General Teaching Materials

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What is history?

This worksheet is intended to introduce students to history as a discipline and describe the job of a historian.

Summary: As a historian, you are a detective. You must use clues to solve a mystery. In other words, you must use primary sources (clues) in order to understand the society that produced those texts (mystery). Once you have solved the mystery you must share your results and convince your audience of their validity.

Writing Thesis Statements

This worksheet introduces students to the components of a general thesis statement versus a history-specific thesis statement. Students are asked to consider the function and purpose of a thesis statement as well as the difference between and application of a summary statement, opinion statement, and an academic thesis.

“Framing Evidence”: Making Evidence Meaningful

This worksheet introduces students to the proper way to analyze primary sources and communicate their conclusions.

Summary: The best part of being a detective is sharing your finding with others. Your audience is an educated group of men and women, but they are NOT detectives like yourself. In order for your audience to understand how you came to your conclusions, you must explain your interpretation of each clue in a logical and coherent way. Then, you must tie these interpretations together in a logical and coherent narrative. Most importantly, you must explain your reasoning step-by-step. If you do not properly contextualize your evidence (who, where, when, what), clearly explain how you arrived at your conclusions (how), and state why your conclusion solves the mystery (why), then your audience will not be able to follow your explanation.

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Quoting and Citing Evidence

When to quote primary sources? When to quote secondary sources? When to cite?

Summary: Once you have
solved the mystery, you must explain your findings. This involves twocomponents: (1) explaining your analysis of the clues that you used (primary sources), and (2) evaluating the conclusions that your colleagues have proposed (secondary sources). When should you refer to the clues? What aspects of your colleagues’ arguments should you worry about?

 


Courses Syllabi and Select Assignments

Western Civilizations I: prehistory – 1300 (Online)

Western Civilizations II: 1300 – today (Online)

World History: prehistory – 600 CE Course Guide and Weekly Learning Goals

World History: 1500 CE – today

Founders of the West, The Mediterranean, 1000 BCE – 600 CE

Europe, 1000–1500

Crisis and Expansion, Europe and the World: 1200–1648

Sex in the Middle Ages Syllabus and Assignments

Course Description: The Middle Ages played a critical role in the construction of modern Western sexual and gender identities as well as our conception of love and romance. Through the close reading of primary sources, this course explores the treatment of sex and sexuality in the Middle Ages. Topics discussed will include love and romance, gender relations, homosexuality, marriage and adultery, gynecology and medicine, prostitution, masturbation, sexual deviancy, and eroticism.

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Research and Writing Seminars

Encounters of the Third Kind: Exploring the Unknown in Medieval and Early Modern Europe

Course Objectives: To help history majors refine their critical analysis, synthesis, and research skills.

Research Paper Guide

Course Description: We are driven by a curiosity to explore the “unknown.” When the “unknown” is out of reach, we fantasize about the wonders it holds. This course examines the role of travel narratives, adventure stories, and visions in shaping Western ideas of peoples, lands, and possibilities beyond Europe. We will be comparing actual accounts of explorers with descriptions of journeys to fantastical worlds in order to understand the role of the real and imagined, the perceived and conceived in the construction of cultural and spatial boundaries.

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The Question: What do Western (European) accounts of non-Western places and peoples (real or imagined) reveal about Western society and the intellectual culture of medieval and early modern Europe?

 

Negotiation Difference: Gender, Ethnicity, and Religion in the Middle Ages

Course Objective: To introduce students to history-specific writing methods.

Course Description: In the Middle Ages, much like today, human beings created order by dividing the world into clearly delineated, and often opposing, social and cultural categories. This course explores processes of identity formation that structured medieval societies along lines of division and collaboration, inclusion and exclusion. We will begin by looking at the most omni-relevant and ubiquitous category of all—gender. Here we will examine gender roles and the normative prescriptions, beliefs, and context that gave them meaning. Weill then move to the question of minorities and marginalized groups. Crucial to the self-definition of the medieval Christian in-group was its disidentification from out-groups such as Jews, Muslims, pagans, and Christian deviants. Turning to the topic of patterns of intercommunal discourse, in the second part of the course, we will examine how medieval people identified and treated minorities.

