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Eyewitness to the Past

  • Title:Eyewitness to the Past: Strategies for Teaching American History in Grades 5-12
  • Author:Joan Brodsky Schur
  • Publication Date:January 2007
  • Grade Level:5-12
  • ISBN:9781571104977
  • Publisher:Stenhouse

Throughout history, people have often expressed controversial and conflicting interpretations of current events. In this unique resource, Joan Brodsky Schur reveals how compelling and engaging the study of history becomes when students use documents to imagine living through events in American history.

Eyewitness to the Past examines six types of primary sources: diaries, travelogues, letters, news articles, speeches, and scrapbooks. Teachers will find interactive strategies to help students analyze the unique properties of each, and apply to them their own written work and oral argument. Students learn to express opposing viewpoints in documents, classroom interactions, and simulations such as staging congressional hearings, elections, or protests. They build crucial analytical thinking and presentation skills. Used together, the six strategies offer a varied and cohesive structure for studying the American past that reinforces material in the textbook, encourages creativity, activates different learning styles, and strengthens cognitive skills.

Each chapter provides detailed instructions for implementing an eyewitness strategy set in a specific era of American history, and includes extensions for adapting the strategy to other time periods. In addition to the primary sources included in the book, examples of student work are presented throughout to aid teachers in evaluating the work of their own students. Rubrics and a list of resources are offered for each eyewitness strategy.


Author Bio

Joan Brodsky Schur is currently the social studies coordinator at the Village Community School in New York, where she works with teachers to help them develop their curricula. She received her BA and her MAT degree from New York University. She has been at the Village Community School for twenty-six years, teaching English and social studies. "Teaching is about the students, the world of the imagination, and of ideas. It is putting that together that excites me most. For me, the greatest pleasure comes in the spring when I can observe how far each student has come. The further I take each individual, the more the whole group learns. When a year goes well, the class shares the excitement of being a community of learners and of learning from one another." Joan continues her love of learning in her personal life as well. During the past ten years she has traveled to Australia, New Zealand, Turkey, China, Mongolia, Tibet, Korea, and Morocco to further the curriculum development she does on world cultures. She is the author of twenty articles that have appeared in professional journals, including Social Education. She served as curriculum developer for several of Ken Burns's series on PBS, including Jazz, The West, The Civil War, and the upcoming The War. Her areas of specialty include American history, immigration, anthropology, Islam in world history, modern European history, and literature related to those fields. She has been a regular presenter at national conferences for teachers since 1995.

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