Make History Magical – Story Well Told

#NaBloPoMo Day 20 #WordPress Photo Challenge: Magic “amteaching, “teachinghistory, #storytelling

Instead of learning more ways to make history magical as it unfolds in the lives of our students, Thursday night portended to be a night of sad commiserating. As leaders, we wondered why so few social studies teachers wanted to meet together. What could we as board members of a professional organization do to change that?

And Then …

make history magical - great book "S"

Have you read this cool book? “S”

Along came Chris Cumiford from Visalia with the enthusiasm of a child for the magic of history. He brought his toys to share with us – his phone full of pictures and his new book, S.

How do you make history magical? You tell a story.

How do you teach the magic of history? You tell a story.

“This is what history books need to do. Instead of pictures of documents in the text, a copy of the document should fall out when you reach that page along with some exploration notes!” he suggested to the non-existent textbook publishers at our table.

We agreed.

To make history magical start with a thought-provoking question.

It starts with a thought-provoking question.

“So here’s this historic ship. Over the years its original parts have been repaired and replaced. How often does this have to happen before it is no longer that object? What about people? How many parts have to be replaced before they become Frankenstein?”

“Hmmm,” I’m conjecturing, “Grandma might not really be Grandma?”

make history magical See the writing in the margins?

See the writing in the margins? That’s intentional

Chris continued as we watched his “book report/show-and-tell/made this meeting interesting” unfold.

“The book, as well as all of history, has two parts.

  1. The original story – finding the historic ship
  2. The people reading about the history relating the story to their own lives.”

How do YOU make history magical?

make history magical - focus of meeting

Tips to Bring out the Magic of History

  1. Artifacts piqué curiosity. A real postcard, document, picture, a diary, and object that begs the question, “What IS that, and when and how was it used?”
  2. Ask students to notice details, then share out those details.
  3. Ask a thought-provoking question. Use words like if and might. “What if…”
  4. Cultivate a sense of mystery and discovery – magic, if you will. “This story is dark.” “This event took place in an abandoned zoo in Germany.”
  5. How does this piece of history relate to our lives today? What can we learn from it? Are we future Frankensteins?

Look at this!

make history magical - focus of sjvcss-meetup

Chris had our attention the moment he held up his book packaged in its case. “They all come like this. Isn’t this cool?”

“Yep, that is way cool,” we all agreed as we opened our mouths and watched him share pertinent details the authors and publishers had included in this sci-fi historic novel.

Make history magical. See the tag at the bottom.

See the tag at the bottom. This shows that it’s a library book.

S really isn’t a library book. It’s a story within a story about the students who checked this book out of the library and wrote notes in it. That story evolves as well. Into something dark,” Chris told us mysteriously.

S. by J.J. Abrams and Doug Dorst. You might want to read it yourself!

I mean monkey.

Do you love J.J. Abrams? I was so hooked on “Lost” and “Fringe.” I’m putting “S” on my must order a hard copy list! 🙂

make history magical


If you have a great book review you’d like someone to read, including me. Paste a link in the comment section. Let’s link!

If you want to see more magic, click here for the WordPress Photo Challenge.

How do you make history magical – your stories – magical? In your blog? At home? In the classroom?

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