How To Beat the Fear of Learning History

By Ranjani Sastry,

Is writing a history answer a nail-biting finish for your children? Does your child feel that the subject history is beyond his/her understanding? Well, not anymore. Here are some tips for your long-awaited queries on how to study a subject full of dates, events, names and achievements. This detailed article will give you an insight into some innovative ways of learning the subject faster and smarter.   

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Falling in love with history: It’s more than a subject of past, or dead and dry collection of facts.

We agree that history is a dry study of past or a collection of facts. Let us put it this way: One of my students expressed his views about the subject history as – ‘Ma’am, these are mere stories about dead people!’ Children are sure to get bored staring at the text book for long hours and trying to memorize what happened and who was involved. I think if you are a teacher or a parent of a student who finds it difficult to read and learn history, then it surely adds to your stress during examinations. But, it shouldn’t because why should you take stress when there is a solution for it. It is very important to generate interest in the child during the initial stage before taxing them to memorize for the sake of general knowledge into their little brains. All they have to do is have the will and love for history which will in turn generate interest.

Here are some sure-fire strategies to make history a fun subject. Let me explain by categorizing a student into age-wise groups:

1. For Children till 4th Grade

2. For Children up to 10th or 12th Grade

3. For those who are really interested in history and still read more about it

For Children till 4th Grade

Generating Love for History through your childhood stories:

It is important to tell your child stories of your childhood or your family history. These stories should have a moral lesson to teach and have a third person point of view. They should connect with your child’s feelings but not your perceptions about the event or life. You must be selective and choose what is worth telling. Initially, you must intrigue them to understand your past and your family bonding, likewise you can also generate interest in kings, kingdoms, and wars from the past. Wait for the child to ask questions to you.  Slowly, this may kindle their interest in learning about other happenings and events. This is called ‘transfer of learning’ in psychology. Children understand concepts better when those are connected with a story. There are many analogies you can browse through, or search for key words and events and create a ground for understanding them. This is just one way of making them interested in history. If family stories is not their kind, introduce them to all the fun stories from the past about their “liking.” This shall create a great interest.

Strengthening the power of different ways of questioning:

While reading historical facts, if you develop the questions of ‘Why’, ‘How’ and ‘For What reasons’, then you will sharpen your skills of reasoning. History provides this power of reasoning and logic.

The sense of ‘I’:

When you want them to learn about character sketches like: Akbar the great, Abraham Lincoln, Mahatma Gandhiji and other personalities, try to use the ‘I’ approach. For instance, If you want them to remember, ‘In South Africa Gandhiji organized (1907) his first Satyagraha [holding to the truth], a campaign of civil disobedience.’ Put it this way –ASK THEM TO BECOME THE CHARACTER AND SPEAK- ‘In South Africa I organized (1907) the first Satyagraha [holding to the truth], a campaign of civil disobedience.’ It shall create a great impact initially and they might have to unlearn the ‘I’ while writing it down which is very important. It creates a better picture and they can memorize it in a better way with ‘I’ creating its magic! Try once with difficult-to-remember paragraphs.

Imagining Cartoon characters:

Your children may have a fondness for cartoon characters. You can create actions like – wearing a crown while teaching them about king, action of putting veil on face while talking about queen and creating a drama stage in their study room while you teach them about characters. This shall definitely create an interest in them, likewise, they will learn to memorize names and events in a better way.

For Children up to 10th or 12th Grade

Students in to the middle or higher grades, have the compulsion to learn social studies. Even if it is their top most in the list of favorite subjects, these tips and tactics are going to be of great help to your children.

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As students graduate to a higher grade, the pressure to learn many more lessons increases. Like in mathematics, you cannot forget the formulas taught in previous classes to perform better; similarly in history, you cannot forget the events been taught to you previously, for you to learn the current lessons better.

