History Detective

Try out this history detective approach for your next history lesson.  Let your kids sleuth out the truth about a historical event.

I’m a big believer in keeping a historical framework and teaching the history of the world in the order it happened, but that doesn’t mean my kids have zero choices when it comes to learning.  Each unit we do has all kinds of events that happened during that time period.  I almost always sit down with my kiddos as we start a unit and we glance through it together.  They choose some explorations and books they are interested in and we begin to form a unit.  As my kids get older (I’ve got a middle schooler and a high schooler now), I want them to do more of their own research and independent learning instead of relying so much on our read alouds and discussions.  Don’t get me wrong, we still do family school time with plenty of read alouds, projects, and discussions, but I know they can do all of that and MORE.

How We Are Becoming History Detectives

It’s a natural role for me to teach and read to my kids.  I constantly give them information.  We talk about things, review, and discuss.  But it’s time to go beyond that.  It’s time for them to OWN THEIR LEARNING, to tranform from absorbers of presented information into researchers.

Here are the 3 simple steps:

  • Choose a Topic
  • Do research.
  • Formulate your own opinions.

After we peruse our history unit they will choose a topic to delve into, either from an exploration or a sidebar, and write some questions they have about the event.  They will then be set free to research from the internet and the library.  This handy-dandy History Detective printable is the perfect spot to record their findings.

Click on the picture or the link above to get the free printable.
Click on the picture or the link above to get the free printable.

I like the section at the end where they answer the WHY of the historical event?  Why do we care that this happened?  What lesson do we learn from it?

A Few Tips For History Detectives:

  • Check Your Sources – Anyone can write anything in a book or on the internet.  {My young son once accidentally changed the content of a Wikipedia article, but that’s another story…}  Find out WHO is responsible for what you’re reading.  Are they really an expert?  Is the source reputable?
  • Evaluate the Slant – Almost all information is presented with a slant.  The author has beliefs about what they are writing.  You might try to find sources with different slants on the same topic to compare before you come to any conclusions.
  • Find a primary source if you can.  A primary source comes from someone who was there.  If you’re researching the Declaration of Independence, read the Declaration itself.  You can read articles about it too, but always include a primary source if possible.  You’ll learn more about historical events from someone who saw it than from someone who didn’t.
  • Keep track of your research.  Keep a list of the books, articles, websites, and other sources you find.

Often I have my kids write essays, but this printable provides us with a more concise way to cover a topic quickly.  I love a worksheet that doesn’t have right and wrong answers, but instead demands original thoughts and ideas.  Excited to see what my history detectives dig up this year.  We’re taking the mystery out of history!

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