20 engaging ideas for secondary history teachers to support students who are studying at home during school closures.

by Harriet Clarke, Teachit History editor
2nd April 2020

Here are twenty ideas to help you plan engaging lessons and activities for your students during this highly unusual time.

1. History projects. Ask students to carry out their own history research project. Choosing their own area of interest might help them to engage more effectively. Teachit History has lots of resources to help students refine the questions they’d like to ask (Asking better questions in history) and to structure their research (Research template). They could submit their work in one of a range of formats; a video, web article, booklet or museum-style display board.

2. Class research. Ask students to collaborate on a research or revision project using a tool like Bookcreator to make a class digital book.

3. Read, read, read! We don’t always have time to incorporate historical fiction into our lessons, but it’s an amazing way to engage students and create a strong sense of period. Common sense media have a great collection of historical fiction reviews that can be refined by age to help you find reading recommendations for your classes.

4. Free resources. Many educational websites and publishers (including Teachit History) are offering free access to learning resources during the Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic. You could try Hodder History, Pearson and OUP’s free home learning packs. Lists are being compiled with impressive speed on Twitter too - have a look here to get started: @TeachitHist.

5. Making a movie. Instead of lots of writing, students could make a short film about their current history topic. They could try Stop Motion Studio, Telestory or Toontastic. They might also like to experiment with green screen apps, and then share their films with their class online.

6. Catch-up TV. Encourage students to watch some good-quality programmes on the topics they’ve been studying. They could review each program for historical accuracy, or record key developments on a notes sheet. Try BBC history programmes, Timeline on YouTube, and the History Hub.

7. Virtual history museum trips. While museums may have closed their doors, you can still visit their collections online.  Ask your students to check out the British Museum, Imperial War Museum or the American National Women’s History Museum, all from their own bedroom! You can even ask students to take a virtual tour of over 500 international museums using Google Arts and Culture.

8. How to teach online. This free online course from Future Learn gives practical steps towards online teaching and student support.

9. Boost your subject knowledge. The Open University and Future Learn both have free short courses on a huge range of topics. The Gresham College Lectures offer a brilliant range of history lecture videos from their archives. So, whether you want to brush up on the English Civil War or re-visit the French Revolution, there is something for you. Ideal for post-16 students as well.

10. Online history lessons. Lots of organisations offer free, complete history lessons online. Have a look at the following; The National Archives, the Churchill Archive for Schools, the Historical Association, the Battlefield Tours Programme and Historiana.

11. Time travelling. Ask students to keep a daily diary for future historians studying the Coronavirus pandemic for future generations to find. What challenges will future historians face when unpicking the evidence from this period? Whose stories will emerge most strongly? Whose stories might be lost? Parallels could be drawn to Samul Pepys’ diaries.

12. Exam boards. The exam boards AQA, Edexcel, OCR and Eduqas have teaching resources, past papers, answers and guides which students can access easily online.

13. Keep connected. Use social media to keep in touch online with colleagues across the world and to share ideas and resources. Find us on Twitter @TeachitHistory. Useful hashtags are #historyteacher, #UKEdchat, #remotelearning and #homelearning.

14. Film night. We’re spoilt for choice here! Ask your students to write a review of a suitable film (keep in mind age certifications). Many are available on streaming sites, or as extracts on YouTube. IMDB suggest these are the 100 best history movies, perhaps your class could start a Twitter debate, if they disagree?!

15. Essay competition. Schools History Project has set up an exciting competition especially for this unusual period. A question has been set by Professor Peter Frankopan for all ages of school historians to attempt. Find out more here.

16. Online blogs. Lots of our favourite history teaching bloggers are compiling useful resources for history teachers who are grappling with setting work online. Try Mr Allsop History, Yorkclio and AndAllThat for starters.

17. Podcasts. Perhaps your students would like to digest some of their history learning whilst out on their daily walk/run? You’re certain to find something on a suitable topic on one of these sites; GCSE History Revision Podcast, History Hit, BBC History podcasts. If they haven’t discovered it already, your history students will love You’re Dead to Me

18. The Cloud. Where to start? Well, TMHistoryIcons have a huge bank of resources that are free to access. And lots of the Facebook history teaching groups have collections that are full to bursting! Try the groups ‘KS3 History’ and ‘UK History teachers’. There are also groups which are specific to each exam board for resource sharing.

19. Revision sites. Don’t forget, even though Y11 don’t now need them, there are lots of revision resources online that could help your Y9 and Y10 KS4 classes. For comprehensive coverage try BBC Bitesize and Seneca Learning as starting points.

20. Have a sing song. Catchy songs are a great way to help students absorb history ideas without even realising! We’re never too old for Horrible Histories songs or try these from ActiveHistory.

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