By Erica Bove

My department has decided to teach CHC2D using a thematic approach.  The course starts with a unit on the Historical Thinking Concepts, and is followed by units on Conflict, Social Justice, and Responsibility.  The Historical Thinking Approach is meant to provide students with the essential skills required to be successful in post secondary and beyond.  Rather than focusing on memorizing the facts, we are trying to provide a foundation of critical thinking skills, which will carry through the senior Canadian and World Studies courses they take as well.

Each Historical Thinking Concept (Historical Significance, Cause and Consequence, Continuity and Change, and Historical Perspective) is taught over the course of the two-week unit.  At this point, many are probably questioning the timeframe, and how this can possibly fit into a course with so much curriculum content to cover.  By teaching the course thematically, I have found that you can actually cover more of the curriculum content, as the reorganization of the material can create a more efficient approach.

The two week Historical Thinking unit is essential because it is the basis of the entire course.  Is it essential for students to grasp each concept, and be able to apply it in a variety of contexts. Each Thinking Concept has a mini assignment to go along with it.  Again, it is one thing to explain the idea of Historical Significance to a student, but the ultimate goal is to get them to apply it.

Historical Thinking Unit

Each Historical Thinking Concept is discussed using a different topic from the course.  For example, Historical Significance is taught using Residential Schools as the focus.  Using primary sources for research, students are expected to take the criteria for Historical Significance and apply it to that time in Canadian history.  The key is getting them to pull examples from the primary sources and justify their answers.  Again, if they can do this with teacher support, then later in the course they can start to apply the criteria to new topics. 

The other topics covered in the unit are Prohibition (Cause and Consequence), where students have to rank and justify the causes and consequences of the topic.  The next topic is Soldiers: WWI, WWII, Afghanistan (Continuity and Change).  Here students are given a series of images, and have to analyze factors such as gender, ethnicity, uniform, location, and technology.  And the last topic is the Famous Five (Historical Perspective).  Students have to assume the role of one member of the Famous Five, and compose a series of arguments they would present to the Prime Minister, Privy Council, Supreme Court, or any other person or institution they think is important to address.

Major Themes and Topics

Once students have an understanding of the Historical Thinking Concepts we can then move into the heavy curriculum content of the course.  Unit 2: Conflict covers WWI and WWII.  Unit 3: Social Justice is a big unit, and we discuss topics like FNMI issues, French-English Relations, Refugees, Minority Rights.  Finally, Unit 4: Responsibility looks at Canada’s role on the international stage, with topics like Cold War, Afghanistan and Rwanda.  This structure allows us to get as close to modern day as possible.

Hesitations, Worries, Concerns…

While there is no absolute correct way to organize or structure the CHC2D course, I have found this one to be the best for me.  I was hesitant at first, as it was a little frightening to move away from the chronological approach to this course.  It may or may not work for you or your students, but it is an approach that is worth trying. Using the historical thinking approach provides students the opportunity to develop transferable skills, and actively engage in the curriculum.

Erica Bove is Canadian and World Studies/Social Sciences Program Leader, DSBN Academy, District School Board of Niagara.

Contributing Writer

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