Historical Thinking Resources

Biographies of the Nation

Master Classroom Teacher, Brian Riley, has teachers practice their historical thinking skills through an analysis of John Brown.

5-12 Historical Thinking Standards
5-12 Historical Thinking Standards Lesson Planner (PDF)
Does your lesson address the thinking standards? Find out with this one page guide.


Standards of Historical Thinking Curriculum Guide (PDF)
Use this "curriculum map" to find objectives for each standard and "lesson cues," which are activities and lesson ideas that will ensure your lessons meet the standards.

History's Habits of the Mind and Vital Themes and Narratives
When you think of History's Vital Themes, think of the "big ideas" that can be applied to the study of history no matter when or where you are studying.

History's Habits of the Mind are a bit different, however. They are the ways historians approach the study of a particular place or time. It is the way historians think about history. Historians are trained in the historical thinking skills and they practice the approaches over and over until they become habits--ways of understanding historical material that is done automatically. As teachers, we are helping our students approach historical sources as historians. We are helping them to develop History's Habits of the Mind, and through continual practice in the classroom, students can develop the critical thinking skills that will prepare them to become active citizens in our democracy.

Habits of the Mind and Vital Themes (PDF)
The Habits of the Mind and Vital Themes documents contain the NCHE Habits and Themes and NCHE description for each Habit and Theme.

The Habits of the Mind History Teaching Techniques Reference Sheet (PDF) 
This guide contains a graph of each habit and corresponding teaching techniques that work well with that habit (i.e. Read Biographies/Autobiographies; Conduct Oral History Interviews; Construct Timelines; Analyze Primary Source Materials; Role Play; Read different accounts of the same event; Write histories; Tell a story; and Compare interpretations).

The Habits of the Mind and Vital Themes and Narratives Lesson Planner (PDF)
This document can be used help teachers with preliminary lesson organization. Identify which themes and habits they will use in the lesson they are creating, then consult the lesson techniques guide to find activities to accompany your lesson.


Analysis Guides

As students begin practicing History's Habits of the Mind, they will need help understanding complicated and sometimes confusing sources. These analysis guided will help your students (and you) approach primary (and secondary) sources. With practice, these sources will become much less intimidating and much more exciting!

Cartoon Analysis Guide (PDF)
This guide provides a step-by-step process for interpreting a cartoon. 


Map Analysis Worksheet (PDF)
This worksheet contains a checklist and questions for students to begin analysis work with maps.


Material Culture Analysis Guide (PDF)
This worksheet will help with understanding objects and/or textiles.

  • For objects on the web, visit the Smithsonian Center for Education and Museum Studies. 


Material Culture in the Classroom (PDF)
This document provides links to on-line example links page and a description of each site.

Oral History: Effective Questioning (PDF)
This is a great guide for students gathering oral histories.

Painting Analysis Worksheet (PDF)
This worksheet helps students categorize and describe what they see in paintings, then infer and ask questions regarding the painting.  Use it for photographs and drawings in addition to paintings.

  • To access paintings and photographs, go to the Library of Congress’ American Memory homepage.  Click on the “Collection Finder” link. Then limit your search to paintings and photographs. http://memory.loc.gov/


Primary Source Analysis Guide (PDF)
This worksheet is geared towards objects, artifacts, and material culture.  It works well with helping students focus on history's habits of the mind.

Primary Source Document Use Models (PDF)
This document gives students and teachers a model for viewing a historical event from multiple perspectives.  The model includes the use of documents and photographs to illustrate multiple perspectives and change over time.

Primary Sources *page 1 (PDF)
This activity uses objects on hand and used today to explore concepts of perception and historical accuracy.

Primary Sources *page 2 (PDF)
This task requires “categorizing” the objects you gathered and used on page one in the six vital theme areas.  Finally, the activity helps to explore the concepts related to defining: What is a primary source?

Sound Recording Analysis Guide (PDF)
This guide focuses students’ listening skills in order for them to analyze a sound recording as a primary document.  It then asks students to compare what they hear on the recording to the written word.

  • To access sound recordings on the web, go to the Library of Congress’ American Memory homepage.  Click on the “Collection Finder” link. Then limit your search to sound recordings. http://memory.loc.gov/

Written Document Analysis Guide (PDF)
Like the map analysis worksheet, this guide contains a checklist for students to use primary source documents to perform a close and critical read.