Keeping History Class Alive
History is one of the tougher subjects to teach. You'd think that it wouldn't be so difficult. After all, history – be it global or American – has seen its share of exciting and amazing events. Wars, religions, revolutions, coups, crusades, and of course, the Brady Bunch reunion of 1981.
Unfortunately, teaching history usually boils down to a teacher standing in front of a sleepy class, talking about names, dates, places, events, and, yes, even more dates. Mention history class to a group of 10 people, and more often than not a good percentage of them will contort their face in agony as they think back on all of those lackluster hours spent in the classroom, when they could have been out making history instead of simply studying it.
However, it doesn't have to be that way. History can be something exciting, and making it come alive is the job of every good teacher. Creating a connection with your students through alternative means of teaching is just the kind of “teaching outside of the box” that history class needs. With some subjects, like math, you cannot pull it off so easily, I think. There are only so many ways to solve a particularly nasty calculus problem…
With history, however, there are many ways to bridge the gaps that exist between teacher, students, and mandatory curriculum.
So, for those of you looking to spice things up in the classroom and engage your students, here are a few suggestions:
Get out of the classroom, out of your comfort zone, out of your own head – and take a walk down memory lane. Oh, they may not be your memories, but history can truly and honestly come alive in this fashion. It is the next best to constructing a time machine and going back to the battle of the Alamo! And let's face it, those time machines never work anyway.
Plain and simple. Why limit your class to only reading about Genghis Khan, when you can be watching Mongol: The Rise of Genghis Khan? Why learn about the Vietnam War from a textbook, when you can watch a movie like Platoon or Apocalypse Now? Films – when done right – are a feast for the eyes and ears. Especially period films! 100% Guaranteed* to keep your students from reaching for their iPhones!
Sure, this one may sound like a no-brainer, especially for those of you teaching lower grades, but not too many teachers take the time to create their own version of historical trivial pursuit, historical jeopardy, or historical hangman!
Well, you can't win them all. If you don't see yourself doing any of the following, try coming up with your own ways to get your students interested. There are many distractions and obstacles in the way of proper teaching. It is always nice to surprise the class with something they weren't expecting, and happy students make for a happy learning environment, and ultimately a happier teacher. It's win-win!