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Teacher Review

Editors' note: This feature is meant to provide practical, although not unbiased, reviews of textbooks based on experience in the classroom. Readers will note that the teachers who wrote these reviews differ widely in terms of what they seek in a textbook. Moreover, these reviews are not meant to advocate or discourage the adoption of any one text. Rather, they seek to begin a dialogue about textbook use that we hope will continue long past the posting of this issue. Indeed, we would like to encourage other teachers—both at the secondary and at the university-level—to send us comparable reviews of texts for inclusion in later issues of World History Connected.  

Roger Beck et al., World History: Patterns of Interaction (McDougal-Littell, 2005).
    We have used this text for our 9th grade, regular-level World History classes for the last 6 years. It is a wonderful text for teaching basic historical skills. The reading level (8th-9th grade) seems to work well for all sorts of students, especially at the beginning of the year. The chapters are divided into 4 sections, which average 4-5 pages, and make easily manageable homework assignments. There are very good reading comprehension questions at the end of each section, some of which are basic, and some of which are synthetic in nature — they used to be called "critical thinking questions" in earlier editions of the book. These are my favorite part of the whole book, and are the best day-to-day training for reading comprehension as well as analytical thinking.
    The text has so many visuals that adults probably find it utterly distracting, at least at first. There are always appropriate maps, and lots of illustrations. There are full-page inserts which present small case studies related to themes of analyzing key concepts; analyzing primary sources; analyzing art and artifact; science and technology; social history; global impact; and history through art. 2
    There is an enormous amount of ancillary material to support the text, just about anything you can imagine, but the boxed set is quite pricey ($150+). We do not make use of most of these, but they are available for those who need them! The workbooks we use most are entitled "In-depth Resources." They contain both primary source material and wonderful graphic organizers that are very effective in teaching students how to read a text. The newest edition also has a Document-Based Questions workbook. The teacher's edition of the text is full of suggestions for planning a class or a lesson, even including how to do an emergency "I have one day to cover this" class! The publishers have supplementary materials for ESL learners, as well as learners at all levels of fluency/literacy.
    I have used this book even in its earliest incarnations, when it was a "west and the rest" sort of text in the 1990s. I can honestly say the transformations over 15+ years have been very useful. Not only is there global coverage, but the non-elites, especially women, have gone from being off to the side in a box to integrated into the narratives. 4
    Our collective experience with this text has been good. Our general complaint is a backhanded compliment, and comes towards the end of the year, when the reading and analytical levels have become too simple for the top half of the class. Teachers need to use a higher-level text for planning and amplifying their lesson plans, however. This is not a text for AP World History, fundamentally because the material isn't in-depth enough to be used in an introductory college/AP course. It is, however, a wonderful freshman text.. 5

Ane Lintvedt
McDonogh School
Owings Mill, MD


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