Today I’m reviewing U.S. History Detective, Book One, a United States history course appropriate for grades 8-12+ published by The Critical Thinking Co.
Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy from Timberdoodle.
I am a huge proponent of learning about history from reading “living books”– i.e. historical fiction, biographies, and memoirs. I can’t tell you how much historical trivia (and not-so-trivial factoids) I’ve picked up over the years just from all the stories I’ve read. I love getting all the different perspectives from different characters and different authors.
U.S. History Detective
However, sometimes I find myself reaching for more of a history textbook or reference book for “just the facts, ma’am.” The U.S. History Detective set of two books fits that bill nicely, but not in the way you might think.
These are paperback “work-texts.” They include pages of informative text interspersed with pictures and diagrams. The information is concise and organized into short segments. Each sentence is numbered, which is a little distracting at first, until you realize there’s a purpose for that.
There are an equal number of worksheet pages, including quite a few multiple choice questions. However, they aren’t the “guess one and you have a 25% chance of getting it right” type that I often encountered on tests in high school. Instead, each question is followed by “Which sentence best supports the answer?” So even if you know you know the answer, you’ll need to look back through the text to find the pertinent sentence number. I love how this reinforces the information to help it stick.
There are also open-ended “written response” exercises, matching lists, compare and contrast activities, and a variety of other worksheets to help the student think through the material. I especially appreciate the emphasis on “drawing inferences and conclusions” and “distinguishing between facts and opinions” because any account of history includes all of the above and it’s important to know how to tell the difference.
“U.S. History Detective Book 1 focuses on American history from the time of the first European explorers interacting with Native Americans through the Reconstruction Era following the Civil War.” (From the Teacher Overview pages at the front of the book.)
There are 9 sections with a total of 65 lessons. As you can imagine, each lesson is quite short, with usually 2-3 pages of text followed by 2-3 corresponding worksheets. This makes it super approachable as each lesson will only take a few minutes. I’ve begun working through it as a refresher course and I’m amazed at how much I’ve forgotten (or maybe never learned). In any case, it’s definitely helping my understanding of current events to be covering this material as a “mature” adult.
Timberdoodle offers U.S. History Detective Book 1 as part of their Nonreligious 8th Grade Curriculum Kit. I think a typical 8th grade student would find it a good fit, but perhaps not much younger than that. I feel it would be perfect for a high school level Early American History course if you included a generous selection of corresponding historical novels and biographies.
Read my review of Book 2 here.