Thursday, April 5, 2012

History Begins in the Hallway

And it ends right here in the family room! :-)

We were discussing Christopher Columbus's arrival on San Salvador in 1492, and I wanted the kids to have a mental image of exactly how long ago that was. So we used our golden bead chain to make a loooooong timeline. We counted the decades backwards from 2012. As it happens, Columbus was exploring Cuba and Hispañola right at the top of our basement stairs!

Then we talked about the world as Columbus knew it. People had been discussing the travels and discoveries of Marco Polo for a couple hundred years, so we marked his return to Venice in 1295.

My kids love history, so I'm always on the lookout for interesting ways to teach it. Over spring break, I read Doing History: Investigating with Children in Elementary and Middle Schools by Linda S. Levstik and Keith C. Barton. It's written with classroom teachers in mind, of course, but most of the ideas are completely adaptable to homeschooling.

Before spring break, I hadn't planned to revisit Columbus (we had already read about him back in October and in previous years) but I really wanted to try an activity described Doing History. (Besides, it never hurts to return to a topic and discuss it in more detail!)


We read four books about Columbus. (I chose these four solely because they were available at the library on short notice!) We made a chart with four questions: Why did Columbus make his voyage? What did people think the Earth was like at the time? What happened to the native people? and What did Columbus accomplish? We filled in the details as we read together. This one was written for little kids, as a basic introduction to Columbus, so of course it wasn't very detailed.

This one had a great map comparing how people imagined the Earth in 1492 to how it really is.

We all loved the illustrations in this one.

And this one was too long and detailed to read in one sitting, but I'm sure we'll refer to it again, possibly next Columbus Day! Of all the books we read, it's the most appropriate for studying Columbus in depth. It taught us a lot about the native people of the islands and it also has great photographs and illustrations. (We're also planning to read You Wouldn't Want to Sail with Christopher Columbus! when it comes back to the library.)

I used the story of Columbus to illustrate how history is always interpreted by someone, and how different points of view will result in very different stories. (The Taino people, for example, might have related Columbus's arrival very differently...)

Columbus Taking Possession

We talked about how history can be controversial (just like anything that involves human beings.) We also talked about the many myths about Columbus (that he was the first "white man" in North America, that everyone thought the Earth was flat and he set out to prove them wrong, etc.)

Finally, we summed up what Columbus actually accomplished on his voyages (which is quite different from what he hoped to accomplish!)

Now that we have learned a bit more about Columbus, I want to follow up with a couple of good books about other explorers and then go into more depth on the founding of our nation. These are all topics that we have touched on before, but I'm hoping to use some of the ideas and techniques I learned in Doing History to bring our fascinating history to life!


Karen said...

A, I'm jealous that your kids love history.
And Secondly, GREAT POST! Very inspiring.

LEENA7 said...

Here are some really great books when you want to do short bits in history..awesome for supplementing too. They are geared towards kids, are easy to understand,answer questions a kid would like answered and they just make it fun while giving info. Look in the middle of page for others written just like this..there are 3 main types. Love all you do.

LEENA7 said...

ops forgot it is