Gilder Lehrman’s Teaching Literacy through History is a new teacher professional development program that integrates history and literacy under the Common Core State Standards to improve critical thinking, close reading, and analytical writing skills in students. During the 2012–2013 school year, Gilder Lehrman coordinated with the Archdiocese of New York to implement a pilot of the Teaching Literacy through History program for history and English language arts teachers in Archdiocese schools.


Gilder Lehrman’s Teaching Literacy through History pilot program in the Archdiocese aimed to:

  • prepare teachers for the implementation of the Common Core State Standards;
  • improve the quality of history and ELA classroom instruction;
  • increase the use and efficacy of primary documents in both history and ELA classes; and
  • improve students’ critical reading and analytical writing skills.


The Archdiocese selected a cohort of 50 paired seventh- and eighth-grade history and English language arts teachers to participate in the pilot program. In three intensive, daylong training sessions over the course of six months, the program focused on the integration of primary documents in history and ELA instruction under the Common Core. We trained the teachers in using TLTH lesson plans and resources, and they learned to create their own integrated, Common Core–aligned units based on the TLTH model. Throughout the pilot program, we encouraged the paired teachers to collaborate across disciplines and practice using TLTH methods and resources in their classrooms.

Instructor and 2009 National History Teacher of the Year Tim Bailey leads a group of students through a primary source document during a taping of a TLTH master-teacher video.


At the conclusion of the pilot, the teachers evaluated the effectiveness of the program in improving their instruction and students’ literacy skills as well as the quality of TLTH methods and resources.

In the area of writing, teachers indicated improvement in both instruction and student performance:

  • 97% reported improved writing instruction, with 61% reporting “greatly” improved instruction.
  • 97% also said TLTH methods improved their students’ analytical/argumentative writing skills.

“I am much more comfortable in modeling, discussing, and encouraging
the students to write more proficiently.” – Teacher evaluation

In the area of reading, there was also significant improvement:

  • 100% reported improved reading instruction, with 64% reporting “greatly” improved instruction.
  • 100% also said TLTH methods improved student critical reading skills, with 46% reporting “greatly improved” student engagement with difficult texts.

“Using these methods students are able to comprehend more complex texts in spite
of all the unfamiliar vocabulary words they encounter.” – Teacher evaluation

All participants planned to continue using TLTH strategies and lessons. Many also reported sharing TLTH methods with colleagues, with one teacher even noting, “We have taken these methods to our science colleague, and I have adopted some methods in math class.”