Category: CHY 4U

Welcome New Students

By , September 4, 2017 10:03 am

Hello everyone! Welcome to my CHY4U class, whether you’re a new student, or familiar with me. I’m really looking forward to a good semester; this will be my second time around with my revised version of grade 12 World History. It’s very different from grade 11 – be prepared for a very different style. If you’re new, the course will hopefully make you realize the incredible horizons of history!


First Activity

If you scroll through my blog you’ll notice that I like to write book reviews. I would like you to write either a book review, a movie review, a documentary review, a YouTube review, a website review, or a tv show review. The one catch is that it has to have something to do with HISTORY! Any time period, not necessarily just 1450-present (the time frame for CHY4U).

Also, please reveal something of yourself in your review: what do you like when it comes to history and reading/viewing? What makes it appealing (or not) to you? What did it make you think about? What did you learn from it?

Length: a good paragraph at least – it doesn’t have to be as long as some of my reviews.


Send It To Me

My email is or Please send your review by Friday Sept. 8.




Welcome, Students

By , January 31, 2017 10:14 pm

Hello everyone, welcome to my class, whether you’re in CHW3M or CHY4U, a new student, or familiar with my ways. I’m really looking forward to a good semester: Lots of thinking and exploring. Normally, I’d have students write a profile of themselves. I’m dispensing with that in favour of something new. We’ll see how it goes – it’s okay to experiment.


New Intro to You

I’d like you to go through my blog and find something you can identify with (search the lists of recent posts and archives on the right, or just keep scrolling down and hitting ‘older’) for a post that you like, a book review of a book that sounds good, a pic of a class, whatever. Just send me a comment on that post and tell me why you like it, or what it makes you think about, or what you’re hoping for in this class. I’ll leave it open ended. Just make sure it’s more than a couple of sentences – let’s put some thought into this, please.

Or, If You Don’t Like That Idea

If that’s not to your taste, write me a short email telling me which historical time period you think you would have liked to live in. My email is or

My answer is below.


Ms. G: My Time 

Believe it or not, I have given a great deal of thought to this question: if I had to live in another time period, which would it be? The catch is that I’d have to be of the time period, I couldn’t be presentist about it and say that I wouldn’t have liked to live in Tudor England because the technology was so low. I wouldn’t have known about Netflix and email at that time. So I couldn’t have missed it.

Though the technology would be different, another catch is that my personality would be similar to the way it is now. I’m not a very social person, I think a lot, I am rather moderate with the occasional radical thought. These things matter when I’m thinking about time periods. I would have been okay in the first phase of the French Revolution, expectant with change! However, in the Terror I wouldn’t have liked the extremism and would definitely have feared the guillotine.

Though I absolutely love studying ancient Egypt, I’m not sure I would have made it in that civilization; I’m an atheist and wouldn’t have had the personality for joining into the state religion. However, if I were an ordinary farmer I might have been just fine doing my thing and living my relatively good life along the banks of the Nile, especially as a woman.

I don’t think I’d have made a good Roman or Greek either. As a woman in ancient Greece, I probably would have had some complaints about how much I contributed to my society but how little I was valued for it.  The Roman blood lust just wouldn’t have been acceptable to me. I’d have winced at gladiator shows.

A very appealing possibility is living in Florence or Venice during the Renaissance: so much creative license and artistic expression. Still a lot of religion though.

I guess I have to come to some kind of final decision here. Being who I am, I probably would have done best in the 1960s somewhere like Berkeley or San Francisco. It was a time of change and freedom. Young people were standing up for their beliefs, challenging society to become more progressive. Though I wouldn’t have liked the drug scene, and I for sure would have been VERY anti-war (Vietnam), I would have felt like I belonged in the forward motion of history.


