2013: ActiveHistory's Year in Review

It's been a typically busy year developing ActiveHistory with new resources based on the interests of my students and feedback from visitors to the website. A full list of additions to the site can be found further down the page here. Some of the highlights are as follows:

Notable additions to ActiveHistory

Year 7-11 (ages 11-16)

Year 7: The Body in the Balcony - History Skills through a Murder Mystery
Before starting studies of Medieval Realms, Year 7 History students should be given an introduction to the main concepts of history. This group of lessons is designed to provide an accessible but stimulating introduction to the subject.

Year 8: "Who was the Real Jack Sparrow?"
This study unit allows students to investigate the key question "How useful is the film 'Pirates of the Caribbean' to historians investigating the 'Golden Age' of Piracy? An interactive strategy game forms the hub of the unit. Students write up analyses at different points of the unit, and then turn this into a project which in the case of my own students sometimes ran into 5000 words of highly impressive essay-writing!

Year 8: Does Richard III deserve a Royal Burial?
This unit was developed following the exciting discovery in 2013 of the remains of the last Plantagenet King of England, Richard III. Always a controversial figure who is great for a few lessons of study, this discovery re-opened the debate about whether his reputation as the most evil King in British history is justly deserved. I framed this question with my students in terms of "Does Richard III deserve a Royal Funeral?" by focusing on two key issues.

Year 9: Winston Churchill - Hero or Villain?
This detailed, stand-alone study unit is based around an interactive Head2Head Virtual Interview with Winston Churchill. The unit is designed to be used with Year 9 students (13-14 years) but is easily adaptable to other contexts. The unit develops sourcework and essay-writing skills, and the outcome is a detailed, structured essay answering the key question "Was Winston Churchill a hero, or a villain?".

Year 10/11: The 'Mr. Men' Controversy
In May 2013 I was the subject of an attack by the Secretary of State for Education, Michael Gove, in what became known as his "Mr. Men" speech. Mr. Gove focused on a particular activity in which students are required to produce children's stories in the style of the well-known "Mr. Men" books to explain the rise of Hitler. I welcomed the opportunity to explain my teaching strategies in more detail and I was particularly grateful for the messages of support I received from teachers via email and Twitter.

IB/A-Level (ages 16-18)

Marxism through arm-wrestling
This activity easily fills a full hour and is a very lively and interesting exercise. Students act out a roleplay over several rounds which is deliberately designed to illustrate the Marxist conception of how free market economies function. Through arm-wrestling and games of 'split or steal', the bourgeois class quickly emerges. Thereafter, attempts to maximise profits drives down wages, discriminates against smaller traders and generally creates a class of disaffected, exploited proletarians.

20th Century Dictators - Thematic Study Unit
This research project can take place at any point during the IB History course. I personally deliver it towards the end of the first half term in Year 12. It is a great way to get students producing some personal research and engaging in some high-order thinking skills. The outcome of the unit is an in-depth essay on the subject of "Analyse the Methods and Conditions by which 20th Century Dictators Rose to Power".

Origins of Warfare - Historiography Study Unit
This short unit is designed to help students compare and contrast a wide range of 20th Century conflicts. Students will engage in individual research, paired presentations and a teacher-led session on the historiography of war. They will then use their findings to produce a detailed essay.

Origins of World War One and World War Two: Compared and Constrasted
In this unit, students will have the opportunity to research the origins of both World War One, and World War Two, in considerable depth. The unit is structured so that the factor to be researched are directly comparable. One group of students will focus on the First World War, and one on the Second World War. They will present their findings to each other, and then conduct follow-up activities based around some of the big historiographical debates (e.g. the Fischer Controversy, the Structuralist/Intentionalist debate, the Taylor/Trevor-Roper clash - pictured - about whether Hitler was a 'Gambler' or a 'Planner'). Finally, they will be in a position to compare and contrast the origins of both wars and produce a detailed and sophisticated essay.

