Teaching Civics through History

Teaching Civics through History

Professional Development

The Teaching Civics through History™ (TCTH) program grounds students in the historical roots of current civic and social issues while building their literacy, research, and critical thinking skills. To inquire about obtaining these professional development sessions for your school or district, please email education@gilderlehrman.org.



Image source: Civil War recruitment poster depicting a Union soldier holding a US flag with a banner declaring “Freedom to the Slave,”  1863 (The Gilder Lehrman Institute, GLC10030)

Civil War recruitment poster showing soldier waving a flag and banner saying "Freedom to the Slave"

How the Program Works

Empowering Teachers to Guide Students

Teaching Civics through History (TCTH) Professional Development sessions give teachers a new set of pedagogical tools while building their content knowledge of the history of key civic issues. Eminent historians and Gilder Lehrman master teachers lead the workshops, helping to unpack the teaching philosophy that ground the lesson plans. 

Understanding the Historical Roots of Current Civic and Social Issues

The TCTH curriculum shows students that an understanding of the past can help them shape a better future.

Two groups of students working together at desks

Students will

  • Develop their civic voices
  • Understand the historical roots of important, often divisive issues
  • Read and assess primary and secondary sources written from different perspectives
  • Recognize their ability to influence history in their own communities and nationwide

In the process, students develop literacy, research, and critical thinking skills. The program culminates with a civic engagement project that has students apply the ideas and skills they have learned.

Chart documenting the flow of the TCTH program from the initial PD sessions for teachers to classroom implementation and the culminating civic engagement project

Bringing the TCTH Professional Development Program to Teachers in Your School or District

We provide our lesson plans and supplemental resources here at no cost. Districts can purchase the professional development sessions and teachers can take advantage of grant-funded workshops serving specific states. If you have any questions about the program or wish to inquire about obtaining Professional Development workshops, please email education@gilderlehrman.org.

What Topics Are Available?

Assigning a Successful Civic Engagement Project

Students develop a civic engagement project as the culmination of each unit, selecting an issue to investigate more deeply. Teachers may choose the project format and level they feel is most appropriate for their students and the time available.

Choosing a Topic

Students should use what they learned in class about the history of the topic as well as their research on Allsides.com to determine which civics issue appeals to them. In proposing their project, students should pay particular attention to what body or individual has the power to address the issue.

Developing a Well-Reasoned Action Plan

The culminating civic engagement project can take many different forms, ranging from real-life civic engagement in the community to a research paper or presentation. Whatever the format, a successful project will articulate the steps needed to address the issue, with students grounding their reasoning in historical evidence such as primary source documents.

  • Best Practices

Project Pacing Guidance

This document provides several recommendations for how to implement a successful civic engagement project.

  • Grading

Student Rubric

This document guides teachers on evaluating student performance in the Teaching Civics through History program.

Project Options

Government/Community Action

Applying Educational Lessons in the Real World

Students develop a project on a topic of their choice. After researching the issue, they will discuss what would improve the situation. Here they will want to keep in mind who or what body has power to make the change and how to approach them. There are myriad ways students might approach this project. For example, students might write letters to persuade an elected official, convene meetings with community members or officials, record a podcast episode, interview a politician, volunteer at a polling site, or create flyers to raise awareness.

Research Paper

Deep Understanding of a Civic Problem

Students write a 5 to 10 page research page paper on a topic of their choice. This project follows a similar arc to the government/community action option with an increased emphasis on tightening their thought process. In the paper, students will need to explain the problem. Their well-reasoned analysis of the problem will then help them propose potential solutions.

Class Presentation

Communicating Ideas to Peers

This project format combines elements of the government/community action and research paper options. Students will need to develop their understanding of the issue as if they were planning to write a longer paper, but they will need to convince their fellow students of the soundness of their argument. 

Current Event Presentation

An Abbreviated Final Project

In some cases, teachers may not have time for a full final project. Students can still apply the skills they have learned in the TCTH curriculum by presenting a newspaper article from AllSides.com to the class. Here students will need to describe how the author understands the issue and how that informs their proposed solution. Students may consider other articles written from other perspectives to think about whether they agree with the author’s analysis.