Anti-Vietnam war demonstrators fill Fulton Street in San Francisco on April 15, 1967. The five-mile march through the city will end with a peace rally at Kezar Stadium. In the background is San Francisco City Hall. (AP Photo)

“Anti-Vietnam war demonstrators fill Fulton Street in San Francisco on April 15, 1967. The five-mile march through the city will end with a peace rally at Kezar Stadium. In the background is San Francisco City Hall. (AP Photo)” from Library, University of California, Berkeley, Media Resources Centre, 2012, (Jan. 31, 2017)


Becoming an Inquiry Teacher

By , November 16, 2016 9:33 pm

Last year as I taught the new CHW3M and CHY4U courses I set for myself some personal challenges:

  1. try to implement the curriculum changes as fully as possible.
  2. try to bring inquiry into each lesson in some way.

I spent a lot of time with the curriculum document – it’s heavy but it’s all marked up now.

I can’t say that I was fully successful, but I’m proud of the efforts I did make. I took a lot of mental notes on what to change next time.

Here are some pointers I’ve developed to help me keep up the challenge and to communicate to other interested people what I am doing. Note: this PPT changes a lot as I add new things and develop my thinking.

The transition is hard but it’s worthwhile.

Becoming an Inquiry Teacher (Nov. 28 update)



Last Day of Class

By , January 30, 2014 9:43 pm

Goodbye, everyone. Thanks for a great semester! Grade 11s – see you at Course Fair on Feb. 13.





Semester End Surveys

By , January 20, 2014 2:07 pm

Students of Ms. G:

Please complete the appropriate course evaluation survey online.

For grade 11 (CHW3M)

For grade 12 (CHY4U)

 Thank you so much for your assistance.

Latest Books Read

By , January 5, 2014 1:34 pm

Margaret MacMillan, The War That Ended Peace: The Road to 1914. Toronto: Allen Lane, 2013.

Product Details

Having been looking forward to this book by the author of Paris 1919 which I enjoyed so much, I picked it up shortly after it was released. The timing coincided with my grade 12 lessons on the origins of World War One. Unfortunately I had only read a few early chapters by the time of the lessons. However, there will be changes next time, for sure, notably in the way I present Serbia and the major powers’ interests in the Balkans.

Many reviewers call it highly readable; that it is. It plowed along introducing a plethora of characters and their unique foibles – the chapter on Wilhelm II is called “Woe to the Country that has a Child for King!”-  and historical events and their precedents set. By the chapters on the two Balkan Wars just ahead of 1914 I had a feeling of dread in the pit of my stomach. Of course I knew what was coming but more importantly I felt like I was constantly being pulled in two directions: they will, they won’t.

Like the churning left hand of a piano piece the forces set in place seemed too strong to overcome: imperialist rivalries, the bravado of nationalism, the strategy of war plans, the webs of opposing alliances. Meanwhile the right hand had its own melody largely sung by intriguingly drawn characters – foreign ministers, kings, military figures – many of whom even within their own country didn’t communicate effectively with each other. These individuals seemed to be at once marching toward war and trying to avoid it.

MacMillan’s ultimate conclusion is that the war was not inevitable because the major players had the ability to make choices and decisions. Her masterful portrayal of the tension between the driving left hand and the free right hand was successful, in my opinion, in that it kept me hanging on every word until the very end. However, I do feel that the left hand came across more strongly, almost contradicting her own thesis. But my read may be biased by where I am in my own historical thinking; in teaching students to see causation of historical events in a sophisticated way I have asked them to look beyond the actions of individuals toward larger social forces. MacMillan has reminded me that I shouldn’t negate the influence of powerful individuals.




Jung Chang, Empress Dowager Cixi: The Concubine Who Launched Modern China. Toronto: Random House Canada, 2013.

Product Details

In the last few years I have read a lot about late imperial China, mostly in standard school textbooks and books found in school libraries. The usual picture that is painted is one of corruption, decline and conflict with reform held back by the dowager empress Cixi. Jung Chang’s new biography of Cixi offers a different view as can be seen from its subtitle: the concubine who launched modern China. If she and her newly available Chinese sources are to be believed the usual history books have it wrong.

