Table of Contents

1.8 Reading like a Historian and the CA CCSS

Before the CA CCSS, history educators in California worked on developing instructional practices to help teach students to think like historians: carefully reading, analyzing, interpreting, and evaluating primary and secondary sources. Programs such as Reading Like a Historian, developed by Sam Wineburg’s Stanford History Education Group, help teachers apprentice students in these skills. Reading Like a Historian corresponds with many of the Historical and Social Sciences Analysis Skills and many of the new Reading Standards for Literacy in History/Social Studies, and it can be adapted to address nearly all of these skills and reading standards.

Reading Like a Historian emphasizes specific strategies for analyzing primary and secondary sources:

Reading Like a Historian

  1. Sourcing: Think about a document’s author and its creation
  2. Contextualizing: Situate the document in its events in time and place
  3. Close Reading: Carefully consider what the document says and the language used to say it
  4. Using Background Knowledge: Use historical information and knowledge to read and understand the document
  5. Reading the Silences: Identify what has been left out or is missing from the document by asking questions of the account
  6. Corroborating:  Ask questions about important details across multiple sources to determine points of agreement and disagreement
Time to Read

To learn more about these six strategies, read “Historical Thinking: Memorizing Facts and Stuff,” (2010) by Sam Wineburg. As you read, consider how the strategies correspond to the Reading Standards for Literacy in History/Social Studies 6–12, and how you might implement these strategies in your classroom.

Time to View

To see how classroom teachers implement these strategies, watch "Reading Like a Historian: Overview." Again, notice how the strategies align to the standards. Also consider how you might implement the strategies in your own classroom.

Reading Like a Historian: Overview External Link (Run time 10:11)

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Time to Reflect

Consider the reading and the video in completing the activity and the journal question that follows.