Lesson notes

Please read these notes in conjunction with the long students' worksheet, which provides the outline of a lesson based around the interactive activity.

In class, of course, you may wish to use the short worksheet or an adaptation of your own instead.

Running the task

We suggest you pick one of the objects and use it to model the three stages of the task - Find and research objects, Choose objects, and Write labels - before the students set out on it.

Finding and researching objects

Since students will need to research a variety of objects before they choose which to include in their gallery, they will almost certainly need to make notes during the Find and research objects stage. You could hand out small note sheets marked with the 5 Rs to focus students' attention on the task at this stage.

Choosing objects

Assessing the historical significance of objects - in order to choose between them, and then to inform the writing of the labels - is the key part of the task.

The '5 Rs' as a possible framework for assessing historical significance derives from work by Christine Counsell [http://www.educ.cam.ac.uk/staff/counsell.html] of the University of Cambridge's Faculty of Education, and is explained in her article Looking though a Josephine-Butler-shaped window: focusing pupils' thinking on historical significance, in Teaching History [] 114, pp. 30 - 36 (not available online).

The framework is intended to encourage pupils to move beyond thinking of significance only in terms of consequences or 'relevance to today', or simply as an intrinsic or given property of an event, development, etc. The 5 Rs are commonly applied to events, but do also work well applied to objects.

For this activity, it is intended that students be able to justify the significance of any of the 13 objects available - none of them are red herrings - although how to do this may be more obvious for some objects than for others. In addition, the nature of the objects is such that the last 2 Rs - revealing, and resulting in change - may be helpful more often than the others.

These object labels are the main outcome of the activity, in which students explain their assessment of the significance of the objects they have chosen. Each label is printed alongside an image of the relevant object when students select 'Save and/or Print'.

Students will generally need to consult all three research sections - labelled Call an Expert, Use the Library, and Search the Web - to make their assessment of significance.

Writing labels

The labels pupils write for their objects are the main product of the activity. Because students have to assess objects' significance in order to make their selection in the previous stage, they should already have done most of the analytical work they will draw on at this stage.

Adapting and extending

Historical significance

Christine Counsell's treatment encourages pupils to engage with significance not as an intrinsic or given property of events, developments etc., but as something ascribed to them by particular observers for particular reasons.

It may therefore be valuable to explore significance as a concept with classes prior to or as a part of the activity - perhaps with the aim of eliciting and developing a novel set of criteria for significance, equivalent to the 5 Rs, that can be used by the class in completing the activity.

Counsell's article is accompanied by a 'Cunning Plan' that includes suggestions for such a lesson (the first of five), entitled "Why does anything in history matter?".

Alternatively, you may want to to focus your pupils on a specific R, such as revealing. On the one hand this simplifies the task, as pupils have fewer criteria to keep in mind; on the other, it may be less easy for pupils to find something to say about each object within this narrower framework.

The role and work of museums

The long worksheet mentions education as an important role for museums. Of course, museums can have many other roles - preservation, commemoration, research, and so on - and this activity could lead into or round off further work around the roles and purposes of museums. This might include, of course, a visit to the Whipple Museum [http://www.hps.cam.ac.uk/whipple/] (if you are local) or almost any other museum.

There is some further information about museums and the kinds of work they do on this website. And 24 Hour Museum [http://www.24hourmuseum.org.uk/]'s downloadable teachers' pack, The Museum in a Classroom (PDF) [http://www.24hourmuseum.org.uk/downloads/mclass.pdf], is full of relevant teaching ideas.

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