Are Artefacts Worth Their Weight in History Lessons?

Turner-Bisset (2005), speaks about the use of artefacts in the teaching of history in the primary classroom. It is stated that artefacts are a multi-sensory resource, making them useful in an early years classroom as a starting point for enquiry based learning.

Using common objects as an artefact can allow pupils to see immediate relevance to themselves. For example, using an old and chipped wooden bowl to link to Victorian diet. Children will already know the uses of a bowl and have their own relationship with the object, the learning around the Victorian diets can then been seen to have a level of relevance to the child. The topic becomes more than just facts for the child, there is a connection between the learning and learner. It may be as simple as a bowl but if there is something the child can refer to then the child may be able to use the artefact as an anchor point.

Visual images are a large part of the technological world in which we find ourselves. Television advertising is just one example, where images of burgers are created and presented in ways that trigger mental responses and cravings. This long lasting affinity for visual images is evidenced by the discovery of ancient cave drawing around the world. Turner-Bisset (2005) references Bruner’s work which states that the use of imagery is a vital step in the development in humans. McLeod (2012) states that Bruner’s work on cognitive development in 1966 involves three developmental steps which involves the storage of learning in a child’s memory: action based representation; image based representation, and language based representation. Turner-Bisset (2005), continues stating that the use of images and the discussion surrounding the artefacts can result in pupils seeing relevance in what they are learning about. Using a Victorian painting for example, discussion and analysis can the pupils to take the viewpoint of subjects of the painting. Simply asking children about what they can see: how the subjects are dressed?; where are they?; what are they doing? The pupils can gain information from what they are witnessing. Depending on how the children react to the paintings they may create connections with favourite subjects to give learning more meaning to them personally.

It is highlighted however that teachers must pay attention when using artefacts as a teaching resource. Turner-Bisset (2005), warns that as the curiosity of the object begins to fade the pupil may begin to dismiss any new learning that is presented. If the pupils’ curiosity is not continuously captured, they may decide they have learned enough about the artefact. An example is provided of a teacher who used an artefact to create effective questions for an early years class. Although the class were never guided towards focussing on the age of the object, because they possessed a developed understanding of time as a concept. The previously developed understanding dominated over the other learning that the teacher was pushing for. Hoodless (2008), also speaks of some of the issues that have been witnessed with the use of artefacts in the classroom. Finding appropriate artefacts is highlighted as being a cause for frustration, any official documentation uses language too complex for the classroom and can often contain too much information not related to the learning. Alternatively, it is stated that children’s books and historical resources written for primary school children are often full of inaccuracies and have been seen to trivialise true events. I do not believe that the trivialisation of history is a particular problem. I feel that books such as ‘Horrible Histories’ do a fantastic job of boosting interest in historical topics, if the children are interested then engagement and motivation is already an integral part of the lesson. It may be that any inaccuracies may need to be corrected in later lessons but if the class have positive attitudes towards the subject then altering information may be accepted and retained with relative ease.

Hoodless (2008) also mentions that the use of visual artefacts may present problems for primary classes. It is stated that in order to get effective use of the artefact the children require expertise in analysis and investigative skills before any meaning can be extracted. As previously mentioned however, Turner-Bisset (2005) suggests that simple questioning can be the analysis needed for pupils to gain meaning from stimuli. I agree with this point, moving back to the Victorian painting example, if the children are viewing a social scene with multiple subjects, asking pupils to pick their favourite subject and discussing why can invoke a connection to the painting before applying the focussed and planned learning. Hoodless (2008), does state that artefacts can be useful in early years classrooms. It is stated that using the artefacts as a context for learning  incorporating storytelling can be a way of continuing to pique the interest of the children. This is a point that I continue to find myself thinking about, I feel that allowing children to create personal connections with their learning will prove very effective. I feel that this can be done so through the likes of storytelling.

Turner-Bisset (2005) references Fines and Nichol (1997), who are seen to link to the storytelling approach of learning previously mentioned. They have suggested that artefacts need to be made to be compelling. Wrapping the artefact and having the class having to unwrap layer after layer (like pass the parcel) to build suspense around the object. It is here where the previous points made by Hoodless (2008) links in: the artefact can be delivered to the class by a mysterious figure and has postage stamps from a far away country or a date from years ago. It is warned to stay away from guessing games to determine what the object may be, a framework of guided questions should be provided instead. What is the object made of? What is it made of? Is it new or old? Who may use this? This approach may differ between the age groups within a school, should we let the early years fantasise and dream?

Overall, it is evident that the use of artefacts can be effective in connecting learning to the learner, making information relevant to the child to rid the need for abstract thinking to create links between themselves and to the topic. Another point made however is the fact that improper use of artefacts can lead to decreased motivation, and so any use must be facilitated.

