Teacher Educators


For too many Americans, the history class in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (remember the teacher’s plaintive question, “anyone, anyone?”) is all too familiar. Our approach is meant to challenge this false and familiar image of history: understanding and reconstructing the past requires ways of thinking, reading, and questioning much more engaging and challenging than mere memorization.

Nonetheless, many students will experience high school history class as only a never-ending list of facts to be memorized. And some of these same students will be in your teacher preparation courses.

Teaching in a way that differs from your own schooling experience is not necessarily easy to imagine, let alone execute. Especially given the many pressures and demands on teachers today. This part of the Historical Thinking Matters website is devoted to providing instructional resources for teacher educators who want to challenge these iconic pictures of history instruction and start preparing their students to teach for historical thinking.

Core Questions

Many teacher candidates will be unaware and unfamiliar with the ways of thinking integral to understanding history. Even if undergraduate history majors, they may never have explicitly encountered or considered what counts as historical thinking. They will need to be introduced to both its existence and nature AND ways to teach for it. Consider these two questions as central to this task:

  • What is historical thinking?
  • How can I teach high school students to think historically?

Lessons and resources to help you start planning instruction to address these two questions are included on this page.


Each lesson includes an experiential activity where candidates engage in historical investigation and analysis using a lesson designed for the high school classroom. These structured experiences demand a debrief conversation where candidates consider the lesson structure and content, and the big ideas and theory embedded in the activity. This conversation is also an opportunity for candidates to begin discussing the modifications and scaffolding necessary to use such lessons with their own high school students.

Suggested Readings are included to reinforce and extend the candidate’s learning about historical thinking and how to teach for it.

Opening Up the Textbook Lesson

This lesson focuses on using the most readily available teaching resource, the history textbook, in new ways. Rather than the last word on historical truth, the textbook becomes a springboard and foil for questioning the past and what we know about it.

Making Thinking Visible Lesson

To teach thinking, one must uncover and “see” thinking. Students need models and examples of historical reading, questioning, and thinking: teachers need to scaffold instruction to support and elicit sophisticated thinking. This lesson uses video think-alouds to introduce this idea to teacher candidates.

Beyond the Lessons

Use the lessons, but don’t stop there! The various modules and components of the entire site can be catalysts for teaching ideas: the only limit on their use is your imagination.

Focus on a single document and look at the entire document (available on the teacher page), the edited one for student use in the inquiry (available on the student page) and even the modified one (on teacher page) to ground a lesson on preparing documents to use in a high school classroom. Use the four reading strategies to show and practice the kinds of questions that a teacher can use to model and elicit historical thinking. Use a webquest to frame a lesson about what supports students need to do research on the web.

Use the site’s curricular materials and tools to illustrate and critique key aspects of teaching for historical thinking.

What’s the Goal?

Putting lesson plans into the hands of teacher candidates cannot be the end goal for teacher educators. Equipping your candidates with a deeper and more extensive understanding of history and the teaching and learning of it will prepare them to be more flexible and rigorous thinkers when it comes to the challenge of teaching this vital way of thinking, reading, and knowing to their own students.