Teach How to Use Primary Sources for Writing History
In a George Mason University History Matters Interview with stellar teachers, Maurice Butler, who believes that knowing how and where to access information about history is more important than memorizing a string of dates, tells how he starts his students off in (U.S.) history:
"The first thing I do is teach students how to write history-learning how to write history from analyzing photographs, documents, timelines, artifacts, and architecture. By the end of the unit, we would do a project where students learn to write their own history using primary sources."
- Guess Who Gallery
- Abbreviations on Inscriptions and Coins
- Greece Era-by-Era Timeline
- Rome Era-by-Era Timeline
Modify: Modern Techniques for Teaching Ancient History
With some modifications, including artwork for photographs, and replacing the students' personal histories with histories of figures from ancient history, this sounds like an excellent starting point for engaging students' attention. Butler also suggests asking the students to come up cooperatively with solutions to major historical world problems. Going one step further than the biography writing project above, Butler has each student teach a 45-minute class.
Turn Students On -- To Ancient History
In another George Mason University interview, Craig Derksen sums up what the teacher of history must accomplish:
"If we want students to understand the lessons of history, they must be turned on to history; it must be made relevant to their lives. This can be achieved by allowing students to become active participants in the learning process rather than passive recipients of information."