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“The Big Book of ABC’s” Assignment

Below is an assignment I have given to three different U.S. 1877-Present survey courses. I present it below in its entirety, exactly as I assign it to my students. “The Big Book of ABC’s” is designed to help students do the following: 1) Work well in a group. I have found that students abhor group…

Knowles-Katie-Wells-2013

It’s Craft Project Day!!

I was reminded this weekend while running errands at the big box stores that Christmas will be coming in the distant future. Then I got to thinking about the ornaments my sister and I made in school that still reappear on the tree every year. These ornaments, along with countless other crafts stored in tubs…

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Thinking (and Writing) Like a Historian

Several months ago, I was online on a social media website when I noticed a colleague’s enthusiastic posting about the successfulness of an in-class activity. In preparing students to turn in their first written assignment in a freshmen English course, he elected to have them participate in a peer-review process that would also teach the fundamentals of…

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Responses

This semester, I’ve been having my students in both of my courses (Colonial America and Women in American History through 1869) reading full books over the course of several weeks and then devoting an entire class session to discussion.  In my smaller Colonial course, this is pretty seamless, but the Women’s History class has thirty students.  Keeping…

The Case Against Midterms

While the title of my post may suggest contemporary disgust with the political system–really? It is already time for another election cycle?–my intentions today are merely pedagogical. There has been much recent discussion on the utility of exams. Do they truly capture a student’s level of knowledge? Or, do they force a student to cram…

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Picturing Exodus and Emigration

I’m a visual learner, but I approach using images in my teaching with some trepidation. Even with useful guides to analyzing a picture, I worry about the contextual information that often does not accompany photos. Not every image comes with a complete photographers’ notes and an archive. But I recently found some great digital collections…

Revolution

What If?

Recently, several casual conversations with some of my history majors have veered toward historical counterfactuals. Counterfactuals, or the fictional incarnation of the historical counterfactual, “alternate history,” posits a world in which one or more historical variables is different than the actual past. We’ve all played this game at some point, and undergraduates seem to love…

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Prep Time: Being Deliberate

September has to be the busiest month of the year. New courses, committee meetings, student organizations, campus events, research, writing, conference prep. What did I leave out? For college faculty, the demands of the fall semester seem to pile up. Even the most dedicated teachers face the temptation to reduce course prep time in the…

Ben Wright

Opening lectures and teaching attention-getters

“Since the beginning of time…” We’ve all read student papers that begin with this absurd opening. But I’m sympathetic. Writing is hard, and writing a good first sentence is particularly challenging. I wrote a post last year about teaching like we write, recognizing the importance of clear introductions and conclusions in all forms of communication,…