Tuesday, March 17, 2015

A TOS Review: World History Detective Book 1 (The Critical Thinking Co.)

We recently had the chance to review World History Detective Book 1 by The Critical Thinking Co.

The Critical Thinking Co. produces curriculum that helps students’ critical thinking skills.  This is something I think is really lacking in much of our modern day curriculum.  Simply answering a multiple choice question doesn’t tell me much about what a student is comprehending. Is the curriculum teaching the student to be a problem solver? Can he or she express him or herself intelligently concerning a particular topic?

World History Detective Book 1 covers prehistory, ancient, medieval and early American civilizations. The book is over 360 pages of a variety of activities that encourage the student to use his brain matter.  And speaking as a mom of a teenage boy, I am always hoping that we moving past one word answers and the ‘guess and point’ method of problem solving.  The book can be used as a standalone text book or as a supplement. It is intended for grades 6-12 and includes 78 lessons.

So how does it work?

I want to show you a lesson we currently finished. This one is on Ancient India.

Here is a little bit about Josiah. He is dyslexic. This means that much of what is required reading we do together. I deal with reading instruction separately. I don’t want to limit his education because he struggles with reading the material. However, the World History Detective Bookis unlike any text I have come across.

It divides the material into manageable paragraphs and numbers the sentences. The reading is extremely detailed. There isn’t a lot of fluff to skim through.

On this day the reading is relatively short and we move right into multiple choice questions. Remember what I said about multiple choice questions being mostly ineffective? I usually mean it. This book is much different in the fact that it requires the student to back his answer with the number of the sentence (s) from the reading passage.

That random ‘eenie meenie, miennie moe’ method doesn’t work here. This was challenging for Josiah!  This lesson also has a writing activity (I think all of them do).

Along with the handy dandy maps, timelines are also used heavily in the curriculum. We do love a good timeline. I remember being in school and somehow thinking that all the events I was learning about in the world happened independently from one another; almost like they existed in a different time and space.

My favorite study tool by far has been the concept map. The concept maps used in this book is unique in the fact that they use a word bank. This was so helpful for Josiah.  The concept map let him ‘see’ the important parts of the lesson.

This isn’t a product that I could let Josiah work on independently at this point in time. I imagine that kisd without this kind of reading block would be just fine. Josiah is in 7th grade and very bright, but I think that the reading would still overwhelm him. The variation in the paragraph and reading material is still very helpful, but for him to read back through the material to come to any conclusions on his own is still a stretch. I, myself, loved working through the book with him. We had a good time searching through history together. It does take more time, but it is sooo important!

Just a little note. The early sections talk about Neanderthals, etc. I don’t have a bit of a problem discussing those kinds of things as theory (even though we have a different view). I do have more of an issue when it is presented as historical fact. The sections that dealt with major world religions were very careful to preface any statements with “they believe” or “according to…” I also don’t believe in shielding Josiah against ideas that are contrary to what we believe the Bible says about history. It provides a great discussion.

Overall, this has been a fascinating product to use. We have made adjustments according to our particular needs. I really do think that The Critical Thinking Co. has developed a first-rate product.

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Critical Thinking Company Review

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