I usually open my history lessons by announcing, “Once upon a time . . . “.
Unorthodox, I know. But I have discovered that my students only comprehend what was going if I get them emotionally and mentally involved. I often stop and ask them what they would do if they were in that situation, or to pass judgment on a certain political decision.
So I tell history like it is a fairy tale. To my students, John Adams has become a heroic figure who is revered alongside Hector. And the reasons for the Spanish-American War have been booed like a medieval villain.
Most importantly, the Fifth Graders seem to remember the history. And they can recognize the patterns of actions and stories!
But this type of education comes with its own perils.
While describing the life of Abraham Lincoln, I might have oversold the story.
In the middle of discussing Honest Abe’s determination to get an education, one of the brightest yet absent-minded students had a flash of brilliance.
“Oooh!” she exclaimed, “so Lincoln is just like Cinderella!”
So, replace a fairy Godmother with hard work, and the happily ever after with a strong moral sense.
Then yes, Abraham Lincoln is just like Cinderella!