Scene shifting: Using visuals for chronology


By Jane Card, published 15th October 2011

Please note: this article pre-dates the current National Curriculum and some content and links may be outdated.

Vivid pictures from and of the past, its material culture, can be stimulating and effective tools for teaching chronology.

Their use is not, however, straightforward. Children bring into school mental images and stereotypes about the past acquired from their environment and from the media. Interesting research has explored young children's grasp of chronology by asking them to sequence historical pictures, giving their reasoning as they do so. The research has identified children's popular misconceptions about the appearance of the past, and has suggested that we need to choose carefully what images we deploy for teaching purposes. It is possible to avoid using images which are likely to trigger those misconceptions, and to be prepared to deal with such misconceptions if they arise.

To illustrate this, I describe a very simple activity, some version of which most of us have used at some time - asking pupils to sequence a group of pictures. This activity is capable of elaboration and variation in order to tackle chronology from different angles. The research mentioned above informed my choice of pictures (explained below)...

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