Using family history to reveal the people behind 19thC public health statistics

 Activities, GCSE  Comments Off on Using family history to reveal the people behind 19thC public health statistics
Apr 302018

It’s often difficult for students to understand the individual human impact of problems such as infant mortality or epidemic diseases, topics studied as part of the history of medicine and of public health. One way of revealing the people behind the bigger picture is to use examples from your own family history as what Rob Phillips called Initial Stimulus Material (ISM).

Here I’ve described two examples – how my grandparents’ entry on the 1911 census can reveal the impact of high infant mortality and, going further back, how my great, great grandmother’s death certificate reveals the impact of epidemic disease.

You can read their stories here …


 Posted by at 4:49 pm

Population: Continuities and Changes

 Activities, GCSE, KS3  Comments Off on Population: Continuities and Changes
Feb 182018

The power of simple demonstrations!

This website contains some quite complex activities – but then we want students to understand that history is complex and to develop plenty of knowledge so complexity is good! However a simple activity can also have a very powerful impact on students’ understanding, particularly when dealing with an overview of long-term patterns.

One example I love is the activity where you use 20 students to represent the adult population of Britain and take them through the sequence of Reform Acts – at the beginning of the activity in 1830 only 1 student out of 20 is standing because he is the only voter – i.e. he represents the 5% of the population who could vote but with each reform more students stand up in proportion to the number of voters. The fact that only 6 are standing in 1884 is very powerful and very visible, rising to 17 out of 20 in 1918.

You can see that activity and the illustrative PowerPoint sequence HERE …

The new activities we’ve now added to the site provide overviews of the population history of England or Britain, using students to represent the changes in the patterns of population. These activities cover:

  1. continuities and changes in the total population since the Roman period
  2. the distribution of population between countryside and towns
  3. the geographical distribution of the largest towns

The first activity comes with a PowerPoint sequence (which you could turn into a film) featuring Lego bricks as alternatives to students but if you have the room and the confidence then using students may have more impact and be more memorable and therefore re-usable when you ask students ‘do you remember when we …?’

You can find these activities HERE …


 Posted by at 1:13 pm

Fun Through Time: Planning a Thematic Unit for KS2

 Activities, Primary  Comments Off on Fun Through Time: Planning a Thematic Unit for KS2
Dec 022017

This is a slightly revised version of an article that appeared in Primary History in Autumn 2017.

It provides guidelines for planning and teaching a unit on ‘having fun across time’ for use in the later years of Key Stage 2 (or possibly Year 7) – investigating questions such as:

‘What did people do for fun in this period?’

‘Were people having fun in the same ways in the Middle Ages as in the Roman or Victorian periods?’

What did our parents and grandparents do for fun when they were children and how different are our activities?’

‘When were the greatest changes and why did they happen?’

However there are deeper purposes too. This enquiry uses the theme of ‘having fun’ (or, if you are in the south, ‘leisure activities’) to reinforce pupils’ chronological understanding and knowledge while at the same time also reinforcing their understanding of the process of enquiry.

You can see the full article HERE …


 Posted by at 2:45 pm

New Activity: Martin Luther and the Road to Worms

 A Level, Activities  Comments Off on New Activity: Martin Luther and the Road to Worms
Aug 282017

A short play written by Mark Fowle to help his A level students deepen their knowledge of these events.

This extract is from Mark’s introduction to the activity:

I wrote this play to help A-Level students understand this crucial phase of the European Reformation, complete with tabards, props and a dash of make-believe (I even pretended to be a fire at one point!)

As well as giving them a welcome break from note-taking, the role-play provides a narrative whilst also getting students involved in thinking about the key turning points, decisions and reactions of various people.  Students really enjoy it and say it helps them remember the chronology and to think about some of the big issues, like whether the Reformation was inevitable and the historical significance of individuals.  It can lead into a really good discussion about how Luther ended up facing down Charles V at Worms and should prove to be an engaging experience which I hope will help to break up the 2 year course into a series of memorable and meaningful participatory events.  It reinforces rather than replaces reading and note-taking.

