Saturday, November 25, 2006

History as now - Teaching history as news

The BBC has a series called On This Day that treats recent historic events as if they were breaking news. This gives some excellent raw material for several possible teaching ideas.For example this exercise focuses on tenses and in particular the changes needed when talking about recent events compared with those which are over and done with i.e. the differences between the use of present perfect and past tenses, I know, it sound very dry but the idea is to make those concepts more concrete to the students by using real examples.

You'll need to have;

1 Two photocopies (no more than one page each, one of which is from the BBC's On This Day and the other a more conventional historical account (Wiki would be my first port of call). The event should ideally, be something that the students are already aware of. In this lesson plan I'm going to use the fall of the junta in Greece in 1973.

2 A photocopy with details from a historical event that student know about.

Lesson Plan

1 Ask students what they know about the 17th November 1973 (which is a holiday for students in Greece). Students work in pairs and write down what they know. Tell them that if they don't something in English, you'll translate.

2 Elicit answers from the class.

3 Ask them what they know about the 25th November 1973. Odds on, they'll not know much. Explain to them that you will give them a handout which gives some information about the event.

4 Divide the class into two groups, give one group this page from the BBC and the other this extract from the Wiki page on the Greek junta (from The Ioannidis Regime to the end).

5 Tell the students that they should read it and it is their responsibility to figure out the vocabulary as a group.

6 Then they form pairs with one person from each group.

7 They compare the different versions on two levels;

a the information given
b the tenses used

8 Now choose an event from history that your students are familiar with e.g. The Fall of Constantinople ( see here for the Wiki entry - The Siege and Final Assault of the City). Explain to the students that they have to imagine that they are journalists reporting from the city on the events mentioned in the photocopy. Make sure that they are clear on the use on tenses in this case.

9 This can either be done in the form of a BBC On This Day style report or you could record it as CNN live report on a digital camera/mobile phone and post it via itunes as a podcast or YouTube video on the class blog.

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