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ERIC Number: EJ779671
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2007
Pages: 23
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: N/A
ISSN: ISSN-0889-0293
"Exploring Complexity within a "Best Story" of U. S. History: Kernels of Inquiry in a Fifth-Grade Class"
Bolgatz, Jane
International Journal of Social Education, v22 n1 p1-23 2007
When students learn about history in elementary schools across the United States, they take tests and write essays explaining what happened in the past. It is not clear, however, that students necessarily "think about" history. Yet if students know dates and names, but not the meanings of events or how those events connect to other events, they have only learned a small portion of the story. Teachers, therefore, need to help students think about history. To think about history is to reason critically and morally about the ideas and actions of people in the past. Rather than simply labeling actions or events as good or bad, students analyze details of events and ideas so that they can make sophisticated judgments about the past. To do so requires that students, like historians, engage in close, careful reading of historical texts, and connect ideas that are not explicitly linked. More broadly, historical thinking involves examining the multiple--and constantly changing--dimensions and meanings of concepts such as freedom or democracy. Engaging in historical thinking can help students learn how those concepts are both constructed and contested, and how history and the telling of history are full of ambiguities. The study of race relations is one important topic in history that lends itself to multiple interpretations, the exploration of various perspectives, and the making of moral judgments. Learning to think historically is not an easy task, particularly for elementary students. In order to understand how teachers can help students learn to think historically, and to see what happens when students study race relations in history, the author examined the discussions that took place in a fifth grade class studying colonial U.S. history. In this article, the author describes the ways the teacher both offered students a predetermined view of the history of race relations in the colonial era, as well as how she helped them think historically about some of that history. Her goal in this research was to answer the following questions: (1) In what ways did the fifth grade students discuss the complexity of race relations in history?; and (2) What processes or approaches might help the students comprehend, analyze, and interpret the history of race relations? (Contains 44 notes.)
International Journal of Social Education. Ball State University, Department of History, Muncie, IN 47306. Tel: 765-285-8700; Fax: 765-285-5612; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Research
Education Level: Elementary Education; Grade 5
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: New York; United States