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The Art of Making Ancient History Come Alive in the 21st Century

I'm sure we all remember school days in our past, subjects we loved, those we dreaded, and those that never made much of an impression on our youthful souls. Always a lover of literature, reading, and writing, for some reason throughout elementary and high school days, I loathed history. And then in college, I had an epiphany when I not only had professors that brought it alive and made it real, but inspired me to take a degree in the subject and actually be nominated into the honorary Phi Alpha Theta history fraternity for outstanding scholarship.

In grad school, though, I majored in gifted counseling and education, my minor was once again, history. And now I tutor the subject, loving every minute. As we all gain experience and learn from it, I hope, so too do we find ways of incorporating that experience into our teaching and sharing with others. And here I am beginning a new venture with WyzAnt and starting amazingly, by tutoring a subject I truly love: of course, history. In this the subject was world history and I found that there are countless ways to garner positive responses and bring the subject alive, even with the most recalcitrant students. In the past I've worked with students who had given up on themselves, didn't even try, and thought history of all subjects, was dull, boring, unimportant. My WyzAnt student was very motivated and eager to learn though had left learning until the last moment and put himself under a terrible time crunch. As I could relate well to the art of procrastination and it's consequences, I was able to share a great deal with him.

In any subject, providing relevance to the student's life and thoughts is crucial. In history even more so and it is so easily done. I found that by relating early history to present day, by showing links between past and present, by incorporating study aids and a system of notes and acronyms, it made the process easier and more relevant to his life. In tutoring history as well as most other subject areas, I found the following aids to be of great value:

1. Set specific study times and skills for each session.
2. Use index cards to create a study guide that follows the curriculum stressing those items of greater significance.
3. Incorporate other study aids: time lines, maps, "key" words and associative clue words, flash cards and outlines.
4. Organize all study aids in a multiple pocket binder where each has it's place in order and includes, pens, blank note paper, any class handouts, relevant past assignments/projects, etc.
5. Communicate clearly all expectations, goals, and other pertinent points towards objectives.
6. Keep clear, consistent lines of communication open with parents, if possible with teachers, and with the student as well.
7. Respect confidences and use repetition and reinforcements to expedite learning skills.
8. Above all, remain positive, consistent, and remain focused. Don't let distractions intervene and try to keep the student from being easily distracted or stressed out. KEEP YOUR COOL!!


Excellent article! I thought I'd just toss in a point I've found helpful with history. All of us can get bogged down with the minutia of details until a subject gets boring. As a tutor, learn how to step back and see the big picture of history. Then help the student do the same. You mentioned the connections from the past to the present. When we step back, there are all sorts of those connections. Using those, I've found, are extremely helpful in providing a "colorful framework" on which to hang the boring names and dates.