Triumphs Show 123: Making sources fun

Teaching History feature

By Rachael Povey, published 31st May 2006

‘Source Specs’: Teaching pupils to see!

One of the biggest challenges which any history teacher faces is how to make sources fun! Source work does struggles in terms of pupil excitement, understanding and motivation when pitted against the roleplays, dramas and debates. As a history teacher, I am constantly looking for fresh and novel ways to make my pupils think differently about sources and to move away from the regimented, dry and formulaic approach to enquiry work. If they are going to adopt the same high-level, ‘thinking’ and questioning approach to sources which they are able to display in other areas of their history work, then it is crucial that they are encouraged from the outset to see enquiry work as part of a wider picture of historical understanding, rather than a bolt on extra to the other, more pupil-centred, activities. Hence, my challenge was twofold. Firstly, to lead my pupils towards seeing source work differently; secondly, to teach them a range of enquiry based skills which would enable them to really delve headlong into source work. The answer lay in making sources fun, pupil-centred and distinctive, but also inextricably linked in the eyes of the pupils to the wider challenge of developing historical understanding. Hence, I developed the idea of the Source Specs!!!

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