Toolkit for "Shifting Out of Neutral"

This toolkit for “Shifting Out of Neutral” focuses on historical thinking development through critical literacy and builds on author Jonathan Gold’s call for educators to acknowledge and teach about power and bias. 

In “Shifting Out of Neutral,” history teacher Jonathan Gold writes:

As the designer of my students’ experience, I wield tremendous power to control the narrative and flow of information. I choose the texts, I ask the questions and, ultimately, I assess my students’ knowledge and learning.

My neutrality is already called into question by virtue of the materials we use.

Gold also highlights the importance of historical thinking skills as a means to uncover and challenge student and teacher biases. These skills include analyzing historical sources and evidence, making historical connections, chronological reasoning and creating and supporting historical arguments.


Essential Question

  1. How does critical literacy help to develop effective historical thinking?



Use the handout “Critical Literacy for Historical Thinking Skills” to engage students in critical literacy before, during and after reading historical sources. This handout encourages students to engage actively with texts, to interpret messages and challenge power relationships found within those messages, and to analyze social norms and institutions (e.g. family, education).