As I often say to my history students, the problem with biography is that it doesn’t always take historical context into account enough to satisfy historians.  Having recently read an excellent biography of Karl Marx that succeeded in that rare feat, I was only somewhat disappointed by the amount of wider historical context surrounding the dowager empress. Chang did a good job of charting the rise of the Manchu dynasty, gave some context on the Confucian morals present in the court, and clearly portrayed the rise of Japan as an Asian power and China’s main threat. She offered a bit on traditional gender roles in China – I didn’t know that Manchu girls such as Cixi did not have their feet bound. While China at the time had to deal with the commercial and religious interests of Europeans and Americans, Chang didn’t paint a fully developed picture of  the imperialism of the era.

I will admit that I have been fascinated by life inside the Forbidden City since I visited there in 1987, early on in China’s opening to the west. While I read the book my mind was full of sumptuous images from the film of the same time, The Last Emperor. It all looked so glorious: the ceremony, the rituals, the costumes, the silk. Over and over Chang reports that even though Cixi was clearly the most powerful and important person in China during her decades and decades of rule (direct or indirect), she never came in the main gate of the city. That was reserved for men only. That certainly created a lot of sympathy for her as a person. Chang did a wonderful job, as a biographer should, of constructing Cixi’s complex and oddly appealing character. She had a young woman thrown into a well and she tried to use the chaotic Boxers against the western powers, yet by the end of her rule she was trying to push China toward a constitutional monarchy. Unfortunately for her she cared too much about saving the Manchu dynasty, which is ultimately what did away with the promise of achieving constitutional monarchy within nine years.

I will wait for corroboration of a lot of the claims Chang makes about the dowager empress’s policies, but  I certainly have a new found respect for her as a person and as a woman in a non-traditional position.






Brahe Gets His Due – Finally

By , January 5, 2014 12:58 pm

The offending title was on the cover of January’s Scientific American: “History of Science: The Case against Copernicus.” What? I love Copernicus; he’s amazing. How could this be?

In their article Dennis Danielson and Christopher M. Graney argue that rejection of Copernicus’ heliocentric argument wasn’t solely based on religious objections but on scientific grounds. Without getting into the science and math of it, suffice it to say that when the Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe (who sadly almost always comes in last in the ranking of great cosmologists in my grade 12 world history class) tried to make sense of Copernicus’ theory it seemed improbable because the size of stars would have to be far too big. From a modern perspective Brahe’s view was wrong, however, for the time, it was pioneering scientific advancement.

Here’s their view on Brahe:

“Brahe was a towering figure. He ran a huge research program with a castlelike observatory, a NASA-like budget, and the finest instruments and best assistants money could buy. … Harvard University historian Owen Gingerich often illustrates Brahe’s importance with a mid-17th-century compilation by Albert Curtius of all the astronomical data gathered since antiquity: the great bulk of two millenia’s worth of data came from Brahe. ”

This is music to my ears as I always try to argue in favour of this historical underdog. Even though Brahe was incorrect in mashing the geocentric and heliocentric models together, he was doing, as Danielson and Graney argue, what good scientists do: “rigorously disproving the strong arguments of others…”

Rice University, The Galileo Project, Tycho Brahe, Tychonic Universe, 1995, <> (Jan. 5, 2014).



Last Day Pictures

By , June 16, 2013 9:48 am

Thanks for a wonderful semester.

End of Year Comments

By , June 11, 2013 2:57 pm

Hi everyone:

Instead of a course-specific questionnaire, I have created a very open-ended survey. Please follow the link and fill it in. Thank you in advance for your feedback, positive or negative. I take it seriously and appreciate it very much.


I had a wonderful semester in both grade 11 and grade 12 history thanks to you!

Ms. G


Miss Abells’ Last Day

By , November 26, 2012 10:00 pm

Panorama Theme by Themocracy