How is your history club doing?

Thanks to Sally Burnham, HA and SHP Fellow and history teacher at Carres School in Lincolnshire for this blogpost. This post is packed full of great ideas for History Club activities across all year groups.

In September we decided that we wanted to give History Club an ‘update’. During Covid it was many of the ‘nicer’ things of school life that had been put on hold. Even when we returned to school, shorter breaks, not mixing year groups etc had meant that we hadn’t got back into the swing of History Club. So, time for a relaunch!

We decided to have 3 branches of History Club this time with certain events for all students. That is, on a weekly basis there would be three groups – a KS3 History club, a GCSE History Club and an A level Reading Group. As the year progressed the 3 groups took on their own sense of identity as the students shaped them to what they wanted to do.

  1. GCSE students were very clear that what they wanted was a ‘film club’ and so they have been watching and discussing a range of films from documentaries on the Norman Conquest, How the Wild West was won by Ray Mears (lots of discussion surrounding this one!), The Swing Kids and Valkyrie to name but a few. They have taken to bringing new titles of films that they have watched that are not related to the GCSE course and there is a general discussion/recommendations at the beginning of each session about what films that link to history they have been watching.
  2. The A Level reading group actually started during Covid and was a way to keep in touch with our A Level students beyond normal lessons. However, it has had a new lease of life since we have been meeting in person. In fact it has grown to such an extent that we now hold Yr 12 and Yr 13 groups so that they can read and discuss articles that are related to the specific areas of the course they are studying. We have also been able to take members of the Reading Group to some local talks to help diversify the topics they are studying. Members of this group have also been involved in the Great Debate heats, have entered university essay writing competitions and are looking forward to attending some talks by the local Classics Association which is just being set up in Lincoln. I think this group may be my favourite part of the History Club – to be surrounded by 20+ students turning up at lunch time with their packed lunches and annotated articles to discuss and debate. There has been an added benefit that there is clear evidence of this reading paying off in their written work.
  3. At Key Stage 3 we still have the traditional history club but we have tried to ensure that activities are more varied and cater for the wide range of interests, from local history to tanks, from the RAF to classics.
    • We have played and then made our own Top Trump history cards. Students came with  a list of people they thought were significant in the past, only for them to realise that there was only one female. They were really quite shocked and so set about deciding who else to include in their Top Trump set. Once they had decided on their individuals, and justified their choices, they made their cards after a heated discussion about what criteria they should use to judge significance.
    • We invited an ex history student into school who is studying history at university. This led to an interrogation for Peter as he was quizzed about courses available, why he had chosen the courses he had, what life was like at university, how he cooked for himself, what his views were on migration policies… The session ended with a whole group of students determined to study history at university.
    • We decided that there are sometimes things on the news where it would be useful to have a few things explained, so History Club started to create one page summaries for In the news… we then put these onto the walls to help other students make sense of events in the news.
    • We also took the opportunity to go on the recently launched Sleaford Heritage Trail. There are a series of QR codes around the town where you can scan the QR code and listen to a presentation by an actor pretending to be a member of Sleaford’s community in the past. We heard from several people who were mourning the death of Queen Victoria (which students found interesting in the wake of the death of Queen Elizabeth II), we even heard from a baker’s wife who did not like the idea of bank holidays being introduced. We are now looking into whether we can research some extra individuals to add to the trail.
    • To get into the spirit of the Coronation, students researched and came up with a list of 10 ‘Did You Knows?’ about past coronations to improve the audience’s general knowledge. One of our Year 7 students read them at the school Coronation Concert at our local church and again at the whole school Coronation assembly.
    • History Club are currently working on a board game to teach people history and these range from a board game to teach people about the History of Sleaford, a board game to explain the Russian Revolution and a board game to illustrate the turning points in World War Two.

Hopefully as we draw to the end of this academic year, History Club has had an impact on our students – hard to measure in real terms, but the enthusiasm and passion certainly seem to be there, and we will continue to go from strength to strength.

The HA has a crowd-sourced history club reasource area called History Lab. We would hear what your history clubs have been up to.

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