Don't know much about history? Try singing the facts

27th October 2006 at 01:00
"Woke up this mornin' and found my history grades were on the CD border", may not be the stuff of Bob Dylan or Muddy Waters, but a history teacher believes he can use rhythm and blues to lodge facts into reluctant pupil brains.

Jeff Thomas, a guitar-playing teacher at Seaford Head secondary on the Sussex coast, deliberately targets his songs to the needs of GCSE modern world history students.

"I can't explain why, but many students remember lyrics far easier than they can recall facts," Mr Thomas said. "I try and pick out some of the drier elements for my songs - the things kids forget."

He said the songs were particularly effective at helping CD grade borderline students remember key facts.

He has devised songs on Nazi Germany and the Cold War, as well as the United States after the Second World War. They are now used by all three history teachers in his department.

Since introducing the songs last year, the proportion of pupils getting one of the top three grades in GCSE history has risen by 5 percentage points to 59 per cent. Better results are expected next year.

"The facts stick in your head a bit more because the songs have got rhymes," Luke Dutton, 14, said. "If you sit with a book, things go in one ear and out the other."

Becky Fowler, also 14, said: "I like the songs because I'm musical. I sing them in my head."

Mr Thomas, who was born in Bognor Regis, knows from his own experience that academic subjects can leave teenagers behind. He left school at 16 without any qualifications, citing dyslexia as the main reason.

He later took up the guitar, busking around Europe with a friend. After an uninspiring spell at Bognor Regis job centre, he did an access course in history, followed by a degree, then a postgraduate certificate in education at Sussex university.

Mr Thomas, who is in his seventh year of teaching at Seaford Head, is a familiar face on the Brighton music circuit through his acoustic rock band Iron Bark.

An MP3 of his song about America and the Second World War can be downloaded from the TES Resource Bank at www.tes.co.uk: search history for audio.Email him on ThomasJ2@seafordhead.e-sussex.sch.uk

'Linda Brown and the Little Rock Nine'

by Jeff Thomas

Education was the key to ensuring a civil rights victory To make things equal, to make things equal was the goal of the people Segregation - it was the plight of the nation.

'54 and Linda Brown's nearest school was a block around But she couldn't go there, couldn't go there - oh no That school was just for whites.

NAACP said it just wasn't fair, Justice Warren did declare Separate but equal, separate but equal has no place here - Topeka had been toppled good.

'57 and Little Rock - that gave Arkansas quite a shock Orval Faubus, Orval Faubus was the governor of Arkansas Used the National Guard, but they were such a charade.

Elizabeth Eckford turned up for school, she never got that telephone call Crowds they jeered her, the crowds they jeered her - tears rolled down her face With all the fuss she was taken home by bus.

Eisenhower sent in the federal troops to protect the nine from any more abuse Orval Faubus, Orval Faubus, he closed down the school But the Supreme Court it opened up the doors.

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