History is an interesting subject.
Before you laugh, however, hear me out. History is a record of mankind’s journey from the time they appeared on the earth, fought wars for kingdoms and ushered in the age of technology. It has all the elements of a potboiler, therefore it should be a subject that children are eager to learn. But for most students, history is by far one of the most boring subjects in school. And of course it is demoralizing as a teacher to walk into a class and see a sea of blank faces.
Here are 6 ways in which you can make History class a fun and engaging time for your students.
1. Help children memorize dates by using fun mnemonics – History has an endless number of dates that need to be remembered. Seeing a list of them alone can be extremely off-putting. So how can you help your students remember them better? One way is by using mnemonics, which is a way of translating information into a form that the brain can remember better.
2. Find interesting trivia when teaching topics that might become too dry – Some history topics are unavoidably dry. For instance teaching students about the American War of Independence, the Boston Tea Party etc can be an exercise in patience, simply because there is nothing that ties India to these events. Consequently, students have no interest in learning about these events. So how can these topics be made more interesting? While teaching them, you can slip in interesting facts about them. What constitues an interesting fact depends on you and your students of course.
3. Use visual media to aid your teaching – One good thing about history is that film makers have an unabashed love for the subject. There are plenty of films available in the historical genre. In case you want your students to understand how serious the Holocaust was, you could possible show them Schindler’s List, The Diary of Anne Frank or even The Pianist. After the film or tv show that has been watched, you and your students could have a discussion on the historical accuracy of the film and the parts they enjoyed and the parts which resonated with them.
Caution – While some historical films have excellent material, they might be emotionally heavy for some children so take note of the ratings and as much as possible try to show them U/PG-13 material. If any of your students are agitated by what is being shown on screen, stop the screening immediately.
4. Battles and scenes in present times – Theoretically battles and historically scenes are interesting but when they are placed within the context of a textbook, they become a jumble of words that seem to run on together. To liven up a sleepy classroom and pique your student’s interest, gather a few children together, and make them act out scenes. Let the acting be as melodramatic as possible because if your students understand the lesson and laugh about it too, that’s just an added bonus.
5. Treat history as if it were an ongoing news story – While plenty of history’s allure comes from the fact that it happened a few hundred years ago, for many that is history’s biggest downside too. It’s uncommon to hear a child go: “But that happened so long ago, I don’t need to know it!” To stop complaints like these coming your way, treat historical events as if they were events happening in present time and present the fact to your students in the manner of newly received sound-bites or breaking news. By teaching your lesson like this, you should have 40 interested faces listening to your every word intently instead of 40 sullen faces!
6. Take a field trip – One with a historical twist that is! You can’t always keep taking your class outside but once in a while, in order to help children understand a lesson or an event better, take them to a museum. Looking at historical artifacts makes history a lot more real to children and there will also be a guide at the museum who can offer your students a different historical perspective!
How do you make history fun for your students? Share your suggestions with us in the comments below!