Using the Student's Friend:
Why and How?
The Student's Friend is a concise narrative of world history that provides students with an understandable overview of human development through time.
Why a concise historical narrative?
The Student's Friend Concise World History is designed to be consistent with findings from cognitive science that emphasize learning the most important principles and concepts of a school discipline, rather than learning large quantities of superficial facts that are likely to be forgotten shortly after the exam is over. The respected Bradley Commission on history in schools put it this way: "The amount of time required to achieve student engagement and genuine comprehension of significant issues will necessitate leaving out much that is 'covered' by the usual text."
Conciseness can bring clarity. Cognitive psychologist Frank N. Dempster has written, "Many texts are so packed with facts, names, and details that the real point of the lesson is often obscured." One of the greatest benefits of a concise historical narrative is the clarity it can bring to a student's understanding of history by focusing on essential knowledge rather than on extensive, sometimes confusing, and often-trivial detail.
Eliminates gaps and discontinuities. Teachers can't adequately cover all the information contained in standard thousand-page textbooks, so they commonly skip around in the textbook, which can leave big holes in the historical narrative. The Student's Friend is designed to include no more information than students can realistically cover during a standard high school course. Because the picking and choosing has been carefully done and logically sequenced, continuity is maintained and gaps eliminated.
Balances breadth and depth. The concise historical narrative leaves time in the curriculum for additional learning activities such as research papers, multimedia presentations, source-analysis activities, and simulations, a practice sometimes called postholing. The narrative performs a unifying function like a fence that gives shape to the landscape and provides the connecting fabric between events, while postholes are occasions to dig more deeply into the human dimensions of history—to explore how events of the past affected people's lives then and now.
How to use the Student's Friend
The Student's Friend Concise World History is available for purchase in book form or as a free download in pdf and MS Word formats. When downloaded, It can be printed and distributed to students for classroom use, or it may be used online as an electronic or digital textbook.
The Student's Friend consists of two parts: Part 1 (prehistory to 1500) and Part 2 (1500 to the present). It was designed to be taught in a two-year sequence, but many teachers may find they are limited to teaching only one of these two historical periods.
Some educators, feeling that part two is more relevant to the present, might choose to forego instruction in part one. However, students would miss an opportunity to learn about many foundational concepts of history and geography, and about major cultures of the Middle East, India, China, and the Mediterranean that continue to exert considerable influence in the contemporary world.
If a teacher is required to combine all of human history into a single course, my condolences, but the Student's Friend may be downloaded in Microsoft Word format and modified by the teacher, if desired, to reduce the number of topics covered.
In book form, the Student's Friend runs to 121 pages. When printed on standard 8.5" x 11" letter-size paper, the download version is 48 pages, with each part being 24 pages in length (26 with optional cover pages). When each student is provided with his or her copy, a packet for one course totals 12 or 13 sheets of paper when printed on both sides.
A teacher using the Student's Friend will want to supplement the text with visual images, a task made relatively easy due to the availability of Internet resources and digital projectors.
The Teacher Tools section of this website provides various instructional activities that may be used in conjunction with the Student's Friend.
-Updated July 29, 2018
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