“Now that’s a cracking source!”

The favourite part of my job is planning lessons and the bit of this that I like the most is finding a really good historical source. A good source should be engaging and get you thinking. It should be detailed and allow the student to ask questions, make inferences and link to previous learning. It should be revealing and allow the student to find out something new. And ultimately a really great source will allow the student to do this independently with little teacher input.

Now finding this gold takes time and effort. A quick Google search does not normally produce the goods. You have to trawl, you have to dig, but that’s half of the fun. You need to utilise the experience of others and steal ideas.

I’ve recently found a couple of crackers so I thought I would share.

As anyone who reads this blog will know I am very interested in explicitly teaching ‘sense of period’. I’ve just taught a lesson introducing the 19th century to Year 8. I wanted them to understand that this was a time of contrasts; of extreme wealth and extreme poverty. As part of the lesson I used William Frith’s Derby Day.

William Frith – Derby Day

I’d read about this source in a Teaching History article where it was used as a pinnacle to a scheme of work but I wanted to use it more simply so I gave the students three options:

1. Label the characters and consider what job they have, what class they are and what they are thinking

2. Label the characters or groups and make inferences about what this tells you about Victorian society

3. Label and make inferences. Then annotate to consider change and continuity.

This worked a treat and at one point there was actual silence in the room the students were so engrossed!

The second source is a work in progress. In the 19th century William Braikenridge commissioned local artists to record the changing world that surrounded him in Bristol. Bristol Museum are currently digitizing the wealth of material that was produced. One of the museum education officers allowed me to have a look through and the source below fascinated me and resulted in a tirade of geeky questions from yours truly. It’s a plan of the buildings surrounding College Green and is a treasure trove of detail in an A3 document.


I currently have no idea how I am going to use this more than it will be the centre piece of a lesson on what living and working conditions in 19th century Bristol were like. But I hope you agree its most definitely a cracker and surely will engage the students.

Genuinely I strongly believe that if you find the right source, like the one above, a lesson will virtually plan itself. So this Easter holidays if you’re bored spend time and find something unusual and interesting. (and if you do let me know so I can steal your idea!)

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