DISPLAYING ITEMS BY TAG: HISTORY

Staffordshire’s National Memorial Arboretum is encouraging pupils from across the UK to take part in its Battle of the Somme poetry competition, with entries being accepted until Friday 17th June. Part of the Royal British Legion, the Arboretum is the UK’s year-round Centre for Remembrance. KS2, KS3 and KS4 pupils are being asked to submit a poem on the theme of the hornbeam tree, which was the only one left standing in Delville Wood, Longueval, and became a poignant symbol of hope during the Battle of the Somme.

In my opinion, amid OFSTEDs 2000s obsession with four part lessons and accelerated learning, some facets of History teaching have been undermined, underrated and castigated. One of those is storytelling. Never underestimate the power of a good story in the classroom and the impact one can have, not only on pupils learning in school, but their enduring memory of you and your subject. I recently heard from a Geography teacher who’d spent a 60 minute lesson telling his Year 9 students a story about the evolution of a rainforest. He said it was his favourite lesson (and theirs). When those same students were in Year 10 and 11 they would ask him to tell them the story again! Like 6-year-olds love their favourite nursery rhymes, students love experiences.

What can you say about a 52 year old man who died? That he loved theatre. That he was a poet, a playwright. That he wrote Hamlet, A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Macbeth. That he is still living, speaking, breathing and directing…

Many of us have grown up playing board games. I spent endless hours building up real estate portfolios when playing Monopoly and solved murders playing Cluedo. These days I dig these games out on wet Sundays to play with my own children. I work in a school where many of my pupils may not get a chance to play these games, and therefore I could see not only educational benefits, but it also gave my pupils a chance to interact with one and another and have some fun. This great mix of social interaction, competition and education has certainly helped my pupils over the years.

Often, after a public show, a kind member of the audience will come up and tell me that I could be a teacher. While to them this is a compliment, this runs headfirst into one of my pet peeves. No, I could not just be a teacher. Of course I perform for (and sometimes direct) children and young people, and my shows have an educational leaning, but that doesn’t mean that I could walk into a classroom tomorrow and be a teacher. It is a basic misunderstanding, and to my mind, slight lack of respect for, the amount of time, training and on the job learning that makes for a good teacher.

As a child, I was actively encouraged to read. I’d spend evenings going to bed reading about the Mary Lennox, the isolated and closed off child sent to live in a remote manor on the desolate moors of Yorkshire, or about Carrie, the evacuee who embarks on a new adventure to Wales to escape the bombing of London. The skill of the authors hooked me into reading further about their experiences. I felt myself being transported into the fresh valleys of Wales, where Carrie would spend time weighing out rationed items in the shop, and experienced the difference in social classes in Victorian England alongside their understanding of medical ailments.

History resource champions Squaducation have launched a competition aimed at inspiring the historians of the future. My EPIC Era 2016 is a new History competition for schools and pupils throughout the UK, and is being spearheaded by veteran soldier, actor and educator Kevin Hicks. Pupils are being asked to name their favourite era in history and tell the competition judges all about it. Their entries can be written, drawn, crafted, performed or filmed. My EPIC Era 2016 will be open for entries until 31st March 2016.

Manchester-based edtech experts Computeam have been working with archeologist Dr. Diane Davies and the London Grid for Learning to immerse pupils in the Maya civilization. The company’s library of augmented reality learning resources, specifically those looking at the Mesoamerican civilization, won them a prestigious Primary Digital Content BETT Award in London last month.

The best way to engage kids with History is by immersing them in it. Throwing them in the deep end of the weird and wonderful world of the past, without any armbands and letting them go. That’s where the magic in History teaching happens. Below are my top tips for how to do this. I am not claiming they are my own personal ideas. Many of them aren’t; they are built on the best practice from the last thirty years. NOTE: lots of this comes from a manifesto for decent lessons which my team and I wrote last summer.

This Friday, 15th January saw us celebrate the imminent Martin Luther King Day. Dr King’s “I Have a Dream” speech is genuine love, caring, and hope that means so much to me. It means that a man saw injustice for some and worked with everything he had to get justice for all. I feel Dr King’s words push me to be a better person and teacher, to work toward my dreams, to make my dreams real. I think some people see his words as a dream he had for only people of colour. I don’t see this. Dr King was a man of the people. He worked tirelessly so that others would be able to live by his selfless interpretation of United States’ Declaration of Independence.

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