Paw Prints

The 5 C’s of Historical Thinking

Eric Gondree, author of Journey to America Today

Eric Gondree is the author of the textbook, Journey to America Today, which helps students to improve their language skills while also learning about the history and culture of the United States and how it became the country that it is today. In an earlier article, Eric told us the story of Journey to America Today and how the textbook was developed. In this article, Eric discusses the idea of historical thinking, a way that both we and our students can think about historical events in a more useful and consistent way.

In 2007, the historians Thomas Andrews and Flannery Burke reflected on their own teaching methods and concluded that an effective history education should involve nurturing certain habits of mind. These habits can be encapsulated by what they characterized as the “5 C’s of historical thinking.” (Andrews & Burke, 2017). These guidelines also offer tips and tactics for how English teachers can get their own students to think about history in their own language classes.

The 5 C’s of historical thinking are: Change, Context, Causality, Contingency and Complexity.


Change refers to change (and the lack of change) over time. Students certainly know that the world of today is different from the world of yesterday. Furthermore, they assume that the world of tomorrow will be different from that of today. They may see this change in technology, clothes and traditions around them, but they may also see continuity. For example, Japanese youngsters may have plenty of modern electronic gadgets and forms of entertainment but they may also enjoy traditional holidays and old architecture.

One example of an assignment which focuses on the concept of historical change is examining old photographs or newspapers from their hometown. Another possibility interviewing their grandparents or older neighbors about how society has (and hasn’t) changed in their lifetimes. These primary sources can help students see and understand changes and continuities for places and people they consider important.


Stories usually require context to be understandable, which is why some movies begin with text on the screen. Without this context, the story would be much harder to understand. The art of telling historical stories, therefore, requires a great deal of contextualization. The Berlin Airlift and Korean War can’t make sense in isolation from the context of the Cold War.

One activity which helps to add context is interpreting historical pictures. For example an image which illustrates what everyday life was like in a historical period makes the time seem less abstract and remote. Ancient Egyptian paintings depicting people living on the Nile or photographs of a World War I trench could be primary sources which students can explore and discuss. Can they describe what they see? What is happening? Is there anything missing?


Causality is understanding the factors which cause or result from complex historical changes and how some factors might outweigh others. Historians use primary sources to support their arguments about causality and there could conceivably be multiple explanations for a single event, not all of which are equally possible. One of the ideas that teachers should therefore wish to impart is that there can be many causes and many effects for just one historical event.

To demonstrate causality, teachers can turn to debates and role-playing, using primary sources as background materials. These activities require students to develop persuasive arguments about history or roleplays requiring them to look at evidence while acting-out their roles.


Contingency illustrates the interconnectedness of past events and how history might have turned out differently. This may be a challenging idea to teach, because it requires a lot of background information and speculation, but it emphasizes the choices that people make and the constraints which limit their choices. It requires us to ask: What if?

The notion of contingency requires students to think deeply about how the past links to the future and see that things didn’t necessarily have to turn out as they did. For the purposes of teaching English, assigning students to write a fictional story in which they predict the future or write an alternate history are good ways to get them thinking about contingency.


The world is complicated and interpreting historical events is no different. Just as how two people can have very different opinions about the same movie, different groups of people can have very different opinions about what has happened in the past. Sometimes, differing views about history can be at the root of major conflicts in the present day. Understanding these differing points of view can be challenging, but it helps us learn skills like seeing things from others’ points of view and making sense of current events.

Roleplays in which students debate a historical controversy are opportunities to demonstrate historical complexity. For instance, students could role-play delegates from different nations to discuss possible solutions to a dispute. Or different members of a national cabinet trying to defuse a crisis. Requiring students to learn the conflicting interests of different groups can illustrate the often difficult compromises that result from bringing together disparate viewpoints.

