Chronology - Concurrence: Toilet Paper and Food!

Over the past two weeks, we have used toilet paper and food to help us understand the Earliest Civilsation's chronological place in history. This is part of our Earliest Civilisations and Ancient Egypt study in Y4.

We spent the first lesson exploring the four Earliest Civilisations, looking at what they were significant for, where they existed and how they overlapped with each other. The second lesson is where we brought out the toilet paper to help us understand how long they lasted and compare their scales and durations with each other.

For this lesson, I had asked one of our TA's to cut up strips of border roll into the correct lengths for each period/civilisation so that the children could focus on finding the correct starting place and concentrate more on the comparisons as this was a long lesson. A quick tip: DON'T ask them to write down the 100 year intervals on the toilet paper on the perforations with a PERMANENT marker - my caretakers kept telling me all day that they could see '3500BC' written all across the floor in the hall! We switched to ordinary felt tip pen after seeing the first few dates had leaked through!

The children were great and I actually didn't experience any of the group-activity nonsense that I was expecting like bickering over who put things down or who wrote the dates. There also weren't any 'breakages' or 'I accidentally stood on their timeline and ripped it' incidents either, which was refreshing!

One thing that really stood out was how the vast majority of them understood that these groups of different people existed at similar times but in different places and this means that they might have traded or fought with each other. Another fascinating moment was when I was asking them to place on the Egyptian-specific dates underneath the timeline and one of the children spotted something. Our timeline places the end of Ancient Egypt at 332BC when Alexander the Great invaded as there were no more native Egyptian rulers after that. Other people place it at 30BC when the Romans invaded, which is also a good place to end. What was interesting though was that, when placing Cleopatra's birth in 69BC on, he said, 'But Mr Carter, why are we putting this on if Ancient Egypt had already ended? Was she not Egyptian?' I reminded him about which group of people took over Egypt at that point (the Greeks) and he said, 'So was she Greek?' to which a lightbulb moment happened for his group - the famous 'Egyptian' pharaoh they all knew the name of even before starting this topic wasn't even Egyptian! This then took us into some deeper conversations about what that might have meant for the Egyptians and how life might have changed for them, all because of a simple date!

Following this activity up a few days later, I asked them to name a civilisation around at the same time as the Ancient Egyptians. One of the children raised their hand and said, 'Wasn't there a fancy name for when that happens?' (I'd challenged the children to go and ask their parents if they knew what the word 'concurrent' meant as kids always love to feel more intelligent than adults, especially their parents!). At that point, I knew that I had to find a way of getting them to remember the word and have the meaning of it stick -!

Kids love food and they understand it. That's why we often use cakes and pizzas to help us with fractions in maths, so why not history? To help them remember the word, I brought up a picture of a currant bun - this became a concurrant bun. We talked about how the bun was the world and the currants were people, all spread out across the bun/world, some close together, others very distant, but there together at the same time, just in different places. It really seemed to resonate with them and it's something that I'm going to keep referring back to. You could even use a picture like this one and say that each bun is a different country to show how certain groups of people in a variety of countries are all spread out.

I'd love to know the kinds of things that YOU do in history to help them remember different concepts. Feel free to drop me a message through the Contact page to let me know!

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