Tips and tools for teaching humanities in a blended way

The home learning period saw teachers using digital resources to teach the humanities like never before. It was an aspect of learning that both children and teachers enjoyed immensely. In our recent humanities conference we explored with teachers what worked well and which tools and resources they are bringing back to face-to-face teaching. Here’s what we discovered.

How did teachers approach the humanities in lockdown?

Teachers drew on digital resources widely to enhance their remote teaching of geography and history. Take Anna’s reception class at Hitherfield Primary School in Streatham, which took a virtual trip to Japan to learn more about the country, its food and customs. She introduced the project with a video she made using iMovie and there were links to sushi recipes, which the children tried at home and reported back with photos, creating great dialogue between children, parents and teacher. 

Japan task

Steve’s class at Reay School found out all about Rio de Janeiro and shared their coloured-in pictures of feathered dancers on Twitter.

Lauren, at Cathedral School, used Kahoot for weekly quizzes while the children were on Zoom, for consolidating their learning from the week and checking what they can remember from that week but also other humanity topics, giving her instant feedback. Yvonne covered geography in live Zoom classes with year 3 Fairlawn School, followed by the children doing independent research and then coming back for a plenary discussion on Zoom again for peer learning.

Learn more about these examples and discover more in our Humanities in blended teaching webinar.

What worked well?

Teachers told us that:

  • Humanities learning was good for encouraging discussion in a live remote context. This teacher said how impressed she was by how the children listened to each other and developed ideas from their peers in history and geography learning. They enjoyed this learning a lot and tool an investigative approach
  • A reception teacher described how in class she used the role play area to explore travel and other countries and encouraged this imaginative role play approach on Zoom too
  • Balloon debates and voting in the video conference chat were successful
  • During live sessions weekly Kahoots about humanities learning created energy and engagement for the children

More generally, it is clear from what we’ve heard from teachers and school leaders that teachers’ increased confidence and experience with remote and blended learning means that digital is now much more embedded in humanities learning back in the classroom.

What more is possible?

Lots! There is a wealth of resources, including many well-known names, such as Google Earth, that you can use in perhaps unexpected ways. The CLC team share some of their favourites. 

For looking at history through objects, CLC’s Rowan Roberts recommends the Jewish Museum and how it introduces history and culture through objects, giving a window into the life of the person who may have used that object. These small digital artefacts can offer compelling insights into other cultures. 

The British Museum’s Museum of the World is an interactive timeline exploring cultures through objects plotted on a timeline. They are also categorised in terms of the continent so it is possible to scroll through and get a sense of how long ago a person may have used the object and what else was happening around the continent at the same time. 

For making your own chronologies, Adobe Spark or even iMovie are useful tools to put the images in order and do a voiceover. Padlet can be used for timelines (such as the Apollo mission) and interactive maps. Scratch can also work well as programming can be a nice way into telling a version of events – for example, using Scratch to represent the Roman invasion or to make documentaries using animation as a presentation tool.

The Google Earth voyager tool allows you to look through various collections using 3D Google maps and Streetview, such as a Pilgrimage to Mecca. Other recommended collections include the This is School series, which looks into classrooms in schools all around the world – a powerful way to bring children together (you could also look at This is Home). The Celebrating Indigenous Languages collection also incorporates videos of people speaking the languages.

Geoguesser is an online game where you have to guess where you are in Google Streetview based on what you can see around you. Each round has five locations. It’s pretty tricky! But it can be fun to explore with children and go through the process together with a child and look for clues – can you see a roadsign with a language on it, which side of the road are people driving, is there anything at all you recognise? It’s also become popular on Twitch. Note, the ‘Famous Places’ collection is easier!

Google Earth: Feeling Lucky: click on the dice in Google Earth and get taken to a random place and learn a little about it. Some teachers might do it in the morning as children arrive as a way of looking at the Earth and exploring different places and see how they relate to each other.

And don’t forget Google Streetview – did you know you can explore the inside of museums such as the British Museum or the Palace of Versailles using Streetview, as well as walk around the outside? There is also a timeline option and you can wind back the clock and see what the street looked like at different times and see what has changed. Can you do that outside your own school?

Learn more about these tools and resources and discover more in our Humanities in blended teaching webinar.

Find many more resources and examples on our Humanities Padlets

Discover our general resource Padlet; this selection of geography resources; this collection of resources about sustainability and the environment or this board that gathers together some useful resources from museums. For more guidance on using Padlet in your own teaching or staff sessions, you can also check out Rowan’s video tutorial.

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