Can Conceptual/Thematic allow for deeper understanding while also addressing time constraints?

Vicki Lisle's talk, "DOES HISTORY HAVE TO BE CHRONOLOGICAL?: CREATING OPPORTUNITIES FOR STUDENT INQUIRY WITH CONCEPTUAL UNITS", makes me wonder if we can help students experience history more deeply and help to reduce the pressure of trying to get through so many years of World History?  It also has me thinking about how the Frames presented in WHP could serve as thematic frames and become units that break away from the chronological approach to studying World History. I have always liked the idea of teaching thematically but it has not been an easy sell to colleagues when discussing curriculum revisions. 

Top Replies

  • Less is more! Trying to teach a broad survey course of the entirety of world history is daunting, to say the least. I like you're idea of using the frames from WHP as thematic units. However, I think…

  •  Hi Rachel, in California, some themes for US and World History include: citizenship, migration/immigration, historical perspectives, environment and society, states and power, religions and…

  • Curt, I've also looked carefully at Spodek's text over the years.  My main hesitation is that my younger students don't have much sense of chronology yet (they're only 15 years old!), and the thematic…

  • Less is more! Trying to teach a broad survey course of the entirety of world history is daunting, to say the least. I like you're idea of using the frames from WHP as thematic units. However, I think one thing that makes frames so compelling as an instructional tool is the way that students can begin to connect themes across chronological time periods. 

    I'm curious to see what kinds of themes each of the state social studies standards emphasizes. What thematic units would take top priority if you could design your ideal world history thematic course?

  •  Hi Rachel, in California, some themes for US and World History include: citizenship, migration/immigration, historical perspectives, environment and society, states and power, religions and philosophies, increasing interconnection between regions over time. I would love to design a yearlong course on freedom -- what is it? who has it, when? what does it look like in words and deeds? 

  • Howard Spodek's text The World's History, Combined Volume might give you a good example of how to arrange your materials in a thematic manner. I have thought about this often, just haven't been able to get my head around how we could do this as a grade level. I was also concerned as to the real and intellectual work this was going to cause my colleagues.

  • Curt, I've also looked carefully at Spodek's text over the years.  My main hesitation is that my younger students don't have much sense of chronology yet (they're only 15 years old!), and the thematic approach would add to that.  Hey, maybe the phrase is they would have the "twistees" (Olympic gymnastic reference) -- they would be unable to place themselves in time or space.  If I had upperclassmen, I would be seriously tempted to Howard's text.

  • These are some really compelling themes, Tuyen! Do you have an opportunity to design thematic based units now? I love your compelling questions on freedom.