History Rocks Box!
We all know that children love boxes. Quite often, a box will be played with more than the toy in it! So why not tap into that with a make-it-yourself History Rocks Box?
Add whichever features, activities, topics and designs you want to it to suit yours and your children's needs. Mixing content with skill, there is something here to engage just about every child in your class, no matter how reluctant they are or 'boring' they find history!
You can find a full list of resources and instructions on how to make one yourself underneath the video.
What is a History Rocks Box?
Teaching primary history can be difficult as children can often struggle with disciplinary skills even though they can tell you all manner of facts about whichever topic you have studied. The aim of the box is to engage children in these skills by exposing the skills to them in a fun and engaging way. The key to the usefulness of the box, just like the children who turn it into a spaceship, a jail or a boat, is its customisability.
Being able to tailor the content to whichever topic you need makes this a versatile addition to any classroom. You can make it as basic or as fancy as you like and you can add as many or as few activities as you want too!
How do I make one?
There are a whole bunch of templates that you can download underneath this to make things a little easier. These are based off of the box I had in the video above, which was used for paper towels from school. It measured approximately 47.5cm across by around 25cm high, so if you have a box larger or smaller, the templates may need resizing a little.
The main resources that you will need for this are:
A cardboard box
Ring binder clips
Sticky-backed Velcro - (this is key to the customisability of the box)
The first major section is the top part using the dolly pegs as targets for a hoop toss. Simply take one side of a small piece of velcro and stick it onto the top of the box. Take the corresponding piece of velcro and stick it to the bottom of the dolly peg. Voila! It should now stick on. Place as many of these as you need and space them out to give enough distance between them. For hoops, I used some miniature hoops used for training small birds which proved to be an appropriate size which you can find here.
Placing more velcro onto the middle of the dolly peg means that you can decide what each of these targets represents. Will they need to get the hoop across a correct answer? Will they need to tell you something about a person, place, date or event? Or will it be a skill that they need to explain? Create your own content to suit your needs!
Next were the targets, which you can download the template for underneath. I wanted these to hang, so I taped some ring binder clips to the top of the box and piereced holes through the box to allow for the string to pop through. I put a tiny piece of tape around the top of the string to act like the end of a shoe lace so that they wouldn't fray. Using binder clips also means that you can take the targets down if you want to.
Again, like above, you can choose what you want on your targets. I used velcro in the middle of them so that I could replace answers or information depending on the topic we were looking at. I found some Foam Disk Shooters from The Works (2 for £8.00) which worked OK but any sort of gun would work, or even a ball.
If you wanted to use stacking cups instead, just put some velcro on the cups to stick your information on and throw a ball at them! A different idea for this, given that you may knock multiple cups over in one go, is to just put numbers on and add any knocked over numbers to form either a year that you could investigate using an online calendar, or they could form a page number for a book linked to your topic that you could read about.
Using low-stakes quizzes often helps children retain knowledge and engages them in their learning. Using that concept to 'feed' a character from your topic just adds another layer and makes things a bit more hands-on.
Find a character or a significant person linked to your studies, cut them out, stick them on the box with more velcro (so that you can replace them in the next topic) and make a hole where their mouth is. I created a bunch of cards with questions on (and the answers too) so that I can ask the children. If they get it right, we can feed the character with knowledge. If they get it wrong, it just goes to the side.
You can enhance this by using a free Soundboard app on an iPad to add silly sound effects like buzzers, munching or meme sounds. Search for 'Custom Soundboard Creator' which is free and lets you record your own sounds as well as import them.
We ask questions all of the time in school, but this allows children to make a physical connection with their answer and will engage some of your more reluctant learners because it's a bit different. These are simply two crisp tubes from Aldi's version of Pringles with some paper wrapped around them! I tried with actual Pringles but the bottom is metal and doesn't come off easily, whereas the Aldi ones are plastic so they were easier.
Again, I attached the tubes to the box with velcro so that they could be taken off and the label holders used velcro as well so that the focus of the answers could be changed too. Decide whether something is true or false; a continuity or a change; a cause or an effect; or is it real or a myth? Drop a soft-play style ball down to mark your answer. Simple!
Finally, the timeline on the back proved to be quite tricky. The back of the box simply wasn't large enough to make the timeline useful, so I needed to make it longer. I attached a flap held on with some duct tape as I wanted it to fold back on itself. This video helped to make a decent tape hinge.
There is a template at the bottom of the page for the background and all of the various civilisations that I used for this, but it is measured to fit a 95cm span so it may not work exactly for your own box. I decided to use blu tack for the periods of history this time as I didn't want 5 strips of velcro going across the whole timeline (it would cost a fortune!) and having them in the correct position would make it too easy. Plus, the velcro would be much thicker and would make the flap stick out more. I did use velcro though to keep the flap attached to the back of the box when it is closed.
The children can then physically place the periods of history on the timeline, noting the duration, any concurrent civilisations and the scale of each label.