Tips for Teachers...

Ideas for Dealing with Textbooks:

The catalog from Social Studies School Service (P.O. Box 802, Culver City, CA, 90232) lists compact textbooks for American History; their use frees class time to study a few issues in depth. Joy Hakim's ten paperbacks, A History of US (Oxford University Press, 1993, also distributed by D. C. Heath), commit some of the usual textbook faux pas but are told in a more exciting and less god-like voice, hence lend themselves to complementing and critiquing.

Using two textbooks raises issues: as students question why they differ, they realize that history is not just compiling "the truth" for students to memorize. Two editions of the same textbook can play this role, but it is more interesting to use very different books. Although out of print, inquiry textbooks provide the greatest contrast to the usual narrative textbook, and students can use reserve copies at their school library. Examples include Allan O. Kownslar and Donald B. Frizzle, Discovering American History(Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1974), and Social Science Staff of the Educational Research Council of America, The American Adventure (Allyn and Bacon, 1975).

Or compare a different book to a standard textbook. Possibilities include Howard Zinn's People's History of the United States (Harper and Row, 1980), a left-wing approach, and Clarence B. Carson, A Basic History of the United States (Wadley, Alabama: American Textbook Committee, 1986), from the right. Or use histories emphasizing a particular group or theme, such as African American Historyby Langston Hughes and Milton Meltzer (Scholastic, 1990), Before the Mayflower by Lerone Bennett (Penguin), or Ruth Warren, A Pictorial History of Women in America (Crown, 1975), which relate to many issues in American history.

Or use my book, Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your High School History Textbook Got Wrong (Amazon.com), asking students to evaluate their textbook on the ten broad topics treated in Lies, and also inviting them to write their own critiques of additional topics and send the best to me. Students can also use Mary Kay Tetreault, "Integrating Women's History: The Case of United States History High School Textbooks" (The History Teacher, v. 19 [February, 1986], 211-62), or Glen Blankenship, "How to Test a Textbook for Sexism," (Social Education, v. 48 [April, 1984], 282-83), to evaluate their textbook's coverage of women.

Resources that suggest Alternate Approaches in History Teaching:

William H. Cartwright and Richard L. Watson, Jr., eds., The Reinterpretation of American History and Culture(National Council for the Social Studies, 1973), offers still-useful bibliographic essays on Indian relations, time periods, and other general topics.

Bernard R. Gifford, ed., History in the Schools: What Shall We Teach? (Macmillan, 1988), offers thoughtful if predictable answers to the question in its subtitle.

The Zinn Education Project offers 75 free, downloadable teaching activities for middle and high school classrooms to bring People’s History to the classroom, organized by theme, era, and grade level.

Stephen Botein, et al., Experiments in History Teaching (Harvard-Danforth Center for Teaching and Learning, 1977), presents exercises and projects developed by high school, college, and community teachers.

Robert Blackey, History Anew (University Publishing Associates, 1-800-462- 6420), is drier but newer.

Shelley Berman, ed., Promising Practices. Gary Smith, et al., Teaching About United States History (Denver: Center for Teaching International Relations , 1988), suggests various learning projects.

The Bradley Commission on History in the Schools, now the National Council for History Education, Suite B2, 26915 Westwood Road, Westlake, Ohio, 44145, distributes Paul Gagnon's important book, Democracy's Half-Told Story, and other material intended to improve how American history is taught.

James Davidson and Mark Lytle's After the Fact (McGraw-Hill, 1992) suggests several important historical issues to explore.


Teaching Tolerance, available to teachers without charge from the Southern Poverty Law Center, 400 Washington Ave., Montgomery, Alabama, 36104, emphasizes American history and hands-on teaching methods.

Rethinking Schools (1001 E. Keefe Ave., Milwaukee, Wisconsin, 53212), mixes educational ideas of national significance and news of school policies in Milwaukee and sells publications and reprints, including Bill Bigelow's important "Inside the Classroom: Social Vision and Critical Pedagogy."

The History Teacher, Social Education (National Council for the Social Studies ), The Radical Teacher , and Democracy and Education (0615 S.W. Palatine Hill Road, Portland, OR 97219) have occasional how-to articles.

Radical History Review , c/o Tamiment Library, New York University, 70 Washington Square South, New York, NY 10012

Back issues of the Bulletin of the Council on Interracial Books for Children (now sadly out of business, but available in most university libraries) suggest important supplementary materials by authors of color.

Accessible at any university library, the ERIC database reports thousands of teaching ideas indexed by keywords on CD-ROM and available on microfiche.

Cobblestone history magazine for middle-school, (Cobblestone Publishing, 30 Grove Street, Suite C, Peterborough, NH 03458), has thematic issues also useful for HS.

Sources for Original Materials:

Jackdaws, packets of copies of original historical materials, are published by Jackdaw Publications (P.O. Box 5O3, Amawalk, New York, 10501).

Several textbook publishers put out teacher's kits more interesting than their textbooks themselves, including Teacher's Resource Book for Boorstin and Kelley's A History of the United States (Prentice-Hall), Sources in American History, for Triumph of the American Nation (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich), and Discovering the American Past (Houghton-Mifflin)

Many original texts can be downloaded from the World Wide Web (see below).

Other Useful Catalogs:

Teaching for Change , PO Box 73038, Washington, D.C., 20056 has a useful online webstore .

Social Studies School Service puts out Multicultural Studies Catalog, which groups teaching materials for women's history, Hispanic history, etc.

History listings in Highsmith's Multicultural Publishers Exchange (1-800-558- 2110) are fewer but still useful.

Teaching American History Through Imaginative Literature:

American literature usefully ties in with American history, so long as that literature is historically accurate. Thus Okla Hannali by R. A. Lafferty offers a rich introduction to Oklahoma history, while Oklahoma! by Dana Fuller Ross does not.

