Rated 5 out of 5 by homeschoolmom2013 Entertaining way of teaching US History
Professor Thompson utilizes his acting talents to make history enjoyable. We used this to supplement home-school US History course and we loved it.
February 8, 2013
Rated 5 out of 5 by Gharmjo Review of Early American History
I am usually not an American history fan but Linwood Thompson has produced a marvel. These lectures are a combination of soliloquy, acting, historical story telling, and brilliant expository.
The course is only available in DVD, in part because of the costume props, but more importantly to watch the character portrayals. There are no slides or video, as they would distract. This course is like a good book where mental images invigorate your mind.
Thompson uses a device more important than props that needs to be understood. He starts each course by adopting a character that is NOT the central character of the lecture. This allows Thompson to use that character's eyes to tell you all about the world that character sees in a gossipy yet deeply involved manner. You feel that you are there. The character's point of view, his heroes and villains become yours. You read the papers with him, you smell the smells, and you feel the pain.
By then adopting a different character in the next lecture, you get a different point of view on the same period. Both points of view are shown to have merit and so the complexity of the issues becomes obvious. An example of the brilliance of this technique is lessons 11/12. First a British soldier gives his point of view about the horrendous behavior of the ungrateful American pre-Revolutionary war colonists. It is hilariously accurate portrayal of our bad behavior as seen from "the other side". Then Thompson portrays the American. Such juxtaposition is portrayed many times, including French vs British interests, the Spanish vs Texas, etc. It allows a better understanding of the results of conflict and the best methods of conflict resolution.
Thompson is a master of finding the great stories that bring history alive. There are dozens of stories within each lesson. Don't miss the stories like John Colter's hair-raising escape, Mexican mules, the Ice King, pirates, War Hawks, bear attacks, and the burning of Washington. The difference between the Spanish treatment of the Indians via missions and that of the U.S. military is thought provoking.
Towards the end of the course, you realize that Thompson interweaves his stories so that characters seen much earlier in the course pop up again... through a different character's eyes. This is very helpful memory device.
Hint: since Thompson starts each lecture with a character (ex: Aaron Burr telling the story of Jefferson), write the name of that character down on the outline page so that when Thompson finally shows you why he is starting from that character, you will grasp the continuity.
Cons: Unlike Cardulla's HS Chemistry, this course has no guidebook. It does have an excellent study workbook with an outline and Q&S. I found myself furiously filling in the outline because the workbook approach doesn't allow cohesiveness upon subject review. Additionally, this course is NOT available in download so after watching once, you can't take it with you on the treadmill. An audio file for second play through would be great.
I truly am in awe of this course, which appears to have come out in '96. As the Teaching Company occasionally retires courses [this one has not been converted to download, which is worrisome], consider purchasing it soon. If you read the reviews, adults liked this course at least as much as their kids. Avoid the wound to your pride of the HS label by buying it for your kids. Then watch it. Boys in particular (including the grown up ones), will love its many tales of adventure.
January 26, 2013
Rated 5 out of 5 by MarkyG Very enjoyable for any level of history student
This is such a fun course, I would highly recommend it to anyone interested in history.
*It's accessible and educational for anyone, high school to history buff!
*Convincing. Prof Thompson's approach is to act out the roles of many people in history. It completely drew me in. I felt like I listening to the actual character, rather than to a prof.
*Great story-telling. While Prof J Rufus Fears' story-telling abilities are well-praised by reviewers, Prof Thompson has Prof Fears beat in this regard. He's got lots of detailed stories. He also keeps his own opinions out of the story telling; Prof Fears was unabashed about letting his opinions leak through. (Despite these comparisons, I have become a convert to Prof Fears in the last year. Sadly, he passed away in October. I'm glad he left us all such a rich legacy of courses.)
*In depth! Can you believe he's got 36 lectures on pre-1850s America? I thought I knew a lot of American history. But I learned so much more.
*Compared to "World History." This course has received much higher ratings than his World History course, 4.7-ish vs. 4.0-ish. It's not clear why, because they are both good. For me, they are 4.7 versus 4.4. Anyway, if you like this course, I think you'll like "World History," too.
*At times unclear. In his passion for *being* a particular person, he sometimes lost me. For example, if he's talking about two different people, and only uses "he", it becomes confusing as to which "he" he's talking about.
*Facts: A few times I wasn't sure he had all of his facts straight. However, the strength of his course is the big picture, so this wasn't a big deal.
*My only real frustration: This course lacks graphics, and it needs them. Maps, portraits, drawings, etc. I feel this detracted from the value of the course. Because of this, I think it's a bit overpriced.
All that said:
Wait for a coupon or special deal on this course. Then snatch it up and watch it with your family!
October 24, 2012
Rated 5 out of 5 by Avoirdupois ENTERTAINING COURSE FROM 1996
Definitely a valuable aid for high schools or for youngsters at home; this is not a standalone course.
I was not surprised to note the series was recorded 16 years ago. Today I believe a somewhat different approach would and should be taken in teaching high school age students via this acting technique.
The costumes were bright and always interesting, and Professor Thompson was able to vary his accent very well.
The studio background, however, was distracting. Different lighting could have overcome this problem, by concentrating on the teacher and greatly toning down illumination on the set itself. Also, the introduction of some graphics & pictures would have been most welcome. Similarly some props (so many come to mind) would have added tremendously to the lectures.
Overall, I'm happy to recommend this course as a very valuable and FUN teaching aid.
October 23, 2012