4 Ways to Improve History Teaching
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Members of the older generations (namely my parents and grandparents) often describe their history educations as boring and repetitive experiences characterised by learning dates by rote.
Thankfully, my experience of learning from and about history has been rather more interesting.
As a teacher (and until recently a history coordinator), I strive to ensure pupils receive the same positive and engaging history education. I want to share with you 4 Ways to Improve History Teaching at your school…
Improving History Teaching in the Primary School
(4) Link history to ‘British values’
Whatever you’re calling it, teaching values explicitly is now commonplace in primary schools. My former school’s values curriculum saw us teaching about a different value each half term. In autumn, it was ‘appreciation’ and ‘resilience’ whilst in spring and summer the school focused on ‘happiness,’ ‘peace’ and ‘unity’.
As the school’s history coordinator, I saw an opportunity to enhance the teaching of history by making links to our values curriculum. For example, when the school’s value was ‘resilience’, Year 6 pupils studying World War 1 were able to analyse and interpret history to find examples of resilience displayed by the people of this time period. Similarly, Year 3 pupils were able to compare the childhood of a typical Victorian child to their own experiences and thus consider what they each appreciate about their lives.
By making these cross curricular links, abstract aspects of history were brought to the forefront of pupils’ minds whilst abstract concepts such as ‘unity’ were made concrete through historical evidence.
If you’re a history subject leader, then don’t delay and start making sure history is linked to your values curriculum. After all, it is history that has shaped our collective values and consciousness:
We are not makers of history. We are made by history.
Martin Luther King Jr.
(3) Reach out to local heritage centres
With school budgets being squeezed, it can be difficult to buy resources or to pay for trips and specialist visitors to enhance your school’s history provision. However, your local heritage centre, if you’re fortunate enough to have one, could be a huge help in bringing history to life. You might be surprised about what your heritage centre can teach you about the local area. If your heritage centre is within walking distance, then you’ll save school funds from being spent on expensive coaches. And the best part about a free day out – no marking!
(2) Use music and drama to enhance lessons
Put on a show linked to your history topic. This could be a class assembly. This seldom fails to get children to find a sense of fun in learning history. Drama and song also helps them to remember key historical facts including important events and key people. Check out our range of history songs and our growing range of class assembly scripts.
(1) Teach history skills
Children should be given opportunities to think and act like historians. These opportunities must give them the chance to analyse evidence and make interpretations about historical evidence.
An enquiry driven approach to teaching and learning history works best. For example, children could raise questions about a topic. For example:
Was the Victorian era a time of prosperity in Britain?
How should we remember the ancient Mayans? Blood thirsty or civilised?
Does Alfred the Great deserve to be called ‘great’?
An enquiry driven approach presents more meaningful opportunities for historical interpretation and analysis of evidence. Move away from just ‘doing the Second World War’ as your topic and instead have the children raise questions about aspects of the period. Present them with evidence in the form of objects, diaries and newspapers and enable them to decide what life was like back then. Teach history by placing them in the role of historians.
If you’re a subject leader for history, then get some of these ideas down on next year’s action plan to really impress your colleagues and superiors!
Key Stage History – This website offers detailed advice about planning and teaching history across all four key stages of the National Curriculum. I found the information on this website to be invaluable during my time as a history coordinator. Please note that the use of this website requires a paid subscription (we are not affiliated and we do not profit through recommending this resource).
FREE DOWNLOAD – As history coordinator at my previous school, I enjoyed success delivering CPD to colleagues using this PowerPoint which I put together. The PowerPoint details the strengths and areas for development of the school’s history provision but this can easily be adapted to suit your own school. Other slides features insightful quotations and information about improving history teaching. Adapt it to suit your needs. Enjoy!