Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Three Great Book Excerpts for US History I

There is no doubt that my teaching has greatly benefited from being a participant in the TAH Grant. With five years under my belt, I have been able to acquire a plethora of materials, new skills and a deepened breadth of knowledge about American history.

In this blog, I’d like to share how I use three books that we read in our book groups. Although I use a great deal of excerpts from readings which I obtained from the grant, the three highlighted today are standards that I use every year.

The first excerpt that I assign is from Founding Myths, Stories That Hide Our Patriotic Past by Ray Raphael. “The Shot Heard ‘Round the World: Lexington and Concord”, which is the title of chapter 4, works well to teach about the many rebellious actions the colonists in Massachusetts engaged in before the events of Lexington and Concord. Raphael includes statistics regarding the cost and volume of arms and powder the colonist accumulated prior to 1775. Additionally, he offers a superior explanation of how the British government was systematically ejected from western Massachusetts in 1774.

After we finish the Revolutionary War, I assign the first chapter; “The Call for Convention” from A Brilliant Solution, Inventing the American Constitution by Carol Berkin. Without a doubt, Berkin writes a very clear and easy to understand explanation of the Articles of Confederation and the reasons why this first constitution fell short of expectation for many. Being much more pleasurable to read than a text book, Berkin writes with a narrative style and offers interesting details about the process of throwing out the Articles and constructing the Constitution.

The third selection that my students receive regularly is from The Approaching Fury by Stephen B. Oates. I excerpted from the chapter titled “Crosswinds:, pp. 97 to 185. In Oates’ book, he takes on the personality of famous antebellum characters and has put together monologues which reflect their personalities and views before the Civil War. The characters in this selection include Frederick Douglass, John C. Calhoun, George Fitzhugh, Abraham Lincoln, Harriett Beecher Stow, Stephen Douglas and John Brown. By reading the monologues of these historical characters, the students get an incite into their personalities and are exposed
to the issues of the period as seen by each of these Americans.

Textbooks are a necessary part of learning US history, but by offering well written and researched writings by talented authors, our students can access historical issues in depth.

1 comment:

  1. Dan, thanks for the fantastic book excerpt recommendations for students! Your point on introducing students to talented authors and great history writing is so important. I find this to be true for students across all levels.