Nora Slonimsky head-shot

Hate speech and the classroom

Generally, the United States history survey dedicates considerable time to World War II and its impact on American society. When the discussion turns to the Holocaust, it is a subject that my students intensely engage with, passionately decrying the bigotry and hatred that underscored the Nazi agenda. They frequently draw powerful connections to contemporary affairs,…

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Civil War Jenga

I love teaching the coming of the Civil War to survey classes.  There are so many layers to explain about why and when the war happens.  After a unit on antebellum culture, I take two class sessions to discuss the period between 1844 and 1860.  The reading assignments are balanced between political speeches (this year…

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Primary Sources and the End Game

Since the midterm, I have noticed that several of my students are continuing to struggle with primary sources. Of course, they know what primary sources are, and to a pretty good degree, how to extract information from such documents. Nevertheless, it is apparent that a great number simply prefer to deal with and to use primary sources one…

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Your Bias is Showing

Earlier this semester, I started to notice an interesting trend in class discussions.  My students kept bringing up the bias, or lack thereof, of the authors we were discussing.  The term kept coming up again and again.  It was clear that when it comes to historians, my students wanted to hear from scholars without bias. …

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Fighting Pre-Holiday/End-In-Sight Distractions

Halloween is over, Thanksgiving is coming, and the big box stores are pumping out Christmas tunes and sales galore. Meanwhile, our students are beginning to see the end of the semester. The pre-holiday distractions combined with the inevitable conclusion of the course often result in disengaged students. Some are thinking about family time and fun…

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Questions to Ask for a Good Discussion

After fumbling and bumbling questions in my classes and failing to channel my inner Oprah and getting my students to just open up their intellectual inner landscapes to me, I started thinking about what makes good discussion questions. It occurred to me that the best questions are not the ones I ask students, but the…

The Problem of Monographs in Undergraduate Courses

I am constantly debating what kinds of sources to assign in my various courses, which ones to include, and, arguably more difficult, which ones to exclude. Yet this sometimes is one of the more enjoyable exercises in teaching. When making course syllabi, I tend to revisit books and articles that, as a graduate student, had…