Making History: The Tools of Historical Investigation

Author: Ella-Kari Loftfield

Suggested Grade Level(s): 7 or 9

Suggested Subject Area(s): Social Studies and Language Arts

Number of Class Periods Required: Depending on whether this unit is used in a 7th- or 9th-grade classroom, it may take from 9 to 18 class periods (60 minutes per period). This unit also allows the teacher to tailor the unit to meet the needs of students depending upon how much background knowledge they already have about the importance of studying history.

Essential Question: How will I make history?

Teacher Overview:
Because of the increasing demands placed on teachers to adhere to strict timelines for teaching and following prescribed content, it was important to create a unit that was worth taking the time to teach. This unit is important because it integrates a fascinating local (but little known) historical story with important skills; these skills are essential for an understanding of and investigation into history that simply reading a textbook cannot provide. The compelling story and the rich resources that are available regarding the World War II Japanese American experience make it an excellent topic through which to teach students the many and varied skills that it takes to study history. This unit was designed, therefore, to introduce students to those skills and to the bigger questions about how and why we should study history. Those skills are a part of any middle school teachers’ social studies curriculum, and because so many of those skills are dependent upon good reading comprehension, many reading strategies are incorporated into the unit.

The result is a unit of discovery that teachers can approach in one of two ways depending on their emphasis. In neither case should it be introduced as a unit on the Japanese American World War II experience, as this theme reveals itself after several lessons. Teachers who want to do the complete unit will begin by assessing student understanding and attitudes about what history is and how and why we should study it; the unit should culminate with a project illustrating their new understanding of the importance of studying history. The title “Making History” and the Essential Question—How will I make history?—reinforce the idea that history is not over and done with. It is, in fact, a living, breathing subject that is influenced both by the quality of questions people are concerned enough to ask and by the answers they are brave enough to pursue. Teachers who feel that their students have that understanding and background will probably prefer to begin with Lesson 3 and end with Lesson 7, using the tanka poem assignment as the final assessment.

Download the entire “Making History: The Tools of Historical Investigation” unit (8.4 MB)


Resources and References