History Links is an educational program meant to support and enrich social studies curricula by providing learners with a simple, interactive, research-based approach towards mastering academic content, literacy, and skills. Our philosophy is straightforward: while the curriculum wars persist and the educational pendulum swings back and forth (Schiro, 2013), best practices must be maintained to bridge the gaps between policy, research, and practice. History Links offers teachers ways to scaffold historical inquiry so young scholars can effectively meet rigorous objectives and personal goals.
Although the series revolves around cards with words on the front and definitions on the back, History Links is much more than a fancy set of flashcards. History Links takes key terms and forms ready-made learning activities that facilitate students’ input, processing, and output of the subject area’s essential features. This focus on the discipline of history is supported by learning theory (Mayer, 2011). What’s more, History Links’ unique design as a self-contained module that flexibly compliments what history teachers are already doing makes it perfect for diversifying instruction to meet the needs of all participants.
The program builds students’ content mastery by engaging prior knowledge, connecting facts with conceptual frameworks, and promoting metacognition. These principles have been identified as some of the most important in history classrooms (National Research Council, 2005). Students begin by reviewing definitions of key terms selected by their teacher and peers. These introductory activities give learners practice working concepts into long-term memory. Subsequent tasks ask students to move beyond mere recall to form, explain, and reflect on connections that build powerful schema. Learning can then be applied to more complex endeavors intended to allow transfer of knowledge to writing assignments and more traditional assessments (Mayer, 2011).
Because content cannot be separated from language, History Links provides students with opportunities to build their historical literacy in a variety of ways. While key term associations have been used before to help students develop academic vocabulary (Yopp, 2007), History Links takes this essential component further. The design incorporates multiple forms of contact, including verbal, visual, kinesthetic, and written modes of collaborative effort. Students will simultaneously engage disciplinary content and habits of mind as they work together as individuals, groups, and classes to process and communicate information like experts. These procedures include exchanges between grammatical components that construe historical discourse’s presentation of causality and time (Fang, 2012). This understanding also reinforces the growth of historical thinking skills.
Historical thinking skills include valuable 21st century cognitive processes like causation, contextualization, comparison, interpretation, and argumentation. These undertakings are unnatural acts that can be difficult for students to comprehend (Wineburg, 2001). Fortunately, our program allows pupils to practice these abilities in a way that is supported by motivational science. History Links provides students with interesting, semi-controlled, relevant learning experiences that involve sequencing historical events, comparing and contrasting past concepts, interpreting systematic relationships, and constructing position statements in a safe and cooperative environment. These tasks will increase young scholars’ adaptive competencies and determination to apply their learning in meaningful ways to primary and secondary source analysis, analytical essay writing, and social science projects (Pintrich, 2003).
As the above points illustrate, History Links is a simple yet powerful way to enrich your social studies curricula with interconnected coverage of academic content, literacy, and skills. The program is aligned with the new C3 Common Core Framework (National Council for the Social Studies [NCSS], 2013) and AP® Curriculum (The College Board, 2015). The design is based on relevant research in education. And the activities have been field tested and praised by actual history teachers and their pupils. A brief overview of what you have to look forward to is described below.
1. Instructional guide with 10 full-length lesson plans, each with recommendations for follow-up and enrichment activities. All lesson plans can be applied within and across units of study. Important student handouts are also provided. Here are the instructional activities at a glance:
1) Definition Trade – Review of key terms’ definitions
2) History’s Mystery – Fun and interactive activity for key term processing
3) Chronological Classes – Whole-class sequencing
4) Thematic Groupings – Thematically cluster terms based on our easy-to-remember social studies acronym
5) Super-Sub – Relate superordinate terms with subordinate terms
6) History Links – Students form and explain their own connections of terms; can be done with any combination of 2 or more
7) Yes, But – Students form History Links and provide constructive feedback on each groups’ connection
8) A, B, C – Students arrange terms in a way that analytically answers a historical prompt in a 5 (or more) paragraph essay
9) Link Debate – Students choose a side on a controversial topic and use their terms to defend their position
10) Know More – Students research and present on words not included in the decks that they think belong
Materials not included:
1. Key terms for units of study (easy to find and helpful search guidelines are provided)
2. 5 x 8 or larger index cards and card-labeling materials (relatively inexpensive and helpful card-creation guidelines are provided)
We understand and respect that educators work within unique circumstances. Please note that while our program is presented in a start-to-finish format, teachers can pick and choose activities as they please. Used in conjunction with the great things already taking place in our classrooms, History Links can help teachers meet the needs of all learners!
The College Board. (2015). AP® European history: Course and exam description [Curriculum framework]. New York, NY: Author.
Fang, Z. (2012). Language correlates of disciplinary literacy. Topics in Language Disorders, 32(1), 19-34.
Mayer, R. E. (2011). Applying the science of learning. Boston, MA: Pearson Education.
National Council for the Social Studies. (2013). The college, career, and civic life (C3) framework for social studies state standards: Guidance for enhancing the rigor of K-12 civics, economics, geography, and history. Silver Spring, MD: Author.
National Research Council. (2005). How students learn: History in the classroom. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.
Pintrich, P. R. (2003). A motivational science perspective on the role of student motivation in learning and teaching contexts. Journal of Educational Psychology, 95(4), 667-686.
Schiro, M. S. (2013). Curriculum theory: Conflicting visions and enduring concerns (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.
Wineburg, S. (2001). Historical thinking and other unnatural acts: Charting the future of teaching the past. Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press.
Yopp, R. H. (2007). Word links: A strategy for developing word knowledge. Voices From the Middle, 15(1), 27-33.