Exciting History Curricula for Gifted Students

All the way through high school, I hated history. It seemed like an endless memorization of meaningless names, dates, and battles. When I got to college, freshmen were required to take a basic world history course. That course completely changed my attitude towards history. On our own, we read about the names, dates, and battles, but when we were in class, the professor brought out the “skeletons in the closet” of history. He made history come alive with interesting interactions and the idiosyncrasies of people and places. I could hardly wait to get to class each day. I loved this course so much that I actually decided to major in history.

Making history come alive is what makes it interesting. Joy Hakim, a former teacher and newspaper woman, decided write about history in the most interesting way for students from 8 to 80. She wrote the 10-book, highly illustrated series A History of US. These books, which are very well researched and historically accurate, contain the stories that grab students—just like my first college history class grabbed me. The stories are anything but dull. These books can be used as textbooks or supplemental readings for students. Gifted students have a real opportunity to explore in-depth with these stories.

Hakim also wrote Freedom: A History of US, a one-volume book written as a companion to a 16-part PBS miniseries by the same name. This television miniseries is hosted by Katie Couric and features the voices of Paul Newman, Glenn Close, Robin Williams, Tom Hanks, Matthew Broderick, Angela Bassett, Jeremy Irons, John Lithgow, and Morgan Freeman, among others. The series is available on DVD for school and home use.

I would strongly recommend encouraging schools and libraries to purchase these materials. Or, parents may want to purchase them for their own families.

Specific history curricula that teachers/schools should consider has been developed by the Center for Gifted Education at the College of William & Mary. Each unit that has been developed is designed to respond to gifted learners’ characteristics of precocity, intensity, and complexity. This is accomplished through advanced content, higher level processes and product development, and interdisciplinary concepts, issues, and themes. Every teacher who I have talked to who has used these units raves about them. The units are available for grades 2-12 and are published through Kendall/Hunt Publishing. Some of the titles include
  • A House Divided? The Civil War—Its Causes and Effects
  • Ancient China: The Middle Kingdom
  • The Renaissance and Reformation in Europe
Be aware that many supplementary books are needed to support each unit. It is possible to obtain some of these books through one’s library. At the schools where I have worked, we have written grants to obtain materials to support the curriculum.

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