Active Learning in the Classroom

Over the past few semesters, I began my early American literature course with Thomas Jefferson. Starting with Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence, Notes from the State of Virginia, and letter to Benjamin Banneker was important considering the recent events in Charlottesville, VA. Typically, I start the first class with David Walker then back track to Jefferson,…

Storytelling

I do lots of active learning in my classroom along with active lecturing and discussion.  What I don’t often do is tell stories.  I have colleagues who can make a lecture a performance piece with all the theater and drama you could want, but I’ve always aimed more for engaging students through Socratic questions and…

In some ways, the bar for being a thoroughly decent human being has never been lower for men in positions of power and privilege. Yes, that includes teachers.

It’s difficult to avoid the stories of powerful people—especially powerful men—abusing their power in every conceivable area of society, from business to politics to higher education. Credible allegations of sexual abuse and harassment by Harvey Weinstein, to Louis CK, to Roy Moore, to—most recently—Al Franken, remind us that horrific, abusive behavior by powerful people (especially…

Getting Reconstruction Right

This semester, I’m teaching my Civil War and Reconstruction course; it’s one of my favorite courses to teach, but it’s also a course that I always finish with a feeling of vague dissatisfaction. It’s not that the course doesn’t go well, or that my students don’t do good work or engage with the material and…

Reconsidering the Internet: Hypothesis in the History Classroom

There are countless different ways to write, and things and ideas to write about. And the Internet offers a kaleidoscope of different formats, media, tools, sights, and sounds to tell your stories…We’ve got to start thinking of the Internet as something more than a glow-in-the-dark newspaper.—Jon Bois, Sportstwriter for SBNation.com1)Jon Bois, “17776: Questions and Answers.”…

Teaching Religion in Early America: Struggles and Successes

I often receive comments on my evaluations for the US I survey that I spend too much time on religion. I explicitly discuss religion in quite a few cases throughout the semester – colonial missionaries, Calvinists and Quakers in 17th c. New England, the First Great Awakening, abolitionism, new 19th century religions, and Lincoln’s second…

Booklists for Undergrads

I don’t know about your institution, but we have already gotten our first call for Spring term books.  Every fall I find myself totally surprised by how early this call comes. I’ve cut back on assigning books in the survey for a number of reasons, but I’m always on the lookout for engaging, short(ish) reads…