Classroom Exercises In Local History

This section the BALH Education website provides guidance on preparing classroom exercises in local history. The exercises, which require the application of basic numerical techniques, are intended for primary and secondary school children, though they can be readily adapted for use in colleges and universities. Each exercise constitutes a local case study, the insights arising from which link with matters that are of general concern to historians.

The exercises are mainly based on localities in Lancashire and can be incorporated directly into programmes of study. However, they can also be replicated for other localities using the same types of approach and source material. As well as helping to interest students, replicating the exercises enables the findings to be compared with those from the Lancashire case studies, thereby achieving further contextualisation. Worksheets are not provided, but can easily be prepared to suit the method of teaching adopted.

For each exercise, the source material used is discussed. To obtain similar material, local libraries will probably be the best starting point, especially town libraries that have a local studies section. Information about libraries throughout the country, along with their on-line catalogues, can be found on the UK Public Libraries website at http://dspace.dial.pipex.com/town/square/ac940/eastmid.html. Local record offices will also be able to help.

Other points about the exercises are:

  • Underpinning them is the notion that, to an appreciable extent, children can enhance their historical skills and understanding through local investigation based on relatively small amounts of well chosen primary material.
  • To make it more accessible to children, the primary material used in the exercises might have to be transcribed.
  • The exercises can be used flexibly, with the teacher and child input varying and with opportunity arising for children to work at differing levels of attainment. Where computer applications are involved, for example, the children might be help with inputting data into a spreadsheet from which they generate graphs of the data.
  • The findings arising from the exercises should create considerable opportunities for class discussion, as well as providing starting points for further investigation.
  • Background information relating to the exercises is provided, including further reading.

Professor Geoff Timmins, School of Education and Social Sciences, University of Central Lancashire.

Now try the exercises 'Children at school and work' and 'Impact of railways'.