Unearthing the secrets of the soil

2nd December 2005 at 00:00
Like many history departments, we have an ongoing interest in local history. Our guiding principal is, where possible, to start from the familiar - the locality - and then to explore the more unfamiliar past. In this way, pupils are able to relate the past to their own experiences and thereby derive a greater sense of the relevance of history.

In the summer term of 2004, we began a joint project with University College London's Institute of Archaeology (IoA) to excavate a site on the school premises where a cluster of Tudor cottages once stood.

Called the Kingsbury archaeology project, we wanted to use it to energise pupils by giving them the chance to experience the joy of being at the point of discovery on an archaeological dig, and to develop specific historical skills that would be applied in the classroom and beyond.

During the past two summers, the Kingsbury archaeology project has given pupils the opportunity to learn some of the key techniques used by archaeologists to investigate past societies, helping them to draw parallels between the work of historians and that of archaeologists.

Fragments of clay pipes, bone, oyster shells, coins, various implements, earthenware and the remains of a Tudor cat have been unearthed by pupils, as well as many fragments of pottery ranging from the Norman period or earlier, through to the present day. Pupils have unearthed almost 1,000 years of local heritage and have seen the explicit links between this endeavour and the national curriculum for history.

Given the interdisciplinary nature of archaeology, the project has also helped to promote cross-curricular links and active collaborative learning.

A website was created by the ICT department with daily updates and site reports. Year 9 pupils also created their own websites and Year 12 English pupils made a highly professional radio magazine feature for the school's intranet home page. The art department helped with the creation of a mosaic made up of excavated artefacts, and this has been used as a teaching resource.

The analysis of the finds is ongoing and planning for the third phase of the dig is under way. Our use of local historical knowledge has been significantly enhanced by the use of artefacts and digital resources relating to the dig.

Stephen Ramsay

History department, Kingsbury High School, London

* Details about the dig and work by Kingsbury pupils can be found at sidious.kingsbury.brent.sch.uk


AT notes is free software for creating virtual Post-it Notes for your Windows desktop. The notes can be formatted, saved and shown on screen in a few clicks. They can be dragged and resized anywhere on the desktop and hidden until needed. As well as an aide-memoire, they can also be used in a variety of ways with a data projector andor interactive whiteboard in languages lessons. For example, to support word, sentence and text-level work, notes can be dragged and dropped into the correct order.

I use PowerPoint to make a noughts-and-crosses grid containing images or text signifying new language, and create notes with large Os and Xs positioned on them at the bottom of the screen. Pupils drag the notes into position, having answered a question correctly. These can be given different colours to denote whether nouns are masculine, feminine or plural. For example, to remind pupils of the gender of classroom objects, I put "un", "une" and "des" notes, coloured blue, pink and green respectively, at the top of the screen, and notes containing nouns such as stylo, gomme, cahier, regle, crayon and trousse appear in a mixed order at the bottom. I then select each notes in turn and change their background to the same colour.

Pupils then drag the notes into their corresponding groups. I use the same code throughout my teaching and find it very effective as a visual reminder.

Joe Dale

French teacher, Nodehill Middle School,Isle of Wight

* ATnotes can be downloaded from atnotes.free.frdownload.html


I have used a "Good deed of the day" box throughout my 10 years of teaching and it has worked with every class from Year 1 to Year 6. It is particularly good with difficult classes, and brilliant with pupils who don't get on too well with each other.

I put it in an easily accessible spot - a respected place, not near the sink or coats. If one child helps another during the day, the latter can write on a slip of paper what the other person did for them and how it made them feel. They put their name down and pop it into the box.

At the end of the week, I set aside quality time to read out who has helped who. For example "Thanks to Zoe for helping me with my spellings, it made me feel less nervous about my test, Jack". I then reward the person who wrote the note and the one who did the deed, either by linking it to their own class motivation scheme or, preferably, by creating a stickerclass chart for the purpose.

I am always amazed by how quickly relations are improved and to what extent the opinion of their peers matters to the children.

Each week the children look forward to the next reading of the good deeds.

I even got a mention once.

Clyde Brennan

PSHEkey stage 1 co-ordinator, Brettenham Primary School, London borough of Enfield

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