History Resource Cupboard – lessons and resources for schools

History Resource Cupboard - lessons and resources for schools

Teaching Issues

20 Engaging End Products for the History Classroom

Are you bored of setting work that ends up in an extended piece of writing? An essay? An ‘important assessment’? An exam answer?

When you tell your class this do they groan and look deflated? Those kids who can’t be bothered don’t bother. You’re marking load increases as your motivation to read and assess each book diminishes.

If this sounds all but too familiar, this short piece on 20 Engaging End Products for the History Classroom has been written to offer you some help to make your end products more engaging.

Clearly making students show you what they have learnt and understood is very important. You need to assess their work (or is it progress now?) to see how well they are doing and, to inform the next steps in your teaching. You need to know how well they have grasped certain concepts and certain topics.

Regular feedback is crucially important  You need to know how their historical thinking is progressing at many different points of a lesson. Written work is very important to use history teachers. But boring your students with the same extended piece of writing is just plain unfair to all involved.

We have always tried to vary the type of end products our students produce to keep them motivated, to make the whole enquiry meaningful and to keep the marking load down.

Below in no particular order are some of our favourite end products. This list is by no means definitive. These are just ideas that have worked well for us.

Written summary of anything in just 60 words

Isn’t it amazing: we are obsessed with our students writing at length when producing something in a short, set number of words is just as hard if not harder. Bizarrely those kids who we think are ‘weaker’ often write more than the allocated amount. They struggle to keep the words down. This works well when you turn it into a plaque writing exercise. Can they produce a better plaque than the one that already exists?

Voice over for a film clip

This is a highly motivating end product. After investigating something in detail and all of the thinking is done, introduce a short film clip and get them to criticise it and produce a better voice over.

See our great lesson on the causes of  World War One as a clear example of this. Alternatively, simply turn the sound down and get them to write their own. When you have heard their versions play them the real one. You can add spice here by asking them to produce the voiceover from different people’s perspectives.

Produce a short film clip

This is the same idea as the above, except this time they have to produce the images too.  After you have investigated into an event, and they have written the voiceover, give them twenty images relating to this topic.

Tell them that they have to produce a mini film to be shown under the voice over. They are only allowed to use 5 images – which ones will they choose? Can they justify their choice and then record the clip? They could produce a ‘talking PowerPoint’ or their own film.

Making a display to show

I don’t know about you, but I think most museums are really uninspiring places for young people to visit. This is a great opportunity to make kids the expert.

Show them a poor museum or local display on a topic you so just have happened to have taught. What is wrong with this display? Could they produce a better one? Or could they write the curator explaining why they are so unimpressed? See our tea article for how this might work.

Write a blog or a comment on a webpage

This works really well, particularly if you post a real comment on a webpage or forum and get your kids to respond to it. Alternatively you could do it on the VLE or even create an email account for an imaginary person (famous historian?) If you draft it as one side of the argument they can respond by writing the other side. See our Triumph of the Will lesson for an example.

Dear historian/TV producer/ textbook author/ expert in/parental complainer

This tried and tested end product is a real winner. Making kids smarter than an expert is a really motivating way to end an activity. And it also shows kids the power of historical knowledge. For an example look at our Hastings or Black Death enquiries.

Date the painting / cartoon

I love this idea – I got it from Neil Thompson. Again this shows kids the power of historical knowledge. This pithy task quite simply asks kids to use their knowledge to date a picture. It could be a painting, a propaganda poster from the Soviet era, a political or a satirical cartoon. Our lesson on transportation to Australia asks the kids to date a saucy image and justify their thinking.

Expert witnesses on ‘In Our Time’ / at a history conference

I used this activity once after teaching a great enquiry on The Swing Riots. The kids were armed with great knowledge about the causes of the Swing Riots after analysing some primary data and looking at the story of two rioters. They were then tasked with holding a history conference. Each one had to prepare answers to questions (prepared by a G&T student). I then dressed them up in dodgy historians brown jackets, ties and glasses.  5 experts then held their conference which we videoed. A really memorable learning experience for all.

An argument between two historians

Similar to the above, this idea involves introducing two historians contrasting interpretations and getting your students to use their knowledge of the topic to argue their historians case. Get them to make notes on post –it’s and model for them how to argue. Then hold a contest at the front of the class pitching historian against historian.

Improve the diagram

Peter Moss books are great for this. Moss created brilliant diagrams to show a whole host of things from the changing fashions of the Tudor period to the ‘Reformation Rollercoaster’. But how accurate are they? Can kids use their historical knowledge to criticise these diagrams and produce a better version? If you give them the time you will be amazed at the results.

Improve the song or poem

See our lesson on Black Britain for a fantastic example of this. ‘Lord Kitchener’s ‘London is the place to be’ is a calypso classic. But was it an accurate reflection of the experiences of first generation immigrants from the West Indies.

Analyse the song, look at the diverse experience then get the kids to write a more accurate version or compose their own on garage band. It is also worth looking at the brilliant Peatbog soldiers lesson. Or checking out our blog piece on how to use music in the history classroom.

Unseen assessment

Not too sexy – but a must at certain points in the curriculum. If you get the task right and the question and the mark-scheme these are winners. See our work on assessment to understand this more.

And some more that need little or no explanation:

A letter to..

A speech to …

A tweet about…

Improve the caption for…

Article for a magazine…

Web forum discussion…


Balloon debate…

Improve the dodgy ‘ifipedia’ account of…


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