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Mini portraits and time travel to engage our budding historians

The world of twitter was never something that I was interested in, until I completed my teacher training. Now in my NQT year I eagerly scroll through the #PedagooFriday tweets on a quest to steal new ideas and strategies from everyone else. Having posted an idea last Friday I was approached to write about it on the blog. Please forgive any ‘blogging faux pas’ I may commit as I am completely new to this too!

During my training year I had a conversation with a fellow teacher who suggested using portraits to explore pictures, so this idea really is the result of that conversation. This technique encourages students to put themselves into the pictures and let their imaginations run wild. I have used this idea recently with my year 7 groups, who have been investigating what it was like to live in a Roman town; however the idea could be adapted for almost any subject.

Initially provide each of your students with a small piece of paper, no more than a 2-3cm square. Instruct them to draw a portrait of the person they are sat next to; give them no longer than two minutes to complete this task, it does just need to be a sketch not a masterpiece. Then let the students hand the portrait to the relevant person. There will of course be lots of laughing and joking at this point as a result of their creations.

Portrait

In this case the whole process hinges around the idea that each of the students has had the opportunity to time travel. I explained this idea to the students and then revealed the picture we were going to explore. In this case I used a lovely view of a Roman town. A large colour version of the picture was on the projector and each student was given a smaller copy with a number of descriptive words and key features of a Roman town, as a scaffold for their discussions. Initially I asked each of them to place their portrait into the picture and imagine they were there, in this case back in AD55. I gave them a demonstration as if I was the person in the picture and then gave them ten minutes, in pairs, to discuss the picture and describe their surroundings.

Roman town

Roman town worksheet 

To consolidate this work each of the students wrote a letter to a friend describing their time travelling experiences. Overall, the students produced some amazing letters talking about their experiences and this technique was one that all students could access. Very pleased with the results so I am looking forward to using this idea again with future topics.

 


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