Here are some general ideas for history teaching which can be applied to a variety of topics and adapted to suit the needs of different classes.
Timeline activities help to build children’s sense of chronology and cause and effect.
- Have a timeline on display permanently – ideally in a shared space such as the hall or a corridor. Refer and add to this timeline as you discover more about different historical events and figures from across the curriculum
- Children can make their own timelines using photos, pictures, captions, objects or text. Some ideas could be:
- a timeline for yesterday
- a timeline of the school year (best done towards the end of the Summer term)
- a timeline of my life
- a timeline of an elderly person’s life
- timelines of particular historical periods (eg The Victorians or The Tudors) to ensure children understand that these periods were not static, and to contextualise individual events
Once children are familiar with timelines, try some ordering activities. Try ordering pictures of homes through time, changing fashions, excerpts of music, short poems or key local and more widely known events. Then try to position them on the timeline. The aim is not to memorise lots of dates, but to develop a sense of chronology, and how events and movements impact each other.
The school is lucky to have an excellent set of handling objects from the Roman and Iron Age period. These can be used to inspire learning in all kinds of ways. Don’t forget that you may also be able to assemble your own collections of objects (either real or reproduction, but do be very clear to the children about which you are using) from other historical periods, including today. These will all help children to see how objects can inform us about the past.
For example, try emptying a pretend handbag to work out which member of staff has lost it (perhaps it contains a match programme indicating a football fan, a hairbrush and spray for curly hair, car keys from a particular make of car, a picture of a family member or pet…).
Think through all the different people who have touched the object previously For example, with a piece of Samian pottery we might think of:
- The slave in Gaul who dug the clay from the ground
- The potter who pressed the damp clay into a mould
- The artist who added finishing decorative touches to the clay
- The apprentice who applied the slip (suspension of clay in water) to the clay, giving it its glossy colour
- The kiln worker who fired the pot
- The wood cutter who gathered fuel for the fire
- The traders who arranged for the pot to be brought to England
- The crew who sailed the boat that carried the pot across the sea
- The pot merchant who sold the pot
- The wealthy family in Roman Caldecote who bought it
- The guests who shared meals in the Roman villa
- The servant who dropped the pot, and the maid who swept up the pieces and threw them away
- The archaeologist who excavated it around 2000 years later
- The housing developers who named the road ‘Samian Close’ after it.
- The children of Caldecote Primary School in 20?? who looked at, touched it, drew it etc., etc.
Reflect on how we are connected back to all these people in the past through this one real object. What would the potter who made it or the family who used it have thought if they could have known where a piece of their pot would end up?
- Provide modern equivalents of objects in the handling collection – can children match them up?
- Create a time capsule of objects that represent life in 21st century Caldecote
Use the handling collection objects to inspire creative writing: poetry, stories from the point of view of an object
- Non-fiction writing tasks could also draw on the handling collection, for example a news report about an archaeological discovery, or a tourist leaflet for visitors to Caldecote, explaining the naming of some of the roads on the Clare Drive estate
Consider the different materials used to make the various objects in the handling collection. What do we use nowadays? What are the advantages and disadvantages of these materials? Why do people change the materials they use in manufacture over time?
Talk about degradation of materials – natural materials rot away, and others change their appearance over time. How does this affect our interpretation of historical objects.
The handling collection contains many fragments: try to imagine and then create the complete object – think about shape, colour and design.
- Use careful observation and sketching to pay close attention to the objects themselves
- Map the journey that the Samian ware objects may have taken from their place of manufacture in Gaul to Caldecote.
- Create or display a map of Caldecote now – which other places do children know about and/or visit regularly in the local area, nationally or abroad. Contrast this with the relatively static population of the past.
- Look at the street names on a current map of Caldecote – how were these chosen? How can we find out about the history that is embedded in these names?
Caldecote through the ages
It is fascinating to think of all the people who have shared our village in the past, the things that have happened to them, their daily lives and their hopes and dreams for the future. The following activities can help to explore any period of history or themes through time.
- Ask children to bring in photos of their streets, or take some yourself. Take the photo back in time – change the buildings, size of the roads, vehicles, clothing of any people in view to those appropriate to the time you are studying using collage, photoshop or drawing techniques.
This activity could also be done using photos of families in front of their homes. Jeannie Baker’s picture book ‘Window’ is a useful stimulus for examining how a place can change over the course of just one generation.
- Who owns Caldecote? Use archives to discover how land was owned, rented and used in the past. What about nowadays? Who should decide what happens to this place? Explore ways in which residents can voice their opinions to decision makers.
- Re-enact debates over land use that may have been held in the past:
- Where should we build the church?
- Should we keep building new homes?
- Do we need our vicar to live in the village, or is it OK for him to stay at his college in Cambridge?
- Do we need a village hall?
- How much space should people have for their homes and gardens?
- Do we want bigger roads so that we can travel in and out of Caldecote more easily?
- Letter writing – write letters back to the previous inhabitants of Caldecote, asking about their lives and telling them how things have changed in the future, or write letters that may be useful to historians in 100, 1000 or 5000 years’ time.
- Use extracts from the Victorian Farm Day Book to understand how people’s lives were influenced by the weather and the health of their animals. Write a ‘Good Day, Bad Day’ diary, or have a ‘Good Day, Bad Day’ circle time for Victorian farm workers.
- Food through the ages – prepare and taste meals that people may have eaten at different times in Caldecote’s history. What might have been eaten on a regular basis and what would be kept for special times? Where was their food from? How does this compare to a modern lunch box or school dinner? How would you describe the taste of a pizza, a mango or chocolate to a child living in Caldecote in medieval times for example?
- Interview friends and family about life in the past. How have things changed in one, two or three generations? Is everything better? Is everything worse?
- Use the area around the school and the children’s homes. Go on local walks, or at least outside – try to recreate the landscape of the past. Talk about what people of the past may have been able to see, hear and smell.