Through activities like those suggested above, students will hopefully see that learning history can be useful, interesting and even fun. Knowing dates and names is only one part, but the subject also involves interconnectedness, fluidity and the differences of opinion which add texture and depth which help us to better understand the issues facing us today.


Andrews, T. and Burke, F. (2017) What Does It Mean to Think Historically? Perspectives on History, 45.

Paw Prints

The Story of “Journey to America Today”

by Eric Gondree, author of Journey to America Today

As a kid, I remember becoming truly interested in the portions of Sesame Street in which Big Bird managed to learn a few new Spanish phrases from his neighbors Maria and Luis. The idea of being able to speak another language, communicating with people beyond the reach of English, was something that I found terribly engrossing. Additionally, I suppose I was lucky enough to have parents who supported me in studying language outside of school.

Teaching & Learning Spanish: Free Sesame Street videos in Spanish on iTunes

Later on, I started to notice how learning about foreign history and culture could be very linked to study of foreign language. I casually dabbled in Russian starting in 5th grade and around the same time, I’d gotten my hands on a well-illustrated British guidebook to the city of Moscow. Being able to learn about the names of places, streets, subway stations and so on helped me learn plenty of new vocabulary as well. It also helped me learn a lot about Russian culture. A grammar textbook wouldn’t necessarily be able to teach you that one of the Moscow suburbs, Ostankino, is nationally-known because it’s the site of an important television studio. Or that many Russian cities have a street named after Valentina Tereshkova, the first woman in space.

This might’ve seemed like trivia or factoids for part of the time– and some of it certainly was– but knowing more about a culture really can allow a learner to use the information as a part of their communication. This seems like an obvious plus if they wish to go into activities like studying abroad or enriching their experience when visiting culturally-important places. If looking at films, literature and music can enrich one’s study of a foreign language, it seemed likely to me that history could be an additional strand which could be tied in. At that time, little did I know that the Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL) movement in language education was predicated on precisely that idea. CLIL aims to integrate content and language learning through the 4 C’s: Content, Communication, Cognition, and Community/Culture.

History is definitely a valuable component of CLIL and the history of America is a fascinating story that forms the basis of Journey to America Today. After several years of teaching Japanese university students, I sometimes wondered what they’d previously learned about world history and how it was taught to them. I found myself asking other teachers questions on Japanese high school curricula and I often felt as if I didn’t know what they didn’t know. If you don’t see the modern world as having been shaped by larger historical processes, seeing the international news would simply be bewildering. For instance, how could one start to make sense of the Black Lives Matter movement? Or Brexit? Or protests in Hong Kong? Or any other complex problem? It is only by understanding the history behind the situation that students can begin to understand the situation today.

Over time, I really felt the desire to develop a real U.S. history class for university students in Japan. I also felt that since I’d seen a decent number of effective history textbooks (and read a lot of criticism about the not-so-good textbooks), I felt that I was ready to create teaching materials on my own. The textbook Journey to America Today was an expansion of a collection teaching materials, learner resources and discussion activities that I had created and accumulated over the years.

Selecting Topics

Journey to America Today is divided into 13 Units so it can fit into a 15-week college or university semester with enough time to accommodate reviews or supplementary activities (like movies or project days). It is also suitable for a one-year university course by supplementing it with additional sources such as videos or readings, or extending the research and presentation activities.  

The Units are arranged chronologically (with some overlap) to represent approximate periods and the passage of time up to the year 2000. All dates take place within the Christian Era (CE). In each reading, important concepts are underlined. The timeline on page 4 of the textbook gives a graphic overview of the historical eras covered. Each unit introduces American history and will help students to understand America today.

Due to size limitations, there were unfortunately many important topics which could not be included. A great many items, (the Electoral College, the War of 1812, the Seneca Falls Convention of 1848, etc.) go unmentioned. Similarly, I would have preferred to include more about the women’s suffrage movement, the experiences of immigrants, the movements for gay rights, and many other things. Because history represents a reconstruction of the past, any attempted reconstruction is going to be necessarily selective, and I encourage all teachers (and students!) to think critically and read many other good sources of information to learn more. The teacher guide also includes many useful links to online sources which can be useful for you and your students. 

