History Resource Cupboard – lessons and resources for schools

Teaching Issues

Making history meaningful by exploiting the topical

One of the big challenges for all teachers how to best engage our students and make them want to learn. There are many ways that we can do this. One technique that is worthy of our attention is exploiting the topical.

This is easy for our colouring in colleagues (geographers) because there are often natural disasters, that make the news. They can just swap their curriculum around and change the label of the earthquake!  For us historians, exploiting the topical is more difficult.  However, with due care and attention it can be done.

Last week there was a great story in The Observer that was well worth exploiting. The fact that a recent archaeological find in London has convinced experts that the Black Death in London had to spread by the pneumatic and not the bubonic plague. So we have been teaching the wrong story to kids for genearations The speed which the disease spread has convinced the boffins that the disease must have been passed on from person to person through the air…

It isn’t often that we can get hold of such up to date research – we should use this to our advantage. To this end I have updated our ‘Why were so many skeletons found at Charterhouse square – enquiry?’ When the kids work out for themselves the answer to the question, you can then share the latest research.

We should find as many decent opportunities as we can to exploit the latest news to make our lessons meaningful. Here at history resource cupboard have tried to do this with many of our lessons. We try to seize on the topical and make it that interesting that even it dates a little it will still make a quirky and engaging start to an enquiry. Be it why did the historian post dodgy reviews on amazon? Or why were campaigners so angry about the wording of a plaque? We should try and engage our learners and make history meaningful.

Happy history teaching

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