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A Thematic Approach to United States History

A Thematic Approach to United States History

Mary E. Connor
Westridge School
Pasadena, California

Whereas the vitality of historical accounts can be lost using the traditional chronological approach, thematic units have their own inner dynamic and can help students develop more far-reaching perspectives on important issues. Students experience the sheer power of the narrative. The course responds well to the particular character of the student body and to regional or state issues. Achievement and Advanced Placement scores improve. Rewards are great: for the teacher, more personal and professional satisfaction; for students, greater interest, improved performance, and appreciation of our nation's history.

The following information has been introduced to teachers and administrators at conferences: NCSS (National Council for Social Studies), CCSS (California Council for Social Studies), and CAIS (California Association for Independent Schools) and a Saturday workshop at the Social Studies School Service. This site includes a fuller explanation of the advantages of thematic teaching and how this approach complies with NCSS Standards. Articles from Social Education (the NCSS journal) are included together with source materials for all thematic units. Individual, group, and class projects are also explained.

Handouts based on this workshop:

  1. The Chronologial Approach vs. The Thematic Approach to United States History
  2. NCSS Curriculum Standards
  3. The History/Social Science Content Standards (California)
  4. American History and Government Course
  5. Themes, Content, and Projects
  6. Thematic Guidelines for Students and Teachers
  7. Individual, Group, and Class Activities
  8. Some Suggestions for Individual and Group Projects Second Semester
  9. Instructions for a Letter to a Public Official
  10. Family History Instructions
  11. Highlights of the Class of 2000 Family History
  12. Immigration Paper Instructions
  13. Student Example of Immigration Paper
  14. Chicano/Chicana Literature
  15. Presidential Time Chart
  16. War Outline
  17. Class Profile: The Class of 2001's Belief System

Articles by Mary E. Connor:

(From Social Education, A Publication of the National Council for Social Studies)