Learning Activities

An important priority was adapting the narrative to teaching English and creating useful and effective teaching activities. Japanese students have sometimes told me that their history classes were their least favorite classes. And I can’t really blame them for that. Social studies is often considered one of the least popular subjects among students in the U.S. as well. So clearly, it was important to create engaging activities that would make the learning interesting and enjoyable for students. Fortunately, as the CLIL movement has shown, learning about foreign culture and history can be a fruitful way to teach language. 

As I worked on obtaining my master’s in education for TESOL, I also worked on a parallel effort to become certified to teach Social Studies as a substitute schoolteacher. In the process of doing so, I learned a lot of Social Studies-teaching techniques which also proved to be quite effective. I’d also found a wealth of resources online for teachers who wished to create engaging, interesting classes for their students. If a teacher is required to start from scratch, there is a lot of help available.

Journey to America Today began from materials used in several of my U.S. culture-themed electives and then utilizing the skills that I had learned through social studies and TESOL, I developed a range of learning activities that aim to keep students engaged and interacting with the content throughout the course. The image below shows a summary of the main activities in each unit of the textbook.

I have been very pleased by the positive feedback on Journey to America Today from both students and teachers. I have always experienced great fulfillment from learning from history and learning from language, and my hope is to share the same kind of fulfillment with those who enjoy doing either (or both!).  

Although this is a small book, it feels like a big personal accomplishment. I would like to thank PAWS International for giving me this opportunity. I am also thankful that I have learned much from the many great students and talented teachers that I have met in Japan, in the U.S. and elsewhere around the world. Finally, I would like to thank Mari for the love, hard work, encouragement and ideas that she has given me over many years.

If Journey to America Today can help even a small number of students to exit class with a sharpened interest in the world around them in addition to improved English skills, then I consider that to be a success.

Please check out the webpage for the textbook Journey to America Today. You can also request an inspection copy if you would like to consider using it with your students.

Paw Prints

The Story of “Humanity and Technology”

Way back in the year 2000, I started working full-time as an English lecturer at an engineering university in Japan. Coming up to the end of my first year, there was a buzz phrase that was doing the rounds and it seemed to be the focus of many of our meetings – it was “Media English”. No one really knew what it meant, but there were grants available and that always generates interest.

It was decided that a textbook should be written based around this rather vague idea of Media English, and that it should be written by a committee of 11 English teachers. There is an old saying that I often remember when I am in meetings: “The IQ of a group is equal to the IQ of the lowest member, divided by the number of people in the group.” I generally like working on projects either on my own or with just a couple of people, so our endless committee meetings, which stretched on for months, were driving me crazy. Every week we would sit around with long, vague, and unfocused discussions about the nature of Media English. There was very little practical sense about how to convert these discussions into concrete lessons – lessons which would ultimately be used to help students in a classroom.

Eventually, I got impatient and after one particularly long and pointless meeting, I spent several intensive days in my office and put together three sample units. My goal was to introduce these to the committee and hopefully move things forward in a more focused manner. I had just finished my Masters in TESOL and was all fired up with ideas about teaching and materials development. When I showed them to the committee in the next meeting, the members were so impressed that someone had actually done something that I was asked if I wanted to do it all. Of course, many of the members were happy to have an escape route from something that they didn’t really want to be involved in. For me, the choice between endless committee meetings and creating materials was an easy one. I immediately said that I would be happy to do it all myself. At the time, I didn’t realize the hundreds of hours it would consume, or how it would change my life in many ways, but I am glad to have made that decision all those years ago.

