Possible one-off ideas

  • Was it better ‘in the olden days’? or Is history all about inexorable progress? Pupils listen to one of the several podcasts from the recent BBC series ‘A history of Britain in numbers‘ and write a bullet point summary in groups as a basis for class discussion. Useful for interpretations, statistics and a big question. This may work best as a BYOD type lesson so you need to think about equipment (i.e. computer room with headphones).
  • David Christian, one of the creators of the Big History Project (about which see under long-term planning) gave an inspiring TED talk – which covers the history of the world in 18 minutes. It could be shown to younger students perhaps as a preliminary to creating a timeline or to more sophisticated students who might debate whether history can be explained by physics or whether such projects contain hidden dangers, for which try this Guardian article on the Big History project.
  • Richard Overy’s suggestions for the 50 key moments in world history offers examples for the discussion of historical significance in depth. A follow up homework may be for students to identify a character or event from the past whom they think is significant and to prepare a speech about them for a balloon debate in the following lesson. For more lessons on significance you could try 10 ideas for teaching significance.
  • Able pupils learning about interpretations might find this 20-minute TED talk by Chimamanda Adichie about the danger of a single story. It covers a range of ideas – from power to stereotypes and how ‘A story’ becomes ‘The story’. It could be used to open a discussion with pupils about representations and about the purpose and importance of history, about why stories matter and in what ways fiction is similar to, and different from, history.

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