Shortly all the exam results will be with us – it was the ‘A’ Level results last week and soon it will be the GCSE’s. For another year the waiting will be over, this can be a worrying time for teachers as well as students. Students worry about their whole life being at stake (it’s not but I don’t want to patronise them by telling them that – it seems the most important thing at the time) while teachers will be scrutinised by parents, schools management and the dreaded league tables.
Trying to get the best out of people in an exam is difficult – two years of learning all crammed into a few hours of tests that may or may not ask the questions that were hoped for (I can feel the sweat breaking out on my top lip just thinking about it and I don’t have to do exams anymore). Further, those two years of learning are competing with all the other learning that is being done at the same time, not to mention, life experiences and growing up. What you need is to make that history learning be understood and memorable.
A history tour can help enormously to give your students the edge. A tour is a whole terms worth of lessons spread across a few days. It will bring the facts and information to life and being somewhere different and significant really helps you to remember – visual and physical learning combined with top quality historical information. In a few days whole areas of history can be explored in a way that will make the themes and the arguments exams require make sense maybe even relevant.
A tour will not just bring the studied theme or subject to life it will also help to place the subject in an historical, national, cultural, international setting and provide a wider context. The enormity of storming the Normandy beaches is much clearer if you are stood on the beach looking out to the sea or up the beach. Seeing and walking the few metres of fields that seemed fractional on paper but that stood for a victory on the Western Front makes the military strategy much clearer while the human cost is all the more poignant stood at the cemetery of Tyne Cot. Berlin as a city of life and death, beauty and horror takes on a human quality as you stand on the site of the burning of the books. History becomes the present when you visit its sites of significance.
It’s not just the specifics that will be remembered better that make a history tour so important in a students learning, a history trip with a group of peers contributes to the life experiences that are an essential part of growing up. A history tour lets the teacher out of the classroom as well, enabling them to communicate their passion for history in a new environment with real artefacts or memorials to point to not just images on a white board.
Take those memories of a tour into the revision process and the exam room and factual information and historical understanding begin to slot into place. A history tour is a strong contributor to preparing for an exam and for helping with the love of a subject not just the studying of it. When the exam results are all out this year take some time to think about how the next group of students can be helped to get the best out of their time studying history and reaching to get the best grades.