I’ve heard it a hundred times: “I don’t like history. It was really boring in school.” As a history graduate student and professional tutor, I have worked for over a decade trying to engage students in social studies. The majority of young people had studied under over-stretched teachers (who were often primarily athletic coaches rather than history educators), and the dry focus on names and dates instilled in them a boredom with history and a belief they were "not good at it.” However, we know that studying history correctly – in addition to being inspiring and fun – gives us the tools we need to be wiser voters, consumers, and community members. So, how can we reverse the trend of disinterest in history? How can we change student's perception of history from a dry school subject to be endured for a semester and forgotten into a lifelong cultural hobby applicable to art, politics, religion, and science.
Engage the senses. Our forebears enjoyed five senses just like we do. The internet is full of old recipes and vendors who sell traditional foods; you can try hardtack while studying the American Civil War, or go out for hot dogs while discussing the Great Depression. Take a family trip to a costume store and try on historical outfits. Listen to period music when reading about events or driving to historical sites. (Period music is especially easy to find on YouTube.) Multisensory engagement is the next best thing to a time machine!
Individualized tutoring can help break through. At iLearn Academy, we have multiple historian tutors who love to help bored social studies students improve their grades while finding a new joy in studying the past. Give us a call or email if your student needs help with that social studies test or AP History exam.