Creating and teaching a course, simplified.

Years ago a professor of mine told me about creating a course for a group of English language teachers in Italy on a shoe string. It was simple, but creative. There were about a dozen in the group and they met monthly. Sounds like a small genealogy society, doesn’t it. They had one copy of a good book and built the course around the book. Thats sort of backward, but it worked. Here’s what it might look like for a genealogy class.

At hand on my desk is a very nice genealogy book, Genealogy 101: How to trace your family history and heritage, by Barbara Renick, published by the National Genealogical Society in 2003.

These are the chapters.

  1. Why chase dead ancestors?
  2. Starting Backwards
  3. How to find your ancestors (and not someone else’s)
  4. Some assemby required
  5. Building blocks of family trees
  6. Document the drama
  7. More tools for taming family trees
  8. Boot camp and beyond
  9. Jumpstart your genealogy
  10. Combinig for clues
  11. Tallying the score
  12. Publish or perish the thought
  13. Overcoming Culture Shock
  14. Guns for hire: working with professionals
  15. Tracing your family tree in the 21st century

Back in Italy the itailan school teachers divided up the chapters of their book. I cannot recall how. But suppose they worked in teams of two and did two lessons per team.

One team member would present a review of the chapter and her partner would prepare the handouts, and tell about his experiences with the concept. Then they open it up for discussion with a couple of open-ended questions of some kind ( e.g. “Why is it important to verify everything you find in a heritage book? )

Some chapters may not be suitable for lessons. Barbara’s first chapter might be set aside for example. We are not bound to cover everything. Barbara’s book is a basic beginners text I happen to like. Take a look at it, read some of the chapters and think about the concept. You might pick something more specialized like E. Wade Hone’s Land & Property Research in the United States ( Salt Lake City: Ancestry, 1997) or more regional.

If you are in a small group, and you need to bring in new, fresh insights into chasing dead ancestors, go find a book on the topic and work together like those Italian elementary school teachers I heard about. I know this is simplistic– but it can work! It did in North Battleford 23 years ago.

Do you think they had a pot-luck supper before the class?

Your comments are welcome as always


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