Good teachers, make good students 4

Readings and Activities:
The readings and activities will be different this week, there is a method to why we are reading this way that will become apparent as you read.

BEFORE doing the readings take the Pre-Test:

“So You Think You Know What Plagiarism Is? Pre-Test Your Knowledge.” Accessed November 14, 2015.

Then read:

Michael A. Bellesiles, Arming America: The Origins of a National Gun Culture. Place of publication not identified: Alfred A. Knopf, 2000. Introduction and pages 266-267 and 445.

STOP- Write one paragraph summarizing Bellesiles argument. Post to blog.

Peter Charles Hoffer, Past Imperfect: Facts, Fictions, Fraud— American History from Bancroft and Parkman to Ambrose, Bellesiles, Ellis and Goodwin (New York: Public Affairs, 2004). Chapter 6.

Richard W. Stewart, “Historians and a Historian’s Code,” Army History (Fall 2010): 46-47.

Complete the Post-Test:
“So You Think You Know What Plagiarism Is? Post-Test Your Knowledge.” Accessed November 14, 2015.

Start a new blog post and address the  following:

Compare the criteria set forth by Stewart in “A Historian’s Code.” and the cases presented by Hoffer.

Revisit your paragraph on Bellesiles, Have you changed your argument? Is there anything you would add?

Create your own code for historians. How would you change or improve the code and why?

Find one primary document ( and write two paragraphs. One that is correct and one that is plagiarized or otherwise embellished. Please email me either a .pdf or a link to the primary document, also let me know if paragraph a or paragraph b is the good version. This does not have to be a long paragraph, but it should be believable.

Post both paragraphs on your blog by Friday.

By Monday before class, please read your classmates blogs and comment on 2 posts, identifying which is correct and which is embellished.

In class we will discuss the readings and your code. We will also examine which posts are true, how we can or cannot tell and examine the primary documents associated with your paragraphs.



Reflecting on writing an assignment, I realized one thing: I really admire my undergrad professor, Amanda Seligman if it wasn’t obvious by my constant talk of the Encyclopedia of Milwaukee, and my great experience working with her, this assignment solidified it. I sat down and thought first about which assignments I enjoyed as an undergrad. All of them were from my History Research Seminar, I took with Amanda my sophomore year. They were more engaging than just reading and then either group discussions or worse, a professor lecturing from  a power point  basically going over everything we just read. I based this assignment not on a large lecture class, but a smaller undergraduate methods class instead. I feel like it would have  about 10 students.

I borrowed back “The Historian’s Code” which I suggested to Amanda. She talks about it here in her blog on teaching methods. I built on readings I enjoyed from her class, emphasizing the importance of proper research and citations. Our first assignment in History 294 was to complete a scavenger hunt based on citations. If I recall correctly we were given a list of citations and had to find the title of the article, using more than just google search.  The assignment I created is supposed to engage students by breaking up activities. Take an online test, read a little, write a little, read some more then a follow up test, then finish with writing more. Hopefully by breaking up the activities, students will actually complete the assignments. The blog posts also require a close examination of the readings. The students blogs and the readings all work together. It would be hard to read one without the other so the problem of students not doing the readings should be decreased.

The main activity revolves around creating and analyzing a false document. This should show students how hard it is to tell a poorly written article, from a well written article. It should also encourage students to read their classmates blog posts and comment. During the class period the truth will be revieled and discussions on how hard or easy it was to tell the difference will be addressed. Copies of the primary documents will be handed out, opening up discussion for other points brought up in Thinking Like a Historian.  Points like. reading silences and using background knowledge.

For those who are not familiar with the readings listed above here is an overview:

Bellesiles, talks about gun culture in America. The chapter in Hoffer addresses the plagiarism accusations against Bellesiles and his inability to accurately show his sources. He also talks about Ellis lying about his roll in the Vietnam War, Ambrose’s un-cited sources, and Goodwin’s plagiarism which she blamed on an assistant. Bellesiles is convincing until you find out he is probably lying. Once that realization occurs, you start to question the validity of everything in the article.


4 thoughts on “Good teachers, make good students

  • Pearl Harris-Scott

    This sounds like an interesting activity 🙂 It is funny how influential teachers can be since I invariably look to how I was taught to figure out how to teach my students….which is probably why teaching methods are slow to change!

  • Amy Benjamin

    I really liked the idea to give students a fake document! That’s such a powerful lesson for students to learn first hand.

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