Lenin role-play unit
This unit is taught completely through roleplay! Each student takes on the role of a different Politburo member and researches 'their' perspective on the key issues facing the new Soviet state. The teacher takes the role of President Kalinin, acting as Chair. Each lesson then works through issues "as they arise" between 1918-24, with plentiful use made of primary sources and round-table discussions. As Lenin's decisions on each issue are outlined, students can then make notes not just on 'what happened' but on how controversial these decisions were and how far Lenin was abandoning his communist ideology in favour of pragmatism; they will also get a very thorough understanding of the different splits in the party which Stalin is later able to exploit to such devastating effect.

Cross-Curricular Events

Did we emerge from World War Two a Better Civilisation? - Organising a Cross-Curricular IB Induction Event
A full article was published in International Schools magazine outlining the IB Induction event which takes place at the International School of Toulouse.
In the first week back after the summer holidays:
a. Students in Year 12 will be placed into teams and will come off timetable between Monday and Wednesday to take part in a "themed event" involving all 6 of the IB subject groups.
b. Teachers involved in the event will provide a one-hour lesson investigating the positive and negative legacies of World War Two in relation to their particular subject specialism.
c. Co-ordinators involved in the event will then help each team of students tie these various lessons together in an overall thesis which forms the basis of a presentation / written project.
Each of the six teams will produce a collaborative presentation using Google Docs.

Remembrance Day - Annual resources for every year group
Remembrance Day, 11th November, enables the school community to think about the tragedy of war, reflecting on how it can be avoided and how its victims should be commemorated and supported. It is nevertheless a challenge to provide a fresh assembly and follow-up materials every single year (and for every single year group). With this in mind, I have designed a framework which can be used every single year but with appropriate modifications and flexibility to ensure it is different each time. It works on the principle that each year group works on a different project, so that as students progress throught the school they are approaching the subject from a different angle every year

...and last but not least...

"New History" is a microsite from ActiveHistory which collates all the Latest History news, TV, podcasts and blog entries in one place – complete with anniversaries / commemorations and a "Quote of the Day"! You can also sign up for a weekly email digest. It's a useful resource for establishing contemporary relevance of topics being studied.

Harvard Citation Generator
Other citation generators need YOU to do most of the hard work - and only look for books.
This one searches for books, websites and films.
All it needs is a web address or a title / author of a book / film.

ActiveHistory Widgets
The following widgets can be embded in your own blog, website or wiki.


Ted Talks for History Lovers
TEDTalks are short (usually no more than 20-minute) talks on a very wide range of topics and disciplines. The focus is often on science and technology, but there is an excellent range of lectures on subjects of interest to history lovers. Here is my personal selection of 20 TED Talks for History Lovers, taken from this constantly updated spreadsheet.

Professional Development

Schools History Project: Leeds, June 2013
I attended my first Schools History Project conference in June 2013 and it was a fantastic experience. It was great to get the chance to learn from/talk to so many inspiring and friendly people including (deep breath...) Michael Riley, Dave Stacey, Ben Walsh, Lesley Ann, Sally Thorne, Rachel Foster, John Heffernan, Jim Belben, Martin Spafford, Terry Haydn, Chris Culpin, Jamie Byrom, Dale Banham, Dan Lyndon, Donald Cummings, Ian Coulson, Ken "Richard" Kennett....the list goes on...! For those of you involved in organising / delivering the conference - thank you, it was a brilliant experience, easily the best training event I've every attended. Roll on next year, I'm still buzzing from everything I learned - and hopefully I'll get the chance to meet some more people that I missed this time, and to present my own session too!

ECIS Amsterdam, November 2013
I presented at the European Council of International Schools Conference, sharing '60 tools in 60 minutes' for teachers and students. This also gave me the chance to meet and learn from Diana Laffin, who shared some fantastically creative and practical ideas for improving history teaching. I was also able to meet up again with my good friend and former colleague Richard Allaway, who managed to locate a couple of quite superb curry houses in the vicinity of our hotel...!

