33 Ways To Develop Literacy Through The History Curriculum

Education, History

33 Ways To Develop Literacy Through The History Curriculum

Literacy is at the heart of most things that happen in the History classroom. Here’s a compilation of ideas that I’ve stumbled across whilst researching the ways that the most effective departments tackle Literacy issues.


  1. Use Wordshoot as a fun and engaging way of re-enforcing pupils understanding of key words.
  2. Display Historical terminology and definitions in and around the classroom / department.
  3. Use collaborative writing tasks and guided writing as a means to develop the quality of written responses.
  4. Provide scaffolding and writing frames to help structure work.
  5. Collate examples of well written (or spoken) work for each topic. Share these with pupils.
  6. Make sure the classroom has aids such as Dictionaries, a Thesaurus and encyclopedias to encourage pupils to work independently.
  7. Refer to the index and contents pages regularly. Get pupils to find things using clues, rather than simply saying ‘turn to page…’
  8. Provide precise word limits to answers to encourage pupils to write in a succinct manner.
  9. Create a class glossary of key words.
  10. Use PEE and PEEL as reminders of what a well written answer should include.
  11. Use highlighters to identify points, evidence, explanations and links in answers. This makes ‘waffle’ easy to spot and edit out.
  12. Use crosswords as a means to develop understanding.
  13. Develop extended writing skills through use of a ‘Living Essay
  14. Use jumbled sentence and paragraph exercises.
  15. Use webpage rewriting exercises to get pupils identifying areas of weakness.
  16. Develop storyboards over the course of a unit of study to show how everything fits together.
  17. Have visualisations of key words and content available.
  18. Discuss which adjectives are most appropriate to use when creating an Interpretation.
  19. Paul Ginnis’ ‘Quick on the Draw‘ is an excellent way to get pupils using reference books.
  20. Have a bank of writing frames available for each type of speaking and writing activity.
  21. Use classification exercises as they build understanding.
  22. Build understanding by asking the (admittedly obvious) questions: Who? What? Where? When? Why?
  23. Guided Reading is a very effective tool and also an effective way of differentiating for a specific group of pupils.
  24. Shared Reading is a great way of allowing pupils to access more challenging texts.
  25. Deploy Skim Reading exercises as starter tasks.
  26. Ask pupils to make predictions based on a short introduction to an issue: either a visual source or short piece of text.
  27. Have missing word activities to make pupils think carefully about sentence / paragraph construction.
  28. Employ strategies to improve Notemaking Skills (this is a Geography example but easily adapted).
  29. Have quizzes based on definitions. Pupils have to figure out what the key words are.
  30. Play Dingbats as a means to get pupils describing effectively.
  31. Use the Blockbusters game as a fun way of re-enforcing understanding of key words.
  32. The Magic Book Bag is a great idea which works really well (with some classes…).
  33. Codebreaker activities are fun and can focus pupils on reading more carefully.
And finally a reminder that the support resources for the Literacy Strategy have now been moved to the National Archives website. They can be found here.
Can you add to the list? Would be great to have some more ideas and strategies here… and to have obvious things I’m bound to have missed out added!


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