Meeting the historian through the text


By Edna Shoham, Neomi Shiloah, published 31st May 2003

Students discover different perspectives on Baron Rothchild's 'Guardianship System'

Edna Shoham and Neomi Shiloah describe a process by which they taught their 15-year-old students to read historians’ accounts for sub-text, meaning and assumptions. In its emphasis on ‘meeting the historian’, their work overlaps with much of the thinking about teaching pupils about historical ‘interpretations’ as specifically required by the National Curriculum in England and Wales. They create a sequence of learning stages that builds motivation, engagement and fascination with the texts. The students clearly know that they are not looking for ‘information’ but for the assumptions and priorities of the historians that have shaped their choice, order and presentation of the facts. These assumptions and priorities can be revealed or questioned by looking at the historians’ stuctural and stylistic choices. Like Richard Cunningham (TH 102), with his lively account of teaching mixed ability Year 8 to become more curious about the construction of historical accounts, Edna Shoham and Neomi Shiloah help pupils to make extended reading active, critical and reflective. It is also a model of reading that requires interaction with others: the students soon discover that writers affect different readers in different ways – and the work of ‘reading’ the text never stops, as we discover that others pick up different signals and patterns from ourselves.

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