As well as the ActiveHistory Facebook Page, I have found Twitter an incredibly useful source of ideas and inspiration this year. I use the #historyteacher hashtag to share resources from my ActiveHistory Twitter Account and it's a good idea to check out that thread for great resources. Other useful hashtags are #sschat, #histedchat and #twitterstorians. There are too many great people on Twitter I've learned from this year for me to justify singling anyone out in particular, but if you follow those threads you'll soon build up a great list of people to follow. You will also find the following resources useful:
Getting Started on Twitter - my guide
More than 200 History Teachers on Twitter

In summary, ActiveHistory continues to grow continually and within the term I'll be launching some brand new units on the French Revolution, Napoleon's France, The Cuban Missile Crisis and the Vietnam War. In addition, ActiveHistory's sister website had seen some similarly major additions, including BrainyBox, Mission: MapQuest, Fake SMS, Telescopic Topic, SOLO Hexagons Generator and a relaunched FAKEBOOK...As always, please feel free to contact me if you have any suggestions for the website and I'll do my best to oblige!

Russel Tarr (@russeltarr / @activehistory), December 2013

Full list of additions to ActiveHistory, January-December 2103

SOLO Hexagons Generator
Spanish Civil War Simulation now with Leaderboard
The Mystery of the Crying Woman
Remembrance Day Worksheets and Lesson Plans for Secondary Students Year 7 to Year 13
Researching and presenting the origins of surnames of people in the school
Factual test on WW1 (30 questions, IB Level)
Historiography through events management, Design a Seating Plan for these 18 Historians!
Instructions on how to present the group findings comparing World Wars One and Two
Worksheet to accompany episode 3 of The Nazis, A Warning from History
Worksheet and factual test for the first episode of the Great War series from 1964
A Summary of the main events of World War One, organised by theme, plus a factual test
Research Template for comparing the Origins of WW1 and WW2
Lenin's Russia, newly rewritten and relaunched roleplay unit for IB History
Lenin's Russia, Classroom Debate and Conclusions
Time Machine to the Middle Ages, new location, worksheet, sounds and video
Medieval Castles, worksheet and video
Google Calendar for Educators
Why did Germany and her Allies lose World War One?
Teacher notes for the Franklin Expedition Mystery Unit
Year 7 History Skills: The Body on the Balcony EPISODE 2, the Mystery Deepens!
Year 7 History Skills: The Body on the Balcony EPISODE 1, a Historical Mystery!
Model IB Essay: How Important was Lenin's Role in the October Revolution?
Was the October Revolution a Popular Uprising, or a Coup D'Etat?
Causes of the October Revolution Timeline Roleplay Exercise
Fakebook - Relaunched, Reprogrammed!
Posters - "What's going on in my History Classroom?"
New Historical Pictures Widget for your blog / website!
Tensions in the Middle East, c.1914-48
Individual Research phase - Other Forms of Socialism: The Contributions of Trotsky, Stalin and Mao
In Defence of Capitalism / Criticisms of Marxism
Teacher-Led Lecture: The Contribution of Lenin to Marxism
The Ragged-Trousered Philanthropists: Reading and Comprehension Exercise
Roleplay/Game Activity: Marxism through Arm-Wrestling!
Mark Steel's Video Documentary on Marxism and accompanying worksheet
Marxism for Beginners: Introduction to the project
Learning about Marxism through Arm-Wrestling!
Widget for your blog - Today in History
"The Yom Kippur war was caused by the Israelis and ended with their utter defeat" - do you agree?
History in the News: Weekly Email Digest!
The Korean War: Telescopic Topic Revision Notes
High Stalinism 1945-53: Telescopic Topic Revision Notes
How did the war in Afghanistan undermine the USSR? (Telescopic Topic)
Rise of Stalin: Telescopic Topic
How to Organise a Cross-Curricular IB Induction Event
20 TED Talks for History Lovers
The Wars of the Roses
IB History - Video Archive
Dozens of IB History Revision Quizzes!
