So pharaoh, so good

15th February 2008 at 00:00

An everyday object can bring history to life - in Mark Haslam's case, it was a button belonging to the man who discovered Tutankhamun's tomb.


I had taught Ancient Egypt to Year 6 many times - a week on Howard Carter, who discovered the tomb, and a week on Tut-ankhamun himself - but I wanted to see if it could be done differently.

I got the idea from a theatre group called Red Earth, which spent a week in school with Dorothy Heathcote, creator of the Mantle of the Expert approach, combining education with drama. They set up an imaginary recycling plant, with the children taking on different roles, making decisions and developing ideas. It built their social skills and their ability to discuss and negotiate. It also brought in literacy skills and developed their maths.

I had visited Egypt and told my class that I had found a button there that belonged to Howard Carter. They wanted to know who he was and soon the children and I were creating a lesson plan. Once we found out Carter was a famous archaeologist, we decided to protect the button by building a special exhibition around it.

One group of boys designed security cameras, while another wanted to organise advertising. Somebody stumbled on Tut-ankhamun's tomb and looked at other discoveries.

Someone else wanted to know where all the kings were buried, so we looked at a world map and made a model of the Valley of the Kings.

All these ideas came from one button. The children found so many different routes into Egypt and what they got out of it was so much more than I could have dreamed up. It does take longer and sometimes the children do head up blind alleyways, but it's important they do that and learn from it.

It took about four weeks for the children to be really confident and you have to find the right balance between free thinking and teacher guidance. But I'm keen to try it again.

Mark Haslam is a teacher at Reigate Primary in Derby. He was talking to Diana Hinds.

Free trip for your treasures

TES Magazine reader offer

It's one of the grandest displays London has ever seen - the Tutankhamun exhibition at the O2 Centre has visited by 10,000 schoolchildren since November, with bookings for another 50,000.

The show last came to town in 1972 but many of the 130 artefacts from the tomb of the boy pharaoh, who died in 1372 BC aged about 19, are on display for the first time. Plus there are some technologically-enhanced marvels - like the lifelike reconstruction of King Tut's head using forensic techniques.

If your class has not seen it, here's your chance. We've fixed it so one lucky school can win FREE tickets for a party of up to 100 to see the exhibition before it closes in August. It's ideal for key stage 2 and you can also check out before your visit.

To win, send a postcard to Treats, The TES Magazine, 4th Floor, 26 Red Lion Square, London WC1R 4HQ, marking your entry "Tutankhamun", or email The first entry picked will win.

By sending us your name and address, you agree to The TES sending you this prize. The TES will not use your personal details for any other future communications. The closing date for entries is Friday, February 29.

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