Abstract 5- Volume 5, Number 2, Summer 2010

Social Studies Research and Practice

Volume 5, Number 2, Summer 2010



Complicating Students’ Historical Thinking through Primary Source Reinvention

J. H. Bickford III
Eastern Illinois University


To best challenge students’ thinking, researchers and educators must locate or create innovative ways to spark enthusiasm and facilitate criticality. This paper investigates how middle school students analyzed various primary and secondary historical documents to construct original political cartoons. Students articulated newly generated understandings about the complex historical event within these original political cartoons. Students then examined and discussed peers’ original political cartoons. This approach was novel because the research literature indicated students rarely are asked to construct original political cartoons to express opinions and understandings. Political cartoons mostly are used as tools for interpretation and usually only with gifted and older students. This approach was successful because of the positive impact that original political cartooning had on students’ engagement, interpretational skills, criticality, expressivity, and the class’s discussions. The original political cartoons served as engaging teaching and learning tools that enabled students to see history’s complex and unsettled nature.

Key Words: Criticality, Engagement, Expressivity, Middle school, Political cartoons, Social studies


Download article as PDF


About the Author(s)…

J. H. Bickford III, a former Mid-Prairie (IA) middle school social studies teacher and currently Assistant Professor of Middle Level Education at Eastern Illinois University with research and teaching interests in social studies and adolescence. He teaches undergraduate and graduate social studies and content area reading classes. He can be contacted at jbickford@eiu.edu.

Citation for this Article: Bickford, J. H., III. (2010). Complicating students’ historical thinking through primary source reinvention. Social Studies Research & Practice, 5(1), 47-60. Retrieved from http://www.socstrp.org/issues/PDF/5.2.5.pdf.