Free History Teaching Samples

All parts of this site have been written and quality assured by Neil Thompson, who has vast experience of history teaching from years in the classroom, leading a department, and being part of SLT. For even longer he was an OFSTED history inspector, the county history adviser to Hampshire primary and secondary schools and  consultant and author for the BBC, DFE, exam boards, publishers, and QCA. Neil continues to support teachers by running national courses and works with teachers in schools. He also runs school-based INSET and acts as ‘virtual adviser’ offering crucial support to new subject leaders.

What did people do at the seaside 100 years ago? KQ2

From mime to movie. SMART TASK

This fun activity is carried out by children working on tables of six.  Half the class work on one image, the other half  on another interesting image.  Each table is given an A4 colour picture either A or B.  For...
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Hoover’s rubbish: Roosevelt moves in

This lesson on a fairly familiar theme approaches GCSE cartoon analysis in a different way.  Instead of showing the students the cartoon they are to interpret, they are simply given an outline, without the detail and certainly without the text.  Using their contextual knowledge students...
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How well do these cartoons cover the causes of World War One?

In pairs, Y9/GCSE students visit 9 different cartoons posted around the wall. They have to work out: a. Which cause is being ‘covered’ in each cartoon - sometimes two. b. Which causes are NOT covered. They are given a textbook diagram explaining the causes in the form of an...
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Court of King Cholera: Where am I in the picture?

This activity works in two ways; it activates pupils’ prior knowledge in a fun way and raises questions about conditions at the time the chosen image, A Court for King Cholera was produced, i.e. September 1852. Students work in pairs.  They are each given a copy...
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Puzzle corner 3: the strange case of the missing slave

Pupils will find that this example of a black slave, painted out of an eighteenth century painting of a tobacco lord’s family, makes an intriguing starter to any lesson on the slave trade.  They will enjoy ‘finding’ him in the portrait, thanks to 21st century...
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Puzzle corner: The strange case of the steel helmet

A short intriguing starter activity for pupils presents them with a puzzle to solve. In the First World War, why did head injuries increase when the metal helmet replaced the cloth cap as part of the British soldiers’ uniform?  The answer is not obvious at first sight...
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The Gunpowder Plot: Prove it using a gallery of images

This skilfully differentiated lesson places pupils in the role of detectives that have to find evidence to back up statements that have been made about the Gunpowder plot.  They are given responsibility for a range of statements carefully matched to their learning needs.  They work...
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Grace Darling: setting up the enquiry

This is the first lesson on an enquiry into Grace Darling: what she did, and why she was famous. The kernel of the lesson is a slow reveal activity which works really well on an Interactive White Board.  The key image comes from the...

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Help Tom to fight the Great Fire. Smart Task

This ICT based activity draws heavily on the superb new website created as a joint enterprise by the National Archives, National Portrait Gallery, Museum of London and London Fire Brigade Museum. It appears on the Learning Curve section of the National Archives site. The interactive...
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Raising attainment at Key Stage 4

This section of the site contains four different types of advice. There is general advice, outlining factors that usually explain success at GCSE and a short paper entitled 'Smoking Out Underachievement'.  Then there are five really interesting case studies of best practice.  Each has...

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Italian foreign policy-outstanding lesson

At what point did Mussolini seem to side more with Germany than with Britain or France? Students arrive at the lesson having familiarised themselves with key events of Mussolini’s foreign policy which is checked with a quick sequencing task which is turned into two living graphs...
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New theory on sinking of the Titanic

Those of you teaching the great KS1 topic on the sinking of the Titanic will be interested to know that the debate still goes. What we term a history mystery in the outstanding lesson, certainly is every bit a mystery. Now, 30 years of further...
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Expert Advice: Key Stage 3 and 4 – Using the 4 Bs

Using the 4 Bs to encourage independence

You recognise the problem. No sooner have you set a piece of open-ended enquiry work with you initially as facilitator, than the hands go up. Please Sir/Miss, “How do I start?” “I don’t get this.” etc.

