Significant Historical events

March 5, 2024
Has significant historical
  • What is historical significance?

Historical significance is the process used to evaluate what was significant about selected events, people, and developments in the past. Historians use different sets of criteria to help them make judgements about significance.

Significance has been called the forgotten concept in history, no doubt because it can be challenging for both teacher and students.

“Teachers often tell students what is important instead of asking them to consider what is significant. The key to understanding significance is to understand the distinction between teaching significant history, and asking students to make judgements about significance.”

Matthew Bradshaw (Teaching History 2004)

Planning to teach significance

When teaching historical significance teachers need to;

  • Understand that the significance of some past events may be contested in their school situation.
  • Appreciate that what can make chosen events and individuals most significant is the impact they have on the way we live today.
  • Understand that significance is attributed to events and individuals at the time and subsequently.

Primary examples

Deciding who to choose and which individuals are more useful for the children to learn about, are issues facing all teachers in the primary school. Teachers and children’s views about historical significance are often shaped by contemporary contexts and can dependent upon their own values and interests.

Significant public commemoration and the commemoration of individuals in the locality are sensitive and need careful handling in classrooms where there are children from different cultural and religious backgrounds.

Teaching Historical Significance KS1

By the end of KS1 children should have experience of a broad understanding of chronology and be able to select significant events and people that have formed the world in which they live. They should also be beginning to realise the difference between importance and significance.

Examples of enquires about significance of commemoration KS1

  • Developing an enquiry around a key event such as World War 1 provides children with the opportunity to explore an event that has been commemorated annually for almost 100 years. Children can investigate the origins of what it is that is being commemorated, and how its significance has grown to include conflicts up to the present day.
    Enquiries about conflict or war may raise sensitive issues for children whose families are still suffering the effects of conflict or still involved in fighting a war. These children have direct, personal experiences, of recent hostilities and their schools will need to exercise sensitivity in teaching this topic
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