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EDUCATION

If you click on archives you will find some of my views on education prior to December 2018. The following are my latest thoughts.

December 2018
TEACHING HISTORY IN A PRIMARY ENVIRONMENT



Have you tried getting children to learn their times tables but only do 3, 4, 7 and 9? Have you tried helping kids learn the alphabet but only telling them about a,b,f,j,n,p,s,t,w and z? Have you helped them learn and understand Macbeth but only studied acts two and five? Have you taught French but only the present tense? Unlikely I guess. Therefore, explain why we learn history by only taking four or five swathes of the subject during a child's school life. The Romans, The Tudors, The Victorians and the Second World War are the main ones children seem to learn. Why?

I know I have a non-financial vested interest here but it seems ridiculous to only learn bits of a long and varied past, especially since we only got to where we are by going through all parts of our past. In fact would the Romans have bothered with Britain if no one had known about our riches in tin and copper from the Bronze Age? The Tudors would never have happened without the Wars of the Roses. The Victorians needed Queen Anne to die childless, and the causes of the Second World War could be said to have been influenced both by World War One and the Great Depression.

I am not talking about secondary education here. At that stage it is quite correct that pupils should specialise on certain periods of history. I am talking about primary education; six years when children could, and I believe should, go on a historical journey through our island country from the end of the last ice age to the present day. They could start at age 5 and finish at age 11. History even lends itself to such a journey becoming more complicated and harder to understand as you go on.

How would this look:-

  • year 1 – the Ice Age ending until the end of the Iron Age
  • year 2 – the Romans, the Anglo-Saxons and the Vikings
  • year 3 – the Normans and Plantagenets
  • year 4 – the Wars of the Roses, the Tudors and Stuarts
  • year 5 – the Georgians and Victorians
  • year 6 – the Twentieth century and a bit of this one.

It seems so simple and so obvious. Pupils actually progress from one year to the next. Teachers can specialise in a period if they stay with a year group or progress with their pupils. There is no need for any in-depth study, that comes after year 6 in secondary school.

But, what this idea achieves is to build a complete picture before that in-depth study. The learners have seen how people and events were influenced by things which happened before, In other words, returning to my first paragraph, they know why Macbeth is embarking on his murderous spree and why Banquo's son Fleance is in danger.

You can easily bring in some world history too. The Romans being an obvious example, and the Greeks would be an easy link, or the Asian culture with trade and the silk road. Once England began to explore, world history is forever linked.

The website we have developed over the last few years allows just such a learning programme as I talked about earlier. It doesn't include the world history part but a teacher can build that in with no problem. We take you on a natural journey through English history. It's possibly unfortunate I chose an analogy with “the Scottish play” but even some 55 years on I do remember my set books at “O” level. The information on our website is progressive. It covers both actual events (the timeline), more personal history (the hoots) and gives a chance for children to use their imagination (the stories). It is also incredibly easy to use the material for cross-curricula activity; reading and writing being obvious examples but maths and science can link from our site.

I have always maintained that imagination is the single most important quality in trying to learn history and it is far easier to use imagination progressively than being thrown into some period of history and having to imagine how everyone might have got there. We all got to where we are from somewhere else and we will all progress to somewhere from here. Imagination combined with knowledge and memory can help us on that journey and can, if correctly used, prevent us from making the same mistakes as in the past. After all Einstein was quoted as saying that “The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination" and that “logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere".

At present our site has simple text and pictures but we intend to enhance the thoughts of Mr Einstein, and our site, by adding some video clips to the site about places and events and then about the more personal histories on the hoots pages. This will come from a journey we make, starting in September 2020. The journey itself will have various weekly uploads beginning in September 2020. I am not a newcomer when it comes to taking people on a real learning journey and you can see more about that on our background page.

With all of this our aim is to bring history alive and our learners can build a more visual base on which to construct their imagination, a deeper foundation to build their knowledge. For although the true sign of intelligence may not be knowledge, it is a great place to begin your learning journey.

“Information is not knowledge”, Einstein said, long before we kept boasting about being an information-based society.