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I also try to explain the fact that what we cover is "One-inch deep and a mile wide on a vast lake of knowledge." Meaning that we cover a variety of topics from the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution, the War of 1812, the U.S. Civil War, Reconstruction, etc. but we don't go too deep into any of them. We cover all of those topics (and more) in a nine-month school year, whereas we could spend a semester on each of them individually. I guess that's what college is for.
I try to link events together by using a TIME WEB on my board. Right now it is just a visual of what it could look like. Next year I want to fill it in with actual events showing how certain events are linked to other events and how personal experiences helped shape our history, just like our personal experiences shape the way we live our lives.
Continuing with my, "One-inch deep and a mile wide" analogy, sometimes I feel like we are simply skipping a stone across the vastness of U.S. History. We are just skimming the surface on certain topics while ignoring the depth underneath. I try to make the biggest waves, while also acknowledging the ripple effects and how, when they collide with ripples from other stone touches, other events were born.
My hope is that on the topics we do dive deeper on, specifically the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution, I am providing the bedrock that our Nation is founded on so that my students will have a better understanding of our History when we only have time to skip that rock.