Quick review of last week’s rules from Lee Formwalt’s 2002 list?


Rule Five: Use generous amounts of local history to teach American and World History

Formwalt is a firm believer in integrating local history with national and world events. This has some connection back to his suggestion that we have to teach things that matter today but it’s a bit different than that.

For example, teaching the three phases of Reconstruction — Presidential, Radical, and Redemption — could really bore students if not done well. If you happen to be teaching in the South, try handing out a copy of a contract signed by a local planter and his former slaves the summer after emancipation. This exercise does several things: it demonstrates a primary source; it shows what Reconstruction meant to ordinary people–a planter and freed persons on his plantation; and it gets the students to interact with the past. These historical figures are real flesh and blood folks right there in the county in which you teach. I guarantee students will remember Reconstruction a lot better than if they had just read about it in the textbook.

He suggests that you can even use local history when teaching world history.

Use local newspapers in a variety of ways. How did local people deal with World War II on the homefront? How did the war affect advertising? What values were important in the 1940s compared to the 1920s? You might have them locate the issue of the local paper for the day they were born–or the day their mother or father was born. What was the important news of that day? What were merchants advertising? What were the values visible in the ads?

Rule Six: Use music and film to appeal to those senses not necessarily stimulated by reading

Music can touch the emotions in a unique way. Suggestions:

  • Starting a discussion with a song can break the ice
  • Use music as background to a slide show of 4-6 images depicting a topic such as civil rights or the Holocaust. Ask students to make a list of what they see and what they feel during the slide show
  • Help students develop their listening skills by printing out the lyrics of the songs
  • Have students try to figure out the where and when a song was written
  • Play different versions of a song to illustrate how people can take a song from one context and reshape it for another purpose

Film, too, can be a powerful way to get your students’ attention.

  • Use document analysis worksheets
  • Tell your students what to look for in the film. Stop the film at critical points and get feedback from them.
  • Do not feel the need to show the film in its entirety. Use the film as you would any other source – some primary documents, for example, are just too much for your kids
  • Use digital storytelling software to help your students create their own movies
  • Find movies that act as primary sources themselves

Next? Becoming more computer literate