How to meaningfully participate in our study and reading groups


Everyone is encouraged to post their favorite or most meaningful quote from the chapter (about a paragraph with page number/location) in the comments for the Facebook post covering the title/chapter. This is an easy, no pressure and meaningful way to express your thoughts on a chapter and is also a great way for individuals to go back and look at what others found meaningful. It keeps the focus on the authors works rather than an opinion.

Comments about the chapter or book are welcome as long as they are polite, respectful, relevant, non-partisan and constructive and focused on the author’s work not someone else’s comment. A helpful guideline is that you are always addressing the group, not just a single individual when you write. If you enjoy or agree with a post, liking their comment is a meaningful way of engaging the group.

Of course if you don’t want to post a quote or comment, you’re still welcome to read along with us.

Reading Chapters

Reviewing the thought questions and quotes before reading the chapter will provide some insight into what to expect from the chapter and what the reader should be thinking about as they read the chapter. Answering these questions will provide guidance and structure to your reading.

Too often when a person reads a chapter, they will come away wondering “what did the author say? What did I just read?” – keeping these questions in mind should help the reader avoid reading without retaining and reading without understanding the broader context. A good analogy for this type of aimless reading is “hearing without listening”.

The material is intended to take readers out of their “comfort zones”, challenge preconceived beliefs and force thinking outside the readers normal patterns. 

The Thought Questions and Response Quotes may be answered with quotes from the book we are reading or another author from a well known publisher, a link to a recognized historical society or organization, or a polite and respectful comment.

Feel free to post relevant articles and primary sources as well as further reading you believe others would enjoy in the comments section on the Facebook page and post for the chapter you are reading.

Response / Thought Quotes

These quotes are usually from primary sources mentioned in the chapter and sometimes a quote from the author. They are intended to provoke thinking about a specific facet of the material in the reading. History students should be able to identify the source of the quotes. 

Thought Questions

These are “questions” about the story that are raised in the chapter. The answers may or may not be in the chapter (or book), good history often raises more questions that it answers. The chapter may provide a partial answer or an answer that is contested. 

There are several different kinds of questions. They are intended to provoke thought and you can feel free to answer them or use them to guide your thinking as you read. Again you can answer / comment on our Facebook page about your thinking. 

The questions do not have any specific answer. Obviously some statements are True or False, but the goal is not to get the “right” answer, but to stimulate thinking. Don’t think of this material as a quiz but as a guide. 

Never stress over whether you are “doing things right”. If you’re thinking and learning, then you’re doing things right. 

  • Who, What, When, How, Why questions – Goal: understand basic factual information from reading the chapter. Answers should be concise and to the point. 
  • In What Ways questions –  Goal: explore the breadth of a particular aspect of the reading. How are the consequences similar and different, complimentary and conflicting?
  • Describe questions – Goal: in a few short paragraphs summarize the individuals and institutions, events and processes of a facet of the reading. Answers should be more expansive than the “Who, What, When, How and Why Questions” because they will summarize these questions. 
  • Compare and Contrast questions – Goal: Understanding how individuals and institutions, events and processes were similar and different, complimentary and conflicting. The answer should juxtapose the two elements of the question.
  • Explain and Expand questions – Goal: Explain the context of a quote and expand on its significance. The purpose is to understand what a quote means in context and explore how it impacts the history we are exploring. 
  • React and Respond questions – Based on factual information presented in the chapter or in other scholarly work, react to the quote (in a respectful and polite fashion) and respond as to the implications and conclusions the author draws from it and how the quote supports or disputes the author’s chapter thesis. You should be engaging your own thoughts and conclusions with the authors.
  • Affirm or Refute questions – Goal: How do you believe the quote supports or rejects the author’s thesis and conclusions. Take a position as you would in a debate in order to recognize the strengths and weaknesses of a position.
  • Provide Examples to support or disprove – self explanatory 
  • What was the significance of – why is the quote or subject historically significant
  • Describe the symbolism in the following – How does the quote or subject represent a broader truth
  • Describe the characteristics of the following – What are the significant attributes of a quote or subject

Primary Sources

Links to the available primary sources mentioned in the chapter. Not all chapters will have primary sources listed. Readers should also look to the author’s bibliography and notes for primary sources.


Period works of fiction and non-fiction mentioned in or relevant to the content of the chapter. Not all chapters will have literature listed.

Articles and Resources

Supplementary materials. Background biographies, interesting articles, timelines, useful maps and visuals and teaching resources. Not all chapters will have supplementary material. Readers should also look to the author’s bibliography and notes for relevant journal articles. 

Further Reading

Some recommended books on topics touched on in the chapter for further study. Readers should also look to the author’s bibliography and notes for further reading.

Simple Rules

  • Be good. Don’t be evil.
  • Be constructive. Don’t be destructive.
  • Be Respectful of Everyone. Do not response to those that choose to be otherwise.
  • Have an open mind. Don’t behave like you know everything.
  • Be Encouraging. Refuse to Discouraging.

Please before you comment, remember others here are good people with feelings. Using second person pronouns should be used with caution (you, your, you’ve) and used in a sparing and respectful way in replies. Everyone is expected to interact with others like they would in a normal classroom or business setting among colleagues and friends. The antisocial behavior common on the internet is not tolerated here. Regardless of the intent, politically partisan or inflammatory comments are not permitted. This is a group about History, not 21st century current events. I am very serious about this point.

Individuals who understand English as a secondary language are welcome to participate. Please do not worry if your English is flawed, you are among friends who want you to be here. It’s wonderful you are interested in learning about history with us.

The books come in at least one accessible format, so if you use text to speech for a vision impairment this will not be a problem. Many will be available in Audible and all have Kindle Text to Speech enabled (on Kindle Fire Tablets). The books are available through the National Library Service for the Blind. All are available in print from your local public library (possibly through inter-library loan).

Thank you for participating