Learning to Think Historically and Become a Fact Checker (unit 1)

By , August 21, 2011 12:43 pm

Sem 1, 2023/24:


Mr. Chang is teaching this course at YMCI this year while I am on leave. This is an amazing course. Have fun!

Intro to Thinking Historically and Becoming a Fact Checker

History vocab you should know:

  • inferences (reading between the lines – figuring out what the evidence is telling you – making an educated guess or prediction)
  • evidence (things from the past (objects = artefacts and documents))
  • corroboration (confirmation, backup of a source)
  • context (the surrounding environment, situation, circumstances).

Maya Inquiry

This semester we’ll be starting with an inquiry into the Mayan civilization using material objects from the collection of the British Museum via Google Arts and Culture. The best way to start a history course is to jump in and INQUIRE!


To find out about inquiry:


See google classroom for further tips on Inquiry


PERSIAT is an acronym for categories that we use to study a society from the bottom up, rather than the top down;  it allows us to look at all of society, not just the powerful people, and determine what life was like.

P  political (government, power, decision-making)

E economic (trade, barter, money, industries, basis of the economy – overlaps with classes which is in social)

R religious

S social (relations between people, groups of people, social hierarchy [classes, status, occupations that overlap with power], gender, identities/orientations, classes, ethnicity/race) – usually the biggest category

I intellectual (ideas, philosophies, innovations overlaps with technological)

A artistic

T technological


We also must consider internal and external factors that affect a society, and some people think about adding an “E” to the end of PERSIAT for environmental. Thus PERSIATE!

Becoming a Fact-Checker

While you research Mayan civilization, you’ll learn about how to become a good fact checker from Ctrl-F. It’s not hard. If you practice, it will become a habit.

Historical Thinking Concepts

  • Historical Thinking Concepts – see the package on the HTC section of the blog or under HTC in google classroom (there are videos, too)
  • when we use HTCs we are doing disciplinary thinking – we’re thinking like historians. That’s very important for “how to history”.


Context = background: What’s going on in a society (in PERSIAT) in the time period you’re studying. It’s crucial to have context in order to take proper historical perspectives. 

For example, if future historians are studying the 2020s in world history they will absolutely need to know context such as the pandemic or the sudden surge in AI. Otherwise there’s a huge hole in understanding our way of life at this time and the things that have affected it.


When he wrote this book, Nel MacGregor must have had some criteria in order to determine the 100 objects. The book is in room 145 if you want to borrow it.

We need to have standards on which we base our decisions. In other words, we need to have reasons for our decisions. Otherwise, we will make bad decisions. For example, when we choose what to wear each day, our criteria could include the weather, the task we’ll be doing, what the clothing is made of (not animal materials in the case of a vegan), etc.

We need a basis for determining what is significant.

Archaeology is not our focus this semester but here’s some info…

Image result for underwater archaeology caesarea

Archaeology words:



Archaeology Ripped from the Headlines

Oldest cave art found in Sulawesi (2021)

7000-year old Cheese

Archaeologist who used beetles to unlock past

Archaeologists in the Yukon find a Remarkably Intact Dart Lost by an Indigenous Hunter 1,000 Years Ago

Ancient Church Hidden in Turkish Lake. And a Pagan Temple May Lie Beneath It.

Frink’s Dig (optional – an assignment from Scott Pollock)

  • how does archaeology contribute to history?
    • archaeologists unearth or uncover objects (artefacts) from the past

Read the handouts and look at the two diagrams and identify:

  • logical interpretations
  • evidence (artifacts) to back them up
  • Interpretations:
    • green light – pretty sure (probable)
    • yellow light – might be true (possible)
    • red light – not really sure (might, could) – we are going to practice using the language of NON-certainty regarding organized religion, trade, class structure, job specialization

Paleolithic Life

Is this your impression of paleolithic life? I hope not. What you see below is evidence from paleolithic societies. New discoveries are being made all the time in the study of this era in world history.

Paleolithic Key words: communal, barter, hunter-gatherer, nomadic, resourceful

Task: Annotate the following handout.  CHW3M_Paleolithic_Society_Overview

How to Annotate – watch these videos if you don’t know how:

Intro_to_Paleo_2020-21 (PPT)

  • Reindeer carving – artifact interpretation helps us make inferences about paleolithic life (since the paleolithic people didn’t leave written records to tell us their thoughts).  

Skills: interpretation of artefacts, making inferences, annotating handouts

TASK : Using pages 31-34 in the textbook, fill in the PERSIAT chart for Paleolithic society. Ms G pre-made a chart template for you. 

CHW3M Unit 1 PERSIAT chart for Paleolithic Society


  • the main goal of note-taking is to get the main ideas and the important details (examples) to support them
  • if you don’t record details, then it’s all very general and Paleolithic society could sound a lot like any other society
    • there should be very specific artefacts (objects) named in your notes
      • caution – don’t copy the book word-for-word

Note: there may be some disagreement on which PERSIAT category to put information in. Some details could go in multiple categories.

Do you think any of the following apply to paleolithic people?

innovative, improved, inventive, intuitive, ingenious, adaptive, creative, resourceful?

Key Characteristics of Paleolithic Life: 

  • nomadic
  • hunter-gatherers
  • communal (band)
  • artistic
  • supernatural beliefs
  • trade/barter with outsiders

Paleolithic Videos: 

Paleolithic art video (National Geographic), Chauvet caves art video (BBC), 360 view of Lascaux video (NY Times), virtual tour of Lascaux video (vimeo), retrieving a paleolithic skull in Mexico video (PBS).

Paleolithic Roles:

TASK: Fill in roles worksheet. For gender, most is speculation. For group, it’s either the larger band or the smaller family group. Roles_Paleolithic_Chart

Red, yellow, green? (Unsure, possible, for sure)

Catal Hoyuk, a neolithic site in Turkey.

Transitioning to Neolithic Society

Minds On: Why don’t we live the paleolithic lifestyle today?

Task: In groups, do the Jarmo classification exercise. Jarmo Classification Exercise

  • divide the objects into as many categories as possible
    • you do not need to say what goes into each category

After, decide if the people of Jarmo were paleolithic? If not, make two hypotheses about them.

Characteristics of Neolithic Society

  1. they were stationary/settled (non-nomadic)
  2. they had agriculture (control of plants)/farming
  3. they domesticated animals (bred and raised animals for human purposes)
  • they also had art, traded (bartered) and were resourceful, just like paleolithic people; they were probably less communal (as we saw through the Emergence of Agriculture  = advantages and disadvantages)

Emergence of Agriculture (in handouts): make sure you know that agriculture came with consequences, both positive and negative. Emergence of Agriculture chart without answers

TASK Using pages 35-36 in textbook, make a PERSIAT chart for Neolithic society. CHW3M Unit 1 PERSIAT chart for Neolithic Society

Unit Culminating Activity (“How to History” formal academic paragraph)

See side page for all tips, rubrics, the outline, websites and instructions.

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