Deciding the first few topics for the textbook wasn’t so difficult. Many EFL texts have similar headings such as Food, Health, and the Environment. I had been using other textbooks like Interchange, and was influenced and informed by their well thought out design, so these common topics made it into the textbook I was creating, too. I realized that these themes are common and used often because they are interesting for all people, regardless of where they live. Everyone has to eat, take care of their health, and wants to live in a nice environment. These are important aspects of our humanity, and it was from these kinds of topics that the first half of the title of my textbook “Humanity and Technology” came about.

Trinity College, University of Dublin | I.F.U
Trinity College, Dublin University where I studied engineering

But this textbook was to be used to learn English in an engineering school, and I also knew engineers well. I graduated with a degree in civil engineering, and worked for several years as an engineer at a Japanese company. Engineers are practical and they have a genuine interest in science and technology. And that is where the second half of the title for my textbook came from. So, the book title was set, and Humanity and Technology really began to take shape.

Humanity and Technology helps students to think about the balance between humanity and technology

I recognized that the four skills of language learning needed to be a part of each unit. For the general topics like Food and Health, I created content that included popular science and technology within the reading and listening activities. I also incorporated topics of more specific interest to students who had a focus on science and engineering with units such as “History of Science and Technology”, “The Future”, and “Robots and Artificial Intelligence.” I made sure that each unit also provided ample opportunities for students to speak to each other, as well as write down their own ideas. Choosing the topics determined the framework of the entire book, and the 12 units reflect the amount of content and learning that can be carried out by Japanese students within one year of English classes, or the equivalent of about 30 to 32 weeks.

Within each unit of the book, there also needs to be a clear structure. Teachers and students both need a clear and consistent format within each unit so that the time can be spent effectively on learning rather than explaining activities. There are 13 learning activities in each unit, which provides abundant choice for teachers to meet the needs of their students. These activities were influenced by other textbooks that I had been using and through my own experience of what works well with Japanese students. It includes standard activities such as vocabulary, “Starting Out” (for activating schemata and previous knowledge), reading exercises, listening in various forms, and conversation activities which included practice of conversation strategies. I also came up with my own original activity types to meet the needs of the students, and I am still proud of how well these activities have worked over the years.

For example, in the “Work It Out” activities, the students listen to a speaker talk about a topic. They then use the information they have just listened to in order to calculate the answer to a mathematical problem. Students love this kind of activity, and the bonus is that in order to find the correct answer, they are really motivated towards focused listening.

In “Reading Exchange,” students read a short passage aloud to their partner, who in turn is listening for the correct answers to their questions while their partner reads.

Reading Exchange – a kind of Information Gap activity

In “Research and Presentation,” students listen to short model presentations. For homework, they then carry out some simple research on their own chosen aspect of the topic and make a short presentation in the next class. I tried to tie these into the topic of the unit and to provide useful but simple presentation tips that students could follow. There were already lots of books dedicated to presentation skills, but I felt that providing a decent research and presentation section in every unit of a more general textbook was good for engineering and science students. These presentations became the highlight of the course for many students and teachers.

In “Discussion and Debate,” students address the ethical implications of technology in society and the environment. This was a buzzword at the time, and I think that this concept has held up really well over the years. While traditionally engineers and scientists were not expected or required to think about the ethical implications of their work, this has clearly changed. The use of technology in society has caused massive changes from climate change to the psychological effects of overuse of smartphones. These kinds of discussion give students excellent practice in beginning to think critically about these important issues.

I finished the pilot edition of Humanity and Technology in 2001 and it was such a cute hand-made book with illustrations which bore little relevance to the text itself, but certainly made it look nice. At the time, I used the ClarisWorks program from Apple which has long since disappeared. To put it mildly, it was not the best program for layout and I learned a lot. I had it printed out at a local printer and we hired some students to sell the books.

