Improving subject knowledge

Over the past 6 months, I have made it my mission to improve my subject knowledge across all areas of KS2 in particular (whilst also picking up elements of local history for KS1). I have noticed that by acquiring more and more knowledge, the links that I am able to make with my planning and rationales has improved dramatically.


After the various lockdowns, I had put on quite a lot of weight and I was unhappy with what I was having to wear to feel 'comfortable', so I decided to start walking on a night when everyone had gone to bed. Plus, we had just welcomed our daughter into the world and she would obviously need copious walks to go to sleep! I then started walking to the local Tesco and Aldi instead of driving, buying a few essentials that we needed every few days. However, I couldn't help but feel that I was wasting an opportunity to be doing something whilst I was walking, rather than just listening to music. I was introduced to Audible by a friend and I have not looked back since! Every opportunity I've had, I've gone out for a walk somewhere, whether it be for shopping, to walk the baby or just to go out in the rain (I love a good walk in the rain with my waterproofs on!) I make sure I have my wireless earphones with me (they aren't fancy but the battery life is phenomenal and they have a handy charging case so they never run out of charge) and just listen away! You can see the spikes in 'listening time' on the app around the holidays when I have a bit more time!


So I thought I would present you with a list of audiobooks that I have listened to so far and to give you a quick flavour of what they are about, in case you want to follow suit and do the same thing:


1. Romans in Britain by Guy de la Bédoyère,

I suppose I was quite lucky with the first audiobook that I listened to which is audibly pleasing as it has lots of environmental sound effects and a host of historians and archaeologists chipping in which can break up the sound of a single narrator. Also, the book itself is split into roughly 30-minute chapters and only lasts a total of 2h 55mins which means that you can breeze through it in a few sittings (or even a single sitting if you're enjoying it!) A fascinating look at the impact of the Roman Empire on Britain using archaeological evidence from a number of different places and sources. Well-worth a listen if you are teaching this topic!


2. Egypt, Greece and Rome: Civilisations of the Ancient Mediterranean by Charles Freeman

This is a really extensive book lasting 32hrs between the 3 different civilisations. Personally, I found the Greek and Egyptian elements more relevant and enjoyable than the Roman part as it talked more about events in Rome itself rather than in Britain, but nonetheless, I was fascinated by the introduction of the Roman section which highlighted a jug that had an inscription of Isis on it (Egyptian goddess) found in London, linking the role of the empire to its impact on Britain. Although this is very in-depth and the narrator can be a little monotonous at times, it is still worth a listen if you want to delve head-long into the subject knowledge of these civilisations.


3. Classical Archaeology of Ancient Greece and Rome by John Hale

Truth be told, I haven't finished this one yet as I didn't find it as enjoyable as some of the others on this list. At 18hrs 41mins, it's pretty lengthy with each chapter covering a different archaeological site or piece of evidence. It DID introduce me to the possibility of the first flushing toilet being found in Greece though at the Palace of Knossos which I thought was really interesting - kids always seem to ask the same few questions: When were toilets invented? When were windows invented? So this helped answer one of those at least!


4. Classical Antiquity: A Captivating Guide to Ancient Greece and Rome and How These Civilisations Influenced Europe, North Africa and Western Asia by Captivating History

Alas, this is another one that I may have to return to one day as I haven't finished it, but this was mainly because the narrator's voice is SO bass-heavy that I found it difficult to concentrate on what was being said rather than on how it was being said. At only 3hrs 8mins though, it's not a lengthy listen by any means, although the title takes at least half of that time to read!




5. The Greeks by Diane Harris Cline

This was a FANTASTIC listen from start to finish and I whole-heartedly recommend it for anyone teaching the Greeks. Giving an in-depth history of the Greeks all the way from prehistory to the fall of Greece to the Romans (and potentially a little further if memory serves correctly), the narrator kept this lively and interesting all the way through and this was one of the first books that I was determined to go out and listen to at any given moment: what's that, dear? We need some spaghetti? I'll walk to Tesco. Now the baby needs a sleep? No problem, I'll go take her for a walk (and go the LONG way to cram more of this in!) At 6hrs 24mins, it covers enough ground to make you feel knowledgeable without being overbearing.


6. When Women Ruled The World by Kara Cooney

This was an odd one. Essentially, Cooney guides us through the stories of 6 Egyptian women who enjoyed success and power as pharaohs and I was keen to hear about each and every one of them as we are about to teach the Egyptians. Unfortunately, the 30-min introduction spends a good half of that talking about Donald Trump and Hilary Clinton and the role of women in power and politics today. Whilst I'm not denying the importance of talking about such issues, it's not exactly what I signed up for! Also, the title of the book suggests that ALL 6 women held ultimate control and power, when in reality, Cooney relegates each and every one of them as only taking power because of a 'crisis' linked to men - a boy too young to rule requiring a mother, a co-regent, forced marriages etc. What WAS interesting though, was seeing how each and every one of these female pharaohs had their legacy removed by the Egyptians who followed them, leading to a nice addition to my lesson about Egyptian society and attitudes towards women. Each chapter lasts about an hour and Cooney uses these chapters to explore different elements of Egyptian life as well, with the whole thing lasting 9hrs and 15mins. If you're interested in this sort of thing, it's worth a listen, but if you're wanting a general overview of Egypt, perhaps skip this one.


