RisaGluskin's picture

Risa Gluskin has been teaching at York Mills C.I. in Toronto for the past 13 years. She is Assistant Curriculum Leader of Canadian and World Studies. Her favourite courses are grade 11 World History covering everything from Paleolithic times to the Middle Ages in Europe, grade 12 World History, covering everything else from the Renaissance on, and Challenge and Change in Society, a social science course that studies fascinating issues through the lenses of psychology, sociology and anthropology.

Historical Thinking Concepts on the First Day of Class

I am a strong believer that the first class sets the tone for the course. Therefore, in this introductory lesson I laid out the foundations of historical thinking concepts (HTCs) in my grade 11 world history class.


Learning From the First Try

For my first try in using historical thinking concepts (HTCs) more explicitly in my lessons during my grade 12 history class in first semester of this year, I took a lesson-by-lesson approach with no real guiding plan. While I had no plan, I did have twin goals: to be more direct about using HTCs and to build my students’ critical thinking capacity.

World War One Blame: Causal vs. Contributing Factors


For this cause-consequence focused lesson about who and/or what was to blame for World War One, I narrowed in on a particular guidepost of the Historical Thinking Concept (HTC): the difference between a factor making something more likely to happen and a factor directly causing something to happen. 


Talking Heads

I was sitting at the back of the class while my student teacher was showing a clip from a documentary about the Belgian Congo on YouTube. A talking head in the documentary made a remark about not judging the severity of Belgian King Leopold’s actions in the Congo outside of the context of other harsh realities of 19th century imperialism.



After having students take brief notes on the two rebellions in the French colony of St. Domingue that ultimately led to the independence of Haiti, I gave them some additional input about the social structure of the society and on the fact that the imperial powers of France, Britain and Spain were all defeated by the slave rebels. Students then did a brief “graffiti” exercise in which they recorded evidence of various historical thinking concepts related to the topic they had just learned about.


The Octopus: Continuity and Change


Imagery can be very powerful. I find it helpful to picture continuity and change as an octopus: how far forward in time do the arms of multiple factors or issues extend?


Secret Language of History

The secret language of history is something that has been on my mind lately as I regularly strive to incorporate more historical thinking concepts (HTCs) into my history teaching. As a person who has an extensive background in history, I am certainly aware of the concepts that form the foundation for history learning (e.g., historical significance, use of evidence, historical-perspective taking). It occurred to me that as a social science teacher who is not a trained social scientist I don’t know the secret language of the social science disciplines.


Adapting Existing Assignments


In my first attempt at formally evaluating students’ written work, I adapted an existing assignment to include analysis and application of Historical Thinking Concepts (HTCs).



On the first full day of my new grade 12 West and the World: World History from the 16th Century course, I had my students do an exercise using unfamiliar maps presented without historical context. Having never met this class before, it was a shocking yet memorable way to teach them the importance of context in history. This activity incorporated the Historical Thinking Concepts of historical perspective-taking and using primary source evidence.

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