Learning about time exemplar: Victorian artefacts and timeline

Teacher Glyn Griffin was beginning a Victorian local study with his Year 3 class and introduced the topic with a timeline activity. This extended the children's understanding of chronology, and provided them with an authentic context for practising numeracy skills.

Putting objects on a timeline
Glyn says: "For the first lesson I brought in several Victorian artefacts as sources of evidence (stamps, coins, school books, photographs). I gave the children a timeline drawn on squared paper, going back from today to 1800, marked in decades. I asked them: 'Which is the oldest object?'

The children were immediately motivated and pored over the artefacts, looking for dates so they could record or draw each object in the right place on the timeline.

A couple of the photographs were not dated, so the children had to search for clues in the picture itself. They found they could not guess accurately where to place them on the timeline, so went to the topic books I had in the classroom. They were keen to discover when photography was invented and to find any dated pictures depicting the same clothing or transport as in our photographs.

The artefacts activity worked so well that I asked the children to take home their timelines, and to add the oldest object they had at home. I also asked them, if possible, to add birth dates of members of their family, going back as far in time as they could. Could they find any objects that linked to Victorian times? (I took care to include children who didn't have much family.)

I was impressed by the number of objects the children recorded on their timelines. Some parents sent in Victorian artefacts from home for the class to use during the topic. Soon we had a virtual Victorian museum in the classroom. Many of the class returned with birth dates of parents and grandparents marked on their timelines, and a few even had great-grandparents or great-great grandparents going back to Victorian times. The children thoroughly enjoyed comparing their timelines to see who had the oldest objects or people recorded. The boys, in particular, were excited by the timeline activity, which surprised me."

Census returns
In the following sessions, Glyn introduced the class to census returns. Many children filled in a census return for their own family. The children also investigated the 1861 and 1891 census returns for their village, focusing on children aged 5 to 16, whether they went to school or not, and what jobs they worked at. The class then raised questions they would like to ask specific children in the census.

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