Subject Matters: Why students fall behind on history

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As history is made every day, history teachers' subject matter is growing with it -- even as the number of classroom hours stays the same.

That ever-expanding content is the crux of the social studies teacher's dilemma: How to cover every topic with limited class time?

When high school teacher David Plonski mentions the 1860s and 1960s, he expects those dates to trigger different ideas in the minds of his students at Tarboro High School in Tarboro, North Carolina.

In the 1860s, the United States was caught up in the Civil War. The 1960s are remembered for social revolution, the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and Beatlemania.

But Plonski notices that some students have a weak sense of time, are unable to picture the different characteristics of those eras and often confuse events a century apart....

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