Looking for a way to incorporate an intelligent and cohesive way to teach U.S. history? Overwhelmed by the many websites out there, each with one or two valuable texts or resources? Well, you are in luck. If you are reading this review, you now have access to a comprehensive online curriculum for teaching U.S. history, divided into periods, with excellent primary sources to illustrate key themes and points as well as excerpts from texts written by historians that will give you, as teacher, an in-depth understanding of each period.
Annenberg’s “America’s History in the Making” curriculum is quite simply a treasure. Divided into 17 units which follow U.S. history from pre-Columbian times to the present day, each unit is organized into themes that summarize the important developments and concepts needed to understand a particular historical period. These themes both encapsulate key ideas and help teachers and students alike understand the cause and effect relationships among the events. Consider, for instance, the unit entitled “Industrializing America“:
Accompanying each theme are primary sources and excerpts from books by historians that provide both factual information and analysis for the teacher. This is a sophisticated approach to teaching history, as multiple perspectives are included and America’s history is set in the context of global developments.
Consider this section from the unit entitled “The New Nation”:
While I have not used these materials in classroom teaching yet, they did form the basis of the ELA-Social Studies Teacher Leader Institute held in November 2015. The Institute session focused on Post-War America, and teachers were divided into groups to construct lessons around the primary sources included in the “Postwar Tension and Triumph” unit. Some teachers focused on the baby boom, post-war prosperity and its effects; another group developed a lesson on effect of the atom bomb; another presented a lesson plan to help students understand the ideological struggle between capitalism and communism; and a fourth group focused on redlining and its effects.
It is obvious that the curriculum developers intended it as an educational tool not only for students but for teachers as well, since each unit includes a Facilitator’s Guide (example from Unit 2: Mapping Initial Encounters) which outlines a series of steps for teachers to follow in reviewing the materials and trying out key practices such as analyzing maps and primary sources.
This is an extremely rich set of resources and it’s free. If you teach social studies, I urge you to take a deep dive into the materials, and to download them to your computer. This is a really valuable resource.
A list of units follows:
Mapping Initial Encounters
The New Nation
A Nation Divided
Reconstructing a Nation
Taming the American West
A Growing Global Power
By the People, For the People
Postwar Tension and Triumph