Human timeline for developing chronological understanding

Helping students to develop their chronological understanding

Using students wearing paper tabards as a human timeline to demonstrate sequencing and change over time. By being a human timeline the teacher can test students understanding of key historical terms. The students can more easily understand sequencing. They can also see change and continuity over time. By making these things visible and physical, students understand abstract concepts more easily. Continue reading Human timeline for developing chronological understanding

Using @Twitter to promote historical thinking and improve your teaching

For a couple of years now I have been using @Twitter to help my students get better at studying history and to improve my own teaching practice. The use of such an obviously social media may still seem odd to some of you, but I hope I can persuade you that it has a place beyond just adding a bit of spice to history teaching life.

Twitter is about raising a profile you care about

I have used Twitter with students as a platform for them to promote their work. In order to promote their work on Twitter it needs to be good. No student wants to look second best on social media. Suggesting that we tweet the outcome of projects directly to people of influence can have a powerful effect. Let me give an example.

This term some of my students have been trying to locate York’s missing Roman amphitheatre. Sadly, we cannot go out with trowels and dig, but we have been in class learning about other amphitheatres and putting together criteria as to the sort of piece of land we might be looking for. For example, it had to be up to 100m across, not flood, not be inside the fortress etc. Armed with our criteria and maps of Roman York we have used scaled shapes to put together our favourite ideas for sites where the lost amphitheatre could be. So where does Twitter come into this? Well, students were required to record their justifications and to make them of such quality that they were able to be uploaded and the link tweeted to the City Archaeologist. This raised the stakes of achievement and has honed their evidence-based arguments.

Twitter can create a story and bring it home

Earlier this year was the centenary of the first zeppelin raid on our city. Students researched the story from the archives and then wrote it up in a series of Tweets. These were then loaded onto @Twitter with a specially created @ZeppelinWW1York profile. It is possible to load up tweets on timed release in advance. Students and their families then followed the twitter feed release in real time exactly 100 years to the minute since the actual raid. If you look at the picture of the twitter feed you will get the idea. This memorial via Twitter has been taken into the City Archives with the collection that we also made (search,-1.088843,10/bounds/53.659076,-1.400895,54.240946,-0.776791/paging/1). (You can read about how to use historypin in an earlier blogpost.)


We created the zeppelin tweets ourselves, but look out for similar projects you can lift and use. For example, as I type this, we are approaching the 950th anniversary of the Battle of Hastings. Each day at the moment there is a Twitter feed from various important characters of the time. My students are following this and feel engaged in the story. Once the Twitter feeds are complete, I will go into the profiles and print off each character’s Twitter feed. Students will then take different characters in groups. They will be able to put the story of the 1066 invasions together from the perspective of different key characters from the time. This will then lead into work about how the events have been remembered by different communities. Again, the screenshot here will give you an idea as to how the Twitter feed is currently appearing. You can see some different characters’ views.


Twitter to work with historical significance

This year I started a lesson on the Somme by asking students to search in @Twitter for #Somme 2016. They studied the feed and came up with views about the question: ‘To whom is the Battle of the Somme still significant?’ It is a really easy way for students to understand that this battle is still really important to many nations and to lots of different types of people.  You could do the same with any event that has, or has had, a specific hashtag.

Twitter for your professional development

Of course, one of the ways we help our students become better at studying history is by making ourselves better teachers. Twitter is a very powerful tool for helping you to connect to the history and history teaching world. Trial and error is the key to working out who to follow. If you pick someone who turns out not to be very interesting or helpful to you, you can always unfollow them. I suggest the following mix to start off with:

  • An educational journalist who is tweeting about policy and procedural announcements. You haven’t time to read all the media as a busy teacher, so find someone whose tweets will alert you to the fact that something has been said, or released, that you need to be aware of.
  • An academic historian who is working in a field of study that you teach. Some of them are very good at tweeting about the latest thoughts and resources in their academic sphere.
  • A fellow teacher who is a history twitter nerd. Follow them to pick up new resources, thoughts about what to teach, teaching gossip etc.
  • A museum with a very good education programme. Again, this is likely to help you to a rich seam of resources that you can mine.

To start you off I could suggest the following: @IWM_Centenary, @Europeana, @EUROCLIO, @kenradical, @Snelsonh, @eisenmed

And finally…

If you are worried about the age of students using @Twitter, remember that with younger students you can use an account that you have set up and manage. It is very easy to sign up to a Twitter account. You can have more than one. This is not the place to start getting into a detailed user guide; there are plenty of these online if you need them – or grab a younger person to help. Warning, it can become addictive!

I hope I have persuaded you that @Twitter can be used to help your students and yourself. As ever, please do share with us any ways that you develop these ideas in your classrooms. Why not write a blog for us about one of your own digital triumphs?

The 3D-Gallery Generator

This is a digital tool from Russell Tarr’s popular site. Your students create a virtual 3D gallery. To do this they need to act as the curator of their own exhibition. Curation requires them to develop criteria to decide what to select to put into their exhibition. They then create the gallery and justify their decisions to you. Let’s look at a practical example.

Historical thinking includes understanding that what is historically significant to one person, or group of people, may be different from what is historically significant to another person, or group. You can use 3D-Gallery to help your students understand this concept. We would suggest that you use the 3D-Gallery after your students have studied a particular topic. You can find it here:

Our students had studied the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. We then presented them with a wide variety of images and the provenance (background) of each of these. In small groups the students took on the role of different museums: one in Japan, one in Great Britain and two in the USA. Each of these museums had a different view and purpose. The students had to decide what interpretation their museum would want to present. To do this they considered the purpose of the museum and the audience they were appealing to. From this thinking they developed criteria for inclusion, that is, a list of things they were looking for in an image in order for it to be included in their gallery. The students then had to select ten images from the selection that would represent their museum’s view about the atomic bombs and please the audience they were targeting.