7. Rosetta Stone by iMinds

This one is frustrating! It is BY FAR the most interesting listen I've had so far...BUT...I looked into the author and it turns our he has a rather sinister past, with a criminal record for neo-Nazism and abuse. I was unaware of this before buying (why would I suspect anything when it's on Audible?!) but he changed his name to distance himself from his past. At 10hrs 35mins, this was another book that I just felt compelled to listen to for about 75% of it. It covers a great deal of topics from different civilisations and produces lots of statistical and evidence-based research on some truly astounding things. Unfortunately (again), some of these ideas seem to be those of fringe historians which then makes you question the credibility and authenticity of the ideas put forwards. Greek robots: check. Roman concrete: check. Egyptian electricity: hang on...that doesn't quite sound right. The ideas put forwards are interesting and initially make you think, 'Wow, that's incredible!' but this was also the first book that I felt I really needed to double check the source material on, and that's where things start to fall apart a bit. A lot of the Egyptian theories rely on the work of Christopher Dunn, who is an engineer who hypothesises about giant Egyptian drills due to the cut marks on the pyramid stones. I'm not saying it's not possible, but after a bit of checking online, I couldn't find anything from credible sources that corroborated this. Also, I stopped listening when Joseph started talking about 'Pyramid Power'. I will say no more about this book because, as fascinating as some of the ideas are, I can't recommend buying it due to the author's past, plus the narrator isn't great. If it wasn't for the interest in what was being said, I'd have turned it off.abhhgbhgb


8. Alexander the Great by Captivating History

I knew little-to-nothing about Alexander the Great apart from a few nuggets from other books that I'd listened to about the Greeks listbove, so I wanted to expand my knowledge on him. At only 3hrs 37mins, this gives a comprehensive overview of his life and achievements, including the impact on Greece and to some extent, Rome, but not as much as the title suggests. The narrator for this kept me listening purely because of his pronunciation of certain words like 'off' as 'orf'. Definitely worth a listen if you want to know more about Alexander the Great, his achievements, legacy and impact.


9. Ancient History by Captivating History

You might have noticed a trend towards the Captivating History series by now. They have produced lots of different books of varying quality, this one not so great. Although it is around 5x shorter than Charles Freeman's book above (see no.2), I personally wasn't hooked by it and didn't manage to finish it. I might go back to it one day when I've run out of credits and need something to listen to.




10. Ancient High Tech: The Astonishing Scientific Achievements of Early Civilisations by Frank Joseph

This one is frustrating! It is BY FAR the most interesting listen I've had ye...BUT...I looked into the author and it turns our he has a rather sinister past, with a criminal record for neo-Nazism and abuse. I was unaware of this before buying (why would I suspect anything when it's on Audible?!) but he changed his name to distance himself from his past. At 10hrs 35mins, this was another book that I just felt compelled to listen to for about 75% of it. It covers a great deal of topics from different civilisations and produces lots of statistical and evidence-based research on some truly astounding things. Unfortunately (again), some of these ideas seem to be those of fringe historians which then makes you question the credibility and authenticity of the ideas put forwards. Greek robots: check. Roman concrete: check. Egyptian electricity: hang on...that doesn't quite sound right. The ideas put forwards are interesting and initially make you think, 'Wow, that's incredible!' but this was also the first book that I felt I really needed to double check the source material on, and that's where things start to fall apart a bit. A lot of the Egyptian theories rely on the work of Christopher Dunn, who is an engineer who hypothesises about giant Egyptian drills due to the cut marks on the pyramid stones. I'm not saying it's not possible, but after a bit of checking online, I couldn't find anything from credible sources that corroborated this. Also, I stopped listening when Joseph started talking about 'Pyramid Power'. I will say no more about this book because, as fascinating as some of the ideas are, I can't recommend buying it due to the author's past, plus the narrator isn't great. If it wasn't for the incredible thoughts and theories, I'd have turned it off.'


11. Ancient Mediterranean Trade by Charles Rivers Editors

At only 1hr 47mins, this is a very short listen that doesn really expand on much from other books on this list. It covers what you would expect it to: Greeks, Romans and Egyptians (which is why I downloaded it) but if you listen to any others on this list, you'll essentially find out the same things in more detail.





12. Ancient Egypt by Captivating History

As a quick introduction to Ancient Egypt, this covered pretty much all of the ground I had already covered with Freeman and Cooney. I was hoping for a few extra nuggets of information but at only 2hrs 6mins, everything is over pretty quickly, covering thousands of years in a matter of moments. If you are wanting a concise introduction to Egyptian history, this might be a good place to start.




13. The History of Ancient Egypt by Bob Brier

This was another book that I just couldn't get enough of! At 24hrs and 25mins, it's fairly lengthy, but as it has been produced by The Great Courses, the whole thing is split into roughly 30min lectures which makes them much more manageable. Not only is Brier one of the world's leading Egyptologists, I loved his narration as it seemed very personal, as if he was having a conversation with you, just you and him. The amount of content on offer is astounding and you will definitely feel like an expert on Egyptian history after listening to this. Brier takes a chronologial approach (with a few side-steps to explore other elements) which helps understand the narrative of Ancient Egypt better. Brier also tackles the debate around water-erosion of the Sphinx, but my only gripe is that I would have loved to have heard more about what mainstream Egyptology thinks about some of the fringe theories like Joseph (no.10) proclaimed about Egyptian electricity or Pyramid Power, just to hear it from his point of view rather than finding any old viewpoint online! Given that this is included with membership, I can't recommend this title enough if you are teaching the Egyptians!