Add fun to your facts

18th July 2008 at 01:00
How do you keep a subject with its feet firmly in the past alive and kicking? That's the challenge for history teachers, as those on the TES forums have been discussing

How do you keep a subject with its feet firmly in the past alive and kicking? That's the challenge for history teachers, as those on the TES forums have been discussing

It has never ceased to amaze me how some historians have taken the most fascinating episodes in history - far more exciting than Indiana Jones - and made them so dull that people think history is inherently yawnsome," says Redorchestra. So is it valid to use storytelling to make history more exciting? ( ukmaghistory1)

Jslp thinks not, believing it to be prone to giving "totally the wrong impression. Many times I have seen a pupil equate history with literacy as a result of over-reliance on this approach."

MarkJH seems rather bemused by this standpoint. "History has never been about stories? Try telling that to Herodotus, Thucydides, Edward Gibbon, David Starkey, AJP Taylor, Simon Schama, Niall Ferguson, etc. Of course it is - there are different stories and viewpoints, sure, but the best history synthesises narrative and explanation. History is all about storytelling, and that's why people find it so fascinating."

Nichee agrees: "It makes the subject interesting for the pupils and for me. It doesn't mean that there is one official version."

With the literacy crossover, Indy B is looking for resources to convey the experience of living and fighting in the trenches in the First World War. (

LornaSGI comes to the rescue, recommending movies such as All Quiet on the Western Front and Oh! What a Lovely War.

Redorchestra thinks it's the songs that capture it best: "`Hanging on the old barbed wire', `Hush here comes a whizzbang', `When this blasted war is over' - might be good to show the kind of black humour that probably kept many a soldier going."

In delivering memorable lessons, it seems, history teachers go that extra mile. The prize surely must go to Pichu's daughter's Year 7 teacher, who turns up in costume. "Two weeks ago they covered the Norman invasion in class," says Pichu. "Then homework was to make either a kite shield and sword or a Daneaxe and shield. The next lesson they fought their way through the Battle of Hastings (cheered on by the sixth form). Generally voted the best lesson they've ever had and she actually remembers all the technical terms as well as what happened in the battle." (

Virginia Hunt is the TES website deputy community editor

Most popular history resources

- Explore the Great Fire of London through the eyes of people who saw it.

- Use this Victorian timeline to highlight some of the main events.

- Play detective. Key stage 3 pupils can use this interactive census to ask their own questions about the time.

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