Once they had made their selection, the students posted the ten images onto 3D-Gallery. In the text box attached to each image they had to justify why it had been included by giving detailed reasons. They had to give their exhibition a name, to explain why that name had been chosen and the overall aim of the exhibition in the textbox near the title. More able students were challenged to consider the ordering of their gallery and to add an explanation of the thinking behind their choices. Galleries were then saved. Groups then read each others’ work and gave comments. Teacher feedback then followed. As part of the feedback we made sure that students understood how and why the different purposes and audiences of the museums had shaped the creation of the galleries. (A learning activity using 3D-Gallery on the topic of the atomic bomb can be found in the Historiana Learning section.)

A similar project could be done with many other topics. Why not try finding images to demonstrate the range and depth of Weimar culture? Some groups of students could then write textbooks as information boards in a gallery being sponsored by Bauhaus, or do the same as if the exhibition was sponsored by the Nazis, or do the same as if a gallery in our own times was putting on an exhibition of those times.

It is possible to add in weblinks, including to film clips, to the pages in the gallery and this could add another dimension. Students (or the teacher) could create summaries of the key information about images and then give links for further research. These could be created for students to use as revision resources before exams. Different student groups could make 3D-galleries on key topics and then the links could be shared around the class for everyone to use.

These are just some of the ideas we have had. We hope you find them useful and please do share the results of your work with 3D-generator.

What do I need to be aware of when using the tool?

  • A gallery consists of ten images and you can write text to accompany each one.
  • The navigation between images is by arrow keys at the bottom of the screen.
  • In the bottom left hand corner you will find the place where you name your gallery. This then leads you to the box where you can give the overall gallery description.
  • Every gallery has to contain ten pictures. The template of the tool has ten pictures already inserted in position. If you do not replace each of these they will stay in the gallery.
  • When a gallery is completely finished, then it is saved in the bottom right hand corner. You put in a password, click ‘save’ and need to make a note of the new URL so that you can find it later.
  • There is a very useful helpdesk as part of the site.

This blog was developed by Jenny Baldwin and Naomi Bloxham, with the help of Helen Snelson, using a digital tool developed by Russell Tarr.

Using ThingLink…

…to help your students analyse historical sources and to revise for exams

Getting started:

It takes 5 minutes to sign up for the free version of and the free version is quite enough to enable you to provide useful demonstrations and activities for your students, or for them to sign up and design their own resources.  Later in this blog I will give some explanation of how to work with the tool.  Firstly, I will provide some activity ideas.  There are various ways that ThingLink can be used and here are three suggestions:

  • Helping your students to use images as historical evidence

I loaded up this famous political cartoon of Hitler and Stalin for my students to analyse.


I asked my students to tag all the main details.  In each tag I asked them to:

  • Describe what they could see.
  • Use their historical knowledge to explain the meaning of what they could see.
  • Add a summary tag that explained the overall meaning of the cartoon.

You could also ask students to do the same sort of thing to annotate a portrait used as propaganda.  In this case the tags would identify a part of the portrait that was pushing a message and say what the message was and how it was being produced.

  • Helping your students to set a written text in its historical context

I loaded up the first clauses of the 1789 Declaration of the Rights of Man for my students to analyse.

I asked them to read the document and to put tags on all the places were they could identify:

  • A connection to the ideals of the Enlightenment (for example, the link to the ideas of Voltaire in article and freedom of worship – article 10)
  • A connection to the needs of property owners (for example, the right to property – article 2)

They then had to do a summary tag to give a reasoned opinion as to whether the Declaration was more ideological than pragmatically serving the needs of the men who wrote it.

I then reviewed their work to assess how well they had analysed the material and the depth of their contextualisation of what they found in the source.

  • Helping your students to revise for their exams

It took me 15 minutes to produce this map of Eastern Europe under the Cold War to help my students to revise for their forthcoming exams:

They have problems with the geography behind the events they have to know, so I decided to use a map of eastern Europe as my background image and then to tag events, dates and links to the different countries.  Each one of the white dots you can see in the screenshot is a tag containing basic information and a weblink where they can find out more.


Explaining the basics of ThingLink so that you can experiment with it:

ThinkLink allows you to add any background image and then to tag it (annotate it) with comments and links.  You could use this tagging to provide knowledge and to demonstrate thinking in a structured and interesting way.  For example, why not tag a political cartoon image to demonstrate to students how historians analyse their source material?  Or you could tag a painting that shows a historic event.  Or you could use an image of a timeline and then tag key moments in time onto it in sequence.

Across the bottom of the working screen are online tutorials you can take to help you get used to using ThingLink. On the top of the screen you will see a tab for ‘explore’ where you can search for material other people have created.  I found a pre-prepared activity on the US Declaration of Independence.  Then there is a tab for ‘students’.  In this area you can set up groups for your students.  Individual students then receive a code and can submit their completed work to you.  The ‘Me’ tab is where you find the library of all the ThinkLinks you have made so far.


The ‘Create’ button gives you the screenshot that you can see above.  You can upload images from your computer, a cloud, the web or Facebook, just click the appropriate tab.  Then click on ‘choose images’ in blue and upload your image.

The next stage is ‘click to add a tag’.  This takes you to a box on the left hand side where you can add text and/or a URL.  You then save the tag and go through the process again until you have all the tags you want. Next give your activity a title at the top. Finally save the image (green – right hand corner).  You can then go into the saved image and you have the chance to share the URL in a wide variety of ways.  Once your students are signed up they can also use ThingLink in the same way.

This free, simple to use tool has lots of potential for well-structured teaching and learning using images as a background.  Please do share any great ideas you have so that we can all learn more.