1st Edition

"Why Won't You Just Tell Us the Answer?" Teaching Historical Thinking in Grades 7-12

By Bruce Lesh Copyright 2011

    Every major measure of students' historical understanding since 1917 has demonstrated that students do not retain, understand, or enjoy their school experiences with history. Bruce Lesh believes that this is due to the way we teach historylecture and memorization. Over the last fifteen years, Bruce has refined a method of teaching history that mirrors the process used by historians, where students are taught to ask questions of evidence and develop historical explanations. And now in his new book 'Why Won't You Just Tell Us the Answer? he shows teachers how to successfully implement his methods in the classroom. Students may think they want to be given the answer. Yet, when they are actively engaged in investigating the pastthe way professional historians dothey find that history class is not about the boring memorization of names, dates, and facts. Instead, it's challenging fun. Historical study that centers on a question, where students gather a variety of historical sources and then develop and defend their answers to that question, allows students to become actual historians immersed in an interpretive study of the past. Each chapter focuses on a key concept in understanding history and then offers a sample unit on how the concept can be taught. Readers will learn about the following:, Exploring Text, Subtext, and Context: President Theodore Roosevelt and the Panama Canal, Chronological Thinking and Causality: The Rail Strike of 1877, Multiple Perspectives: The Bonus March of 1932, Continuity and Change Over Time: Custer's Last Stand, Historical Significance: The Civil Rights Movement, Historical Empathy: The Truman-MacArthur Debate By the end of the book, teachers will have learned how to teach history via a lens of interpretive questions and interrogative evidence that allows both student and teacher to develop evidence-based answers to history's greatest questions.

    Introduction; Chapter 1: Reinventing My Classroom; Chapter 2: Introducing Historical Thinking; Chapter 3: Text, Subtext, and Context; Chapter 4: Using the Rail Strike of 1877 to Teach Chronological Thinking and Causality; Chapter 5: “Revolution in the Air”; Chapter 6: Continuity and Change over Time; Chapter 7: Long or Short?; Chapter 8: Trying on the Shoes of Historical Actors; Chapter 9: “How Am I Supposed to Do This Every Day?”; Chapter 10: Overcoming the Barrier to Change; Afterword


    Bruce Lesh has been a teacher and department chair for eighteen years at Franklin High School in Reisterstown, Maryland. A past president of the Maryland Council for the Social Studies and current vice-chair of the National Council for History Education, Bruce teaches American history and advanced placement U.S. politics and government. Additionally, he has published three units on teaching American history using primary sources and has contributed to the OAH Magazine of History and The History Teacher. In 2008 Bruce was recognized as the Precollegiate Teacher of the Year by the Organization of American Historians.

    "What the book intends to do, and what is does well, is provide a 'road map' for those who wish to teach historical thinking skills in the secondary classroom. Lesh has written a valuable book for history teachers at the secondary level." - The History Teacher
    "Teachers are shown how to teach history using interpretive questions and interrogative evidence in this exciting alternative to traditional history paths, recommended for any educator's collection." - Midwest Book Review