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Teacher rewrites history

"Sir, do you remember the Romans?" "Sir, if Queen Cleopatra hadn't been bitten by the asp would she still be alive today?"

Faced with these questions, asked in all seriousness by primary pupils, the average history teacher might start wondering whether their years of toil had been wasted.

But for Alan Hodkinson, it was the spur for an innovative project which, he believes, demonstrates the importance of giving pupils a much clearer sense of exactly when historical events happened.

Dr Hodkinson, a former teacher and researcher at University college, Chester, carried out an experiment which divided 150 eight to 10-year-olds at a Liverpool primary school into three groups.

He taught one group according to the national curriculum. For the other two, he made radical changes.

He began every lesson with a discussion about time based on a number of interactive tasks.

He produced cards with events and dates on them and asked children to place them on a timeline from the present day to ancient Egypt.

He even marked out events on a piece of ticker-tape, with one centimetre representing 100 years, which was then laid out in the playground.

One of the two groups taught in this way reverted to a conventional curriculum after one term. The other was taught by the new method for a year.

At the end of the year, Dr Hodkinson set the three groups two 10-question tests on historical knowledge.

At every ability level, pupils taught according to the new method for a year fared better than either of the other two groups.

Opinion 27

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