Summer Reads for the History Teacher

Grades submitted ✔

Classroom packed✔

End-of-Year Checklist turned in ✔

Now what?

If you are like me, you are hoping to find that elusive balance of relaxation and professional development. After a busy year in the classroom, I always look forward to these weeks to recharge and revitalize some parts of the curriculum that didn’t quite hit the mark last year. 

Both Thinking Nation’s Executive Director, Zach Coté, and I completed our MA in American History through the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History (HIGHLY RECOMMEND!). Deepening our content knowledge had a massive impact on our ability to create engaging learning experiences and ignite our students’ curiosity toward studying the past. 

That’s why the Thinking Nation Team put together a curated list of our top recommendations for your summer professional development. Use this list to find some reads to get you inspired to take your teaching to the next level!


  • Keeping the Wonder: An Educator’s Guide to Magical, Engaging, and Joyful Learning by Jenna Copper, Ashley Bible, Abby Gross, and Staci Lamb
  • Reading Like a Historian: Teaching Literacy in Middle and High School History Classrooms by Samuel Wineburg
  • We Got This: Equity, Access and the Quest to be Who Our Students Need Us to Be by Cornelius Minor
  • Why Won’t You Just Tell Us the Answer: Teaching Historical Thinking in Grades 7-12 by Bruce Lesh


  • On Juneteenth by Annette Gordon-Reed
  • Code Girls: The Untold Story of the American Women Code Breakers Who Helped Win World War II by Liza Mundy
  • The World: A Family History of Humanity by Simon Sebag Montefiore
  • A Queer History of the United States by Michael Bronski
  • The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee: Native America from 1890 to the Present by David Treuer
  • The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris by David McCullough

Historical Fiction

  • We Are Not Free by Traci Chee
  • This Tender Land by William Kent Krueger
  • Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
  • Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys
  • The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates
  • The Four Winds by Kristen Hannah

We hope you find this list of recommendations as valuable as we have. Summer is the perfect time to invest in yourself and your teaching practice. By diving into these impactful books, you’ll not only deepen your own understanding but also bring fresh, engaging content into your classroom next year.

Take this time to relax, recharge, and get reinspired to enter your classroom with newfound knowledge, diverse perspectives, and enthusiasm for studying the past. 

Happy reading and enjoy your well-deserved break!


*For more book recommendations, join me on Instagram and Goodreads where I host The American History Teacher Book Club.

Concluding AP Exam Season and Embracing Civic Learning Initiatives

Wrapping up AP Exam Season

Last week marked the end of the AP Exam testing season (unless you have students taking the late test). After piloting our Mock AP Exams last year with a few schools, we were excited to officially launch them for hundreds of students this year.

It was an intense endeavor that included the creation of authentic and aligned full-length practice exams for AP European, United States, and World History, as well as, AP American Politics and Government. Then, utilizing the expertise of our Business Analyst Valentina Carvajal-Bueno, we developed an AI program for immediate grading for teachers and students. Our tech team worked diligently for months to generate robust reports to provide targeted feedback to aid in the preparation for these high-stakes exams.

It was truly a group effort for Thinking Nation and it was exciting to see the strengths of our team members shine as we seek to consistently improve our offerings for teachers and students.

After completing the exams, we asked students and teachers to provide us with some feedback about the process and exams.

Here are a few highlights:

  • 90% said the feedback and scores were helpful in preparing for the AP exam.
  • 100% said the questions were representative of the topics covered in the AP exam.
  • 100% of respondents recommend taking our Mock AP Exam.

With these positive results, we hope to provide even more schools and students with access to our Mock AP Exams in the 2025 testing season. For information about how to make sure your school is set up for next year, please reach out to our Chief Operating Officer Spenser Mix at

Calling all Teachers Advancing Civic Learning!

Thinking Nation is a proud partner of the CivXNow Teachers Advancing Civic Learning (TACL – pronounced “tackle”) project, an effort to build an ongoing movement and advance policy within their schools, their districts, their states, and nation. We encourage educators interested in being part of this peer community to join the TACL effort

As part of this effort, we are joining our partners to implement a quarterly educator training/webinar. Join us on May 28 at 7 p.m. ET (REGISTER HERE) as we hear from Lindsay Sobel, Chief of Policy, Planning, and External Affairs at one of the nation’s leading organizations emphasizing teacher leadership, Teach Plus. Together with CivXNow partners collaborating on the TACL project, we’ll provide you with tools and strategies to make the case for stronger civic learning policies within your school and district, among parents, and with decision-makers at the local, state, and national levels.

