History Resource Cupboard – lessons and resources for schools

History Resource Cupboard - lessons and resources for schools

Teaching Issues

How using Teacher in Role can raise engagement in the history classroom

I must admit that it is only this year, after 20 years of teaching that I have felt comfortable being a’teacher in role’.

I don’t know why, but before I started working with Neil Bates this was something that I shied away from. But on my first day working at my latest school, I was watching Neil teach year 9. They were looking at the role of art in World War One. He suddenly announced that the class should write interview questions for the artists they had been looking at: Paul Nash and Otto Dix. Then, he sidled up to me and told me that  I was playing Nash.

So, twNash_Menin_Roado minutes later, after a frantic search for Paul Nash on my phone, I was up being interviewed by 30 students. They were eager to find out why I had painted the Menin Road in that particular style. Once the first question and response came, their interest was sparked and they couldn’t stop asking questions.

What really struck me was, how much they engaged with this task.  Neil had come prepared and gave me a pipe as  a prop. He used a cap and a really dodgy German accent when playing Otto Dix. These  little touches are really important as they separate you as the teacher from the character you are playing.

The class really listened to me.  And, when we marked their work explaining why the artists paintings were so different, they really had taken in what we said.

Why did it work?

Proving this was no fluke, I have subsequently  been  successful with this technique on a  number of occasions. When looking at why the Liberals needed to reform I played George Meredith – a builder from York in 1900. Engagement was high with year 11.  They realised the problems of having no fixed employment, poor living conditions and no old age pension. This was so much better than just reading it out of the book.

When I looked at what life was like in the 1930s in Britain, I played my Great Uncle. Engagement was again super high. My year 9s really understood that the interpretations that they had been given  of life in the 1930s were not quite right for Lenny Fogg living in the Essex. This took them to a much higher level of understanding.

Be warned, this technique only works if it is placed in the correct place in a sequence of learning. However, it is so easy to do!

Watch the short ‘teaching ideas’ film to see how we could place the interview to get maximum impact. If you want more ideas on teacher in role then read this article by our resident expert.

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