Hoodless, P. (2008). Teaching History in Primary Schools. [Online]. Exeter: Learning Matters. Available at (Accessed: 17/10/18)

McLeod, S. (2012). Bruner in [Online] Available at: (Accessed: 17/10/18)

Turner-Bisset, R. (2005). Creative Teaching: History in the Primary Classroom. [Online]. Abingdon: David Fulton. Available at: (Accessed: 17/10/18)


Engagement and Motivation: A Guide Written by a Dummie

After a lecture focussed on the use of fieldwork in the teaching of Social Studies I began thinking about the lessons I have taught in previous placements and how they could be improved. The Social Studies Principles and Practices document (Education Scotland n.d) states that skills such as exploring, investigating, discussing and presenting are a key focus in the experiences and outcomes within the Social Studies organisers. I began to ask: how could I have taught these lessons in a way that could have been more active and engaging and promote the skills noted in the Education documents? Although what was going through my head may have been difficult for a fresh faced first year student, I have some ideas that can potentially be used in future.


As a pupil, drama was the subject the class loved. We had a drama teacher take us for an hour every now and again, other than that drama was not a subject that had much attention from my teachers. As a student teacher I have witnessed the attitudes teachers have towards the subject. It is a nuisance in terms of class behaviour and time constraints, and completing a lesson is a tick in a box.

Smith and Herring (1993), states that it is commonly known that learning is an active event, and so allowing children to live through their learning and place themselves within contexts makes learning relevant to the child. Drama allows children to learn through social interaction with their peers, which is a key point in Vygotsky’s learning theory. The use of drama in learning can boost pupil motivation, but also allow for effective learning. I have fond memories of drama lessons from my time in primary school. Reflecting as a student teacher I can see how knowledge from the classroom was taught in a different, more engaging way. Seeing a class getting excited at the thought of a drama lesson is a common sight, so it makes sense to utilise that excitement to promote effective learning, doesn’t it?

Within this module also I have witnessed how a teacher used drama to take on the persona of “Wolfgang” and deliver World War 2 based lessons using a storyline approach. The class would question “Wolfgang” about his experiences as a soldier, and as result could show a clear understanding of the topic. Personally I think that in subjects such as history, where the learning may seem distant and irrelevant to the pupils; providing emotion and allowing the children to feel connected to the subject will prove highly effective to develop deeper understanding. (Please see YouTube link in the references)

Outdoor Fieldwork

Pickford, Garner and Jackson (2013), write about the how the use of field work can be an effective tool for a pupil’s learning. They speak about the child’s natural curiosity natural affinity for exploration. Their description made me think about something I was told by my dad growing up. When cutting into steak at the dinner table, never cut against the grain as it is much harder and leaves messy torn chunks. When teaching children, should we go against their natural instincts and confine them to the classroom or let them feed their curiosity? I know I would have preferred the latter as a pupil. Outdoor field work is not only fun and exciting for the pupil, Pickford, Garner and Jackson (2013), suggest that it can also contribute to the development of the whole child. They say that in terms of classroom learning, working outdoors can make learning experiences more vivid and interesting for pupils, they will remember the links they have made during exploration to their subject knowledge. They continue stating that the danger of classroom based learning is that it may fail to engage due to the focus on memorisation and neat presentation. I agree that it is a danger however, I think that education has or is still moving past this traditional style of teaching and so is becoming less of a problem and will continue to do so as new teachers qualify.

Looking at the whole child, outdoor learning through investigation and exploration can help the child develop a vast array of skills, be it: emotional, physical or social (Pickford et al. 2013). I feel that furthermore, learning outdoors will see an increase in the rough and tumble experiences that many feel are lacking in the “cotton wool kid’s” lives at present. I think that if children have more experiences of falling about when playing and getting muddy they will develop educated emotional responses to moments of disappointment or fright, this may be lacking in children currently. These statements however, are personal speculation based on experiences from previous placements and discussions.

Overall I think that creating more engaging lessons requires teachers to use what is already in place, just more often. Drama and Outdoor learning are exciting for a reason, they can be highly effective learning contexts. I am aware that there can be time constraints implementing these lessons with both other subjects and planning however, the more we participate the more experienced we become. We will get better at coordinating these lessons the more we interact with them. We should strive to be better and provide the best learning for our future pupils.



Education Scotland. (No date). Curriculum for Excellence: Social Studies Principles and Practice [Online]. Available at: (Accessed: 28/09/18)

Enquiry outside the Classroom in Pickford, Garner and Jackson (2013), Primary Humanities: Learning through Enquiry, London: SAGE

Wolfgang Video:

My eyes are open

I have really enjoyed the last few Values lectures on Race, Ethnicity and Gender. Its had me thinking in ways that I hadn’t considered before and has also just genuinely had me interested. Apart from the 9am starts and the 2 hour seating periods of course.

