From Passive to Active Learners–Building Critical Thinking Skills with History Alive!

Meet Stacy Whittemore

“I really see their critical thinking skills skyrocket during the ancient Sumerians activity and throughout the school year.”

Stacy Whittemore

  • Grade: 6th
  • Subject: Social Studies
  • Program: History Alive! The Ancient World
  • District:  Live Oak School District, Santa Cruz, CA
  • Years Teaching TCI: 16 years

Sixth-grade history teacher Stacy Whittemore is a longtime fan of TCI’s programs. She began using TCI 16 years ago and has taught with the programs at every grade level at her middle school. When her middle school reviewed other social studies programs during an adoption year, they decided to stick with TCI.

“We actually piloted another program just to see what it was like, and it wasn’t good,” Stacy recounted. “TCI’s updated program, with all of the primary sources and different extras that were put in, just shined above all else.”

From primary sources to games to integration with learning management systems, Stacy has been happy with how TCI promotes critical thinking and analysis in her class and makes classroom management easier.


Increasing Critical Thinking and Analysis Skills

TCI’s programs are built on proven teaching strategies that lead to greater content retention and increased critical thinking skills. Pulling from the work of education theorists and researchers like Elizabeth Cohen and Jerome Bruner, TCI’s lessons are designed to engage students with cooperative interaction and spiral curriculum, leading to greater learning gains and higher achievement.

Stacy saw this result firsthand in her classes. When she teaches TCI’s lesson about ancient Sumerians, she asks her students to analyze the artifacts provided and draw conclusions about the characteristics of the civilization. As students participate in activities like this, Stacy noticed that her students’ critical thinking skills increase.

“I really see their critical thinking skills skyrocket during the ancient Sumerians activity and throughout the school year,” Stacy shared. “They use those skills when they examine artifacts from other civilizations.”

Similarly, Stacy begins each lesson by asking students to analyze the lesson’s first image, a full-page photograph or painting representing concepts from the reading. She examines the images with her class and sees that throughout the year, her students’ observation and analysis skills keep improving.

“We analyze the photographs before we start reading, and my students get better and better at noticing things,” Stacy recalled. “We start by looking at what’s in the foreground and the background, and then we put the story together. It mirrors what they’re going to learn. So I really think the images that TCI has in the textbook are spot on.”


Improving Test Scores with Digital Games

TCI provides comprehensive teaching and learning tools, including digital games. Each lesson comes with a Vocabulary Game, which tests students’ knowledge of key terms, and a Lesson Review Game, which challenges students to answer questions about the lesson’s main ideas.

Stacy found that when she assigns the Lesson Review Games to her students, they comprehend the content more and do better on tests.

“One of my favorite features is the games—my students love them!” Stacy continued, “We always do the Lesson Review Game before the assessment. They score better on their assessments after completing the games.”

The games are automatically graded so students can see their results. Scores from the games are reported directly to TCI’s grade book, so teachers can see how their students fared instantaneously. Teachers can also analyze trends and identify areas or concepts that need further review.


Easier Classroom Management

TCI + Google Classroom

In addition to the grade book, TCI makes classroom management easy with integrations. Stacy found that TCI’s Google Classroom integration makes classroom management easier. She used it to grade and post scores to her students.

“The integration you have with Google Classroom has made it very easy to grade things in one place,” Stacy described. “That was a challenge TCI helped me overcome—the ease of posting things in Google classroom and having kids able to get to the assignments easily.”

TCI seamlessly integrates with learning management systems like Google Classroom, Canvas, and Schoology. With these integrations, teachers can easily assign, grade, and access TCI’s content in one place.

Teachers like Stacy inspire us to keep developing engaging learning experiences for social studies classrooms. We love hearing stories from teachers like her who Bring Learning Alive!


Get a Free Sample of TCI

See how History Alive! The Ancient World engages students and builds their critical thinking skills with hands-on activities, primary sources, and games. If you’re ready to review social studies programs, get a free digital sample.

Stacy’s Favorite TCI Activities

The Rise of Sumerian City-States

Students take on the roles of ancient Mesopotamians facing a series of problems. For each problem, students learn about the issue, propose a solution, and then read to find out how Mesopotamians responded to the problem.

This activity leverages the Response Group teaching strategy, which challenges students to discuss complex issues in small groups.

Ancient Sumer

Students learn about the characteristics of civilization and determine whether ancient Sumer had each characteristic of civilization by analyzing and drawing conclusions from artifacts unearthed by archaeologists.

This activity leverages the Social Studies Skill Builder teaching strategy, which turns the traditional, rote tasks usually associated with skill-based worksheets into more dynamic, interactive activities.

Lesson Review Games

Each lesson in TCI’s programs comes with a Lesson Review Game covering the main ideas. Students answer the questions in the game and see their results instantly.

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