Giving a Better History Lesson

Giving a Better History Lesson
Each student learns differently, so approaching a lesson from the traditional lecture format might not capture the attention of an entire class. Using a mixed lesson approach, incorporating aspects of traditional lectures, edutainment and group activities allow for a more well-rounded approach that ensures fewer students are left behind. Teachers should avoid boring students by requiring them to memorize dates by rote and instead focus on the social consequences of historical events to stimulate independent thought.

Traditional History Lecture Teaching Technique

Teaching via lecture is a staple in most classrooms, and rightfully so. However, the best lessons use a lecture as the keystone upon which to build a more thorough topic exploration. A traditional lecture should cover the “five W’s” of the historical event: who, what, when, where, and most importantly, why. When teaching history, causality should be a focus, so be sure to include key events that led up to the event. Long lectures can cause students’ attention to drift; consider jazzing up a lecture with a question-and-answer or group “what-if” brainstorm, conjecturing about the historical impact if the turn of events had been different. Breaking up a lecture with question-and-answer periods as well as “what-if” games helps keep students in active listening mode. Visual aids such as blackboard sketches, point form notes and video clips also can make a lecture more lively.

Learning via Edutainment

Most students enjoy video games. Teachers can capitalize on this enthusiasm by employing educational games with true-to-life historical content in the classroom, particularly as a reward for good behavior or exceptional grade achievement. A plethora of historically accurate edutainment video games are on the market; some are no-cost shareware.
Extension Activities
Getting students to reprocess information presented in an earlier lecture through a group assignment activity reinforces the key points within the minds of individual students. Group learning activities can be creating a PowerPoint presentation on the subject or presenting a historical reenactment of an event. In an expansion of the “what-if” brainstorming from the lecture, teachers can prompt students to write an in-depth report on a “what-if” scenario relating to the historical topic of study. Have students write a framing page on why they chose a particular event, as well as their account of the event on which they are basing their fictional narrative. Allowing students to form theories about how historical events may have played out differently allows the student to more directly relate to an obscure historic event.
Oral Pop Quiz Positive Reinforcement
In an oral pop quiz, the teacher poses questions to the class as a whole, and takes answers from individual students who volunteer to an answer to assorted questions on the lesson of the day. If the student answers correctly, reward the students with something small to build positive reinforcement, or even simply a few words of verbal praise work well.  Avoid choosing the same student over and over again, but don’t embarrass introverted members of the class by forcing them into the limelight directly. A good strategy for working shy students into the oral pop quiz is to wait until a student answers incorrectly, politely tell the student so, and redirect the question to the quieter students in the class, quickly moving on if that student is unable to answer as well. The actual reward given to the students during a positive reinforcement oral pop quiz is not important; if rewarded pop quizzes are going to be frequent lesson, consider a system such as a sticker chart for tracking student achievement, followed up with a reward of the classes choosing. Choose stickers appropriate for the age of the class, stars or cute things work well for young students, but older more serious high school students may prefer simple single color dot stickers. For Example, if the class as a whole reaches a specified number of stickers the reward could be a break watching a video.

c. Medieval Days
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