MHarcourt's picture

I teach in a large, co-educational, urban high school in downtown Wellington, New Zealand. I am heavily involved in the history teaching community at local and national levels and recently co-edited a book on developing New Zealand students’ historical thinking. I am particularly interested in applying a geographic dimension to my history lessons. I am also very interested in indigenous ways of knowing the past and the implications of these for me as a descendent of Wellington’s first European settlers who arrived in 1840.

Stolpersteine: Stumbling over the past

This will be my last blog for the Historical Thinking Project. Over the last year I have reflected and blogged about teaching that I have done, rather than what I would like to do. This post breaks that rule, which is why I have left it until now.

Jump starting historical thinking with Jenga

This is a fun and engaging  2-3 lesson task I have developed  to start the year and introduce students to the kind of thinking they will need to do to be successful in history. It is an especially effective way to gain valuable diagnostic data on the complexity of students’ historical thinking. It can also help students who are new to the subject gain an understanding of the discipline.

Step 1: Give students two minutes or so to respond to each of these questions or statements silently on a piece of paper:

Mock trials in the history classroom?

The last term before the summer holidays is usually a difficult one. The senior students have gone, everyone is counting down to the break and everything feels a little looser. There is a tendency to “tighten things up” and teachers are sometimes exhorted to “maintain control” and “not play too many videos”. I decided that this was a good time of the year to make social studies as practical as possible. We started a unit of learning on the criminal justice system and especially the pros and cons of jury service.

How can I teach more like Mr Becker?

In the last few months I have had the pleasure of reading a book by Bruce VanSledright called The Challenge of Rethinking History Education: On Practices, Theories, and Policies (2011). Not the most inspiring title (or cover), but it is a book that has got me thinking more seriously about the nature of history teaching than I have for a long time. This blog post isn't  a review of VanSledright's book but a brief discussion about the implications I think it will have for my teaching in the immediate future.

Bodgies, Widgies, 'moral panic' and the rise of the Teen-Age

I recently developed a new social history topic on the history of teenagers. It had a special focus on a "moral panic" that took place in New Zealand in the 1950s over the alleged rise of teenage delinquency, most revealed by groups of teenagers known as the Bodgies (boys) and Widgies (girls).  These young people wore Edwardian clothes, enjoyed listening to rock and roll, drank milk shakes at milk bars and were said to be highly promiscuous and violent.

Teaching about the genocide in Rwanda

There are different angles from which a history teacher can approach the teaching of genocide. Team planning a unit on the 1994 genocide in Rwanda with a colleague has highlighted the importance of bringing together two of these angles.

Guerrilla History

I have just returned from a major biennial social sciences conference for teachers that was held in the central North Island town of Hamilton. At the conference a friend of mine presented on a topic that I think history teachers can learn a lot from: guerrilla geography.

Hacking places with historical sound walks

I find it easy for history teaching to become an abstract process confined to the limits of the classroom walls. At its best, the classroom can be a place of enriching intellectual development and the exhilaration that always comes with any profound shift in the way we look at the world.  But history isn't usually made in the classroom. In the last two years I have been exploring ways to regularly take my teaching outside and into the streets of Wellington, explicitly trying to build the links between classroom learning and the places of the past right outside the classroom door.

Making it personal: Family history as a window into the past

Family history is my favourite type of history. Today I took my grandmother on a drive around Eastbourne, the seaside town she grew up in and left more than 60 years ago. I wanted the physical experience of being at a location to trigger her memories.

Yes, but what else happened on Guy Fawkes Day?

This week I am leading the organization of several activities commemorating the tragic events of 5 November 1881. On this day, the New Zealand colonial government ordered 1600 armed constabulary and volunteers to destroy the peaceful Maori village of Parihaka. When the government started to survey land that had been confiscated during the wars of the 1860s, the villagers resisted using non-violent methods. Taranaki Maori ploughed ‘settlers’ land and escorted surveyors away.

What is a Benchmark?

<p>John W. Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising &amp; Marketing History,<br />Duke University Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections</p>

A surveyor cut a "benchmark" into a stone or a wall when measuring the altitude and/or level of a tract of land. A bracket called a "bench" was secured in the cut to mount the surveying equipment, and all subsequent measurements were made in reference to the position and height of that mark.

The term "benchmark" was first used around 1842 to refer to a standard of quality by which achievement may be measured.

The foundation documents available through the Benchmarks site attempt to help teachers establish standards for assessing student learning of the modes of thought that constitute historical thinking.

John W. Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising & Marketing History,
Duke University Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections