Literacy skills used in one discipline are not always the same for other subjects. Reading something for an English class and reading something for a history class requires completely different skills. For example, if students were reading The Great Gatsby for an English class they are looking at symbolism and themes and things like that. However, if they were reading it for a history class they might look at the social structures, and compare the book to what is going on historically at that time. Different subjects look at different things. To be literate in a discipline one must know how to analyze a text in a meaningful way for that discipline as well as to be able to write in an appropriate manner for that discipline.
Historical thinking is one of the most important skills for analyzing a source in a history class. Being able to think about what is going on at the time a text is analyzed is vitally important in understanding that text in a historical context. The historical thinking project has narrowed it down to 6 different aspects people that are historically literate should look at when analyzing a text through a historical context. The first is historical significance, or looking at why that part of history matters and if it relates to anything else. The second part is use of primary sources, which is analyzing primary sources, which I will go into more detail on later. The third is to identify continuity and change, which is seeing if anything has changed from that text since it was created until now. The fourth is identifying cause and consequences, which is looking at if one part of history caused another part of history. The fifth is understanding historical perspectives, which is being able to put yourself in the perspective of someone else from the history you are studying. The last one is understanding the ethical dimensions of historical interpretations, or looking at the ethics of the people from the time you are studying and taking that into account when analyzing a text. All 6 of these skills are important in being historically literate. One must think about all 6 of these when they are analyzing a text for history.
Since we cannot experience the past first-hand historians rely on Primary sources enlighten us on what the past was like and what historical events happened. Miles and Monte-Sano emphasizes the importance of historical interpretation when analyzing a text for history. He argues this is the hardest thing to get students to do. When analyzing a historical text many people want to read it literally and miss a lot of the background information, argues Miles and Monte-Sano. Looking in the background of a historical text often provides the person analyzing the text with more information than the actual text. To be historically literate one must be able to go beyond main information on the text and look for other clues on the text to say what that historical event was like. Going along with Miles and Monte-Sano the Stanford University has released a chart called the historical thinking chart that one should use when analyzing a historical text. Most of what is on the chart is looking at things like, who is the author, when was it written, where was it written, what does it say, what are the circumstances behind this text being made, what sort of language is used in the source, what arguments are being made, and what evidence is used to support those arguments. Through looking at all of that the chart continues to have the reader draw conclusions about the text. Primary sources are vitally important to understand history and being able to understand those sources and how to critically analyze them are important skills in historical literacy.
Another key aspect to being historically literate is being able to write like a historian, and the key component to writing like a historian is being able to make an argument. Miles and Monte-Sano says argument writing encompasses key features of historical writing”. Basically, the historian takes the same skills in reading a history and applies it to their writing. They make an argument based off the information they have obtained from historically analyzing a text and apply that to their argument. One must also find sufficient amount of evidence to support their argument. Harvard University has released a guide to writing historically. This guide includes tips such as staying subjective, not being over general about the past, not passing judgment on the people in the past (because all generations make mistakes), not all historical arguments have to relate to the present, providing context, and other great tips on how one should write for history. They also share the different ways one could write about history, such as, reviews and research papers, and different outlines for what each should look like. There are several things that one must do when writing for history that is different than any other discipline.
All disciplines require different skills in order to be able to participate in that discipline. Being literate in history requires a different way of reading and writing a text than any other discipline. To be historically literate one must be able to historically think about a text. They also must be able to analyze primary sources, which is a different skill on its own. After obtaining the information, someone that is literate in history writes about it in a way that is specific to history.
Miles, D., Monte-Sano, C. Toward Disciplinary Reading and Writing in History.
Wiebe, G. (2014). Thinking Like a Historian in the Elementary Classroom. Retrieved from: https://historytech.wordpress.com/2014/09/26/thinking-like-a-historian-in-the-elementary-classroom/
Wewers, D. (2007). A Brief Guide to Writing the History Paper. Retrieved From: https://writingproject.fas.harvard.edu/files/hwp/files/bg_writing_history.pdf
Seixas, P. (2014). Historical Thinking Concepts. The Historical Thinking Project. Retrieved From: http://www.historicalthinking.ca/historical-thinking-concepts