Empower yourself to champion #CivicLearning

Join the TACL Policy Primer and learn how to advocate for civic learning initiatives in your school, district, and beyond!

Closing out the School Year

While we know some of you are concluding your school year this week, others still have several weeks left with your students. As always, please reach out if you would like support with any end-of-year assessments. Additionally, if you’re going to the AP US History reading in Kansas City in early June, let’s make sure to connect! I always enjoy meeting people in person from our vibrant virtual community.  


Annie Jenson

Literary Highlights: 5 Standouts and Notable Mentions of 2023

In the famous words of Julius Caesar, “I came, I saw, I conquered” my New Year’s reading resolution of 2023 of reading two books per week. With a new year approaching, here’s a recap of a few of my favorite reads: 

Note: I’ve chosen to highlight a particularly memorable read from the genres I typically read (history, parenting, memoirs, self-improvement, and fiction).

History- The Woman’s Hour: The Great Fight to Win the Vote (Elaine F. Weiss)

I may be fitting the “history-nerd” stereotype here, but The Woman’s Hour was a can’t-put-it down thriller for me. Even though I knew the outcome (women got the right to vote), Weiss’s reconstructing of the intense political struggle for suffrage had me on the edge of my seat. It was both a broad overview of the women’s movement and a detailed account of the culminating ratification vote in Tennessee.

Her meticulous research brought to life the complex dynamics between suffragists, anti-suffragists, and politicians. She captivates readers by highlighting the intersectionality within the movement, the complexity of various strategies utilized, and the tireless efforts in the face of opposition. Overall, The Woman’s Hour is an insightful and compelling read about the relentless pursuit of women to attain voting rights that I recommend especially for history teachers looking to improve their coverage of women’s history.

Similar to: Vanguard: How Black Women Broke Barriers, Won the Vote, and Insisted on Equality for All (Martha S. Jones)

Runner-Up: Desk 88: Eight Progressive Senators Who Changed America (Sherrod Brown)

Parenting: French Kids Eat Everything (Karen Le Billon)

This year, I’ve enjoyed books that explore Americans raising children abroad or immigrants navigating parenthood in America. I have found the cultural differences in parenting to be fascinating, freeing, and empowering in my parenthood journey. In my all-too-typical struggle to get my toddlers to try new foods and eat anything green, this title grabbed my attention.

I learned from Le Billon’s practical approach and description of the mostly unwritten rules around food in France and enjoyed reading about her faux pas as she navigated French culture as a transplant. When I implemented some of her tips, including Taste Training, and scripts for when I changed our eating habits, I felt more confident in my approach and my kids adapted fairly quickly. Overall, French Kids Eat Everything is an interesting read about how parents in France instill healthy attitudes about and habits around food and is recommended for parents hoping to raise adventurous eaters.

Similar to: Bringing Up Bébe (Pamela Druckerman)

Runner-Up: Good Inside: A Guide to Becoming the Parent You Want to Be (Becky Kennedy)

Memoir: Solito (Javier Zamora)

As someone who tries to stay apprised of current events, I attempt to be intentional about inserting humanity back into the onslaught of the difficult and disturbing news cycle. The political debate over American immigration issues is extremely contentious and I find that the data flaunted and antagonistic rhetoric has often left me feeling overwhelmed and numb to the crisis.

 I picked up Solito when my local library did a community book club reading event. Zamora recounts the story of his traumatic migration from El Salvador to the United States. His poetic style of writing drew me in as I learned of the difficulties he faced along the journey. Overall, Solito is an emotional read about a young boy’s attempt to reunite with his parents across the U.S. border and is recommended to those hoping to understand the impact of border crossings on the individuals pursuing a better life.

Similar to: A Thousand Miles to Freedom: My Escape from North Korea (Eunsun Kim)

Runner-Up: Angela Davis: An Autobiography (Angela Davis)

Self-Improvement: How to Change: The Science of Getting from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be (Katy Milkman)

In the self-help category, I can be a little critical of books that promise quick-fixes or solutions guaranteed to increase productivity and achievements. However, Milkman’s How to Change, provided strategic science-based methods to overcome the obstacles of impulsivity, procrastination, and forgetfulness.

