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Using Historical Perspective to Teach History

Larson, Katya
"And we would do well to remind young people that nobody ever lived in the past. Jefferson, Adams, and Washington did not walk around thinking, "Isn't it fascinating living in the past?" They lived in the present, of course, just as we do today, every bit uncertain of the future as we are."-David McCullough, 2008. History is abstract, and often students have difficulty connecting to the information. Teaching history, therefore, is an exercise in making ideas and attitudes meaningful for students. One approach to teaching history is give students the tools to look at situations through the perspectives of historical figures. Although students may not agree with the beliefs of the past, they can start to understand some of the complex motivations that drove people to act in a certain way. I used this approach for my edTPA, the University of Wyoming's Education Teacher Performance Assessment, to teach students about the varying perspectives of people living in colonial America. Students researched the leading figures, imports, exports, religions, and population demographics of the thirteen colonies. This inquiry became the basis of how students viewed the problems and came up with solutions dealing with the Articles of Confederation, the economy, religion, and voting rights. Because students pretended to be delegates from their colony, they had a vested interest in "building" a new government that could suit their colony's needs.
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