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Filling time with History

Sometimes during the day, you find yourself with a few minutes to spare. There are plenty of games and grammar or maths-related activities that you can do to fill that void, but perhaps filling it with history could be another one? Here are 5 activities that you could use.

Fact Envelopes

At the back of my classroom, on a display board, I have small envelopes each labelled with a period of British history, ranging from the Stone Age right up to World War II. Within each envelope are around 20 facts relating to that time. If we are going to be looking at a certain period throughout the year then I'll restrict access to that until we are learning about it, but otherwise, I let the children choose whichever one they are interested in. The child reads out the fact and we can discuss it in greater detail or find out more information on the Internet.

I also spent a good 3 weeks of my life during my NQT year chopping up the Horrible Histories series (1-4) so that they are arranged by period and not just randomly clubbed together, meaning that I can find any relevant clips within seconds. Now I am fully aware that Horrible Histories can be fast and loose with some of it's content, and I always warn the children about believing them too easily, but they are fun and engaging and help start a discussion. The children often look forward to choosing a fact and it can be used as an effective form of behaviour management - 'If you complete this task, you can choose a fact at the end of the lesson/day.'

British History Display Board with Fact Envelopes

On This Day

Using websites like (or apps of a similar nature) can help children realise the diversity of our history and create important discussions around events that may seem relevant now. Checking some of the events beforehand is advised though as some may not be appropriate for primary-aged children.

Guess Who or What?

Using either pictures or descriptions, revealing certain elements of an individual or event can spark a great deal of discussion. Developing reasoning for how or why they know that it is a certain person or event can reveal the sources that children find their information and introduce them to a broader range of people or events in history that they may not have known about. Children could work in groups to identify certain ideas:

'If they were born in (x) then they came from the (x) period.'

'They're wearing (x) which means...'

'I can see (x) in the background which means...'

Guess Who examples that could be set up

This activity can be downloaded here:

The Speed-Dating Game

Give the children various dates throughout history - they may be the dates of births of significant individuals, dates of signifcant events or the dates for certain periods of history. The children then have to go around the classroom and stop each other. One of them reads out their event/individual/period or the date and the other person has to say the answer. Children could start with a set number of lives and gain them or lose them depending on their answers. You could give them a target of reaching a certain number of points or asking a certain amount of people within a set time limit.

Download it now from here:

Change My Mind Meme

Use the 'Change My Mind' meme to set up a discussion or to have the children relay the knowledge that they have accumulated so far. Examples could include:

'The Romans did a little for Britain, but not much. Change my mind.'

'The Vikings were nothing but vicious raiders. Change my mind.'

'Florence Nightingale wasn't all that important. Change my mind.'

The children should then be able to provide some sort of response building on what they have been taught before. They should give reasoned responses to show that changing someone's opinion needs more than just telling them they are wrong.

You could even go deeper and use something like: 'The Ancient Greeks are the best period of history. Change my mind.'

to teach about subjectivity and how to distinguish fact from opinion.

So which of these activities do you think would work well in your classroom? All of them have the power to engage and generate discussion. All of them can be done within a few minutes. Why not give them a go and see how much more your children can learn about history throughout each day and throughout the year!


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