The inclusion of case studies were so memorable that I found myself regularly sharing the information I gleaned with my friends and family. Overall, How to Change would be a great read for those looking to kickstart their new year with habits that will actually stick.

Similar to: Atomic Habits (James Clear)

Runner-Up: The Knowledge Gap: The Hidden Cause of America’s Broken Education System- And How to Fix it (Natalie Wexler)

Fiction: The Reading List (Sara Nisha Adams)

I have always enjoyed reading books where the chapters alternate between the perspectives of different characters. In The Reading List, Adams touches on topics of loneliness and community, grief and joy, and friendship that transcends typical boundaries.

A list of books turns up in various places around a London suburb. Readers are injected into the lives of Mukesh, a recent Indian widower, and Aleisha, a part-time teenage librarian, as they navigate many personal and familial struggles. Overall, The Reading List is a unique novel that would be enjoyed by those looking for a heartwarming story about the ways that people can support each other through difficult times.

Similar to: The Sentence (Louise Erdrich)

Runner-Up: Glass Houses (Louise Penny)

If you are like me and are considering setting a New Year’s reading resolution, I hope this roundup of my favorite reads was helpful as you make your reading choices for 2024.

For more book recommendations, check out our Executive Director, Zach Cote’s top 5 books from 2022.

New Resource Alert: Quantitative Analysis

Today’s blog comes to us from Annie Jenson, Thinking Nation’s Director of Curriculum, who has been hard at work this summer creating a variety of resources for our teachers:

We’ve all heard some iteration of this quote by Mark Twain, “Facts are stubborn little things, but statistics are pliable.” And in an era where stats and data are so easily accessible and then disseminated, the role of the historian and educator has become even more integral to a functioning democratic society.

Our mission at Thinking Nation may be simple – “To cultivate thinking citizens” – but our work is complex. Part of developing critical thinking skills in students must include education and practice in analyzing data. 

Over the summer, we have created a tool to help teachers do just that. We are calling it our “Quantitative Analysis Formative Assessment.”

Our newest resource is a 15-30 minute activity in which students are first exposed to data. After a brief analysis, students evaluate the accuracy of conclusions based on the information provided in the data. To conclude, students justify their answer.

We utilize “Weighted Multiple Choice” (WMC) in this assessment in which there is only one incorrect answer and the other options are ranked. As described by historian Bruce Vansledright, WMCs allow us to “retain some scoring efficiencies while assessing much more complex ideas and interpretations. These items also do improved justice to the [history] domain’s complexity…” 

The inclusion of WMCs in the classroom not only does “justice to the domain’s complexity” it also fuels increased classroom discussion. As answers are correct to a differing degree and students must justify their answer, there is ample opportunity for debate. Rather than a student feeling embarrassed from choosing an incorrect answer, they feel motivated to defend their choice.

In these discussions, we have witnessed democracy in action. Students make claims, use evidence to support their reasoning, and provide counterarguments to the assessments of their peers. And this is how students become both empowered and capable of engaging in meaningful dialogue outside of the four walls of a classroom.

There are so many ways to misinterpret data. From considering the collection of data, to analyzing whether the data is sufficiently representative, to generalizing information, it is no wonder that the exact same graph can yield wildly different conclusions.

In our Quantitative Analysis Formative Assessment, students are exposed to both accurate conclusions and data misunderstandings. Through this practice, they will become more attuned to the critical way in which statistical information should be evaluated. 

The most polarizing conversations in our nation lately have been political in nature. And there are abundant recent examples of both the misinterpretation and misuse of political data presented. Thus, we especially focused on creating Quantitative Analysis Formative Assessments for students in an American Government course.

In one of our formative assessments (Linked here!), students have the opportunity to consider the balance between civil liberties and national security. The graphs depict American attitudes from 2004 to 2015 on how the government has handled terrorism.

In our WMC, one conclusion states, “Age is the only factor that impacts one’s opinion on U.S. efforts to protect civil liberties.” This is a classic example of misinterpretation. Just because age is the only factor represented, it does not mean that it is the only factor involved. For students who choose this answer, they would receive “0” points, however, the weight of the lesson learned is immeasurable. These students will be much more critical in the future as they consider what data is represented and what data is not included.

We are excited about this new offering to our partner schools as we are continually seeking ways to support the efforts of cultivating thinking citizens!