One of the million reasons I love history teaching is the fact that we use so many different subject areas in our lessons, often without realising it.Here are History Resource Cupboard we adore using paintings, visual sources and art. We love using music. Clearly literacy is high on our agenda both in terms of speaking and listening and writing as most of our lessons involve discussion and lead to a substantial written piece.I also think we make a big contribution to numeracy, often without ever knowing!
I think giving kids access to numerical data is important for a whole host of reasons.
One of these is the fact that you don’t have to be massively literate to read numbers, yet you can get to some real high levels of understanding by using them. Also, data can add more rigour to an enquiry; after all it can hard to argue with the numbers. But it can also be really easy to argue about them! And we love these grey areas.
Probably the least important reason, but one to throw into a conversation with your line manager, to prove you are up to date, is that Ofsted inspection teams (at the time of writing) are looking for the contribution of other subjects to mathematics.
What follows are some random thoughts on how we can use data in our teaching to add to the quality of the history first and foremost. This is accompanied by free lesson ideas and a number of data resources for you to take away.
Data to engage / data as a hook
Recently I have been working on some new Germany lessons, which will cover 1934-45. This led me dipping into to Richard J Evans great work, The Third Reich in Power. In it I found this sentence which I thought would make an ace starting point for an enquiry on Nazi control. It describes the amount of anti Nazi statements, picked up in bars and pubs which led to prosecutions:
While three quarters of all critical remarks prosecuted by the courts were overheard in Augsburg’s pubs and bars in 1933, the proportion sank the two thirds in 1934 and a little more than half in 1935. A few years later it was 1 in 10.
How fascinating. I am going to use it in table form to ask the class why they think the people were more likely to speak their mind in bars / pubs? And why did the number of denunciations go down so relatively quickly – was it because people lived in fear, or fewer were fed up? Then we will look at different methods of control.
Data to use in hypothesis testing
Years ago, I worked closely with Simon Harrison, former chair of The Historical Association Secondary Committee. When he was an AST he came up with wonderful lesson based on a slave punishment record. What he did was got kids to test a series of ever increasingly difficult hypotheses about slave punishment using the punishment record. He then got them to think historically by posing a hypothesis that made the question the usefulness of the punishment record. It worked brilliantly. You can download the workshhet grid and my adapted punishment record to this fab enquiry below.
This inspired me to create my own data base for an enquiry into the Swing Riots, based around the real story of two brothers who were found guilty of rioting and sentenced to death for their involvement in a Hampshire Riot. I asked if they were typical and created a short and larger database to test this. It was included in an article written in Teaching History a few years ago.