“”All human beings belong to a single species and are descended from a common stock. They blog-photoare born equal in dignity and rights and all form an integral part of humanity”” (Giddens, Sutton 2013)

The term “Race”, scientifically, has been abandoned as a concept. It has been shut down. Isn’t that incredible? An age of racism and discriminative arguments has been thrown out as if it was a mouldy apple. Now, views are based on ethnicity and the social aspects of people’s lives and how they themselves identify. It’s great.

Really? Me?

I have been so hung up on a certain Mr. Derek Robertson’s statement that we are all racist, sexist and homophobic. We have been shaped by our society to feel certain ways about people. It hit like a bus. Does it make me a bad person however? No. How you act and behave makes us who we are. Although we’ve been shaped like this and moulded into this hunk of beef with thoughts and feeling that generally reflect that of our surroundings, in the words of Ke$ha, “We are who we are”. I’m sorry but it’s a quote that related.

We can establish ourselves, although we have been shaped this way, we can become who we want to be! This has honestly blown my mind. I’m an incredibly laid back person, I’m used to just going about my business and “meh”. I’ve already established myself in this life as a “weirdo” but an accepting “weirdo”.


With all the political madness in America at the minute, the materials the Values module is teaching is really useful. It has helped me to understand (further) that certain candidates – not naming names, this isn’t a political rant – are broadcasting views from back in the “olden days” albeit ten times worse.


To finish my spiel

I have really enjoyed these lectures and think it’s like totally super important that we are all accepting and act as agents of kindness as teachers.

I wouldn’t want to teach a child and have them grow up to be a hateful person.  Let us all spread joy?


Wee reference: Giddens. A ,Sutton. P. (2013) Polity Publishing. Seventh edition. 139780745652931

“Scaredy Cat”

I realised last night that I still hadn’t attempted my first “NOMA”. I’ve been saying that I’ll do it tomorrow, next week, never.

I have come to the conclusion that I’m anxious about the test, only due to my lack of confidence in formulated maths. I’ve been speaking to others in the course and they’ve said the test was hard but not too hard at the same time! This has messed my mind around something awful.

I have decided that I WILL sit the test this week. Be strong Ross! I’m keeping in mind that the reason for the test is to improve our confidence in teaching math, it’s there to help!

Wish me luck!


Values Module Workshop

I was in the first workshop for the “Values” Module yesterday. I was bold and started seating at an empty table, trying to start my own empire! I thought the workshop was a great way to get across the points of fairness and exclusion. The workshop brought to light that; in group work, all groups should be provided with the same resources to handle any task given to them. I did however, also show that groups could be provided with varying resources but marking the results must be done in a way that looks at groups individually. It was Albert Einstein who said, “Everybody is a genius. But If you judge a fish by Its ability to climb a tree, It will live Its whole life believing that It is stupid”, and I believe it is quite relevant to what the workshop taught.

Image result for forest photography

From what I witnessed, all the groups worked really well together to create some great work – especially my group! Group 1 (with the most resources) created some amazing accessories out of paper, including a bag! I found it great to see MA1, as well as some of the Psychology students getting on so well and becoming a closer knot group.

I think I’m going to remember this lesson for a lesson plan in future, it was very well thought out and the acting by the talented Derek Robertson was phenomenal! It teaches a great message in an effective way, what’s not to love.

Image result for note book

Online Literacy Assessment (OLA)

I had my first attempt at the “OLA” today. After trying three times in my house the night before and having no luck I also had my first visit to the University Library.

I felt quite confident during the spelling section of the assessment as I’ve never really had a problem with spelling; however the words picked just so happened to be my worst enemies! I felt less confident however, identifying nouns and adverbs due my ignorance of their definitions.

I was slightly disappointed with my mark, however I after thinking about the situation; it is only my first attempt and now I know how the “OLA” works and I haven’t really worked with grammar since early Primary School. This made me feel better about my silly mistakes and has made me eager to improve.

I now know how to improve my score, and I hope to write about an improved performance in a few weeks time.

Why Teaching?

I haven’t always wanted to be a teacher. When I was young I wanted to be a comedian and that was that. I started to drift towards education in the latter years of high school; after I had begun thinking about all those who have helped inspire me, and after I realised I was a hilarious as a rock with a fake moustache.

I always tried to be the “advice giver”, in my past cliques. Either that or I forced people to listen to my opinions, I hope it’s the first option. I enjoyed being placed in a role of responsibility or helping out younger years in both Primary and Secondary school. I put 100% effort into anything I done and I feel that’s how I got where I am today, anyway this is just talking about myself.

I attach my desire to be a teacher solely on two role models I’ve had in my life; my Primary 5 teacher and a PE teacher I had in high school. My primary school teacher is the sort of teacher I think everyone should aspire to be. He was simply brilliant. He got the class engaged in lessons through his humour and enthusiasm, he kept his lessons exciting by using different ways to teach the class, and he became more of a friend than he did teacher. I remember going to him for advice on my nine year old “love life”.  I think this shows that a teacher that inspires as well as teaches goes a long way and this teacher inspired me to inspire others, and by my reckoning that’s a good thing.