When teaching history, it is very easy to get caught up and lost in all the details of a particular lesson. I am especially drawn to political, diplomatic, and military history and have found myself spending far too much time in my Western Civilization courses on the fine points of the diplomatic maneuverings of the Congress of Vienna or the tactical skill of Hannibal during the Second Punic War. So, to ensure that my students have the big picture, I do the following:
- At the outset of the course, I ensure that they understand the critical overarching themes and questions of the course.
- At the start of each lesson, I indicate which of these are present in the day's lesson.
- And finally, I require each student to have a "BIG IDEAS BOX."