Several weeks ago I posted a quick overview of an article, The Guide on the Stage: In Defense of Good Lecturing in the History Classroom, that appeared in the October 2009 issue of Social Education. In the article, Jason Stacy, describes his love for the lecture.

And in the current educational world of social studies instruction, the lecture is often viewed as an example of what not to do.

So let’s be clear. Stacy is not suggesting that the typical, traditional lecture is good for kids. In fact, he’s saying just the opposite:

The problem . . . is not lecturing, but bad lecturing.

But he is suggesting that done well, lecturing can be a powerful way to engage kids in content. In The Guide on Stage, Stacy describes three examples of what he calls Interactive Lectures. My earlier post discusses his Problem-Solving Lecture.

Today? A quick overview of what he calls a Comparative Lecture.

Like the earlier Problem-Solving Lecture, a Comparative Lecture forces kids to assimilate new material by placing it in “constant opposition” to other material. Stacy uses the example of the difference between a Jeffersonian and Hamiltonian view of constitutional power. By using the Comparative Lecture approach, you can engage kids in not just the theories of the two views but also discuss those who supported the differing views. And then dig deeper into why certain groups supported certain beliefs.

It seems like a pretty simple, perhaps even a traditional, approach. But by creating a framework in which differences are acknowledged and encouraged, students are able to attach both prior knowledge and new content to something that makes sense to them. One person has called this sort of framework “mental velcro,” a sticky place in the brain to attach specific details.

The framework also lends itself to useful graphic organizers such as Cornell Notes.

This framework also encourages your kids to think historically while gathering basic facts through your delivery. Questions will naturally develop in your mind and the minds of your students that must be solved. These questions and the discussion that follows is the “interactive” part.

But to be truly interactive, these questions need to open-ended, that spark debate, challenge assumptions and involve groups of kids rather than the traditional “raise your hand, ask the same kids all the time” type.

Other comparative lecture topics might include such things as:

  • Brown vs. Board of Education decision
  • Drop the bomb vs. don’t drop the bomb
  • Different approaches to solving the Great Depression
  • Expansion of slavery
  • Current health care

So . . . lecture. But lecture well, lecture interactively.

Next week? The Thesis-Driven Lecture.

Have fun!

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