Great Resources For Teaching Primary History
by Glenn Carter, Primary Teacher and History Co-ordinator
That moment when you announce a new history topic to your class and are met with ‘woops’, cheers and fist pumps is a great feeling and gives you a desire to instil into them EVERY piece of conceivable knowledge that you have within that area. But similarly, it’s those children that don’t give any reaction, or perceive history as being ‘dull’ and ‘boring’ that also gives me that drive. I say to them, ‘No, history isn’t boring, you just haven’t found the history that EXCITES you yet. There’s a piece of history out there for EVERYONE.’
So how can we engage those children who are turned off by history from such an early age or inspire those who yearn to consume as much wisdom as they can? Trekking through hours of worksheets and slogging through textbooks can be tiresome and lots of them can seem quite dull and off-putting. So here are some alternatives that might help liven up your teaching of history and provide exciting and engaging lessons that foster a passion for topics of the distant, and not so distant, past.
I have used this website for most of our major topics in school. They give the teachers a solid base for knowledge and the certainty that they will be able to find something useful within it. For a relatively small fee, you receive a wealth of resources. The CD’s contain detailed PowerPoints featuring local studies and plenty of images to generate discussion. They also come with a workbook, which can be edited in Word, which follows the content of the PowerPoint. I’ve used these myself and it’s been easy to tweak both the PowerPoints and the workbooks to suit our own school’s needs. If you are starting a brand new topic and have very little resources, or very limited knowledge, this should be your go-to source. Appropriate for KS1-KS4. www.historyinteractive.co.uk
Starbeck Educational Resources
Generally known as my ‘man with a van’, Starbeck have helped keep my ENTIRE school resourced with high-quality artefacts and replicas since I became co-ordinator there. Having had a background in museums, I’ve always been keen to put objects into the children’s hands rather than using a picture on the board, and with Starbeck, I can do that. The beauty of this company is that they literally do have vans that can come to your school so that you can view any items that you want to purchase. They are constantly acquiring new items from various auctions around Europe and the sales team really know their stuff. A simple check of their website shows you where the vans are heading to in the coming weeks and a quick phone call or email sees them heading directly to you. Looking for items for a particular topic? Tell them and they’ll try their best to provide you with it. Find an item on their website that you want? Tell them and they’ll keep it for you if they have it. I usually have them visit once or twice a year and I always buy something interesting or useful. Good for geography, art or PSHE too. They obviously have limited stock in the van though, and may not have much of a particular topic left if they have been to a few schools before you. www.starbeck.com
Of course, SchoolsHistory provides information on a range of topics covered throughout the curriculum. Focusing mainly on KS3+ but expanding into Primary, there are lots of quality teaching resources that can be bought and downloaded, with a team that listen to suggestions for creating new content. The Facebook page is growing steadily and engaging posts that can be used for class discussion appear regularly throughout the day. It also links to other resources on the internet and directs towards poignant contemporary news, discoveries and theories. www.schoolshistory.org.uk
Created by myself, I knew that I needed some catchy songs that showcased the things that we had learned for class assemblies. Having written a handful of fun and lively tunes, I launched History Rocks! with the intention of spreading this knowledge to other teachers and allowing them to use my songs for either assemblies or just generally to help teach topics. All of the songs are free and you can find links to download both the original songs and the instrumental versions. There are many songs covering vast range of topics including the Romans, Greeks, Stone Age and Victorians. Everything is free and will be sure to spruce up your class at the end of a lesson. www.youtube.com/c/historyrocksuk
Historical Court by TTS Education Supplies
A slightly quirky, but definitely engaging resource, the Historical Court packs by TTS offer a unique experience that can lead to very engaging discussions. Based around a set topic or theme, each ‘case’ features a question that the children must provide a verdict on. Themes include the Romans, Anglo-Saxons, Vikings, Ancient Greeks and more. I’ve used this resource numerous times and the children have loved it. Setting the classroom up like a courtroom, with me being the judge, the children were engaged from the moment they took their seats as either the defendants, lawyers or jury. Each defendant has a small card of information which provides details of the events from their point of view. The lawyers then ask them a set of given questions that illicit that information, ready for the jury to make a decision. The order of the defendants often makes the jury question themselves by placing conflicting viewpoints directly after each other. The number of children that I have seen flip-flop on their decisions has been quite spectacular! All-in-all, for a very low price, this has provided a great opportunity to inject drama and critical thinking into topics across our school in a way that is engaging and exciting. Some of the content of these debates can be quite intense though and requires the assistance of an adult to help the children retrieve the correct information for each question. I have used it successfully in Year 5 and feel it would work well with Year 4 depending on the topic and the given debate. https://www.tts-group.co.uk/historical-court-role-play-classroom-game/1006932.html
Mr T Does Primary History
Mr T Does Primary History provides a range of services. CPD, Medium Term Planning and a range of teaching tips and pointers about historical concepts and skills are being added to this new website and facebook page on a very regular basis. Highly recommended.
Mozaik by MozaWeb
From the second that I first stumbled upon this app, I knew that I was going to be utterly blown away by it. Created by a Hungarian company, the app allows you to view beautifully rendered 3D models of a whole host of different objects, locations and topics including the Vikings, Romans, Egyptians, Stone Age and many more. Most ‘scenes’ have different elements that you can focus on, including cross-sections and internal views. Some scenes also allow you to walk around within a limited area, which I found the children loved, trying to explore different places that they could go. The ‘Time Travel’ function on a few scenes is also very cool, allowing you to see the change to a building over time. I’ve used this as a teaching tool, as an information resource and as an ‘experience’ for the children. The key demographic for this is seemingly KS3+ as the supplied information can become very technical, but the models themselves can be used easily in a primary setting, including KS1 or Foundation Stage. You can sign up for free and access 5 different scenes each week, or open the same scene 5 times, with your allowance resetting on a Sunday.
Available on Android, Apple and PC. www.mozaweb.com
EON Experience VR
Allowing you to use this in VR mode or without, this app gives you a few choice locations that can be explored such as Stonehenge or Egypt. Locations can provide you with information and a closer look at what certain scenarios may have looked like. Trying this in VR is pretty exciting and the app itself is free.
Available on both Apple and Android.
A quiz app that lets you create your own quizzes or select from a bank of thousands. Kahoot! is a very popular app that sees either individuals or teams compete against each other in live quizzes that are sure to engage. I’ve had to replay certain quizzes numerous times as the children have pleaded with me, ‘Please, we were SOOO close to winning!’ Useful as an assessment tool, I have often created a ‘start of topic’ quiz which simply allows me to see what the children do and don’t know about a topic, and then do the exact same quiz at the end, but this time with points, to see how much they have actually learnt. The speed and intensity, coupled with the competitive nature of the quiz, sees the children immersed and forget that they are even in a history lesson. It also demonstrates which children have really embedded their learning and can recall facts and figures at the drop of a hat. If you are going to use them, I would recommend playing through other people’s quizzes before using them with your class as users can submit whatever they want. Personally I just create my own so that I know that it is definitely child-friendly!
Available on Apple and Android.
Like Kahoot, this is a very popular app that is not directly linked to history, but provides thousands of non-fiction texts linked to a variety of topics. Working like a Kindle or E-Book, it is a different way for children to research or find exciting stories based on your current subject. Whilst a good ole’-fashioned textbook is just as worthy, children today love using technology and this app adds that extra hook for engagement. It can also be used to find a class reader or for guided reading sessions. The app is free if you sign up as an Educator.
Available on Apple and Android.