1st Edition

Eyewitness to the Past Strategies for Teaching American History in Grades 5-12

By Joan Schur Copyright 2007

    Throughout history, people have often expressed controversial and conflicting interpretations of current events. In this unique resource, Joan Brodsky Schur reveals how compelling and engaging the study of history becomes when students use documents to imagine living through events in American history. Eyewitness to the Past examines six types of primary sources: diaries, travelogues, letters, news articles, speeches, and scrapbooks. Teachers will find interactive strategies to help students analyze the unique properties of each, and apply to them their own written work and oral argument. Students learn to express opposing viewpoints in documents, classroom interactions, and simulations such as staging congressional hearings, elections, or protests. They build crucial analytical thinking and presentation skills. Used together, the six strategies offer a varied and cohesive structure for studying the American past that reinforces material in the textbook, encourages creativity, activates different learning styles, and strengthens cognitive skills. Each chapter provides detailed instructions for implementing an eyewitness strategy set in a specific era of American history, and includes extensions for adapting the strategy to other time periods. In addition to the primary sources included in the book, examples of student work are presented throughout to aid teachers in evaluating the work of their own students. Rubrics and a list of resources are offered for each eyewitness strategy.

    Chapter One: History from the Eyewitness Viewpoint; Chapter Two: Diaries: Writing from Opposing Viewpoints; Chapter Three: Travelogues: Eyewitness Perspectives on a Growing Nation; Chapter Four: Letters: Arguing the Past in Written Correspondence; Chapter Five: Newspapers: Conflicting Accounts of the Same Events; Chapter Six: Election Speeches: Advocating for Your; Chapter Seven: Scrapbooks: Documenting the Past Across Time; Epilogae


    Joan Brodsky Schur is the social studies coordinator at the Village Community School in New York City where she has taught American history and English for over twenty-fi ve years. She has worked for the National Archives and PBS Online developing lessons for their websites and served on the TeacherSource Advisory Group for PBS Online. Joan is the author of Immigrants in America: The Arab Americans, coauthor of In A New Land: An Anthology of Immigrant Literature, editor of Coming to America: The Arabs, and creator of the American Letters series for Interact. Drawing on her extensive classroom experience, Joan has been a frequent contributor to Social Education and other professional journals.