Getting Started with Reading Like a Historian Lessons
Our Reading Like a Historian curriculum offers more than 150 document-based lessons that are free to download and can be used in online learning platforms. Here is some background on the curriculum to help you get started.
Teach Historical Skills
RLH lessons teach the historical thinking skills of sourcing, contextualization, corroboration, and close reading. Our Historical Thinking Chart can help students remember these ways of thinking historically.
Based in Research
These historical thinking skills are based on Sam Wineburg’s research. By conducting think-aloud interviews with historians, he found that historians source, contextualize, and corroborate whenever they read historical documents. Research in San Francisco Unified by Abby Reisman showed that students in Reading Like a Historian classrooms outperformed their peers in control classrooms on measures of historical thinking ability, mastery of factual knowledge, and general reading comprehension. This video details the research project in San Francisco Unified.
- Each Reading Like a Historian lesson is organized around a Central Historical Question. The Central Historical Question guides students as they practice using historical thinking skills through the analysis of historical documents.
- Before students analyze documents, the teacher provides background information on the topic. This can take the form of a short lecture, a textbook excerpt, or a video. Many Reading Like a Historian lesson plans include PowerPoint slides for mini-lectures.
- Students then read documents with the support of guiding questions and graphic organizers.
- Documents have been excerpted and scaffolded to support students of varying abilities. The original versions of documents are included with each lesson on the site. You can learn more about scaffolding historical documents by reading this Social Education article.
- Students engage in small group discussions as they analyze documents. Whole class discussions allow students to share competing interpretations of documents and to raise outstanding questions.
- At the end of each lesson, students formulate answers to the Central Historical Question using evidence from the documents they’ve analyzed. This can take the form of a short written response or a full-blown essay.
Explore all of our lessons. Looking for something in particular? You can tailor your search by topic or time period by selecting the boxes in the sidebar.
You can also review a full list of RLH materials available in Spanish.