TES Author maxblackburn talks to us about how he makes his history resources engaging and accessible, as well as offering advice for prospective resource authors
Tell us a bit about your professional background and why you joined TES.
I’m in my fourth year of teaching and before that I was a teaching assistant. I absolutely love my job as I get to share my love of history with a different audience every single day. I feel as if I make a real difference to a number of people's lives and life chances.
I started uploading resources to TES as soon as I started teaching. I wanted to share my resources with a wider audience to make teachers' lives easier across the world and so that their students would have access to high-quality content.
What are the key starting points for an author of history resources?
It’s all about relevance. Students have to be able to understand how a seemingly bizarre time in the past that they are learning about is somehow connected to us today. Whether it’s a belief in an idea or a change in a system, like the monarchy, a lesson has to convey how that piece of history fits into their lives.
My resources need to be aesthetically pleasing because I am teaching a generation used to interacting with brilliantly designed websites and apps. By channelling good design into my resources, I can create content which students are keen to look at, want to engage with and that is accessible for all learners.
What would you like students and their teachers to experience when using your resources?
They should be engaged, be having fun and leave the lesson feeling that they have learnt something. Whether your pupils love learning about war, guts and gore or they prefer social history, across a scheme of work you can cover topics that are enjoyed by all types of learners.
If a teacher decides to download my resources, they will have everything they need in terms of support, challenge and engagement all ready to go. And hopefully they will have saved themselves an hour or more!
Which period do you find the hardest to teach and how did you use resources to tackle this?
When I first started teaching, I was asked to teach the American West to GCSE students and knew absolutely nothing about it. As I was going through the process as a learner myself, it allowed me to plan my resources more effectively. I was grappling with a different country, a different group of people and a different way of governing, which meant that I was going through the same steps as my students. I often joke that we are actually learning geography, because the history of the American West is grounded in understanding the vast landscape, weather systems and its varying climate.
What’s next for your shop?
As part of my new role next year as head of faculty for humanities, I will be planning more modern history resources for the curriculum changes at both GCSE and A level; so that’s a lot more resources on Nazi Germany, the Cold War and Russia.
What advice would you give to prospective authors?
I very much live my TES life by two mantras: "Sharing is caring" and "If it's not good enough to share, then it probably isn't good enough for the classroom".
Be confident that your resources work effectively in your own classroom first. I always get verbal feedback from my students, and tangible feedback from the work they produce, to make sure that I am happy with it before putting it on TES for someone else to teach from.
Make them as attractive as possible and remember to cater for students of all abilities.
With new features like author shops and the ability to comment back to someone, which is pretty amazing, I think now is a good time for anyone thinking about publishing resources to take the first step.