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Thinking about History

The study of history comes alive and is more engaging and meaningful for students when they are learning how to think like an historian and when they are actually doing history. The resources assembled on this page are dedicated to helping elementary and secondary teachers support their students to think historically and to engage in the work of historians by doing historical inquiry projects.

Teaching historical thinking

Building on the work of Professor Peter Seixas of the University of British Columbia, TC² has developed exemplary print and digital resources to support teachers and students in using six concepts to go beyond merely learning historical information to thinking deeply about history. This framework for historical thinking is developed and supported with practical teaching ideas in two print publications, and further supported with a wide array of digital materials and videos.

Teaching about Historical Thinking

This print resource elaborates on the six interrelated concepts central to students' ability to think about history. It of­fers specific suggestions for introducing the concepts to students and for applying them throughout the history curriculum.

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Exemplars in Historical Thinking: 20th Century Canada

This print resource contains teaching instructions, reproducible activity sheets and assessment support addressing a range of events and people in 20th century Canada. The nine critical challenges build upon the six con­cepts of historical thinking.

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The following online resources supplement the print publication, Teaching about Historical Thinking. Some of these resources are available to all teachers; others are available only to those who have purchased this publication. For these protected resources, enter the activation code included in the TC² purchase. For questions about access, please contact us.

Videos with accompanying lesson plans

The following videos, with accompanying lesson plans targeted to varying grade ranges, introduce the historical thinking concepts to students.

(6:55 minutes)
Lesson plan Grades 6-8
Lesson plan Grades 9-12
(7:14 minutes)
Lesson plan Grades 6-8
Lesson plan Grades 9-12
(5:53 minutes)
Lesson plan Grades 6-8
Lesson plan Grades 9-12
(6:19 minutes)
Lesson plan Grades 6-8
Lesson plan Grades 9-12
(6:53 minutes)
Lesson plan Grades 6-8
Lesson plan Grades 9-12
(6:20 minutes)
Lesson plan Grades 6-8
Lesson plan Grades 9-12

Thinking historically reference guide

This six-page reference guide identifies freely available video, print and online resources that explain historical thinking, suggest how to teach it and offer sources of historical documents and images on topics in Canadian history. Also indicated at the end of this guide are exemplary resources available for purchase.

Doing history

Students bring history to life and become the leaders of their own learning by doing history, particularly through rich, hands-on project-based inquiry. With the following resources, educators can support students to research their own inquiry, take intellectual risks and learn curricular content by constructing meaning rather than absorbing facts.

Using heritage fairs to support historical inquiry

Heritage fairs provide an excellent opportunity for project-based historical learning. Students research their own inquiry questions and use the media of their choice to present the results at a public exhibition. Heritage fair participation is an engaging way to teach social studies curricula, strengthen student understanding of their Canadian heritage and nurture qualities of engaged citizenship. The previous resources on this page enhance the heritage fair experience. In addition, the following resources developed in partnership with the BC Heritage Fairs Society provide additional practical information.

Seven Steps to a Powerful Heritage Fair Project
This online guide, developed by the BC Heritage Fairs Society in partnership with TC², helps teachers support students with their heritage fair projects. It offers suggestions for how to help students choose and refine a topic of personal and historical significance, dig deeply and critically into that topic, connect their findings with broader themes, social issues and “Big Ideas” in the curriculum and creatively share their conclusions in a public forum.

Tools to support historical inquiry

Use the following tools to help students develop a more in-depth understanding of the techniques of effective historical research and inquiry. These resources, useful at both the elementary and secondary levels, include six PowerPoint lessons with accompanying teacher notes, detailed instructions and relevant activity sheets.

Research questions
Preparing effective questions to guide research
Impact timeline
Visually demonstrating the sequence and span of related events and showing the impact of these events
Reading around the document
Identifying clues around the ‘edges’ of a historical document to learn about its author, audience, origin, purpose and type
Interviewing techniques
Using strategies to prepare and conduct interviews
Relevant details
Distinguishing between important and unimportant for a specific research question and purpose
Connecting facts to conclusions
Writing well-structured paragraphs that organize facts and indicate how they support the overall conclusion
Resonating voice
Using verbal communication strategies to connect with an audience

Enriching projects with historical thinking concepts

This "Tips for Teachers" document outlines the value of embedding historical thinking concepts in projects, and how specific concepts help guide more rigorous historical inquiry. Sample questions from actual heritage fair projects are provided to illustrate how each of the six historical thinking concepts can be embedded.

The online and video resources that are part of Thinking about History are published with the support of the following groups:


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