How to motivate students in History?

Discussion in 'New Teachers Archives' started by fifthmonkee, Sep 19, 2006.

  1. fifthmonkee

    fifthmonkee Rookie

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    Sep 19, 2006

    How should I respond to students who say things like, "Why does history matter to me?" "I'm only interest in things that are useful to me?" "Why do I need to know Columbus discovered America etc. etc."

    I'm teaching world history to a couple of ninth-graders who see no point whatsoever in it. I've tried the old "those who do not learn history are condemned to repeat it" line, and they didn't buy it.

    How do I get the students involved in history? BTW, I am pretty limited in my texts. I teach at a Yeshiva and anything I bring in from the outside needs prior approval and the limits are pretty strict.

    I'm an old hand with teaching college-level subjects but relatively new with young adolsecants. Please Advise!
     
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  3. hescollin

    hescollin Fanatic

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    Sep 19, 2006

    Post a picture of "Person of the week" someone from history, current events, politics, etc.. and give some clues about that person. Students name the person and write a couple sentences about the person, or what their significance is.

    ****And Scholastic's books of history plays are pretty good, too. I did a Columbus play and one about the White House when the British burned it.

    Check out this web site for "free" reader's theatre scripts
    www.aaronshep.com
    http://www.lisablau.com/freescripts.html www.readinglady.com


    READING AROUND THE WORLDS… --- To move from country to country you had to read so many pages. Every time you read that certain number you got to put your name in the raffle box. It was a school wide program. At the end of the year or how ever long she did it, they would have the raffle drawings. She made it so that parents could read to children or children could read the books to themselves. After they had to fill out a reading log to say what the book was about. For those that the parents read the book she would have the students tell her what it was about.
    I remember loving the program. That is when I really got hooked on reading.
    I couldn't read in fourth grade or well I was probably reading at a first or second grade level. The summer between fourth and fifth grade I really started reading. I wanted to be one of the first to make it around the world the next yr. By seventh grade I was reading at an eleventh grade level…
    http://www.lcms.org/pages/internal.asp?NavID=9522 stamps for each country.
    http://www.sacredheartschoolsuffern.com/classes/sullivan/Reading.html this web site has reading logs for each month They are great.

    Revolutionary war!! a whole bunch of activities and a test and study guide.
    http://www.mandygregory.com/SocialStudiesActivities.htm#The Revolutionary War
     
  4. awaxler

    awaxler Comrade

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    Sep 19, 2006

    Hi,

    I teach 8th grade US history and I always start out every year (the very first day) having the students all write down an answer to that very question..."Why is it important to study history?"

    After students pair and share their answers we then discuss it as a class. I am always surprised at how insightful their answers are...usually stating things like...we learn from our mistakes, we learn from our successes etc.

    This then leads into a discussion about September 11th and all the mistakes that were made leading up to that tragic day and quoting Guliani when he said if we don't relive the events of 9/11 we will forget them..and if we forget them they will surely happen again...

    I also use this time discuss how 40 million people died in WWII and that many of those deaths could have been avoided had the League of Nations done anything to stop Nazi Germany from coming to power, but instead the League of Nation appeased Hitler at every chance...we then make the uneasing connection between the League of Nations before WWII and the United Nations during the 1990s and present day.

    By the end of our discussion the students understand that learning history may be the most important subject of all.

    ...As for motivating student to learn...that is another story...

    Here are some tips for motivating students to learn:
    1 make connections to the "real world" and what their own interets
    2. use critical thinking questions to spark student interest
    3. start lessons with video clips (use unitedstreaming...it is an excellent resource) and politcal cartoons
    4. use demonstrations
    5. make leanring fun

    Hope that helps...

    --Adam

    P.S. Oh yeah, don't forget to check out Hisotry Alive: www.HistoryAlive.com
     
  5. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    Sep 19, 2006

    History is stories (in fact, the words history and story come from the same Greek root). History is juicy gossip that can out-Soprano The Sopranos. History is human motivation: a lot of greed and thoughtlessness, a certain amount of trying hard to do the right thing but operating from wrongheaded premises, but every so often someone shocks us by exercising a little altruism. History is love stories, hate stories, sex, heroism, stupidity - the whole of humanity, in all its shame and glory.

    History, properly construed, is not just about what happened and who did it. History is an ongoing attempt to answer two of the biggest questions there are: Why did this happen? and What does it mean?

    What, if anything, are these kids into? There may well be books about it from a historical perspective.
     
