ERIC Number: ED376513
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 1994-Dec
Reference Count: N/A
Writing To Learn History in the Intermediate Grades--Defining and Assessing Historical Thinking: A Technical Report. Project 2.
Downey, Matthew T.
A multi-year study examined whether elementary school students can engage in historical thinking in a meaningful way, and what kind of writing activities best serve this purpose. Subjects were 17 students of varying language proficiency levels selected as the focus of research from the entire class of 31 primarily Hispanic and African-American students in a split fourth/fifth grade classroom in an inner-city school in Oakland, California. Data on historical thinking was collected during a 6-week period when the students were engaged in a unit on American Indians and Spanish colonization in the Southwest. The unit included two writing assignments: a "day in the life" activity concerning American Indian life, and a mock correspondence describing colonial New Mexico. Writing assignments were evaluated and analyzed. Results indicated that: (1) most students wrote quite detailed narratives for the first assignment, but most stopped far short of perspective taking; (2) several of the students had difficulty, in their role as Spanish colonists in the second assignment, distancing themselves from the Indians; and (3) more of the students succeeded in the second assignment than in the first in creating characters who thought and acted in culturally and historically appropriate ways. Findings suggest that at least some fifth-grade students with somewhat limited language skills can engage in perspective taking. The most persuasive explanation for the students' marginal success may be that most of them lacked sufficient knowledge about how things were done in the past to succeed in the assignment. (Contains 24 references.) (RS)
Publication Type: Reports - Research
Education Level: N/A
Sponsor: Office of Educational Research and Improvement (ED), Washington, DC.
Authoring Institution: National Center for the Study of Writing and Literacy, Berkeley, CA.
Identifiers - Location: California (Oakland)