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help your students become historians at home

Ways to Help Your Students Become Historians at Home

Historians study events of the past, and our students are living in a time where they start writing primary sources for future historians! Think about all that has happened in their lives during 2020. Your students can become historians at home by producing their own writing or studying artifacts and historical documents of the past. Here are some ways to help your students become historians at home.

Think like a historian

Thinking like a historian means that your students aren't taking everything they read at face value. In fact, they are using research skills to make sure they are using reliable sources or recognize the bias of the author. In addition, they are looking at the contextual background of the setting in which the source was written. Finally, your students will look at other sources to see if the information conflicts or corroborates the first source. "Think Like a Historian" lesson plans are available at for free. There are plans ranging from Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War studies to the Sixties. All the lessons pair well with PBS programming and viewing guides and lessons are also available. Overall, thinking like a historian means to take into consideration where the sources are coming from and compare them with other sources to get an accurate picture of the past.

Write like a historian

Encourage your students to share the stories of their past and present. Have your students record their personal stories during this time at home. For example, their journal entries about their daily lives. Encourage your students to keep daily accounts of their life using one of the following journaling methods. At this point, don't focus as much on the editing and conventions of writing. Just encourage them to write their stories.

  • Blogging: Have your students start their own online journal in the form of a blog. This digital record will be something they can preserve for years and even share presently with classmates, friends, and family. Blogs make it easy to add pictures, videos, and other multimedia elements with writing. Many students use Google blogging platforms like Google Sites or Blogger to get started.
  • Sketchnoting: Journaling in picture form is also a form of sketchnoting. Sketchnoting can be done with digital apps on a touchscreen device like an iPad or on paper. Images are at the forefront of this type of journaling. Words are used to explain the images, but the pictures are what tell the story.
  • Traditional paper journals: Encourage your students to express themselves in writing through traditional journaling. The benefit to journaling on paper is that it's always accessible. Students can write at any time regardless of an internet connection. Also, journaling allows students to preserve handwriting and primary source documents for future generations even if blogging websites go down or online platforms change.
  • These journaling mediums help your students share their voices for future historians in the present. Another way to use journaling is by having your students explore journals as primary sources from the past. These may be published books, or they may have some from family members that they can read and learn about their family's past!

    Ask questions like a historian

    Your students can also learn about history at home from their family members. Their parents, grandparents, and other friends or family members can share experiences of growing up in the specific city, state, or even country of their origin. Sharing these unique stories with their students will help them become better listeners and students of history. In addition, your students may want to hear from others that lived through certain time periods and events to share their stories. Find safe, vetted individuals that may want to share their own experiences through a short video on Flipgrid or in a Zoom presentation or interview with your students. Make sure to honor the experiences of these real-life historical figures by teaching your students how to form meaningful questions and ask them appropriately. Your students are historians in the making! By thinking like a historian through using research and reading skills they are taking the first step to uncovering a wealth of information. Also, by recording their own history, your students are producing primary sources for future generations. Finally, by asking questions of their friends and relatives, your students will learn about their past while sitting at home. You can help your students become historians from home during distance learning by allowing them to think, write, and ask questions. . .like a historian!

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