de Vere Primary School
Many of us will remember history lessons as rather lifeless lectures where the teacher told, or worse still, read stories from the past and we as children were expected to write them down, learn them, with the relevant names and dates, and then regurgitate the information in a test. Fortunately for children today, times have changed and we try to adopt a more creative approach, which is far more engaging and brings history to life.
The National Curriculum breaks down the knowledge, skills and understanding that are to be acquired in both Key Stage 1 (KS1) and Key Stage 2 (KS2) into five main areas. In KS2, history is about people and important events and developments from recent and more distant times in the locality, in Britain and in other parts of the world. By the end of KS2, most children are expected to be able to:
‑ describe the contribution made by people, events and developments in the recent and more distant history of Britain and other countries and make links across the periods of history studied
‑ give some reasons for, and results of, main events and changes and provide explanations about why people in the past acted as they did
‑ find out about the past by asking and answering questions using a range of sources of information
‑ give some explanations for the different ways the past is represented and interpreted
‑ record their knowledge and understanding about the past in a variety of ways using dates and historical terms.
How can history be taught creatively?
The arts can help to bring history ‘alive’ and to ‘humanize’ it for us. Drama, for example, has a key role to play in helping children understand people from the past, the motivations for their actions and the differences between their time and culture and today’s society. Some teachers will be happy to use the techniques of drama to bring their delivery alive. Others engage the help of outsiders – another teacher, or a parent or two, or a ‘Theatre-in-Education’ group.
Going beyond the school
Schools vary greatly in the way that they go about meeting the above requirements but most of us try to make use of external resources such as museums and trips. There are numerous ‘living history’ experiences that schools can take children to. One of these for example is Kentwell Hall in Long Melford. Children dress up as Tudors for the day as they are led into different rooms in the manor house by actors dressed as characters from the past. The wealth of knowledge that children gain from this kind of experience is tremendous.
What periods in history will my child learn about at primary school?
At the beginning of each term you will be sent a letter outlining areas of study. History may not be taught each term. The National Curriculum gives schools some choice within this set framework:
‑ Romans, Anglo Saxons and Vikings in Britain
‑ the Tudors
‑ Victorian Britain or Britain since 1930
‑ Ancient Greece
‑ a world history study which will include one of the following: ancient Egypt, ancient Sumer, the Assyrian Empire, the Indus Valley, the Maya, Benin or the Aztecs.
What can parents do at home to get children hooked?
Find out what your child will be learning in the coming term and help them to get the most out of it by giving them some background to the subject before they begin it at school. Check out your collection of children’s books. Do you have many with historical themes? There are many great books which pitch the historical content at a level which really captures children’s interest. For example, the ‘Horrible Histories’ series. These include titles such as The Rotten Romans, The Awful Egyptians, Smashing Saxons and Storming Normans. There are 26 titles in total. They claim to explore history with the rotten bits left in! Local libraries should stock them, as they are a popular series. Take your children to museums and galleries during the holidays and follow-up the visits with further research, mini projects etc. Take a camera, if it’s allowed, and put together an album of the visit. Get your child to make a note of any interesting facts, and write these up, so that you can put them in the album alongside the pictures.
History lends itself well to being explored creatively. Researching information, finding evidence and arguing a point of view are skills which are valued in adult life. Through their study of history, children can see the diversity of human experience and can understand more about themselves as individuals and members of a society.
‑ www.bbc.co.uk/history: This is a fantastic website which covers all the Key Stage 2 history topics. Take the specific link to history for children. It’s full of pictures, photos and interesting information.
‑ www.ancientegypt.co.uk: This is the website of the British Museum. It’s brilliant for youngsters and covers everything about the ancient Egyptians, including gods and goddesses, mummification, pyramids, geography and lifestyle.