Teaching Strategy: Developing a Sense of Place

Helping students to develop a sense of place and period, a crucial part of thinking historically

Students often have problems thinking historically because they do not know enough about the time and place they are trying to think about. For example, how can we expect a student to analyse propaganda posters from World War One if they have no idea what the values and attitudes of society were at the time?

This is an engaging strategy to introduce students to key places and times. It is used before teaching a topic. Simply give students a place and a date and a series of questions. They research the answers to the question and present them as a visitors’ guide or travel blog. The questions you give will depend on the time, the place and the topic. They are designed to help students learn more about the society and culture of the time.

Depending on time, they can either present this simply on workbooks, or they can do something more elaborate online, with links to Google maps, pictures etc. That is up to you!

An example might help…!

A specific example

You might be a teacher about to teach about German propaganda World War One. You want your students to understand the social and cultural context of the time. You could give them this picture of Potsdamer Platz in 1914:


Ask students study the picture and do some research to find out the answers to the following questions:

  • Why are people wearing hats in the street?
  • Why are the women wearing long skirts?
  • What sort of transport did people use in Berlin in 1914?
  • What could people do in Potsdamer Platz in 1914?
  • What might a young man or woman in the picture be hoping to do with their lives?

Students then use this information to produce ‘a short guide to walking out in Berlin 1914’ for a visitor from the present.

This Teaching Strategy was developed by Natia Pirtskhalava and Helen Snelson.

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