The following year, Intercom Press agreed to publish the first official edition of Humanity and Technology. Working with an experienced editor added so much to the activities and content of the book. Beginning authors often underestimate the value of a good editor who can offer new perspectives and ideas, as well as provide their own expertise and finesse to round out and complete any given text. A good-looking textbook has a definite appeal. For Humanity and Technology, the layout was prepared in the standard design program of the time, Quark, and along with a beautiful cover it all came together to make the textbook that much more appealing. We put out the 2nd edition in about 2007, and improved the book greatly based on teacher suggestions. Taking the time to get input from the teachers who are using your text is an invaluable resource in the world of textbook creation – be sure to know who is using your book in order to get important feedback, critiques and possible corrections for the typographical errors that are bound to slip by even the keenest editor’s eye.

By 2018, the book was fading away and hardly being used. It had definitely become dated. Intercom Press asked for a new edition and PAWS International became a co-publisher. The 3rd edition was a mammoth undertaking. Some topics such as Food hadn’t changed enormously over the years, but others such as the Internet, City Life, Robots and Artificial Intelligence, and The Future had changed beyond recognition. The first two editions predated social media and many people still did not even have Internet access! Making the 3rd edition took hundreds of hours, but it was finally published in full colour and it is right up-to-date with sections on bitcoin, nanotechnology, and much more!

Humanity and Technology, 3rd Edition

Humanity and Technology was my first textbook. Since then, I have authored or edited almost 40 textbooks, but it still holds a very special place in my heart – my own little tribute to the wonders of both humanity and technology.

If you would like to see an inspection copy of Humanity and Technology for consideration for your students, please contact us.

Paw Prints

The new PAWS website

We have just launched the new PAWS website. Thanks for checking out PAWS. It also seems like a good time to reintroduce PAWS. So the simple question first:

What is PAWS?

While the logo may be quite literal, the meaning behind each letter is really who we are:

So although we don’t have any specific connection to cute puppies, kittens, and bears, we certainly are fond of them, and that is also an inspiration for the name. You might even see a few photos of a few of them on the site 😉

At PAWS we are very proud of both components of our services: publishing and wellness. As a team, we have a rich and accomplished background in providing both publishing opportunities and wellness support to our community in Japan and beyond for over twenty-five years.

This site is the P in PAWS – Publishing. If you are looking for the W – the wellness services – that section of the site is going through its own development right now and will be available again soon.

EFL Education in Japan Today

Anyone who has been teaching EFL in Japan for more than a decade is very aware of the change in focus that has taken place in that time. Where grammar points, repetition, and basics such as giving directions or ordering food in a restaurant have always been necessary staples of second language teaching and learning and still remain so, they are clearly not sufficient to hold the attention of modern students and often simply boring. Boring not only for the students, but for the teachers as well.

The current line of textbooks from PAWS offers a way to hold students’ attention through extended focus on a particular area. Enter CLIL – Content and Language Integrated Learning. CLIL is now a welcome and firmly rooted component in many ESL/EFL classrooms here in Japan and all over the world.

The term CLIL was coined by David Marsh, University of Jyväskylä, Finland (1994): “CLIL refers to situations where subjects, or parts of subjects, are taught through a foreign language with dual-focused aims, namely the learning of content and the simultaneous learning of a foreign language.”

PAWS recognizes the importance of content learning, and has on board a group of authors who have skillfully and thoughtfully incorporated the spirit and principles of CLIL into their textbooks.

Please take your time to look over the selection of EFL/ESL texts PAWS and its authors have on offer. All of the writers are available for one-on-one consultations on how best to use their text in your particular classroom. Feel free to drop us a line today for your own personal appointment with the team here at PAWS.

Paw Prints

Welcome to PAWS!

Hi everyone and welcome to our new website for PAWS International. PAWS stands for Publishing and Wellness Services, and as you can guess from the name, there are two parts to PAWS International and you are on the publishing page.

We have EFL/ESL books for teachers and students of English as a foreign/second language. Please get in touch if you would like to get a copy for consideration for your classes or if you have any questions.