Having a variety of activities and methods to display knowledge is important in any classroom – it meets differentiation needs, it keeps content engaging, and it provides fresh opportunities for re-evaluating the curriculum. In a history classroom, a dangerous place for middle schoolers who struggle to learn through lectures and reading, it becomes even more important. Here are some tips from a first-year teacher on how to add variety to classroom assessment
A great way to incorporate auditory learning into any classroom. Most podcasts can be accessed for free, have listed producers/sponsors/editors, and bring journalism into the history classroom. As with any source, podcasts need to be interpreted for bias, checked for accuracy, and evaluated for argument. This is a great historical skill to practice as the class listens to someone else’s voice talk about history (sorry teachers). It also is a fantastic way to incorporate different perspectives and stories into the historical narrative – oral history, anyone?
Even George Washington has his own virtual reality experience. Seriously. There are so many ways to bring VR into the classroom. Choose-your-own adventure games from the Revolutionary War, visuals for historical sites such as an Egyptian pyramid, or on-the-ground perspectives of the Civil War and refugee camps – these are a few of the many examples of free VR any history teacher can bring into the classroom.
Classic games like the Oregon Trail and more innovative games like Minecraft can be used in a history classroom. No joke! The Oregon Trail can be used to explain parts of westward expansion, and Minecraft can be a useful simulator for building historical monuments. These games offer a fun way to break off from the reading, integrate technology, and breathe some life into history.
Google Earth can take us literally anywhere in the world, and the first thing most of us do is search for our own house. I’m not faulting anyone for doing that, of course; however, expansive horizons can be brought right onto the screen of any computer through this application, so let’s use it to show history. Models of the Black Plague, visuals of the Silk Roads, and even an app called Radio Earth where, if you wanted to, you could explore what is playing on the radio in different countries in the world in any year radio have been around.
Newscasts, television shows, mini-movies – all of these provide a chance to tell history as a story. Historians know history is more than a story, or a series of dominoes falling in line, but these types of creative outlets for students allow them to present history as they understand it. I found using a rubric to structure directions and grading was effective here. A rubric lets me provide standard-focused tasks for students to interpret to their own creative and academic abilities.
These are a few ways I switched it up and kept history interesting in my classroom! What will you do?