Hot Air Balloon Disaster

Helping students to make judgements about relative importance

All of the important figures in history are in a hot air balloon whose engine is broken. Who do you throw out first to ensure the rest survive?! History is full of people and a key skill is to get our students to think about the relative importance of these individuals. Who is more important? Who is less important This (silly!) activity gets your students to use their historical thinking to make judgements about importance by imagining a fictional situation.

Copy from a student's book. (Richard Kennett)
Copy from a student’s book. (Richard Kennett)

Example: End of the year revision activity

  1. At the end of the year I reintroduce my students to ten of the most important figures we have studied that year. I give them a sheet of paper with their images.
  2. They draw a hot air balloon in the top corner of a big bit of paper.
  3. They then decide who is the least important (they would get thrown out first) and the most important (they stay in the basket).
  4. They stick down all the individuals in order.
  5. They then draw speech bubbles from the mouths of the individuals where they explain their position.

Thanks to my students at Redland Green School, Bristol whose work I have used here.

Published by

Richard Kennett

Richard Kennett has a BA in History, specialising in Medieval Europe, and an MEd, focusing on history education, both from the University of Bristol. He has been teaching history in Bristol since 2008 at Redland Green School which was awarded the Gold award by the Historical Association. In addition to teaching Richard is an author of history textbooks for Hodder publishing. He leads the Bristol Schools’ History Forum, a network of local teachers, who meet regularly to discuss pedagogy. Richard has presented his work at the Schools History Project conference and the Historical Association conference in the UK where his interests have focused on teaching a sense of period and using micro history techniques. He is a prolific blogger ( and tweeter (@kenradical).

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