One of my favorite lessons during the year is having students create “What If?” presentations (see The Best Resources For Teaching “What If?” History Lessons). I have my IB Theory of Knowledge students do them first, and then make arrangements for them to take a day to help my English Language Learner students do it.
This year, I’m also going to have my ninth-grade English students do the project, too.
I read an intriguing essay today called Professor Grumpy’s Historical Manifesto about why we should study history. He (or she) also makes a good case for “What If?” lessons:
Another key point concerns the idea that history had to be like that, that it had to have particular outcomes, that the world we know was the natural outcome of all that. But nothing is ‘just like that’. It doesn’t have to be that way. To understand change you have to see all the other possibilities that were open and that could have come about. It’s about ‘keeping faith with the impossible’.
Highlights from the essay, or even the whole essay, could be very useful in classes…