History - Have a blast with the past

8th March 2013 at 00:00

What it's all about

For me, the light-bulb moment comes when a child suddenly understands why a person in history acted the way they did, and how that defines the period, writes Chris Fenton.

Experience brings about understanding, and lively activities lead to a love of history. Squeezing children into cardboard chimneys (to show what life was like for a Victorian chimney sweep) or segregating them by the number of letters in their name (to bring home the horrors of discrimination) gives pupils a practical understanding of history at a deeper level. Children "get it" because the experience is real.

The Romans invaded, conquered and settled in the UK, but how did that feel for the native Britons? At the end of lunchtime I kept my class out in the playground looking for a missing glove. Meanwhile, my colleague got on with her lesson in my room.

When my pupils came in they were horrified to discover that their classroom had been "conquered". The outrage increased when the conquerors explained that they had taken our room because theirs was too small and ours had more windows.

"That's not fair!" my class exclaimed as we trudged into my colleague's classroom with its smaller chairs. The grumbles soon turned to a heartfelt discussion about how it felt to be invaded.

Then we discussed our options. We could fight for it, negotiate to get it back, or share it. As the discussion went on, I steered the children towards the real conquered Britons, what they had done and how they had coped. It was clear that deep-seated learning was taking place.

What else?

Try alainechristian's chronology lesson for SEN pupils, which sets kinaesthetic tasks and uses visual aids.


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