Students often complain that history class is boring, but there are several strategies teachers can use to engage students in learning history.
A good starting point is to use historical fiction, trivia, puzzle games and artwork projects in class. There also are other creative methods that educators can use to excite students about history and bring the past to life.
Combining audio and visual materials is an excellent way to engage students. Multimedia materials do not necessarily have to include the latest technological advancements; rather they can include films, books, artwork, documents and maps. The most important aspect of this approach is that the materials be combined with a historical analysis, says John Fielding of Queen’s University. Showing a film and later introducing maps, census records and correspondence gives students something tangible they can hold. Discussion should involve actions taken by the characters in the film, decisions they made and how the students would handle similar situations. If the topic is the westward expansion in American history, combine a film screening with research about Native American warfare, land contracts with the government and the building of railroads. Ask students how everything blends into one story.
Debates and reenactments
For history class to really come alive, students need to feel like they are at the point and time of the historical event. Cast students as historical figures in a reenactment or debate. Similarly, a reenactment of a historic debate can include students portraying the key players. This will help students gain a greater understanding of the past.
Field trips and community history projects
Just as a kids’ summer class may have a local archaeological dig, some history teachers have engaged their students by taking on local historical projects. At American University, the newly formed Student Historical Society is working on a project to restore Washington D.C.’s original boundary marker stones. Students are working with civil engineers to rehabilitate the 36 surviving stones, which are circa 1790, and give the stones plaques that note their significance. A greater awareness of past events in locations that students are familiar with can be extremely interesting to them and can further pique their curiosity about history.