Lifelines is aiming to demonstrate different methods of presenting Lifelines in the classroom. Looking at how lifelines improve the use of graphs and develop pupils thinking skills. The Workshop aims to take on Peter Fisher’s challenge and provide ideas which will excite pupils; create debate, and argument around the use of information in a graph form.
“Pupils are customarily asked simple data response questions, or to describe the graph……However, use of graphs rarely excites or creates debate and argument.”Peter Fisher – Thinking through History
So Why Lifelines?
Apart from being relatively simple activities to plan and manage, lifeline activities can present insightful results. Lifelines use emotion as the basis for the analysis of a question, the examples given all look at how people (in one case germs) would react emotionally in given circumstances. Without going into detail on all the advantages of Lifeline activities the following are just some:
· Allows discussion
· Introduces and develops interpretation skills
· Encourages empathy
· Demonstrates fluctuations over time
To produce lifelines on paper, pupils draw (or are given) a line graph, they are given statements, or events, relating to the question, they use their own ideas to decide where to place these statements on the graph.
The Peasants Revolt, a simple Graph
Question: How did peasants feel after the Black Death
Pupils plot the events of the peasants revolt on the graph against the date showing how peasants might feel.
Once the graph has been produced the pupils use it to answer questions. This should be done in pairs, as it encourages pupils to justify their decisions, and to add depth to their answers through discussion. Finally after a plenary, pupils should be required to give an answer (not necessarily written) to the main question, giving them the opportunity to demonstrate and record their understanding. Pupils working in pairs could have both lines on the graph
Emphasis should be placed on the plenary as this part allows pupils to value and think through their responses.
Olaudah Equiano, using the board
Question: What was Olaudah Equiano’s experience of Slavery
One of the weaknesses or using graph paper is the inflexibility, changes are difficult as pupils are required to rub out ‘work’, which can prevent pupils changing their opinions.
After lessons on Slavery, pupils are given an A3 sheet and cards in an envelope. The teacher should have a set which can be stuck to the board, as a demonstration, an improvement from the use of graph paper. Pupils work in pairs from the start, giving all the advantages of group work. They plot the vertical feelings axis and horizontal time axis on the A3, then place the cards on the paper corresponding to the main question.
The one difference is that the cards do not have dates, they are numbered, giving the sequence, thus there is greater emphasis on feelings. Once the graph is complete, pupils answer questions, or they could produce a line graph copy and then answer questions.
An alternative would be to use the wonderful ‘Magniboards’: See:
Germs have feeling too, a whole class activity
Question: How would a Germ feel?
This method is best used towards the beginning or end of term, to motivate and stimulate pupils. It is a summary or revision activity for Medicine through time.
Using string or wool, the X and Y axis are plotted on the floor (or ground, I have done this outside on a hot spring day!). The happy/normal/sad cards are placed on the vertical axis, the date cards on the horizontal axis. Pupils could take an event card and then stand in the graph, or they could place the event card on the floor, the plenary can be conducted around the graph. The follow up is limited by the activity being a summary, but some type of recording could be used (a digital photo worked fine, it was used for an open evening display).
The weakness of this methods is that the recording of the graph is unsatisfactory, making returning to the activity difficult, a second weakness is that the plenary can also be unsatisfactory as pupils can be at different stages of the thinking process when the plenary begins, a danger with whole class work.
The Plains Indians, using Excel
Question: What was the Native American experience before the Battle of the Little Bighorn?
The beauty of using Microsoft Excel is that work can be saved for later use, as well as improving the presentation. Once the graph has been set up, (I would encourage the production of a blank template) the process of producing the graph should be easier, enabling pupils to concentrate on the Historical activity.
Using Microsoft Excel - a blank template and a timeline should be presented to pupils, pupils copy from the timeline document and paste to their copy of the template. Using the Format Cells function pupils produce a lifeline graph, they should use the Draw tool to draw straight lines to ‘join the dots’ this produces a line graph which can be printed out, the graph can then be used to answer historically challenging questions, or demonstrate understanding.
A more detailed explanation on how to use Excel to produce lifelines, can soon be accessed on the Burnt Cakes website at:
Why use Excel?
With the current trend towards the greater use of ICT within the classroom, this method of using an old activity with new technology should benefit both teacher and pupil.
Recent studies have shown that the majority of schools in the UK use Microsoft software, pupils will should be familiar with Microsoft, as most will have access to the software at home as well as at school, thus we have all the advantages of familiarity; pupils will be familiar with the concepts behind Microsoft Excel to produce a graph.
The simple to use copy and paste allows a graph to be produced by individual pupils, groups or as a whole class; especially with the increasing use of interactive Whiteboards. The use of Excel should speed up the graph making process; allowing greater time for the significant discussion, and analysis.
The use of a data projector would enable a demonstration by pupils of their work, which could be used for assessment. The use of Excel allows pupils to save their work and to have a hard copy; this provides evidence of their understanding, without losing some of the advantages, such as group work. Once the template has been produced this activity can be used to produce a number of ‘Lively’ graphs, and in this way we may overcome a weakness highlighted by Peter Fisher.