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Posts Tagged ‘history education’




George and Bentley

Written on Friday, February 25th, 2011 [permanent link]

Washington Cover

President’s Day was the release party for my new George Washington biography! Mount Vernon was fee free that day and had more than 15,000 visitors. My booksigning table was positioned right where the crowds came up from their new underground museum — so this was the first signing I’ve ever had where I was in real danger of being trampled!!!! It was a steady view of torsos for 4 hours, and I signed a LOT of comix . . .

This is the cover of the book — I’m glad Mount Vernon’s staff chose this idea. It was FUN to draw. I think this and the “Revolutionary City” comic I did for the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation are the best history comix I’ve made so far (the GW book is my 29th title!). Can you tell which of the soldiers going in to battle with George is supposed to look like me?? That’s one of the fun things about making your own story — you get to sneak in guest appearances. 😉

For fun, my friend Wendy suggested I also take a picture of all the research I use to make a comic. So here is a look at MOST of the material that informed my writing and drawing of “George Washington Leads the Way” — I did use Internet resources as well, and the historians at Mount Vernon added some important points as they reviewed the drafts. But this pile of paper gives you a good sense of the second step of the author’s process: RESEARCH!

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Posted in Author's Purpose, Comix Creation | 1 Comment »

New Teachers Guides are here!

Written on Tuesday, June 23rd, 2009 [permanent link]

The teachers guide for the Moving and Grooving comic book about transportation is now on the website! You can find it by clicking the blue button on the homepage that says “Free Teachers Guides” or by going to the section that has sample pages for all the books (if it’s available online, the teachers guide for each book is through a link at the bottom of the list of page titles). Please let me know what you think of it. For future guides, I’d love to know what is most helpful to the education you practice and what other features you’d like to add to Chester Comix teachers guides.

The teachers guides for Civil War vol. 1 and Civil War vol. 2 are also here now. I’ve finished handing out  the printed versions of those, so now you can get all those activities, literacy lessons and quizzes in the free .pdf file for them posted in the Free Teachers Guides section. As I run through the printed guides, I’ll make that content available here as a free download!

And in a few weeks I’ll have a teachers guide up for this month’s new comic, “Revolutionary City.” Stay tuned!

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Posted in History Teacher | 2 Comments »

One student's trouble with History education

Written on Sunday, December 14th, 2008 [permanent link]

I got these great messages this week from a high school friend whose daughter is really struggling with the NAME-DATE-PLACE style of history education:

“I think my daughter needs to have an extended conversation with you regarding social studies and social studies education. She has complained lately that the way it is taught is boring. I told her that I actually find history more fascinating now and that the key to history being interesting is in large part good storytelling and being able to weave in interesting tidbits. She hates the read it, recite it type of teaching. Yet, I think she likes history some because she comes home with questions like “How do they keep track of history?” “Does someone write it down?” “If some of it is passed down orally, couldn’t it get messed up or inaccurate?” So I know she is pondering things. I told her to get on your Chester site as I know you had talked up social studies education on there. She has like the things they have done that have been simulations – i.e. forming their own colonies, etc. but has been in a social studies funk lately. . .

We just conversed over breakfast this morning again about how history is recorded and whether it is accurate. [My husband] talked about the physical evidence that substantiates what is reported so that you know it is not made up but we did talk about how anything reported, including today’s news, can be subject to the reporter’s point of view. I also explained how when I practiced law, our opening statements were to be only facts. Yet, the two sides could report the same facts and color them in such a way as to be more favorable to their side. It is interesting how she is so obsessed with accuracy in history suddenly. On the way home from play practice I suggested maybe she should do historical theater as a way to enliven how history is presented.”

What a fantastic discussion! My quick reactions:

1. This is the kind of talks parents need to be having with their kids about their schooling, no matter the subject. Half of the job is to LISTEN to your kid — but then look how my friend answered using her own professional experience. That’s great. Don’t leave education just to your kids’ teachers.

2. NAME-DATE-PLACE IS BORING! It’s the way history was taught in 1950 and 1850. Why are we still stuck in that?! Certain things must be known — the War of 1812 didn’t happen in 1912, after all — but the most important question in history education is WHY. When you answer WHY something happened, the names and dates will fall into the story.

3. We should use as many disciplines as possible to teach history. Historical theater is a great idea. So is making historical episodes using a digital videocamera. Reenacting of biographies is popular in Virginia classrooms. Turn historical stories into rap songs. WHATEVER — anything but flashcards!! When I see all the possibilities of consumer technology I feel a bit sheepish — Chester Comix seem downright stuffy, being a holdout of the printed word on paper!

4. So that’s why I put in lots of DETAILS. My friend’s daughter seems right in line with most other kids I’ve met — they want to know how the sailors on the ships to Jamestown went to the bathroom. They like the extra stuff I put into Chester Comix. I’ve had a few teachers complain that there’s a lot of material in there that they don’t have to teach — info about Clara Barton’s childhood is not on the standardized test, for example, but I believe that understanding her childhood does a lot to explain WHY she went onto the Civil War battlefields to help the wounded. Which IS on the test. Details humanize these people of history and make it easier to remember the big Name, Date and Place that the tests demand.

What do YOU think??

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Posted in Author's Purpose, History Teacher | No Comments »


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