Required Texts: Each week students will read a “Primary Source Packet” designed by the instructor with primary source excerpts, introductory notes, and commentary. Occasionally students will also read secondary sources. All assigned secondary sources engage with the primary sources in the packet. Students will be asked to parse these texts in class in order to determine the structure of the author’s argument and consider the author’s use of source evidence.

Example “Primary Source Packet”- Men I

Example “Primary Source Packet”- Women I

 


 

K-12: Preparing for College Writing

Workshop #1: What is history? What does a historian do?

This workshop is intended to introduce high school students to history as a discipline and explain the job duties of a historian. Students are encouraged to use the analogy of a crime scene investigation to reflect on the process of historical research and writing.

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Activity: “Using evidence to solve a mystery” a.k.a analyzing primary sources: Part I: Examining the clues.

The Mystery: Why was Martin Luther King’s speech appealing to the American public in the 1960s? (2) What qualities did MLK have that made him a successful leader in the 1960s?

The Clue: King, Martin L., Jr. “I Have a Dream.” Speech. Lincoln Memorial, Washington, D. C. 28 Aug. 1963. (Note: MLK’s speech is used as a case study. This is not a lesson plan on MLK. The same lesson can be done with any primary source.)

For homework, students will read and annotate MLK’s speech looking for words and phrases that would have been attractive and/or provocative to people in the 1960s (A basic overview of political, social, and economic trends of the 1960s is included in the packet and will have been discussed in class prior to the reading assignment).

In class, students will re-read MLK’s speech as part of an instructor-modeled close reading exercise. Then, students will work in groups of four to find one quote from the text that can be used to solve the “mystery.” Each group will present their findings and explain (1) what the quote means, (2) how it answers/addresses the “mystery,” and (3) what it can tell us about society in the 1960s.

 

Workshop #2: What is historical analysis?

This workshop is intended to reinforce the skills developed in Workshop #1 and reflect on their importance. Students are once again encouraged to use the analogy of a crime scene investigation to understand the steps involved in the process of historical research and writing.

Activity: “Using evidence to solve a mystery” a.k.a analyzing primary sources: Part II: Interpreting the clues and communicating the results.

The Mystery: (1) Why was Martin Luther King’s speech appealing to the American public in the 1960s? (2) What qualities did MLK have that made him a successful leader in the 1960s?

The Clue: King, Martin L., Jr. “I Have a Dream.” Speech. Lincoln Memorial, Washington, D. C. 28 Aug. 1963.

medievalprof_bigAfter completing the instructor-modeled close reading and group exercise as part of Workshop #1, students should be prepared to begin communicating their interpretation of the MLK’s speech. In class, students will complete a chart that models the step-by-step process of primary source analysis.

For homework, students will transform the chart into a paragraph and then reflect on their experience. In particular, students will consider what about history is objective and what is subjective, as well as how the historian is involved in the creation of history.

 

Workshop #3: Historian as storyteller!

This workshop is intended to introduce students to argumentative essay structure by building upon and integrating the skills acquired and ideas discussed in the previous two workshops.

Activity: “Fill-in-the-blank” essay: Structuring an argumentative essay.

Using the chart from Workshop #2, students will complete a “fill-in-the-blank” essay with instructor assistance. The essay contains transitions, but expects students to provide the content.

For homework, students will reflect on the role of correlating and coordinating conjunctions in creating a convincing argument.

 

Workshop #4: Writing an Academic Thesis

This workshop is intended to introduce students to the two main components of an academic thesis: falsifiability and specificity. Using examples, students are asked (1) to consider the difference between a summary statement, opinion statement, and an academic thesis, and (2) how to avoid the trap of a summary and opinion statement.


* All images depict scenes of medieval university learning.