History is an interesting subject, but quite often teachers are preoccupied with teaching students to memorise dates and events, without helping them to fully understand their significance. For History to be interesting you have to be able to relate to what you’re being told and, as a youngster, if you’re given a list of short-term and long-term causes of World War Two you are unlikely to fully comprehend what you’re being told. However, if the focus is on how the war affected children and how children were evacuated to the countryside the information immediately becomes more relatable.
This is important because for children to appreciate their History lessons they have to see a point in them. There are many parallels between what happened in the past and what is happening in the present and exploring historical themes gives children an opportunity to learn more about the world they’re currently living in. They should be able to see that despite the significant changes that have happened in society over the centuries, it is still people who drive change and bring about events.
History is all about questioning and challenging the evidence you’re given, which is something children are very good at. Thus, it is important to get students to think critically about the sources they’re examining and the more sources, the better. Written sources may be difficult for children to work with, but if you provide them with visual representations of the past it will come alive for them. Being able to see young children dressed in the fashions of the day will lead them to compare the fashion sense of youngsters in the Victorian Age to that of children in the twenty-first century.
History is a diverse subject that incorporates aspects of politics, economics, sociology, literature and art, amongst other subjects. There has been a tendency to concentrate on military history and on wars and great leaders in schools, but there has been a shift to recognise the various different aspects of the past that exist. It is therefore important to acknowledge that different children have different interests. Often, it is boys who enjoy looking at pictures of big battles, for instance, whereas girls tend to be more interested in fashion and the social side of History.
History is a subject that it is impossible to get bored of because there are so many different events, angles and aspects of the past to examine. Indeed, it can be difficult to know where to start when teaching History to young children. However, if you’re a teacher who is passionate about History this will no doubt be reflected in your lessons, which will hopefully make the students as enthusiastic about the past as you are.