This spring, I’m teaching a college course called United States History Since 1865. It’s a staple of American curricula. I have decided that it might be interesting to provide a walkthrough of the first lecture.
This should be an opportunity to articulate, step by step, some basic intuitions about how to achieve truthful storytelling in the classroom. (It’s also a chance to show—in a real situation rather than a political taking point—how I handle “divisive concepts” and “widely debated and currently controversial issues” related to American racism, inasmuch as this first lecture was about Reconstruction.)
This lecture was not perfect. It didn’t represent especially sophisticated historiography. But I am going to try to use it now to demonstrate the problem-solving nature of an interactive lecture about a fraught topic.
Specifically, I believe this walkthrough will illustrate the following nine aspects of my method for telling a story in the classroom:
- Setting scenes
- Posing problems
- Integrating primary sources into a lecture
- Enlisting students in telling the story
- Showing change over time through examples
- Identifying specific turning points
- Explaining the significance of key memorizable concepts
- Building to a crisis, confrontation, or moment of decision
- Creating an open or provocative ending
Each of these elements will appear in the description that follows, and most will appear several times.Continue reading “How I Built a Narrative Lecture: Teaching Reconstruction in U.S. History II”