Historical Hacks and In-Class Activities

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Historical Hacks

Historical Hacks are included at the end of each module within the study plan. The purpose of these Hacks are to help students learn the critical thinking skills that contribute to student success in history courses. These critical thinking skills include: thinking like a historian, making historical connections, analyzing documents, synthesizing information, evaluating cause and effect, creating historical arguments, creating research questions, evaluating political cartoons and photographs, developing historical empathy, etc.

The Historical Hacks are the last section of each module and include their own learning outcomes and corresponding questions. They typically use examples and primary source documents related to the module content, often from the Primary Source Readers, and encourage opportunities for the students to learn historical thinking skills by actively working with the material.

In-Class Activities

When students work through the content in the study plan, they will automatically read through the Historical Hacks and complete any corresponding multiple-choice questions. No additional work is required to set up or use the Hacks. If time permits, you can build off of the hacks or use them as the starting point for further class discussion, or as the basis for in-class activities.

A set of optional in-class activities connected to the Historical Hacks are available to support face-to-face and hybrid classes. These can be viewed below:

Historical Hacks by Module

You can see a brief description of each Historical Hack below. Note that the link will take you to the introduction page of the Hack. Click through the next several pages to view all of the content and activities.

Modules Historical Hack
Module 1: Indigenous America and Early European Exploration

Students learn how historical accounts are understood and constructed from various sources and how history is not built upon facts, but rather upon the interpretation of the events. They also learn about primary and secondary sources, and the importance of citation.

Module 2: Colliding Cultures

Students learn the DCS model—Describe historical events, put them within their Context, and explain their Significance.

Module 3: British North America

Students learn how to do a HAPPY Analysis as a method for analyzing primary source documents (Historical context, Audience, Purpose, Point of View, and whY).

Module 4: Imperial Reforms

Students learn how to recognize and make a historical argument, as well as how to turn an argument into a high-quality thesis statement.

Module 5: The American Revolution

Students learn the SIFT method to evaluate sources and differentiate between reliable and unreliable sources of information–Stop, Investigate the source, Find better coverage, Trace claims.

Module 6: Creating a Government (1776–1783)

Students learn how to make sense of complex documents by taking steps like slowing down, asking questions, marking what you don’t understand, and looking up any words you’re not familiar with. Students learn guidelines for steps to take before reading, during reading, and after reading to help them understand complicated documents.

Module 7: The Early Republic (1790–1820)

Students learn how to develop effective research questions, including one way to narrow the question by using the 5Ws: Who, What, When, Where, and Why.

Module 8: Industrial Transformation (1800–1850)

Students learn how to create historical arguments and learn to identify and anticipate potential counterarguments

Module 9: Democracy in America (1820–1840)

Students learn how to analyze argumentative primary sources, as well as how to use textual evidence to complete a rhetorical analysis.

Module 10: Westward Expansion (1800–1860)

Students learn how to identify the different components of a political cartoon and how to analyze the cartoon to understand and interpret the author’s (artist’s) message.

Module 11: Cotton Is King — The Antebellum South (1800–1860)

Students learn to understand historical actors by examining their motives and actions in the context in which they live. They also learn how to recognize the bias of presentism so they can more objectively consume historical research and writing.

Module 12: Religion and Reform (1820–1860)

Students learn how to identify causes and effects of historical events, including long-term indirect causes and effects.

Module 13: Troubled Times — The Sectional Crisis

Students learn what empathy is and why it is important to use historical empathy to understand historical actors, while also maintaining an appropriate emotional response to historical sources.

Module 14: The Civil War (1860–1865)

Students learn about Civil War Photography, Mathew Brady, and how to analyze photographs

Module 15: The Era of Reconstruction (1865–1877)


Students learn about domestic terrorism, how it was utilized by the KKK, and how the KKK’s tactics changed over time.