  6. fifthmonkee

    fifthmonkee Rookie

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    Sep 19, 2006

    A large part of the problem here is that these kids have had bad experiences with school. When I asked them why we study history they said, "to waste our time." When I asked them if that is really what they thought, they said "yes." When I gave the example of Hitler in the 30s, they were unfazed and unconvinced that it had relavence to them (despite their being Jewish).
    As for the Sopranos approach, I have to be very careful to avoid the bada bing kind of spiciness. No sex scandals in Yeshiva.

    I like the idea of history as stories, but these kids also told me (I'm teaching them English too) that they consider stories a waste of time unless it has specific relavence to their lives today.
     
  7. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    Sep 19, 2006

    Good heavens, fifthmonkee, you do have your hands full with these young cynics.

    Any idea what they're into?

    Let me think about this some more...

    You might want to look for a book whose title is approximately Lies My Teacher Told Me - it's a debunking of history, mostly US history.
     
  8. awaxler

    awaxler Comrade

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    Sep 19, 2006

    So make connectiones to what is relevant in their lives...

    When teaching about flappers in the 1920s I start by having students create a list of things that today's youth does that would be considered rebellious BEFORE we read an exerpt from the Great Gatsby...

    To introduce the Civil Rights Movement I have students come up with something they want to change at their school and come up with a peaceful strategy to do so...

    etc...
     
  9. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Sep 19, 2006

    How about a discussion-- or assignment-- on the importance of one individual??

    Take any one historical event. Change the actions of one person, and have them tell you how history changes.

    So put a SWAT team member on the roof of the Israeli compound of the Munich Olympics. Or have someone spot the oncoming Japanese invasion force before Pearl Harbor. Or have someone enforce the Mandatory Evacuation of New Orleans last year. Have someone else move into Lee Harvey Oswald's way. ( if you've ever seen the old TV show, Quantum Leap, that's kind of what I'm driving at.)

    I know I would find the results fascinating!!
     
  10. CanadianTeacher

    CanadianTeacher Groupie

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    Sep 19, 2006

    History is a major thorn in my side too....I've never been good at it or really cared about it myself, and now I have to teach it! I am struggling with making it relevant and interesting. I like some of Adam's suggestions...now just to figure out how to apply them to Canadian Confederation and Early Explorers of Canada/New France.....One good thing is that my students are quite forgiving and patient...however, I know that if I were in my class, I'd be either pulling my hair out from boredom or napping! I'm still working on it and determined to overcome this hump that is WAY out of my comfort zone...
     
  11. awaxler

    awaxler Comrade

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    Sep 20, 2006

    Hi CanadianTeacher,

    Why not use one of your own suggestions from another thread...have them write journal entries...only this time have them write from the perspective of someone you are studying in history...

    I have my history students write journal entries all the time...as if they were a Native American in one of the specific geographic regions we were studying...as if they were Ferdinand Magellan or one of his crew circumnavigating the earth...as if they were an early settler during colonial times etc.

    There journal entries can be creative, but I always make sure to have them include some of the key terms that were learned in class. This is a great way to reinforce the lesson's objectives in a fun and creative way.

    You can also change it from a journal entry to writing dialogues and then you can have students work in pairs and act out their dialogues when they're done.

    I have more tips about this on my blog: www.TeachingTipsMachine.com

    --Adam
     
  12. oldsoccerlady

    oldsoccerlady Rookie

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    Sep 20, 2006

    It is interesting that your students would be so cynical about the place of history in their lives. I am assuming, given that you are at a Yeshiva, that the students are mostly (or all) Jewish. Isn’t Judaism largely about the history of the Jewish people? Doesn’t the Torah trace that history? Aren’t Jewish celebrations commemorative the history of the Jewish people? Certainly the history of the 20th century is in great measure the history of Israel.

    I’m speculating here, but maybe the kids are overwhelmed with the awesome burden of history. History is in fact terribly meaningful (and perhaps, painful) in their lives both on an abstract and even on a personal level. Once again I am speculating, but maybe they are really saying that they cannot bear the responsibility of any more history. Perhaps they need to find the fun in history again.

    Maybe they need the chance to approach it frivolously and without feeling that they are called to act, or contemplate on its deep significance. Is there any aspect of your history curriculum that is fun and silly and simply joyful. That could be one way of approaching history with these kids.
     
