Teaching chronological history. Ideas.

I don't know a good way to teach chronological history in a PBL classroom. The only people I know who do it well are teachers who started in a more traditional school, so just have the resources they need at the ready, and know how to "do" chronological history teaching. They, as far as I can tell, shrink that aspect of the class into a day or so a week, and integrate it into the class.

I don't have that. I'm once again thinking, as I do every year, of John Green's Crash Course History videos. There are some problems:

  • John Green can be pretty insufferable on camera, and his comedy definitely comes with diminishing returns
  • He talks so damn fast
  • Because he, not I, will be in charge of the content, I can't tailor the chronological narrative to what we're doing in class (except through selection of videos).

On the other hand (and I think I need to be explicit about this with students) writing lectures takes a whole lot of time, and there isn't time to plan a weekly lecture AND manage a project. Here's a concept I'm kicking around:

  • On Monday, there's a history question for the week. I suck at coming up with these sorts of questions, but I'm thinking like "would you rather have lived as a Roman or a Mesopotamian. Bear in mind that you can not choose your social status, you will get it at random)." Or maybe a question that links more explicitly to the project, like (if we were doing "Why does the US have troops in __", it could be something like "Is the conflict in your country more like the Trojan war, or more like the war between China and the Mongols?"
  • On Monday or Tuesday, we watch the John Green video (and maybe I do a second viewing with discussion at lunch for kids who want it. Also, kids can obviously re-watch it as much as they want, and look at the transcription if there is one).
  • On Thursday or Friday, there's time for small-group discussion or a socratic seminar about the question.
  • After the discussion, kids write up their argument, thereby practicing the argumentative essay. They highlight their evidence and warrants within the text, so that A) they're thinking about it, and B) it can be assessed more quickly.