Active History Creative history History Thinking history

Residual memory, finger tip knowledge and weaving ‘Big’ history

Quite why it took me so long to make space in the diary for the SHP Conference at Leeds Trinity now seems difficult to explain but until 2013 this annual event had been something I had heard a lot about but not quite got around to attending. Having been blown away by the variety of ideas and experiences on offer in last year’s plenaries and workshops I was eagerly looking forward to a second helping this year and I was not disappointed.

I’d kind of chosen my workshops with a common theme and together with a little follow up reading I’ve started an experiment that I’ll be looking at again in the coming academic year. Outlined below are pen pictures of the sessions that provided the inspiration for the activity and brief comments on the task as delivered in a 50 minute lesson with a mixed ability Y7 class.

Active History G&T History Local History

Active Local History – Restoring Pride in Our Local Heritage

Castle 4Over the last year I’ve been working with pupils in Y7, Y8 and Y10 on a spot of local history. The “Eye: A Castle Connected” project, supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, English Heritage and Mid Suffolk District Council has involved renovation work at Eye Castle, outreach work with local primary schools and a variety of art, music and ICT workshops here in school. The Y8 and Y10 pupils have been particularly involved throughout the project and have made a significant contribution to the running of workshops, the design and production of resources for primary school children,information boards within the castle grounds anda new smart-phone app which will be available to download in the next month or so.

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3-D History – Active Revision with Playmobil

It is that time of year again when we’re scratching our heads trying to think of something different to do with revision classes. Well why not get a bit creative, raid the toy cupboard and see what you can find that is relevant to your schemes of work?

Active History Education

Lasting Memories – A worthwhile trip for Henry and Henrietta

Declining Interest?

I’ve just returned from a trip to Ypres with a small group of Y9 pupils. I wonder if anyone has found recently that it has become a bit more difficult getting pupils to come on trips out? I suppose until about a year ago I never really had any problem filling a coach to go on any day out or, for that matter, overnight or longer visits. Well, over the last academic year I’ve begun to notice that it’s getting more and more tricky to fill the number of places needed to keep the overall cost of the activity at a reasonable level. This year despite our usual ‘push’ we attracted only 26 pupils to take part in what I consider to be a really worthwhile investigation into the history of the Great War.

Maybe there are just so many different extra curricular activities on offer that the ‘market’ is now too crowded or perhaps the financial downturn is finally starting to force parents to think much more carefully about what to spend their hard earned cash on. Whatever the real explanation it means that now more than ever I need to be clear about the justification for taking time out of the school day and ensuring that what is on offer represents good value for money. Of course we always ensure that parents are invited to attend an evening meeting where they can get a more detailed picture of their son’s or daughter’s trip. But sometimes the content can be a little heavy on the admin and light on the educational justification or indeed the interesting details that their children are going to enjoy; result, parents are understandably puzzled and wonder if they’ve spent their hard earned cash wisely when on return from their trip little Henry or Henrietta, when asked what they’ve done, reply that the burger and chips on the ferry were very nice!  So it’s probably wise to make sure that parents get a very detailed picture of exactly how the trip enriches the curriculum and why it is worth investing in.

Selling Trips

My presentations to parents now are structured under four headings:

Active History

Sharing Resources

After saying I’d put up some of the pictures and resources for the History Games post I’ve been wondering how on earth to do it efficiently. So I was really chuffed when, while browsing the widgets available, I found BoxNet! You should be able to get some of the resources for the Welcome to Ostia activity and I’ve also added something that could be useful for hard working GCSE/GCE pupils. More to follow….fingers crossed it works. Comment please if any problems.

Active History

Active Learning – Favourite History Board Games

I took over my current history department from Ian Luff who has written and spoken regularly about the power of role plays and simulations in the history classroom. I was a convert from the first time I heard him speak. I’m sure I’m not alone either in having being inspired by the work of the likes of Ian Dawson and Dan Moorhouse.  Suffice to say that I now have a very fat file of activities of varying complexity which always go down well with classes from Y7 to Y13. There are also some engaging on-line history games at sites like SchoolHistory and even the game console is starting to make its way into the classroom. I like all of these. Well, ok, I haven’t moved the X-Box into school yet but you know what I really do like is a good old fashioned board game every now and then.

