“What makes an effective extra-curricular History activity?”
As a teacher I, like most of you reading this topic, have my personal opinion about what I would like to achieve from running a History club during lunchtimes. In the two years that I have been teaching I have run three very different extra-curricular activities, each of which included elements of the essential skills that I feel can be developed through extra-curricular activities:
History and ICT Club for Yr. 7 and 8
In my first year of teaching I set up a Lower School club which enabled students in Yr. 7 and Yr. 8 to experiment with History topics using ICT. For example, the lunchtime group (34 students) designed and wrote their own versions of the “Who wants to be a millionaire?” PPT game and then swapped their game with another student. The group planned, prepared and presented PPT slideshows on a topic of their own choice which was not covered in the KS3 syllabus. These were some of the best researched and presented PPTs that I have ever seen.
English Heritage and History Channel Local History Competition
I encouraged a team of four students, Hip Historians, from Yr. 7 through to Yr. 10 and of different abilities to research the history of the school and then present their findings in a book format. This research spanned almost a year and required the students to hone their analytical skills, writing styles, presentation and historical interpretations. The team were a success, producing a booklet which went on to win first prize in the competition.
Criminal History Master Classes
Never a person to sit still for long I was covering a Yr. 10 lesson for a colleague of mine in the Social Science Department when a student asked me why I enjoyed History. I enthused and gushed about my love of History, particularly Criminal History, and suddenly the class of 26 girls were hanging on my every word. This obvious enthusiasm spurred me to set up a series of 5 Criminal History Master Class lectures to last just 5 weeks. Almost 7 months later the classes were still going strong and the girls enjoy discussing, debating and dissecting the various historical crimes I introduced them to – cheerfully examining evidence, historical theory and comparing them to modern day information. The success of this club was evident by the fact that over half of the attendees do not take GCSE History.
These three different activities sum up for me what it is that I feel makes a successful extra-curricular activity. I feel that the extra-curricular activities should have at least some of the following aims:
It should be an activity that students do not take part in during their regular lessons.
It should be a historical topic far removed from those of which they study as part of the History syllabus.
It should take place in a more relaxed environment than that of a classroom.
If possible it should involve students of more than one year group in order to encourage different peer groups to interact.
Students of all abilities should be able to enjoy the same activity without fear of teasing.
If you can give it a competitive edge then do so – the students do love this!
It does not have to be strictly ‘educational’ – after all it is their free time as well as yours.
It should encourage the development of new historical skills – but do not make it blatantly obvious – you may be the teacher but it is not a lesson per say.
These are the 8 rules that I have set myself when running extra-curricular activities. You may have different rules which work well for you. One of the things that struck me though whilst preparing this seminar topic is that a lot of the emphasis today is placed upon us to justify our activities and explain, perhaps to the SEN or G&T co-ordinator, as to what we hope to gain from the activities and thus what the ‘learning outcomes’ will be for the students taking part. I feel we need to take a step back and examine the most important feature of the extra-curricular activity (the students) and actually ask what they hope to gain from giving up their spare time and what they feel makes an effective extra-curricular activity – so I did!
Yr. 10’s Opinions on an Effective Extra-Curricular Activity in History!
As regular attendees of ‘Criminal History Master Classes’ it would appear that this form of extra-curricular activity has all of the features needed to be an effective one. No other clubs or classes like these have been made available before which offer students the chance to explore and investigate, whilst learning, in a fun way.
Some students are not as enthusiastic about sport as other pupils and may feel that they have absolutely no talent in performing arts; however they may have interests in History. The classes are available for students to listen to, observe or actively participate in. They do not require pupils to be good at, or have any historical knowledge yet encourage and stimulate active participation and group discussion.
After discussing the classes with other students in Yr. 10, it was established that many of the attendees enjoy the classes because they are so different and also because they contain a great deal of criminology. This leads to interesting theories and can sometimes include gory details.
The use of PPT presentations and props never fails to intrigue or excite the pupils each week. For many, their style of learning responds well to the use of kinaesthetic teaching thereby helping them to remember a certain topic or story. Students are given the opportunity to learn new stories and skills, such as holding mature debates and analysing historical crime scenes. It also gives students the chance to use their imaginations to conclude the unexplained mysteries.
A teacher’s approach to extra-curricular activities has a definite influence on whether a pupil returns to an activity or not. It is evident from the popularity of the ‘Criminal History Master Classes’ that a variety of teaching methods and resources ensures that the students are entertained whilst also learning about Criminal History. A passion and enthusiasm for History from participating teachers certainly helps the pupils to enjoy and discuss their opinions about the cases they study in each master class.
Based on my own experience and Yr. 10 reactions my advice is very simple. Find a topic that you enjoy, after all you are giving up your spare time. Choose an activity that you would have enjoyed when you were at school e.g. re-enacting the Battle of Hastings, building a table sized trench system, using ICT to make PPTs or even telling gruesome historical stories to Yr. 10. Advertise your activity each week, talk in assembly, always be enthusiastic and most all have fun! Do not worry about learning outcomes – leave that for the classroom lessons.
Edited by Nichola Boughey, 09 July 2003 - 11:51 PM.