5 Ways to address history in primary school

Feb. 13, 2019

Start with the National Curriculum

If your school follows the National Curriculum in History, then you’ll be pleased to learn that 2Simple has mapped the Programme of Study to all of the relevant Purple Mash resources. To locate this comprehensive document, enter “history support” in the search box. You’ll be shown two results: one called Black History Month, and the other called Purple Mash and History. Open the second one, which is a pdf.

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Purple Mash is fully mapped to the history curriculum for England

The document lists events and the resources available within Purple Mash to help you teach the children about them. This is an excellent starting point although some of the resources have moved since the document was written. Not to worry! If you find that a link no longer works, just search in the search box for the “missing” item.

For example, if you type “Magna Carta” into the search box you will be taken straight away to the Magna Carta app. This encourages the children to write about the signing of the Magna Carta, with illustrations that are helpfully provided.

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The Magna Carta publishing project encourages children to write with keywords and clip art

Also explore…

If you happen to be studying the Magna Carta, why not use it as a starting point to explore other ideas about liberty? For example, you can use the Statue of Liberty Mashcam to encourage children to think about what the Statue of Liberty represents, and how it might be “descended” from the Magna Carta. Another option is to explore Human Rights Day with Purple Mash.

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What would you say if you were the lady in the Statue of Liberty?

Do a broad search

If you prefer, rather than starting with the National Curriculum planning document, do a search for -- you guessed it! - History. This will present you with a wide variety of ideas and resources. In fact, you’ll be spoilt for choice. The topics covered range from such stand-bys as the Battle of Hastings to modern heroes such as Olympics athletes.

On the subject of the Battle of Hastings, a couple of very nice activities are included, which should help to interest pupils of all ages in those events. One is a 2Paint activity that has been preconfigured to create a picture in the style of the Bayeux Tapestry, but with a lot less work than went into the original!

The other activity is to write a newspaper report about the Battle. As well as a finely illustrated page background and the usual prompts and clipart, there’s a headline provided (although you can change it) and even the date: October 1066.

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Children can create their own textured Bayeux tapestry using 2Paint

Also explore…

You’re not, of course, restricted to the ready-made history resources available in Purple Mash, useful though they are. You might, for instance, ask your class to work in pairs to create a flowchart in 2Chart showing the events that led up to, say, the signing of the Magna Carta, or the consequences of it over time.That would be a great way of assessing the children’s recollection and understanding of the topic too.

Alternatively, why not create your own quiz in 2Quiz - or even get the children to - in order to test each other? That can be an enjoyable way of assessing what they’ve learnt.

Investigate movies

Speaking of quizzes, if you wanted to cover a quite modern topic, the history of cinema, there’s a ready-made quiz made just for you: The History of Cinema. This is a very good starting point if you wish to look at a broader topic such as entertainment. In fact, if you do a search for cinema, you’ll come across lots of resources, including a pdf guide to the development of film and television, called Leisure and Entertainment. This is a teacher resource rather than a pupil one, but it gives you much of the information you need if you wish to create your own cinema-themed lessons and quizzes.

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The Leisure and Entertainment Guide saves you having to do your own research into film, TV and radio

Also explore…

Another 2Paint project allows you to create a picture that looks like a still from a very old film. It’s called Vintage Movie Screen, and you can find it quite easily by entering “vintage” into the search screen.

You can also use these resources and activities as a launching point for writing film reviews. Type “cinema” into the search box and you’ll discover two film review apps. One is called, simply, Film Review, and contains clipart and prompts to encourage pupils to find out information such as the name of the director. The other one is called Film Reviews, and is for comparing two films. It’s designed to get the children to use persuasive language and to describe the plot of the films, and why you should see them.

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Easily recreate the vintage film look with the 2Vintage Movie Screen app

People in history

If you prefer to focus on specific characters in history rather than the big events or movements, Purple Mash provides several ways to accomodate you. The most straightforward way is to simply type the word History into the search box. This will provide lots of results, so it’s a useful way of going about things if you’re not sure what Purple Mash contains.

On the other hand, if you know exactly who you want to focus on, enter their name directly into the search box. For example, enter Lovelace, and you’ll end up with a range of activities about Ada Lovelace. In case you’re not aware, she is regarded as the first computer programmer - before computers as we know them had even been invented! Definitely a woman born a hundred years too early.

One of the Ada Lovelace activities is to create an Ada Lovelace Factfile, using the prompts provided for doing some research. As usual, clipart is provided, including a drawing of Babbage’s Difference Engine, which was in effect the basis of a computer although only Lovelace, not Babbage himself, realised that. The children can also import their own pictures and drawings into the Factfile if they wish to.

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It may not look like a computer, but this is where it all started

Also explore…

Factfiles have been mentioned several times, so why not explore these a little further? Search for “factfile” and you’ll see a range of them. There is the Ada Lovelace one we’ve just looked at, and many more. Staying with the history of computing theme, there is one for Alan Turing. He was the brains behind cracking the codes used by the Germans in the second world war, and also arguably the father of artificial intelligence.

Making connections

Sometimes people think, what’s the point of learning all about these people who lived in the past? However, one of the great things about the type of resources and apps available in Purple Mash is that it’s very easy to make history relevant to everyday life.

Take, for example, the work on the Ada Lovelace Fact File we’ve just encountered. You could easily use that as a way in to talking about algorithms, and therefore coding. Or of course you could do it the other way round: after teaching the children what an algorithm is, and how to do some basic programming, you can point out that “coding” is not as modern a thing as they might think!

Also explore…

Instead of using the History resources provided, use a few apps “out of the box”. For example, how about getting the children to use 2Question to create a branching database related to a topic you’re studying, like the Great Fire of London or the Battle of Hastings?

Rather than trying to make them remember a list of Kings and Queens, instruct them to use 2Investigate to create a database of them. This, too, can be used to reinforce other important skills, such as knowing how to design a database so that it the information in it can be found easily.

Did you know…

An incredibly useful tool, and one that is not confined to any particular part of the curriculum, is the 2Do facility. You have probably noticed that each time you click on an app, it asks you if you want to set it as a 2Do. Now, you might think that all this does is make a to-do list or something. In fact, it’s much more useful than that. By setting an activity as a 2Do, you can assign a piece of work with written and/or audio instructions, to selected groups, with a start date and a hand-in date. It’s the kind of thing that is especially handy if you know you’re going to be away from school, for example on jury service or on a visit with a group of pupils.

The screenshot gives you some idea of what a 2Do looks like, but for detailed instructions type 2Do in the search box. There’s a pdf of instructions, and also a short video.

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Choosing a hand-in date for a 2do
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Assigning a 2do to classes is easy

We hope you’ve found this article useful. Next month, we’ll be looking at how to use Purple Mash for science. In the meantime, why not read the case studies of how other schools are using Purple Mash? You’ll find these in the blog section of the 2Simple website.

Have you read these other “5 ways” articles?

5 ways to teach Religious Education

5 Ways to magically embed maths across your school with Purple Mash

5 ways to inspire writing with Purple Mash

5 ways to engage your pupils in English and Literacy

5 ways to inspire design with Purple Mash and Mini Mash

5 ways to address online safety

Terry Freedman is an independent educational ICT consultant and writer, having had a long career in Education, including teaching, advising schools and inspecting. He publishes the ICT and Computing in Education website at www.ictineducation.org, and the Digital Education newsletter at www.ictineducation.org/diged. You can follow Terry on Twitter if you wish:@terryfreedman.