Using History to Invigorate Common-Core Lessons

Sam Wineburg, an expert in historical thinking and a professor at the Stanford Graduate School of Education, writes that use of historical text in the classroom will help achieve the Common Core standards. Historical text is "letters, diaries, secret communiqués, official promulgations, public speeches, and the like," not a history textbook. Importantly, historical text is informational text, and it exposes students to a variety of topics and complexity. In addition, close reading is at the heart of reading and understanding historical text. Wineburg's last point is that knowing how to read and analyze historical text gives students the ability to question the veracity of informational text, a much needed skill especially in a world now dominated with information (e.g., content found on the internet).

Content Comments 

In this short article, Sam Wineburg makes a strong case to educators that the use of historical text is important in achieving many of the standards and skills found in the Common Core standards. The Common Core calls for an increase in the reading of nonfiction and informational text, which is the essence of historical text (e.g., Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter From Birmingham Jail”). Wineburg presents some of the research behind historical thinking and provides examples for why it is important for teachers, especially social studies teachers, to use historical text and to teach students about historical thinking. Incorporating historical text into curriculum can be relatively easy to do, and if taught correctly, historical text can prepare students with the type of thinking needed for the 21st century.