Elizabeth Howard, America As Story: Historical Fiction for Secondary Schools (American Library Association, 1988), recommends books teachers have used successfully. Her suggested study questions are routine, however, and her recommendations include novels that reek with racism and historical error, even Gone With The Wind! Vandelia Van Meter, American History for Children and Young Adults, published by Libraries Unlimited (130 Cremona Drive, P.O. Box 1911, Santa Barbara, CA 93116-1911), provides readings on many different topics. Beverly Slapin and Doris Seale, Through Indian Eyes , 1992, (available from Oyate , 330 East Thomson Ave., Sonoma, California 95476) contains useful works by Native writers, a checklist for evaluating books for their treatment of Indian issues, and an extensive resource list.

Suggestions for Specific Topics and Eras:

AnthroNotes , a newsletter available free to high school teachers from the National Museum of Natural History often treats pre-Columbian Native American societies.

My own 1992 book, Lies My Teacher Told Me About Christopher Columbus (New Press , 212-629-8802) is a poster-book intended for classroom use in early October; it introduces students to historiography and textbook criticism as well as the Great Navigator.

Claire Keller, "Using Creative Interviews to Personalize Decision-Making on the American Revolution," Social Education, 43 (3/1979), 271, suggests various learning projects.

The Office of Elementary and Secondary Education at the Smithsonian Institution (Smithsonian Center for Education and Museum Studies, P.O. Box 37012, MRC 508, Washington, DC 20013-7012) distributes Teaching the Constitution, offering ways to use documents, projects to make the issues come alive today, and a bibliography of resources for classroom use. See also Teaching about the Bill of Rights (Baltimore, Maryland: Phi Alpha Delta Public Service Center, c. 1987).

On issues of race and gender relations, the Anti-Defamation League publishes David Shiman's The Prejudice Book, featuring exercises for classrooms. Several books by James A. Banks have useful ideas, including Teaching Strategies for Ethnic Studies (Allyn and Bacon, 1987) and Multiethnic Education: Theory and Practice (Allyn and Bacon, 1994). See also Carl A. Grant and Christine Sleeter, Turning On Learning (Merrill, 1989).

ASCD (formerly The Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development) (1703 North Beauregard St., Alexandria, Va., 22311-1714), publishes a collection of primary documents by Charles C. Haynes, Religion in American History. It lives up to its subtitle, "What to Teach and How."

The American Social History Project's Who Built America? (Pantheon, 1989), also available online (see link) and in a gripping CD-ROM version, makes labor history come alive.

How Schools Are Teaching About Labor, published periodically by the AFL-CIO (815 16th St. NW, Washington, DC), supplies lesson plans and classroom materials. Labor's Heritage, a former quarterly from the AFL-CIO (discontinued in 2004), published teachers' guides and posters on teaching history using local sources. Power In Our Hands , by Bill Bigelow and Norman Diamond, (Monthly Review Press, 1988) contains interesting exercises to get students to think about social class.

Lonnie Bunch and Michelle K. Smith explore ways citizens have obliged governments to act in Protest and Patriotism (Smithsonian Office of Elementary and Secondary Education), which is now available online as a .pdf file.

The Center for Social Studies Education (3857 Willow Ave., Pittsburgh, Penn., 15234) puts out an extensive kit for teaching about the Vietnam war to high school students. The CD-ROM, Passage to Vietnam, contains important oral and written sources. Brooke Workman, Teaching the Sixties, published in 1992 by the National Council of Teachers of English (1111 Kenyon Road, Urbana, Ill., 61801), is somewhat diffuse and affable but offers ways for students to learn about that turbulent decade. The '60s are also emphasized by the Southern Poverty Law Center in Teaching Tolerance, 1 #1, and their Civil Rights Teaching Kit. The series on the Civil Rights Movement, Eyes on the Prize , is now condensed on DVD from PBS, making it easier to teach from.

Media Resources:

Video and film resources range from feature films like Glory and Missing to PBS documentaries like The Civil War, and Remember My Lai (transcript available online from PBS "Frontline"). To help you use videos, consider the points in Linda Christensen's "Unlearning the Myths that Bind Us," Rethinking Schools , 5 #4 (May, 1991), 1, 15-16. National Geographic sells The American People on interactive DVD, said to thoughtfully address the KKK, immigration, religious freedom, etc.

Electronic Resources:

Many sites on the web can help students learn history and wrestle with historic issues and original sources. History News Network collects stories from around the world about how history impacts the present and makes news today. Its archives are a trove for any U.S. or world history teachers. Other important websites include:

1860 to 1980 Census Data
1990 Census Data
2000 Census Data
The History Net
History Text Archive
The National Council for History Education
O'SIYO... First Nation Site Index
National Park Service - Links to the Past
Library of Congress
Smithsonian Museum System
Atlas of the US
History Matters
Slave Narratives

Discussion Lists:

H-Net.org offers a forum on which interesting HS history teachers share ideas. Subscribe via Listserv@msu.edu. There are listservs like this for more specialized topics.

Other Organizations Whose Focus is Teaching History:

National Center for History in the Schools, The National Center for History in the Schools, UCLA, 6265 Bunche Hall, Los Angeles, California 90095-1473. The National Standards for U. S. History, maligned by the Senate, are actually reasonable and useful.

Facing History and Ourselves, 16 Hurd Rd, Brookline, MA 02445-6919.

Educators for Social Responsibility, 23 Garden St, Cambridge, MA 02138.

National Assn. for Multicultural Education (NAME), NAME National Office 2100 M Street, Suite 170-245, Washington DC 20037

This site was created by Matt Cheney, is maintained by Phil Huckelberry, and is copyrighted by James W. Loewen 1997-2020.