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How to Encourage a Love of History

When talking about different methods of motivating people, you can broadly break your options down into two categories: the carrot and the stick. After all, since you need your students to get their work done, these are the two approaches you can take. You either push them to do the work with the threat of consequences, or you can try to present the subject in an engaging way. In years gone by, the stick was generally the default approach. However, the more the science of education developed, the more it became clear that getting students engaged in their subjects and positive reinforcement were the much more effective approaches. Of course, the ease of getting a student engaged in a subject depends on the subject itself (as well as the student, of course).

But, putting the personal preferences of students aside, history is one of the easier sells as far as student engagement goes. With maths, you need to find interesting ways to present different problems for them to solve. Otherwise, many students will quickly find their attention wandering. But the handy thing about history is right in the name; it’s a story. And the best way to tell a story is to focus on the characters and their situations. Quite often, students’ negative impressions of history lessons come from having to learn long lists of dates. Learning by rote is not a great approach for building up interest in a topic; quite the opposite, in fact. So, instead of repeating dates until they can’t help but remember, present them in a way that will make remembering easy.

Because the thing about history is, that there’s a lot of it. Even with the curriculum deciding which topics are to be covered, there is always interesting information to present, and it only makes things difficult if you just present it as dry information. Historical events and eras (even relatively recent ones) are, effectively, a glimpse into a different world from the one your students have experienced.

Of course, like all good stories, studying history is supposed to make you think. As students advance through their education, history stops being solely about what happened and when, and becomes more about why something happened. Someone who has been well taught about history isn’t just someone who has memorized a lot of historical data. They’re someone who can critically analyse events, as well as identify reliable and unreliable information. Looking at things from this angle suggests another way to engage young children in history and raise their interest. Giving them challenges that frame the student as a detective. Or, if you’re looking for lighter activities to give your students a break, why not do some history-based arts and crafts activities?

Ultimately, once you do manage to get your students interested in history, it’s very easy to keep things that way. And, as mentioned above, a good education in history gives students a good grounding in separating fact from fiction, which is an essential skill in modern life.

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The author

Joseph Morgan is a Content Executive for Twinkl; an educational resources company. Before joining Twinkl, he worked in the care sector as a support worker for St Cuthbert’s Care.

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