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Teaching Historical Thinking Skills in the Elementary Classroom

Diane J Mickey, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


The purpose of this intrinsic, collective case study was to learn what skilled practitioners do to engage elementary students in the disciplinary literacy of reading like historians. Four high-implementation cases were selected to learn what is possible rather than what is typical behavior when teaching elementary students historical thinking skills. The participants were experienced teachers and each had earned a M.Ed. in historical studies. Participants believed their elementary students were able to practice historical thinking skills and indicated they provide frequent opportunities for their students to practice these skills. Observations showed that to engage elementary students in the disciplinary literacy of reading like historians, these skilled practitioners (a) created positive learning environments and had well established routines, (b) taught to the objectives of the lessons, but were not restricted by the curriculum, (c) have a command of and interest in the social studies subject matter and the disciplinary literacy of historians, (d) explicitly and implicitly taught students the disciplinary literacy of historians while teaching social studies content, (e) effectively used a variety of teaching and assessment strategies, (f) connected the learning to students’ lives, and (g) formed positive relationships with their students. The findings in this study show how teachers of students in grades 3, 4, and 5 engaged students in social studies topics they studied.

Subject Area

Pedagogy|Elementary education|Social studies education

Recommended Citation

Mickey, Diane J, "Teaching Historical Thinking Skills in the Elementary Classroom" (2018). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI10844657.