One department I...
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Fit for purpose teaching Strategies at Key Stage 3

Personalising learning by establishing what students already know about a topic, before beginning teaching. Case study: Comparing students’ initial perceptions with their end-of-study study views of the First World War To build effectively on what students bring to the classroom, it is always useful to start a...
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Imaginative learning activities at Key Stage 2

This section accompanies the ones on teaching and learning approaches. It offers you a few ideas you may not have tried for a while, or at least not within the current topic.  It is always a good idea to whet pupils' appetite for a topic...
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Expert Advice: Key Stage 1 – Mary Anning

She sells sea shells: planning a topic on Mary Anning, Dinosaur hunter, using the Anholt's Stone girl, Bone girl  “Would you like to go Dinosaur hunting? Well one young girl did when she wasn’t much older than you and became famous all over the world."  The sample page...
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The opening of Tutankhamun’s tomb KS2: KQ3 part 1

The opening of Tutankhamun's tomb: a reconstruction relay

The activity that forms the basis of this lesson is called reconstruction relay. It is GUARANTEED to enthuse even the most recalcitrant Y4 boy! Pupils have to travel down a tunnel of tables to see pictures of the...
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SMART TASK: A Suffragette procession: comparing the evidence

New GCSE British history source enquiry, suitable for SHP or Modern World. Whether you are studying the OCR unit, AQA or Edexcel you should find this activity helpful. The activity builds on an initial idea from the revised Edexcel Teacher’s Guide for the new SHP GCSE course. ...
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Why was this World War One painting censored?

Students studying Britain during World War One, whether it be for AQA, OCR or Edexcel, need to know about censorship. This deceptively simple lesson asks penetrating questions which both engage and challenge. Students analyse one of Nevinson’s famous paintings, Paths of Glory, perhaps surprised that...
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What made runaway slaves successful?

This short enquiry enables pupils to come up with their own ideas about runaway slaves working from first hand evidence of adverts for the slaves ‘ arrest'. They work in pairs to come up with possible reasons why some slaves were caught and not others...
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The mystery of the empty Saxon grave

This highly engaging lesson places pupils in the role of detectives. After a short briefing they have to work out the significance of the various clues found in the bodiless ship burial. They then use their deductive power to work out which of 4 suspects...
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Eric the evacuee

Extending the BBC website on Eric the evacuee

The BBC children’s history section has been in touch with the school asking for their help in extending their website section on Eric the evacuee. There is nothing wrong with it: indeed, it is very popular. That’s why...
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The Ups and Downs of Mary Anning’s life

This lesson focuses on helping pupils to move beyond simple story telling and sequencing to thinking about the effect that each event in her life had on Mary. By encouraging pupils to think in terms of happy and sad events, you will help them build...
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Florence Nightingale Lesson and sample planner

Fighting Fit. What did Florence do to improve the lives of the soldiers when she arrived in the Crimea? One example of a series of lessons for teaching Florence Nightingale as part of your KS1 history. A sample from the full planner in the medium term...
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Assessment for learning in Primary history

Assessment for Learning is much vaunted and many faceted. If we break down what it means in its constituent parts, many of you will feel that you do most of that already, and you probably do. What the Primary Strategy is pushing is a more...
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Long term planning for history at Key Stage 1

Superficially, Key Stage1 seems the least complex history curriculum to plan because the burden of content to be covered seems manageable. Scratch beneath the short section that describes the demands of Key Stage 1 history and you'll find lurking some significant issues to be resolved....
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Thinking skills in history at Key Stage 1

There is nothing particularly radical about using a thinking skills approach to history at Key Stage 1, but there are certainly two main pitfalls that snare the unwary. The first lies in the area of metacognition, that part of the lesson where pupils think about...
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Curriculum models for KS1 history

It seems a logical extension of the advice on long-term planning of the 2014 curriculum to offer you some models of what it might look like. As you know, the devil is in the detail. With the current emphasis firmly on a more cross-curricular approach...
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Linking history with numeracy; a Tudor enquiry

More glass than wall? Is this a fair description of Hardwick Hall? And how do we find out?

This SMART task links history with numeracy asking pupils to apply numeracy techniques to a famous historical building.  Pupils are shown a photograph of an early Tudor building,...
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What do we remember on Poppy Day / Remembrance Day?

This session revolves around a PowerPoint presentation which poses 6 significant questions, each designed to encourage pupils to think and to share their knowledge and understanding of this annual event.

Question 1

Who and what do we remember on Poppy Day? Show PowerPoint slide 2 which shows poppies...
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