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Getting the content across

Discussion in 'History' started by Otter2010, Mar 19, 2012.

  1. Otter2010

    Otter2010 New commenter

    I am a student teacher and struggling with getting content across to my students. I am not a Gove-ist "history is all about dates and facts" type at all, but we do need to know what happened (or what might have happened!) to have any kind of interesting things to discuss (not to mention passing our GCSEs). I have discovered that any more than a paragraph or two's worth of reading and the class switches off - and sometimes even that is a struggle. I find myself bashing my head against a brick wall and attempting one of the following:
    1. Trawling the internet (mostly the thinking history website) for some experiential history activity
    Problem - we still don't always now what happened as a result
    2. Trawling the internet for the perfect youtube clip to do the talking for me
    Problem -
    a) this is kind of a cheat for the above reason!
    b) there is no such thing as the perfect youtube clip as my extremely limited hours of sleep demonstrate
    3. Creating a worksheet to do the job for me
    Problem - this is extremely time-consuming (no sleep again)
    4. Trying to "trick" the kids into absorbing the content by coming up with "clever" written activities, e.g. write your own placard as a striking miner and a mine owner, making your desires clear, or the classic write-a-letter-to....
    Problem - I am tired and not always inspired. Also the kids don't necesarily jump to complete the activity with any more enthusiasm than...
    5. Giving up and reading from the textbook, followed by doing the activities in the textbook. OR
    6. Giving up and telling them the story myself (which they sometimes seem to like more!)
    I am starting to feel like I must be missing a trick. How can I teach them the history they need to know to be able to do anything interesting with it without spending 22 hours planning 2 lessons or abandoning the principle of non-didactic teaching? Is this an impossible task? I would be over the moon to receive some advice!
     
  2. Otter2010

    Otter2010 New commenter

    I am a student teacher and struggling with getting content across to my students. I am not a Gove-ist "history is all about dates and facts" type at all, but we do need to know what happened (or what might have happened!) to have any kind of interesting things to discuss (not to mention passing our GCSEs). I have discovered that any more than a paragraph or two's worth of reading and the class switches off - and sometimes even that is a struggle. I find myself bashing my head against a brick wall and attempting one of the following:
    1. Trawling the internet (mostly the thinking history website) for some experiential history activity
    Problem - we still don't always now what happened as a result
    2. Trawling the internet for the perfect youtube clip to do the talking for me
    Problem -
    a) this is kind of a cheat for the above reason!
    b) there is no such thing as the perfect youtube clip as my extremely limited hours of sleep demonstrate
    3. Creating a worksheet to do the job for me
    Problem - this is extremely time-consuming (no sleep again)
    4. Trying to "trick" the kids into absorbing the content by coming up with "clever" written activities, e.g. write your own placard as a striking miner and a mine owner, making your desires clear, or the classic write-a-letter-to....
    Problem - I am tired and not always inspired. Also the kids don't necesarily jump to complete the activity with any more enthusiasm than...
    5. Giving up and reading from the textbook, followed by doing the activities in the textbook. OR
    6. Giving up and telling them the story myself (which they sometimes seem to like more!)
    I am starting to feel like I must be missing a trick. How can I teach them the history they need to know to be able to do anything interesting with it without spending 22 hours planning 2 lessons or abandoning the principle of non-didactic teaching? Is this an impossible task? I would be over the moon to receive some advice!
     
  3. katnoodle

    katnoodle New commenter

    A very interesting problem! I know exactly what you mean - I've taught in a very unacademic school where kids were well attuned to giving up on more than a small amount of text. Effort levels should be questioned but there could be a genuine problem in some cases of low reading ages and the text being genuinely inaccessible - I would check this first to be sure that students CAN access the material before ensuring that you are jazzing it up for engagement purposes.

    Other than that, a lot of the ideas you're trying sound good and could be regularly used, though perhaps not in every lesson! I'd suggest using Thinking History as long as you have proper time to set up and debrief. Don't be afraid to use a short video clip because it does help with engagement, especially if has good visuals. Try the BBC Learning Zone Class Clips site and Timelines TV for more reliable clips!

    Textbook work used sparingly is fine if it really suits what you want them to achieve - you can't plan whizz bang lessons all the time and I find a lot of students get a lot out of the quiet reflection required, as long as it's not all lesson, every lesson. Good, up-to-date textbooks help - older ones have very tedious activities.

    Telling them the story yourself is also fine! Especially if you can be dramatic with it - again it would be even better if you had visuals to back it up, costumes etc ... brings it all to life.

    They need to develop some of the key skills of reading and researching via text though - try DART activities as an alternative to straightforward reading and if possible, get the highlighters out. Make it a competition - perhaps you could put a statement on the board, direct them to a text and challenge them to find the best points from the text that prove/disprove the statement. Or get them to pick out what they think are the most important points.

    Recently I've tried a "speed teaching" activity in which students need to know about, say, four reasons why the Civil War broke out. I gave students 5 minutes to become an expert just one cause, and then got them to swap round and teach other. They completed the task much more effectively than I expected, much more quickly than if they did it all individually, and they said they really enjoyed it.

    Finally I'd recommend getting a book called The Teacher's Toolkit - full of good lesson activities. Hope that helps!
     
  4. Otter2010

    Otter2010 New commenter

    Thank you, katnoodle! That's really helpful. DART activities are an excellent idea (and one I had forgotten about) and a great plan to get the students to teach themselves - plus they get the added satisfaction of being the expert on their given section/ cause, etc. I shall check Amazon for the book you recommend. Really appreciate the advice!
     
  5. katnoodle

    katnoodle New commenter

    You're welcome, let us know how you get on!
     
  6. I'm so glad there is someone else out there feeling this way!

    I have really struggled this year to deliver GCSE history to year 9 low ability classes (the whole year is doing history this year because of some half thought through plan by SLT anyway . . .) for the same reasons you have described, they just will not read more than a paragraph. This is partly because they are weak, but has a lot to do with the fact they don't have the inclination in the majority of cases to do GCSE level history. I have tried EVERYTHING, and like you said I feel three times older as I don't have the energy to keep it up.

    One thing which i'm sure you have probably done but may well have slipped your mind is information races (they have various other names. quick off the draw etc), but essentially comprehension style activities where pupils take one question at a time find the answer from the text and then show you the answer before getting the next question and its a competition to see which team is fastest with a prize. it does seem to motivate them all and get them to read the text, they do seem to take in the factual details. My only worries are how much they have really understood what they have read, some kids take it as an opportunity to not do a lot, and ultimately it may break your bank balance through prizes!

    But I empathize and will be looking out for other people's suggestions!
     

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