As the Semester Looms

January has been a busy month for many of us here at The Junto, and we’re sure for many of our readers, as we have been preparing for the semester about to begin (except, of course, for Rachel, who will be grading first-term exams for weeks to come). Over the thirteen months the blog has been active, we’ve actually now written quite a few posts on teaching and pedagogy, and we’d like to point out a few highlights as you prepare your syllabi and first weeks of classes.

The Survey Course

We can begin at the beginning, with my post about when we should start our chronology in the first half of the U.S. history survey. (Spoiler alert: Since that blog post, I’ve reworked lectures to begin with a matched pair of “1491”-style lectures rather than going all the way back to 10,000 BC). Moving forward chronologically, Ken wonders whether we’re giving the eighteenth-century short shrift. Jonathan investigated how to integrate biography into the survey as a way to bring the voices of history to life. Meanwhile, Ken thinks that he’s perfectly placed as a Brit to teach American history to American students.


I discussed using material culture sources (remotely) in a Native American history course and blogs in several courses. Michael  H. looked at the vicious, Craigslist-scented underbelly of academia with a post on plagiarism and cheating. On a better note, he also discussed the practice of narrative history and how it’s taught in graduate school. Rachel sends her students to the grocery store to think about the history of food. But in her Native American history course, she considered how to complicate the declension narrative after the Revolution. Ben Park considered the value of assigning contrary secondary readings.

Thinking About Sources

A number of posts have highlighted specific sources that work well in the classroom. Ken just this week told us about Henry Drax’s plantation instructions. Sara Damiano highlighted the case of Ann Hibbens to encourage instructors to use legal sources. I discussed the “Just Teach One” project, which is digitizing literary sources from early America. Glenda offered advice on how to use music in class successfully and pondered whether music can and should be fun in the classroom. Jonathan suggested that we upend the “canon” of early American texts with an “Alt Canon” list, which pairs nicely with my thoughts on the politics of how to select and approach sources with students. Michael H. wondered about the value of using films about early America in class (and what films work well). If you’re looking for something a little more, well, fun, Ken has you covered with a card game about the American Revolution. And we had a great discussion of favorite sources to teach (be sure to scroll through to the comments for a number of great, lesser-known documents).

In the Classroom

Rachel interviewed James Merrell for his insights on teaching. Michael H. discussed classroom management and student preparation and his first experiences as a lecturer, and Katy talked about her first experience as a TA.

How about you? What sources, assignments, or topics are you looking forward to covering in the new semester? What advice have you found (from any source) particularly useful?


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