Origins of the Cold War (60 Question quiz for IB History)
The 1967 '6-Day War' - 30 Question Quiz
The Suez Crisis (30 Question Quiz)
The Arab-Israeli Conflict 1948-49 (30 question quiz)
The Arab-Israeli Conflict 1939-1947 (30 Question Quiz)
Middle East pre-1939: 30-Question Quiz
Spanish Civil War: Causes and Events - Interactive Quizzes
The Middle East, 1939-79: Fling the Teacher Challenge (135 possible questions!)
Pirates - End of Unit Project: Instructions / Markscheme
"Who Am I?" Challenge - Weimar Germany
The Rise of Pinochet: Fling the Teacher Quiz
Mussolini's Italy: Arcade Games (44 possible questions)
The Rule of Stalin: Fling the Teacher Challenge
Individual Research Task: In-depth analysis of one war
"Save Game" Facility for the "Middle Passage" Simulation
How far are Sea Myths accurately portrayed in the Pirates of the Caribbean?
Henry VIII - New resources for Year 8
Mussolini's Italy: 45 Question Fling the Teacher Quiz
Lenin's Russia - keyword challenge
"Who Am I?" Challenge - Spanish Civil War
Mission MapQuest: Modern World History Revision
Henry VIII - Multimedia Presentation
Comparisons and Contrasts between different pirates
Primary Sources - Genuine Pirate Codes
IB History - Sample Sourcework Papers / Model Answers
1900-2000 (GCSE/IB/A-Level History)
Blog Posts by Period
History News, TV, Radio
ActiveHistory Home
"Who Am I?" Challenge - The Middle East 1939-79
Does a study of the Palestinian struggle after 1948 prove that violence pays and diplomacy does not?
Was the Palestinian refugee crisis the deliberate policy of the Jewish leadership?
Who was to blame for the outbreak of the 1948 Arab-Israeli War?
Was it the Arab refusal to accept the UN Partition Plan that caused the 1948 War?
Why did Britain decide to pull out of the Palestinian mandate in 1947?
Pirate Codes: Comparisons and Contrasts with the film
League of Nations in the 1920s: New Worksheets
How accurately is the Pirate Code reflected in the Pirates of the Caribbean?
Fake SMS Text Message Generator
The Princes in the Tower: Classroom Debate
The Princes in the Tower: Card Sort Exercise
Does King Richard III deserve a Royal Funeral?
Teacher-led activity: Historiography on the Origins of Warfare
Paired Feedback and Presentation Task: Comparisons and Contrasts between two wars
How accurately is Weaponry used in the Pirates of the Caribbean?
Randomiser / Pirate Insult Tool
Pirate Flags Quiz
Quiz Questions - Pirates Strategy Game
Game Rules - Caribbean Pirates Strategy Game
Feedback Phase - How far is Jack Sparrow based on genuine pirates?
How far is Jack Sparrow based on genuine Pirates?
How Accurate is 'Pirates of the Caribbean'? to the historian of the 'Golden Age of Piracy'?
Nature of Sources: Evaluation Worksheet
Purpose of Sources: Evaluation Worksheet for IGCSE History
Origin of Sources: Evaluation Worksheet for IGCSE History
"Fakebook" - Gallery of examples for inspiration!
New History - Redesigned, Relaunched!
Spotify Jukebox for History Teachers
20th Century Dictators: Historiography - Why do dicators emerge?
20th Century Dictators: Feedback Process
20th Century Dictators - Research Template
20th Century Dictators: Introductory Historiography and Research Task
New for subscribers - View your access logs
Historical Anniversaries - "On This Day" and "In This Week"
Crazy Victorian Inventions - a Quiz!
Assembly Presentation: Reflection on the Results of the Left/Right Wing Computer Simulation
Critical Thinking - The 6-Hat Technique (Worksheet/Lesson Plan)
Assembly Presentation: What is critical thinking? (PSHCE)
Voting Systems: Which is the most truly democratic?
PSHCE Politics - Extremist political ideologies
PSHCE Politics - Design your 'ideal state'
Debate - Should the left/right wing computer simulation provide a 'middle way' option?
Are you Left or Right Wing? - Computer Simulation
History and Politics through PSHCE: Assembly Presentation: What is Politics?
Facebook Template
Undercover in Mussolini's Italy: new additions
Horatio Ramsbottom Industrial Revolution Game - add a class list!
Harvard Citation Generator
ActiveHistory Site Search Facility


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