vs. pretend.) The Timetables of Historyis a great reference book!Make paper dolls for the time era of a story to see what the clothes looked like. We started with a set of old paper dolls left from my childhood, tracing around their clothes for basic guidelines, and then making them look more like the pictures in the books we were studying. A wedding dress got transformed into a colonial dress much more easily than I had anticipated. It was a fun group activity for teacher and students, even though most of the more complicated drawing was done by the teacher. The students chose what styles of clothing to make and colored them all with colored pencils. (Remember to draw the little tabs for attaching the clothing to the doll before cutting them out.)

Study art periods for a particular history story, seeing what the main character would have seen in their culture. What architecture was being built when this person lived? What transportation was available to this person? Can you find a picture of the type of train, buggy, wagon, etc. that this person rode in? (Use the Internet for research.)

Learn a skill from the time era. Do the girls in your story sew? Do the Indians wear beaded jewelry or beaded moccasins? What did the cowboy eat, and how did he cook it? What knots did a sailor have to know how to tie, and how did he use them?

Include videos of historical periods and events as a quick way to set the scene. Many biographies are available in the “classics” section of video-rental stores. Most public libraries are now carrying videos, often including PBS or educational cable TV specials that may fit in with your curriculum.



Many more suggestions are available in our book Taking the Mystery Out of Learning Styles.