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We the Teachers

What To Expect at a TAH Seminar

November 17, 2020

by Teaching American History

Teaching American History is best known for its impressive database of primary sources, all of which are free to teachers as downloadable pdfs. You may not be as familiar with our professional development opportunities. These opportunities include fully accredited graduate programs in United States history and government, multi-day seminars at historical sites and one day seminars held at sites around the country. We have temporarily moved our one day seminars online due to COVID-19 but we will return to in-person events when the situation improves. 

 To help you enjoy this seminar experience, here are some details of what to expect and how to prepare:

No matter the format (online or in-person, one session, one day, or multi-day), every TAH seminar is first and foremost a document-centered discussion. In every seminar, we invite teachers into a deep conversation about the meaning of particular primary sources. A university scholar guides the conversation, but this scholar wants to know what you see in the documents.

We will provide you with the document(s) to be discussed well in advance of the seminar so that you have plenty of time to read them carefully. We encourage you to mark up the text with notes that help you quickly find the passages you found most interesting/consternating/confusing/fill-in-the-blank. During the seminar, our scholar will ask all participants to ground their comments and their questions in the text itself, so any breadcrumbs you can leave for yourself to help find key passages will surely prove helpful. 

Our scholars are there to facilitate the discussion around the table, not to lecture. They will encourage you and your colleagues to respond to one another’s insights, digging deeper into the text as you converse, probing the meaning of particular words, building an analysis of the text as you go, making connections and trying to understand the author as he or she understood him or herself.

So, if you’re not sure you understand what the authors of the documents are saying, don’t worry! The point of the seminar is to share your questions and ideas with your fellow teachers and the scholar facilitating the discussion. When people compare their  interpretations–even when they disagree–they often work their way toward shared understandings. Even when they do not, everyone learns. The scholars who lead these discussions often tell us they learned from the insights of teachers just like you.

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