  13. CanadianTeacher

    CanadianTeacher Groupie

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    Those are interesting ideas, but I was hoping to find activities that are more kinesthetic. I'll admit that my comfort level lies with pen and paper work at a desk. This is how I work best. But I realize many students do not learn well this way, so I was hoping to make it more relevant and memorable for them through kinesthetic activities. However, this is probably my weakest area, so I struggle with it constantly.

     
  14. clarnet73

    clarnet73 Moderator

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    In one of my english classes, we were debating something in the novel (whether the main character was good or bad, or something like that), and we each had to pick a side. Each side had a few minutes to come up with particular arguments to support our views, and then we presented them one at a time. Each time we made an argument, we took one step forward towards the other side. Somehow, that made it more interesting, just because we were UP and MOVING.
     
  15. CanadianTeacher

    CanadianTeacher Groupie

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    sorry, guys, my last post may have seemed a bit confusing because I meant to quote adam's post, not the one after his. My response was to him.
     
  16. fifthmonkee

    fifthmonkee Rookie

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    Well, today I found out that one of my two students is really into HTML and computers, so I've decided to try and see if we can create our own history web site and computer timeline. We'll see how it goes. We've got limited resources (just my notebook computer and no internet connection).

    As I indicated before, part of the problem with these particular students is they have had a lot of bad experiences in school and are convinced everything is stupid and a waste of time. Everytime I pose a question like, "what would you like to learn about?" I get answers like, "nothing. why can't we just go home?" It's going to be a long year. . .I'll keep you posted
     
  17. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    Sep 21, 2006

    Hmmm... Sounds like some students who are seriously short on being positively reinforced. Which means it may take some creativity on your part to get them to exhibit behavior you can reinforce positively... but if you can find ways to sell them on the proposition that YOU think they're pretty sharp, they may come around.

    There's a cool game called Chrononauts (http://www.wunderland.com/LooneyLabs/Chrononauts/) that might help. It's a tabletop card game in which players have to go back in history and undo or redo various events, which then have repercussions for whether other events happen or don't. I understand there's now an Early American version. Anyway, this might help.

    Will school rules let you give out candy? stickers?
     
  18. awaxler

    awaxler Comrade

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    Ok...how about combining activities...

    Today my kids are taking a "walking tour of the colonies". There are 8 stations set up. At each station there is a picture of one aspect of colonial life with written info on the back and a discussion question. Students have 4-5 minutes to work with their partner/group to examine the picture, read the info, and answer the discussion question on a graphic organizer.

    When the timer goes off (4-5 min.) they get up and move to the next station to examine another aspect of colonial life. The idea is that they are "walking through the colonies".

    At the end of the activity they are to wrtie a 1 page journal entry about their experience in the colonies. They must include a variety of key terms, the date, and at least 5 aspects of colonial life that they witnessed...

    --Adam
     
  19. CanadianTeacher

    CanadianTeacher Groupie

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    I like this idea and it sounds like it fits every bill. I think I'll get some things together on the weekend and try this on Monday. Thank you so much. Do you have anything else? What grade do you teach--I have grade 7 and 8 (at separate times) My grade 7's are supposed to be learning about New France and Early Explorers, my Grade 8's are supposed to be learning about Canadian Confederation and Expansion into Western Canada.

     
  20. awaxler

    awaxler Comrade

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    Sep 22, 2006

    I teach 8th grade social studies (U.S. History). I have lots of ideas, but they pertain to US history...though you can adapt many of them to fit your subject area.

    I post many of my ideas/tips on my blog here: www.TeachingTipsMachine.com

    --Adam
     
  21. teresaglass

    teresaglass Groupie

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    Sep 23, 2006

    Projects




    Fifthmonkee: How about having the kids make historical artifacts and writing about them? There are lots of great supplementary materials at Teacher supply Stores. I bought one book called Social Studies projects. Maybe they could make some buildings or models or houses from around the world. Come up with a list of titles and ask if you can use them. You might also do some Jewish History and tie it in with the history you are teaching. The kids might find that interesting. Maybe you should do a unit on the history of Chicago and try to include the Jewish community there. Your students might find this interesting. Terry G.
     
  22. Astone312

    Astone312 New Member

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    Oct 7, 2006

    When I was in school - I hated History too. Because it did always seem boring and why do I want to learn about the past when I wasn't alive,etc. But if you made it interesting and fun to learn...they would enjoy it more. Like have you ever tried dressing up as someone back in the time you are studying and come into class as that character...or have someone else do it. Or have them act out part of what you are studying. The more active and hands on the better...I think - Not a boring old lecture class.
     

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