Knowledge Cubes – originally posted on Tarr’s Toolbox


When students conduct research on key individuals, get them to write up their findings on a cardboard cube, with each of the six faces covering a different theme.

After the class has exchanged its findings in the form of a balloon debate or similar, collect the cubes in and, as an extension activity, invite pairs of students to arrange these into a pyramid with the most significant characters placed towards the top. Take a photo of the completed pyramid with the students behind it, and get them to summarise their reasoning on a large sticky note.

When you have a number of these photos and sticky notes, pin them all on a display board outside your classroom, then place the cubes on a table and invite other students (and teachers) to do the same thing.

Case study

For several years I have started the term with my Year 9 / Grade 8 students by conducting an investigation into “Who is your history hero?“. Students start by deciding the personal qualities they most admire in others (based on the IBO Learner Profile), then decide upon which area of achievement they are personally interested in (e.g. ballet, basketball, politics, music, horse-riding, boxing, football, feminism….). They are then in a position to search the internet for such targeted things as ‘Most determined basketball player’ or ‘Most principled ballet dancer’ and so on. Once they have found a suitably heroic character, I then get them to summarise their findings on a cardboard cube, in the following format:

  • Face 1: A picture of their chosen hero
  • Face 2: A picture of themselves
  • Face 3: Why this character is significant (based on whether they affected a lot of people, over a wide area, over  long period of time – the who/where/when approach)
  • Face 4: First ‘heroic’ quality (e.g. ‘Principled’)
  • Face 5: Second ‘heroic’ quality (e.g. ‘Caring’)
  • Face 6: Third ‘heroic’ quality (e.g. ‘Creative’)

Here are some of the results my students came up with:


We then had a balloon debate to determine a whole-class “History hero” for the year, before I then invited different students (as an extension activity in different classes from different year groups, over several days) to arrange the cubes in a pyramid of their choosing, with the characters towards the top to reflecting the people they personally found most impressive. These photos were placed on display as outlined above, with the cubes left on a table for other students and teachers to do the same thing with at break times:

Taking it further

  1. As a homework exercise, each student could choose 9 characters from the pyramid and arrange this in a personal diagram of preference in a diamond 9 or a triangle 9 template.
  2. Students could create an online 3D version of their cube using BrainyBox at
  3. Once there are a range of photographs of pairs of students with their pyramids, encourage the school to look closely at these rather than just treat them as decoration by placing these sorts of questions around the display:
  • Do most girls choose the same sorts of people at the top of the pyramid?
  • What about the boys?
  • What about different ages?
  • What about different nationalities?
  • What does this tell us about the sorts of qualities that different ages, genders and nationalities regard as being most heroic?


Cube Template (print out on A3 to cut out and glue)


“History Hero” Project at ActiveHistory