Picture Sorts

Helping students to categorise and define events and ideas

Students analyse images before putting them in thematic or chronological order.

The teacher provides any number of images for the students to analyse and discuss before putting them in an order, either thematic or chronological. This will help students define key ideas or events of a period or a theme.

When studying crime and punishment students are given 15 images and 15 text boxes. The images range from medieval sorcery to modern computer crimes. Students group the images they feel are connected, they link text and images and finally they discern four main themes for the topic.

For a ready worked example see: https://www.ashmolean.org/learning-resource-medieval-world. There are downloadable images of artefacts and teacher notes about how to use them to explore the medieval world and to think of questions to ensure a good discussion.

Acknowledgements: Richard McFahn, Neil Bates and Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, UK.

Questioning a photograph

Helping students engage by using a personal approach

Instead of providing the information immediately, a considerable amount of time is spent on developing questions about the photo.

A photo of a person relevant to the topic being studied is carefully scrutinised. The photo does not give away too much – more details may be revealed when discussion is already in progress. Students are asked to think of three good questions that will provide a sufficient amount of information useful for the topic.

When studying crime and punishment, a photo of a child is produced. Nobody is aware of the fact that this is a 12 year old prisoner in England in 1873. Students are asked to think of three good questions about this boy. Their questions are discussed and gradually, the true identity of the boy is revealed. Students’ interest is caught immediately by the power of being able to literally look the boy in the eye and consider the fact that a child could face such a punishment at the time.

Acknowledgements: Jamie Byrom and Michael Riley, The National Archives (.pdf).

Image: Portrait photograph of Pablo Picasso, 1908 (Photo (C) RMN-Grand Palais).

Making an Imaginary Map

Helping students to develop their sense of place

Students get pieces of paper with the names of countries. They have to distribute the names across an imaginary map, This could be at their desks, or using the whole of the classroom. This improves and revises their knowledge of geography. Having a sense of place and the distances between places is key to historical understanding. If this is done at desks, then pairs or triads who compare results afterwards.

When teaching about migration this may be a starting activity. The level of difficulty is decided by the places the teacher chooses to include. It may be a good idea to start with 5-7 countries that students know well, adding the less-known afterwards. Examples of where it can be used are to make sure students understand:

  • The location of key allies and neutral countries in 1914,
  • The map of Europe on the eve of World War Two,
  • The locations from which people left for the first Crusade.

Acknowledgements: Richard Kerridge.

How to make things stick: True/false

Helping students to revise historical details

Students recap by only copying statements they believe to be true. A number of statements from last week’s or month’s lessons are put forward by the teacher, on the black board or on pieces of paper that are stuck to the wall. Students copy only the statements they believe to be true, followed by a class discussion where they explain their choice.

When studying the Cold War, these statements can be used and added to:

  1. The Cold War is the name given to the relationship that developed primarily between the USA and the USSR after World War Two.
  2. Among major crises of the Cold War are the Cuban Missile Crisis, Thailand, Hungary and the Berlin Wall.
  3. Many saw the growth in weapons of mass destruction as the most worrying issue.
  4. A clash of very different beliefs and ideology – pacifism versus communism – each held with almost religious conviction, formed the basis of an international power struggle.
  5. America and the Soviet Union ever fought the other during the Cold War but they did ‘fight’ for their beliefs using client states who fought for their beliefs on their behalf.

Acknowledgements: Richard McFahn and Neil Bates.

Image: Nevit Dilmen; CC BY-SA 3.0.

How to make things stick? Three volunteers.

Helping students to revise chronology

The teacher provides ten items (on separate pieces of paper) that need to be put in the right chronological order. Three volunteers do this together, e.g. by sticking the pieces of paper on the wall. When they are done, the class may ask them questions/ask them to justify their results.

When studying World War II, the following items may be used:

  1. The Vichy regime established in southern France.
  2. Germany, Italy, Great Britain, and France sign the Munich agreement.
  3. Nazi Germany and its Axis partners (except Bulgaria) invade the Soviet Union.
  4. The United States drops an atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
  5. Auschwitz concentration camp liberated by Soviet troops.
  6. British and US troops successfully land on the Normandy beaches of France (D-day).
  7. Germany incorporates Austria in the Anschluss.
  8. Japan bombs Pearl Harbor.
  9. Germany surrenders to the western Allies.
  10. The Soviet Union invades Finland, initiating the so-called Winter War.

Acknowledgements: Richard McFahn and Neil Bates.

Image: Pogrebnoj-Alexandroff; CC BY-SA 3.0.