Me and my kiddo

Me and my kiddo

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

History Play

I am an avid fan of Scott Powell's History at Our House program.  He makes history so interesting and vibrant and real and approachable for students!  I love all the examples that history has for teaching about choices and how much I can use those examples in our daily conversations.  Just yesterday, when I was talking about my best friend, my son asked me why were friends and I started my answer by bringing up a lesson from history that Mr. Powell teaches.  Friends share values, not disvalues.  "The enemy of my enemy is my temporary ally."  Considering that my best friend and I have nurtured a friendship over last 15 years, there's nothing temporary about it; it is based on shared values.  Anyway, my point in this post is to share two games that I've been using to keep this awesome historical knowledge fresh for my son: History Go Fish and History Taboo.  

History Go Fish is pretty self explanatory to set up.  I go online and find pictures of the historical figures that have been covered in class.  I paste two copies into a document that I label with the figure's name and print on photo paper.  Voila!  Go Fish cards with historical figures.  That is just the start though!  After he gets the matches down, we don't use the name anymore!  For example, "Do you have Mr. Peace-Without-Victory?"  "Would you happen to have the man who surrendered at Appomatox courthouse?"  "Do you have the unifier of upper and lower Egypt?"  By the time we play the game a couple times, he's had a full review of American history and everything he's learned so far of ancient history and… he loves it.  He loves putting on that sickly sweet voice when he picks a card that I've already asked about and it's so funny to hear him asking in his darling tones, "Oh dear sweet mother, do you have Mr. International Police Power Teddy?"  I can even use it to add information that he hasn't learned yet so the game gets more and more fun.  So, that's game number one, but I have another one too :)
Page one of many before I've cut it up into cards

I fell in love with Taboo at a friend's house and thought this could be another great tool for cementing historical knowledge and having fun.  The idea of the game is that you have a word which you're trying to get the other person to guess, but you can't use four other listed words which are taboo.  The game is played with four people and timers and is much more competitive, but I just used the idea to put together a list and start playing with my son.  I was the one trying to get him to guess and boy did I get to do an extensive review as I tried to get him to say the historical term without using the forbidden, taboo words!  He absolutely loved the challenge and was again getting a really rich review of the material. 
For example, if I had this card:
William the Conquerer
I could talk all about vassals and vikings and France and the country across the channel.  But, I couldn't say the name and I couldn't use the words Norman, duke, or England.  One of the great things to do after he guesses is to share the words that I couldn't say, because that adds to cementing the knowledge too.  For example,
Louisiana Purchase
Thomas Jefferson
After, I've worked my way around talking about a leader of France who traded land for something that goes in a bank with the third president of the United States.  I eventually get a guess and lots of kid giggles and he gets a solid review of this historical event.
I've put together pages of these in columns (which I'm glad to share, just send me an email or leave a note) and I pull them out every couple months for a rousing game.  I have to add the new material when he's sleeping though, because he's so eager he keeps trying to sneak up and see the Taboo clues while I'm writing them!
One page of many that provides lots of historical play (click image for more clarity)

So, I'm thoroughly enjoying how my son is able to learn from the events of the past and to use them in making his own choices.  If you have found other ways of making learning into games, I'd love to hear about them.  This has been such a delightful way to continue enjoying history for me and my kiddo.


  1. I will keep your new article. I really enjoyed reading this post, thanks for sharing.


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