I love finding the opportunity to play a game as part of a lesson and the kids get a lot out of it as well. Used as either a ‘hook’ at the start of a unit (see below – Life in the Trenches) or as the culmination of a detailed investigation to consolidate understanding (Germanopoly) games can be a really powerful teaching method. Getting the children to design their own games is also a real winner. Sadly it is often the case that our time constraints….”I still have three units to finish with 10B before the exam so I can’t waste time”….mean we push things like games aside and plough on with the content. We should resist this pressure. Games do have a place in even GCSE and GCE schemes of work and invariably engage the students so effectively that some really deep learning takes place and, dare I say it, this is probably more effective than ploughing on with the content! So go on Sir/Miss let’s play a game…….
Active History

Reputations – Year 8 get to grips with Oliver Cromwell

Investigating the topic ‘When and why did King’s lose control?’ using Hodder’s SHP Y8 text we dispatched Charles I (by a majority decision!) and plunged onwards to make our Royal Rollercoaster. Things got interesting when we got to Cromwell.  The first activity in the text alerted the pupils to the different views of Cromwell through the ages but to be honest it wasn’t that difficult for them to figure out what went where. The following discussion was lively and once we’d agreed on some factors that shaped reputations over time the next challenge was unveiled.

Each pupil was allocated a factor at random which they had to keep secret from their partner. They were tasked with writing a new biography/obituary for the Lord Protector. The challenge was that they could not make it too obvious what their angle was but had to provide enough clues to alert a careful historian. After some thought and a bit of revision from the double page on Cromwell from the earlier section (‘Put your ruler in the Hot Seat!’) they set to work.

When they had finished they swapped cards with their partners and each pair had to try and work out what their partner’s factor had been. In most cases the clues were sufficient and the secret factor uncovered. However there were some tricky examples which even foxed me!

The challenge of writing a very subtle biased description was fun but more importantly helped the pupils really see how and why reputations can change throughout history.

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Getting Creative – Puppet Theatres in the History Classroom

I’m not sure if this is in any way a new idea but I’ve had some really fun lessons using this idea. The pupils love it and other teachers are starting to use the same approach in other subjects. When you think about it its only a simple development of the tried and tested “create a story board to tell the story of…..” but more flexible. The pupils are hooked from the start as they have to research the detail so that they can put their character’s point of view across and of course they get the chance to create their puppet. The added twist of having to make the ‘scenery’ makes them think about the historical context and working with their team ensures they consider the inter-relationships. In this example we were looking at comparative experiences under dictatorships during the 1930s.
Active History

Magic Hands and Rope Connectives – Y9 Study the Vietnam War

‘Magic’ PEEL Hand

I really enjoyed planning and teaching this lesson with one of my Y9 classes this week. The group recently completed a written assignment about the role that military leaders played in the casualty rates on the Western Front between 1915-18 and their answers showed they were struggling (again) with structuring their work and linking ideas.
The ‘magic PEEL hands’ are something I made earlier in the year and are about 60cm long. They are made of cushion foam from the local market and can be worn like gloves so that you look a bit like a cross between Kenny Everett and a Smurf.
The idea is to provide a 3D reminder of a simple essay structure. It’s amazing that although we really stress this from very early on pupils still find it tricky when it comes to writing up work. Quite often this is down to the fact that many of them try to write their answers without planning or drafting them out first so any physical reminder is useful. Pupils like the ‘hands’ which normally stand prominently on a shelf at the side of my classroom. They, together with various ‘flash cards’ dotted around the room, act as crucial reminders for many pupils. I refer to them frequently when teaching groups from Y7 through to Y13 and  I’ve even seen pupils writing the template on their own hands!