Please note: this guide was written before the 2014 National Curriculum and some of the advice may no longer be relevant.

As survivals from history, objects offer us an unrivalled way of touching past lives.

As D.H. Lawrence wrote:

"Things men have made with wakened hands, and put soft life into
Are awake through years with transferred touch, and go on glowing for long years.
And for this reason, some old things are lovely
Warm still with the life of forgotten men who made them."

Objects as humble as coins or old bottles can yield rich information and learning. They carry with them messages about the people who made, owned and used them, and about the places they came from and passed through.

Strategies for introducing and using objects

  • Wrap them up so the children have to try to guess what they are from the shape.
  • Practical archaeology: bury objects (or fragments) in layers of sand in an old fish tank for the children to dig up and record using a grid.
  • Object carousel: place objects on sugar paper on desks around the classroom. Groups of children spend 5 minutes with each object, recording their observations and questions on the sugar paper before moving on to the next object. Then pool knowledge and questions.
  • Children observe, describe and draw an object in detail.
  • Raise What, Where, How, When and Why questions about an object.
  • Word games: pass an object round; each child must say something about it, or think of an adjective to describe it.
  • Bring in a dustbin bag or old suitcase containing objects that give clues about the owner/s.
  • Storytelling: incorporate an object into a story about the past. This will give the object special significance.
  • Ask the children to bring in objects for a classroom museum (opportunities for sorting, categorising, labelling, layout).
  • Use a collection of historical objects to write an Argos catalogue for the past.
  • Ask the children to enact the object in use, or tell its story.

Short lessons on this site:

Lessons using objects on this site:

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