For my historical thinking activity, I want to encourage students to use their prior background information on a topic to show the importance of sourcing. I have chosen to focus on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., but this activity could easily be adapted to fit any subject.
For this activity, a computer lab should be reserved for the class period. This will ensure that all students will have access to a computer and the internet. It also avoids the “I forgot my laptop” excuse.
Before the class period, the teacher will compile a list of websites or pages from websites for the students to look through. They will all be on one subject, one that you can expect the students to have some background knowledge on. You will give the students access to the list of websites once everyone is logged onto the computers. Ask the students to browse the websites without instruction for thirty minutes. After the thirty minutes, hand out a list of questions to be completed by the next class period.
1] Organize the websites in order of most reliable to least reliable
2] For each website, write 2-3 sentences explaining why the website is reliable or not.
3] Who is the author of each website? Doe each website list an author?
4] What seems to be the purpose of each website? Did the authors have a certain goal in creating it?
The hope is that this assignment will teach students the importance of looking for an author and the author’s intent when doing research. There is a lot of information online and some of it is more reliable than others. Some of it is not reliable at all. The third link is the most important in this activity. From the first page, a historian would not trust the website’s content based on a quick glance. At the beginning of the next class, show students how to find the bias in this website. You can choose to read some of “Truth About the King” with them or show how the link for “Black Invention Myths” takes the reader to a white supremacy website.
Ask students what this means for the content and the purpose of the website. Then start your lesson on the content, hopefully with your students beginning to question everything they read.