Finding out about the teacher: using objects exemplar:


By Joanne Tinker, published 23rd January 2011

Please note: this lesson was produced as part of the Nuffield Primary History project (1991-2009) and pre-dates the 2014 National Curriculum.

Good for September
The children are in a mixed Year 1/2 class of 27. We did the activity in September because half the class were new and would know very little about me.

The challenge for the children was to find out about my past using a range of artefacts. I wanted the children to acquire concepts of chronology, develop skills of historical enquiry, and communicate understandings reached through speaking and written work.

For the Year 2s I brought in: a squash ball; 'One hundred classical studies for flute' book; a pair of earrings I had made; a local bus timetable; OS map of the English Lakes; a photograph of my cat; and a cat model.

For the Year 1s I brought just four artefacts: the same flute book and cat photograph as for Year 2; a photograph of my wedding; and a photograph of all the teachers in the school.

The lesson
The children worked in four groups of about seven. I asked them to observe what they could about each artefact and, in particular, think what it told them about me. Children were also encouraged to think about why I had brought in each object.

I gave the children approximately 5 minutes just to observe the artefacts. They were given magnifying glasses to use so that they would look carefully. When the 5 minutes were up, each group discussed each artefact in turn and decided what it told them about me.

While the two Year 1 groups talked about the artefacts, I and the teaching assistant acted as scribes. After their discussions, the Year 2 children recorded their ideas on a writing frame.

The children enjoyed the activity and were most interested in 'being detectives'. Naturally enough, the younger children were more likely to say what the object was rather than work out what it told them about me. Consequently, they needed me to ask questions or to point out anything that might help them to find out about me.

The Year 2 children said they had enjoyed looking at the map and the bus timetable because they could read some of the words and they were looking at 'real' and 'grown-up' things. At first they, too, told me what each object was, but after prompting they began to make some clever deductions.

After each group had finished the activity, I gathered the class together and talked about my reasons for bringing the objects in. I found that the children were eager to find out 'the answers', and during the discussion some of the Year 2 children asked pertinent and relevant questions.

Follow-up activities
As a follow-up activity, I gave the Year 2s a till receipt and asked them to work out what it told them about me. Many children noticed that the receipt was from Sainsbury's, and some made a link between the cat photo and the cat food on the receipt. Another child suggested that I had sandwiches at school because I had bought a lot of bread - and she had also seen me eating them at school. One boy told me that I ate some of the same food that he ate, while another said that I drank a lot of wine and lager (I had to tell them quickly that the drink was for a party!)

Another follow-up activity was to ask the children to bring in some 'clues' about their own families. A colleague found this very successful with her class. Most children brought something in, and it made her children really think about what to bring and why it would give others a clue about their family.

This activity enabled me to see how far the children had developed their analytical thinking. It was a good investigation for the start of the school year when the children were unfamiliar with both me and each other. It gave the children a model for interpreting other artefacts, and I've built on this framework in subsequent topics. Finally, it was a good introduction to the skills used in history, especially because it was in a relevant context for the children.