Using real historians to create engagement

I am a stronger believer in using quotes and arguments from real historians to make students realise that history is a living breathing, dynamic subject as all too often they think history is the dry learning of facts and dates.

Teaching Oliver Cromwell this week I wanted to avoid the over-used ‘hero or villain’ lesson so decided to use Ronald Hutton’s quote about Cromwell as the lesson hook or enquiry:

Cromwell was about 50% saint andWe began by unpicking Ronald’s argument and discussing what exactly he meant. Then we did a card sort of facts about Cromwell, looking at good and bad aspects of his leadership. After I brought back the Hutton quote and said that we were going to engage in a bit of historical debate and that I wanted them to write about whether they agreed with him or not. They loved this as they thought they were really part of the historical debate.

This became a whole lot more engaging though when I said that I knew Ronald (he used to be one of my lecturers at Bristol). The students were bizarrely impressed and thinking on my feet I told them that if they worked hard I would send the best to him immediately after the lesson. Instantly the kids saw this as a challenge and worked really hard to produce some really great conclusions, two of which are below (I love the first one who changes the quote!):



I kept to my word and after the lesson I emailed them to Ronald, who has now responded! I am genuinely excited to show my Year 8s this next lesson!

Hutton Email

Clearly what was a passing thought this morning that I would use Hutton’s quote to help my lesson has paid off.

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