Learning History Concepts & Skills Through Writing

Instructor: Christopher Sailus

Chris has an M.A. in history and taught university and high school history.

In this lesson we discover the importance of writing for knowledge retention, and the different techniques and exercises which can aid students' retention of history concepts and material.

Knowledge Retention

Do you ever feel like important information goes in one ear and out the other? You may have just listened to something very important, yet you go into the other room and can't for the life of you remember what it is. It happens to everyone.

For some students, this can happen particularly often during history class. Something about dates or abstract concepts simply doesn't stick well in their mind. But there are tools and strategies that you, as a teacher, can use to help your students. Writing something down, for instance, has been proven to aid memory and comprehension.

In this lesson, we will explore a few of these strategies and the ways they can help your students understand recently-learned history topics.

Activities and Tips

The following tools can be used in the classroom. Their design is two-fold: to help students retain knowledge and gain a better understanding of the course material, and also to develop better writing and written communications skills. All written responses, if you choose to grade them, should be graded instructively to both gauge and improve your students' knowledge and writing skills. This means ensuring you provide constructive comments and suggestions on how students can improve their writing and knowledge.

Admit/Exit Slips

Admit slips are rather straightforward. At the beginning of each class, give your students a slip of paper with a written question or two on it. You can also give them a blank piece of paper and write the questions on the board. The questions should be general and about the material from the last class. For example, if the last class you taught was on the first battles of the American Revolution, something like 'How did the Revolution begin?' is vague enough that students can take the question in multiple directions and demonstrate their knowledge and understanding of the concept.

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