American History Handbook for Teachers and Mentors

Another special note (March 1, 2015):

We are beginning a revision of the American History Handbook and Investigating American History. The primary change we propose is replacing the historical data in Part 3. Presently this is an account of De Soto's arrival at the Mississippi River. In the rest of the AHH we've maintained chronological order of the historical data, and the De Soto data is out of sequence. Also, we use the same data for a similar purpose in Connections: Investigating Reality. The new data will focus on the New England Native Americans, from a 17th century account.

We'd appreciate your comments, and any suggestions for changes anywhere in the American history course materials. The proposed new investigation is at ../americanhistory/New AH Ch3.pdf .

Why this book?

American history must play a central role in the curriculum. Our way of life is dynamic, and change is part of the fabric of life. Sense must be made of significant technological, demographic, economic, political, and social transformations, and no subject or discipline other than history can provide that sense. Social stability requires that it be a deliberate focus of study.

But there's a problem. American history as it's usually taught inundates learners with information far beyond their ability to cope. No "master" system of organizing ideas helps them grasp the "big picture," and the passive read-and-remember role they're forced to play ensures that most will see the course as irrelevant, unimportant, and boring.

Most attempts to improve historical study have relied on the potential of a good story to "make the past come alive." We advocate a different approach: "Make the learner come alive." The activities in the American History Handbook are active, engaging, and intellectually stimulating. Its "Investigations" focus on unusual primary sources, and provide systemically integrated concepts that give students a master information organizer they'll find useful for the rest of their lives.

As its name implies, the Handbook is not just a course of study. It provides a rationale, procedures, and student materials to transform students into active learners, and gives them the conceptual tools to analyze historical change. Materials are suitable for adolescents and above.  It may be used to augment the standard American history course, or as the framework for a complete course. It's FREE--no strings, no signup. Download links are below.


Download entire programAmerican History Handbook
Download student materials only Investigating American History

Links to more investigations in American history

We've added additional free American history investigations to supplement those in the course material above. Teachers or mentors may use them to augment these or other materials, or to help build a complete history course focusing on primary sources, active learning, and analysis of systemic relationships. Click on the link above for descriptions and download links.

NOTE: Classroom teachers, working together, are better positioned to improve instructional materials than are policymakers and publishers. To facilitate dialogue and continuous refinement, we invite participation in an interactive, supportive, on-line community to discuss learner reactions, suggest improvements to existing activities, and suggest additional or alternative activities.The "Discussions" box in the right column of this page links to pages for this purpose.