Texas history is rich with narrative, with heroic scenes fit for oil paintings, and with grand changes that illustrate the trajectory of the communities and nations of which Texas has been a part. And that narrative is always being built, always changing and adding detail. Each generation of students in Texas must reckon with that history, understand it, and take it into their lives as a tool for understanding the present.
Of course, the history of Texas, like the state itself, is big, and has many iterations and facets. Something called the “Texas mystique” was coined by landmark Texas historian T.R. Fehrenbach in his 1968 book, Lone Star: A History of Texas and the Texans. In his summation of Texas history, there is an intangible mystique to the place, informed by its history and “created by the chemistry of the frontier in the crucible of history and forged into an enduring state of heart and mind.” He concludes: “This may not be an entirely rational state . . .”
Later historians, like Robert A. Calvert and Walter L. Buenger, countered and built upon Fehrenbach and the traditional school of the state’s history at which Fehrenbach was the center. They moved beyond what they defined as the traditionalists and the revisionists to explore the ways in which cultures not only have developed in Texas but how they’ve interacted. This historical lens was articulated in their 1991 book Texas Through Time and a follow up 20 years later, Beyond Texas Through Time.
So, Texas history is not any one thing. It’s many things. How can you and your students gain insights into this complicated past? Digital resources can help, so let’s dive in.
Diving Into the Past
March 2 is traditionally commemorated as Texas Independence Day here in TCEA’s home state, and the week around it has been formally recognized by the state legislature as Texas History Week. Moreover, Region 13, the educational service center that covers our home city of Austin, celebrates Texas History Month throughout March.
Join in the excitement of exploring the state’s complex and meaningful history all month, regardless of grade level or subject. The history of the Lone Star State has intersections with the lives of every Texas student, and can be used to meet a number of learning goals, from state standards like the TEKS for Social Studies to more elusive concepts — for example, how can a simulation of Texas settlement help develop social-emotional learning, cooperation, and peer learning in and out of the classroom?
Region 13 Texas History Resources
Texas’ Region 13 lists a number of downloads that you can put to use in your classroom right away. Check out the Texas Revolution task board that allows students to choose activities centering around the historic event, learn about Texas independence events across the state, find useful links, and more.
Texas State Historical Association Resources
Founded in 1897, the Texas State History Association (TSHA) has a number of online resources connecting the history of the state to the present. Test students’ knowledge with the Texas History Challenge, or get daily tidbits of important happenings with Texas Day by Day, which shares daily historic events to your inbox.
The Texas State Library and Archives Commission
The state archives serve as the repository of government information and historical materials in public trust. Use their resources to explore the major figures of state history in bite-sized chunks with Giants of Texas History. Pick up powerful images and primary sources in the Texas Treasures online exhibit. You can also find a reading list organized by age, and even help students explore their genealogy.
The Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum
The official state history museum’s “Discover” page includes a wealth of interactive, multimedia resources to, well, discover. Step into the shoes of fellow Texans with the Texas Story Project (words), Texas Story Podcast (sounds), and Texas Through Your Lens (photos). You can also check out their interactive state map, timeline, artifact gallery, and more.
Have your students dive into this lesson on William B. Travis’s famous Alamo letter from the Texas General Land Office. They’ll be sure to always remember this battlefield. If you teach 4th or 7th grade, the learning team at the Alamo has provided teacher guides, worksheets, and activities that you can find here. Relevant TEKS references can be found in both lessons.
Bonus Social Studies Resources
Napkin PD: A PBL Approach to Texas History
Experiencing Early American History with Interactive Resources
Using Google Earth to Follow the Trail of Lewis and Clark
The 50 States Digital Breakout
Bringing Geography to Life with Interactive Maps
Exploring Civil Rights History with Digital Resources
Photo: Matthew T Rader