All you need to do is, take the page of a current lesson and read a paragraph, recall about the similar topic or the person who taught you. If you read about events – question the cause of the event and try to recall two important things:

1. WHY IT HAPPENED?               &               2. WHAT WERE THE EFFECTS?

Can’t recall? That’s absolutely fine! Google it. Read some relevant information. Read the questions given behind the lesson. ‘When’ and ‘Who’ are all questions that are fine. But, you must search for questions starting with ‘WHY’ as ’Why’ is connected with curiosity and anything you searched for with curiosity always stays with you. When you start answering the ‘WHY’ questions, you cannot deny the answers to ‘What’, ‘Who’ and ‘When’. Try this out and try some more mnemonics and local mapping technique and plotting on paper to recall better. I’ve observed that my students have no problem in remembering things but, the problem is in recalling. Why is it that during exams you tend to forget? It happens because in math, there are easy ways to remember sequence of formulas or theorems; but in history it is not so. In history, there are multiple people involved in an event and some lessons have biography sketches of leaders and prominent personalities. If you have observed, history is a fact that events have reasons. Only reading will not help, but questioning what you are reading and writing with a flow and rationalizing it will certainly help. Moreover, by questioning you answer to yourself and you will remember well.

Reference to the Context:

You can take one paragraph, read the topic thoroughly until a new topic starts; take one prominent line you feel is very important in the paragraph which is the best found cause for the event in the topic. If you are reading about personalities, take one simple line, a trait or work they did and draw a mind map on a paper. Once you generate this connection between their personalities, their work, you know their actual sketch of character! Later, read aloud their birth dates and parent’s name and their early life as a child.

Making Points:

There are many instances where you have points numbered as 1, 2, and 3 which helps you to remember easily. Jot down your points. Read each point aloud, close the book and recall the number you gave to that point. Repeat this for all points. You will surely remember those points. You can do this for all subjects. While remembering wars and some freedom struggle movements like ‘Quit India Movement’ or ‘Simon Go Back’, you can enact these to your parents and teachers. You can use your imagination and learn.

In history, you need confidence to prove your points and to do this you need to remember right facts and figures, therefore, more than ‘why’, you need to ask ‘who’, ‘when’, ‘where’, and ‘what’. These questions are equally important.

For those who love history and want to delve deeper into it:

Chalking out Strategies:

There are strategies to go about in history and learning about it. You can revive the Doordarshan serials, watch YouTube videos, read historical books and biographies by some amazing authors. If an author has written about an event or a historical figure, then try reading an article written by another author on the same fact. This may give you a different perspective. This could make things more interesting to you and might help you to get your own ideas without getting biased or judgemental . Nevertheless, you must read books of authors who have already done some research before writing down. They must have also referred to some other articles and books in their cross reference sections.

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To friends and readers who are still struggling with reading, learning, understanding and remembering the vastness of the knowledge that history accounts for, you can think about this –

1. What is your favourite thought about history?

2. What exactly do you like in history?

3. Are you reading for a career in architect, archaeology or paleontology?

4. Are you reading to strengthen your knowledge about our country and talk to people about it?

5. Are you reading for some entrance exam, or to back your interview answers or write an article?

It depends on what you are reading history for. You will find that you can interpret history from any point of view i.e. social, economic, financial, behavioural, or even literature. For this reason history becomes an all-important and favourite in any time of life like mathematics and science. Though it is an art to study history, and it is a subject of liberal studies, it is after all a social science. Reading history gives you vast knowledge and sharpens your foresight. As I have mentioned about how you can win your heart to love history, I am sure you have decided to give it your best shot this time and in your future exams. I say – ‘The past is a past and it will always chase you’. Take a challenge as you know how history learning will help you now.

Go, Go, Go for History!

About the Author:

Ranjani Sastry has done her graduation in Psychology and diploma in Counseling and skills. Currently, Ranjani is pursuing her Masters in Public administration. She is a co-founder and an active member of ’Satori-let’s not yawn’*, a multilingual literary club based in Ahmedabad. She expresses her passion and compassion through reading, writing and involving herself in areas where she can contribute to personal growth. Her friends describe her as ‘if you meet her you will find someone who thinks out of the box and ideas galore’. Presently she is reading ‘I have a Dream’ by Ranshmi Bansal.

About Learnhive: 

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About Ranjani Sastry

Ranjani Sastry has done her graduation in Psychology and diploma in Counseling and skills. Currently, Ranjani is pursuing her Masters in Public administration. She is a co-founder and an active member of 'Satori-let's not yawn'*, a multilingual literary club based in Ahmedabad. She expresses her passion and compassion through reading, writing and involving herself in areas where she can contribute to personal growth. Her friends describe her as 'if you meet her you will find someone who thinks out of the box and ideas galore'. Presently she is reading 'I have a Dream' by Ranshmi Bansal.

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