Download the script, discussion notes and other information HERE …


 Posted by at 12:26 pm

Using Domesday Book to Explore the Norman Conquest

 Activities, GCSE, KS3  Comments Off on Using Domesday Book to Explore the Norman Conquest
May 292017

A pair of activities, suitable for both KS3 and GCSE, created by Ruth Lingard and Helen Snelson who teach in York, together with Professor Stephen Baxter of St. Peter’s College, Oxford whose research on Domesday Book underpins the material and activities.

The two activities are:

  • ‘Efficient and ingenious.’ Why is that an accurate description of the Domesday Survey and Norman government?
  • ‘What does Domesday Book reveal about the impact of 20 years of Norman rule?’

Introducing these activities Helen and Ruth comment:

“We find that students don’t easily connect Domesday Book with the Conquest itself beyond a superficial level. We also find that some textbooks cover the Domesday survey in very little depth. Extracts from Domesday Book itself are also hard to access for students. Using them seems like a good idea to enliven the topic, but they do need some adaption to be useful. These activities use adapted extracts from Domesday to give students a sense of what it includes and the opportunity to use Domesday Book as evidence for the impact of the Conquest.”

For the whole of the first activity and its resources click here

And for the second click here.


 Posted by at 1:54 pm

Understanding Feudalism

 Activities, KS3  Comments Off on Understanding Feudalism
Apr 222017

An introductory activity for KS3 from Andrew Morel who teaches in Cardiff.

Andrew’s activity takes that textbook feudal diagram off the page and recreates it in the classroom using his students as king, barons, knights and villeins.

This approach has the potential to strengthen understanding of the mutual relationships within feudalism – what each person owes and receives back from others.

Also importantly, if it is successful in strengthening understanding it will also be a memorable activity, one that can be referred back to when learning about related topics such as Magna Carta and the 1381 Revolt. Used at Key Stage 3 it may also build understandings for those who go on to study the Norman Conquest at GCSE and will need to return to feudalism in more depth.

See the activity HERE …


 Posted by at 9:19 am

Helping students think about the provenance of sources

 A Level, Activities, GCSE, KS3  Comments Off on Helping students think about the provenance of sources
Feb 012017

Students often struggle with ‘provenance’ i.e. how to use what they know about the creator of a source to reflect on the utility or reliability of that source. This article suggests ways of helping students focus more effectively on provenance by studying the creator of source before they look at what it says or shows.

I have used examples related to the Norman Conquest as it’s a topic almost everyone knows to some degree.

You can read more HERE …


 Posted by at 4:17 pm

The Fishpool Hoard

 A Level, Activities, Wars of the Roses  Comments Off on The Fishpool Hoard
Jan 132017

Fishpool HoardIs this hoard connected to the Lancastrian risings against Edward IV?

Can it help students become interested in the events of the early 1460s?

Or is it just another enjoyable read?

For more see here …


 Posted by at 4:01 pm

The Ryther Hoard and the Lambert Simnel Rebellion

 Activities  Comments Off on The Ryther Hoard and the Lambert Simnel Rebellion
Jan 082017

I thought I was just going to post the information about the hoard and suggest it could be a way of stimulating interest in the Simnel rebellion of 1487 but then I got interested – just how strong is the link and where exactly is Ryther in relation to the events of the rebellion?

This could be useful for A level – or it could just be enjoyable to read.

For more see [here …]


 Posted by at 4:18 pm

Understanding the English Succession: 1051-66

 Activities, GCSE, KS3, Normans  Comments Off on Understanding the English Succession: 1051-66
Nov 262016

This activity for KS3 or GCSE has four brief stages with each stage representing a different date – 1051, 1059, 1065, January 1066. For each date students position individuals in relation to the crown to create a visual representation of who seemed most likely to be Edward’s successor at each date. I’ve tried to keep things as clear as possible, which isn’t easy given the complexity of the debates over the succession to the English crown in 1066. I’ve added notes on what historians are saying about the succession and why the idea of ‘rules’ about who had the best claim are misleading and hence unhelpful for students at any level.

See the activity HERE …


 Posted by at 10:03 am