Introducing Historical Thinking Concepts to a Grade 10 History Class in 5 days – Day 2 – Continuity And Change

Ronald Martinello

I am currently the History/Geography head at  St. Benedict Catholic Secondary School in Cambridge, Ontario. I teach History, Law and Civics. I am in my 26th year of teaching.

In my previous blog, I talked about using my first unit to introduce the historical thinking concepts.  On my first day, I did a general introduction to the integration of historical thinking concepts into the curriculum. The rest of the unit was dedicated to introducing one specific HTC per class.  The approach I decided to take was to examine the same set of key events over the past 13 years (2000-2013) through the lens of a different HTC every day.  This decade was chosen for two reasons: the events were recent, fresh and hopefully more relevant to the students; and this timeline basically mirrored my student’s own lifespans. I chose 30 events for examination which were of differing scope and seriousness. I was hoping that by examining the same events, I could instill in the students the idea that an understanding of a single event could be developed through a number of different approaches (i.e. the HTCs). So, on Day 2, I concentrated on CONTINUITY AND CHANGE.


For this lesson, I tried to take a pretty simplified approach to continuity and change. I wanted to focus on three things: how and why do things change over time, how and why do they stay the same over time and whether any change gained is positive or negative. My lesson consisted of four activities.

In activity 1, I worked on the simple concept of chronology. Chronology is important to understanding the nature and pace of change. So, I presented my 30 events to the students for the first time. Unfortunately for them, they were out of chronological order. Our task, using riddles, brain teasers and prompts, was to place the thirty items in proper chronological order. I designed a competitive game around this chronology so it was quite boisterous at times.

In activity 2, I moved away from the 30 events and presented a series of pictures. The students were to try to organize the pictures, once again, in proper chronological order. The pictures were a series of 11 photographs showing the progression of the telephone from its infancy to introduction of the smartphone. Using only the pictures, students were to indicate changes in features that would give them an indicator where the telephones appeared in the chronology. Size, portability, construction and materials used were all employed by the students to support their answers. For the most part, students were fairly accurate in their guesses.

Activity 3 was similar to Activity 2. This time, I arranged a series of pictures around changes to music headphones over the years. Using the same criteria as in activity 2, the students were to try to create a chronology for headphones. This time, most of the students were well off the mark for the simple reason that headphones have moved from large ear covering headphones to small ear buds back to large ear covering headphones. This exercise helped illustrate that change is not always constant or predictable.

I wrapped up the lesson in my 4th activity. This time we returned to the 30 events I had generated.  Students were to select any two events from the list. Using their own personal knowledge and insight, students were to identify any ways the world around them may have changed in response to the selected events and any ways the world would have stayed the same despite or because of the events. I was quite pleased by the depth of the responses I got. For example, a number of students selected the Sandy Hook shootings. They indicated that there seemed to have been a noticeable change in attitudes toward gun ownership in the United States but the number of gun deaths showed little to no noticeable depreciation. Others indicated that the election of Barack Obama represented a great change in racial acceptance in the United States but the battles over Medicare and gun control remained the same.  This also allowed for commentary on whether the changes gained were positive or not. All in all, a good start for my students.

My next blog will examine SIGNIFICANCE.