Egypt comes to your classroom
By Joanne O'Brien and Katie Razzall
History: Basic Background Knowledge
By Andy Seed
Tel: 01438 356907
Curriculum Focus series The Invaders; Toys
By Christine Moorcroft
The Ancient Egyptian photo pack is exactly the way that history should be taught. The many titled wallchart and picture packs are a great way of teaching the subject - studying and questioning evidence from the past. The poster and photographs allow children to study primary sources such as artefacts and archaeological remains as closely as they possibly can; if you cannot go to Egypt then Egypt will have to come to you.
The enticing, colourful, laminated photos are easy to use again and again during class or group work. The pack is accompanied by a teachers' book, which includes background era information, timelines and maps; further details about each piece of information and useful class resources and copymasters. All of these PCET packs are a key item of purchase for every history co-ordinator.
History: Basic Background Knowledge is a single book designed to fill in the gaps of knowledge with copymaster activities. In reality, however, it's dull and merely suitable for history revision. The copious worksheets include revision pages, research projects and quizzes and focus on chronological understanding through using timelines. If key stage 2 children were tested on people and events from the year 0 to 2004 then it may be a fairly useful resource, but SATs do not stretch to history and this book - apart from asking pupils to look in an encyclopedia - does not encourage children to become historians or use evidence. An unexciting collection of rote dates and facts with a section of answers at the back of the book. History is about finding out about the past and discussing these findings, there are no "answers".
The Invaders and Toys are the wordy type of resource that claims to provide you with everything you need - photocopiable sheets and lesson plans. In this way they can be quite useful, especially to teachers with limited background knowledge in these areas. On the other hand, the downside is that they take a long time to digest and are far better for hunting through for a few adaptable ideas. The main reason why they are not suitable for use as a complete topic is that they only have illustrations of evidence and not photographic evidence of the real artefacts. History is about being historians and children need more than merely worksheets and drawings.
Both the books are divided into focused sections with background knowledge and lesson plans, which include starting points, activities, ICT links and ideas for support and extension. Toys, being KS1, contains a displayable word bank whereas The Invaders (KS2) has an extensive glossary - it would be more useful if they each had both. A list of related websites in each book would allow you to gather prints of primary sources to accompany the activities and, therefore, make the books a far more valuable and key purchase for your school. Tudors and Famous People are also available.
* Karen Keddie teaches at Deer's Wood Primary School, Gloucestershire