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Ian Rusten

Teaching History with Graphic Novels

Graphic novels are a powerful and often underused learning tool. As a history teacher at a small independent school, I recognize that every student learns in different ways.  Many students are visual learners for whom a picture is worth a thousand words, making the use of graphic novels in the classroom highly effective.  There are several wonderful historical graphic novels that can effectively engage students in historical studies.

Memoirs for the Summer

Summer reading does not have to be a compensatory list of books that students dread reading and save for the last possible second.  Summer can (and should be!) the perfect time to explore new genres or to revel in old favorite genres. Some of my favorite genres to read are memoirs, biographies, and autobiographies. I particularly love reading about people who have left a lasting impact on the world. Sometimes, like Darwin, these figures are well known, but I also love to read about lesser known people like Irena Sendler and Bryan Stevenson.

Living History in Film

History is a collection of stories--stories that tell of events big and small.  In history class, we often look at the macro story, the big picture. We might look at WWI: the causes, the effects, the battles, and the political, social, and economic costs and gains. However, what is frequently lost is the story of the 18-year-old boy, aching with homesickness and overwhelmed by his first steps outside of his small hometown, sent to fight a war that no one really understands.

Why Do We Study History?

“A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots.” Marcus Garvey

Why history? Is the past actually relevant to today? Why do we spend so much time in middle and high school studying history? Some students see history as a boring compilation of dates, events, and dead people, even a "brain drain" on their already taxed growing minds. Why should we need to understand what happened in the past? Isn’t the future what is really important?

Discovering History through Biography

As Marian Wright Edeleman said, “If you don’t like the way the world is, you change it. You have an obligation to change it. You just do it one step at a time.”

History has been shaped and molded by many figures from the past and present. Some of these people are controversial and their impact has not always been seen as positive, however, their actions have left a deep mark on history. To learn more about these figures, you can read the autobiographies and biographies suggested below.

Notable Student Success Stories: Ian Rusten

I taught at a very large public school for a number of years.  I had about 34 students in each class, which makes it very challenging to provide each student with the individual attention and support they deserve. Then I became a teacher at The Beekman School. What a change it has been! I teach in a small townhouse setting with small class sizes that allow me to tailor the lessons to my student’s interests. The largest classes at Beekman have 9 or 10 students. As a result, I can provide each of my students with individualized attention.

A Summer Challenge: Let Your Voice Ring Out: Writing a Persuasive Piece Today.

In the age of selfies and 140 character social media posts, is the art of persuasive oration dead? Can a hashtag win the 2016 election? Do we want more than a soundbite? Sure, we can state our opinion, “I like (particular candidate),” but do we remember how to provide a reason for our claim and how to back up that claim with relevant evidence?

A Decade in Film and Literature: The 1880s

With spring break just around the corner, I couldn’t help but think about how quickly the year is passing by. How I wish we would spend weeks on each era of American history digging deep into the cultural, social, and everyday lives of Americans! But alas, we must march on.  For those that wish to use some free time to gain more in-depth knowledge of American history, focus on any decade from the past and you will likely find films, art, and novels are just a click away.

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