Dear 7X, From 2003 until 2014, I was one of the Night of Notables teachers every year. I helped to organise it and regulate the chaos of setting up, the lining up, the speech giving and the whole experience. Then I taught Year 8 History for two years and became a mere visitor to the event. Yesterday, I was dreading the setting up double. “It’s always chaotic,” I told a less experienced colleague. “Brace yourself.”
Actually, with you as my class, it was not chaotic at all. You were all so focused and organised. You seemed completely unfazed by small matters like having to fit all your display materials on exam tables, not having a table at all initially, and then later, being squashed into a room with hundreds of admirers. You just sailed right on and did your stuff. By twenty minutes from the start of the double, you had the situation well in hand. I was almost a bystander.
Of course, I expected no less of you. All the same, it is an unalloyed pleasure to be the teacher of such a self-reliant, resilient crew of young dreamers, thinkers and entrepreneurs.
Kind regards, Ms Green
Please write a comment about the Night of Notables, in which you respond to any or all of the following questions:
What did you most enjoy about the project and the night?
What did you learn from it?
What did you discover about yourself and your friends?
Were there any particularly amusing moments, bizarre questions or unexpected crises?
Which skills did you develop or hone as you went about your work?
Were there any obstacles that you had to overcome and how did you go about it?
What could we as your teachers do in order to make the project better or easier to manage?
I have heard all about you already from at least two of your other teachers, Mr Jäckisch and Mrs Andrews. So I know that you are curious, perceptive, witty and delightful. Do you mind living up to such high praise? No pressure!
As I grow inexorably older (no faster than you are, but sometimes it seems that way), I notice that, even in the 30 years since I gained my teaching qualification, the story of history has changed quite significantly. Historians keep digging (literally and figuratively) and scientists have found entirely new ways to unwrap the enigmas of history.
As a consequence, while I once used to discuss the question of whether the Neanderthals were related to Homo sapiens with my students in an uncertain, speculative way, I can now state, more or less categorically, that some of our genes come from that mysterious group of people who hunted and gathered, just as we did, but did not survive to see the modern world that we have made. You can find more on this topic at this post.
The internet has also changed how I teach, how my students learn and the sheer breadth of material available to us all. For instance, it was only after the internet became available that I discovered how many women artists in the Renaissance were never mentioned in my old history books. Here is an example.
Since I have also changed in the last 30 years, I perceive history differently as well. One reason is that I have taught myself two foreign languages in the past 8 years. When you read history in another language, you discover that English writers have sometimes left out vital details. Every people has its own story and its own way of telling it.
In short, history is a fluid, ongoing mystery, a continuous endeavour to tease out the truth from all the stories, the lies, the propaganda and the partial sources at our disposal. I hope that you will enjoy the process of unravelling the tangled threads of the human story and that you will contribute your own youthful exuberance, wisdom and knowledge to the process.
Kind regards from
Essential Terms for Describing Time:
The time before the first writing appeared, in the period between 3500 and 3100 BC. Once people could write records, they could write history. That’s when we say that “history” began, though the human story stretches much further back into the mists of time.
• BP – Before the Present
This is frequently used by scientists who deal with huge numbers of years and want to provide a rounded indication of how long ago something happened.
• BC – Before Christ
The time before the birth of Christ, an expression used in Christian societies
• BCE – Before the Common Era
The time before the birth of Christ, without Christ’s name being mentioned; employed in non-Christian societies and increasingly in Christian societies when an objective style of describing history is desired; equivalent in meaning to BC
• AD – Anno Domini, Latin for “Year of our Lord”
The years that have elapsed since the birth of Christ, an expression used in Christian societies
• CE – Common Era
The years that have elapsed since the birth of Christ, without Christ’s name being mentioned; employed in non-Christian societies and increasingly in Christian societies when an objective style of describing history is desired; equivalent in meaning to AD
Congratulations on navigating your way through the first days and weeks at our school.
Sometimes the school buildings seem to me like an old city that grew organically, without any architectural planning and forethought. That’s why they sometimes strike me as a friendly set of rabbit burrows, with little holes and passages leading to unexpected nooks and crannies. If you are well on your way to discovering where everything is, then you should feel proud of your accomplishment. I’m still hoping one day to discover a Room of Requirement…
This blog is for my history students in Year 7 and 8. If you cycle through the posts that I’ve written since 2009, when I started the blog, you will see the kind of work I have set my students over the years.
The first task, below, is one of my favourites, because it deals with a group of people, of hominids, of extinct human beings, who have often been denigrated; yet they represent one of the abiding enigmas of historical enquiry. Over the many years since I began teaching history (I’m becoming an artefact myself), the knowledge about Neanderthals has changed. For instance, most scientists now believe, thanks to the revolution in our understanding of the human genome, that some of our genes do indeed come from Neanderthals. Even 20 years ago, that was still uncertain.
I wish you the very best for your studies at our school and look forward to hearing and reading your comments, which I am sure will be witty, quirky, insightful and enlightening.
A Mystery from History
Here’s a mystery from history for you to contemplate. How come the Neanderthals died out or became extinct? They had already survived the most life-threatening conditions you could possibly imagine. They were strong and well adapted to the cold. Their brains were larger than any other hominid’s, before them or since. That includes us!
There are many questions that surround the Neanderthals’ existence and their premature departure from this earth. For instance, scientists have been trying for many years to determine whether modern humans could have interbred with Neanderthals. The Max Planck Institute in Germany found evidence of Neanderthal genes in our genome in 2010. Only recently, however, another group of scientists have cast doubt on the theory that Neanderthals could have interbred with Homo sapiens. You can read information on these topics by clicking on the links below.
It seems to me that the Neanderthals were tantalisingly similar to us, yet mysteriously different as well:
♦They didn’t farm, but then neither did we at that time in our past. No one farmed until 10,000 years ago. By then the Neanderthals had been gone for over 20,000 years.
♦They didn’t create rock art (at least to the best of our knowledge).
♦Yet they buried their dead and looked after their old and infirm. There is evidence to show that they were already burying their dead 120,000 years ago.
♦You might even assume that they should have been more likely to survive than we were. For instance, they were better adapted than Homo sapiens to a frozen world. They survived thousands of years of Ice Age. Their bones were far stronger than ours. Our bones are finer, more fragile, much more breakable. They would have won a wrestling contest with us easily.
So why did they, around 35000 to 30000 years ago, become extinct?
Here’s your chance to plumb the depths of this mystery and go back to the time before Homo sapiens were the only human beings on the planet. Have a look at each link below to view some fascinating speculations about Neanderthals:
Of course, many of these ideas are theory or speculation rather than fact.
After you have read and discussed these sites, write a comment about the Neanderthals. It must be written in correct English. What do you find interesting about them? What information have you gleaned from your reading? What are the factors that might have made the Neanderthals vulnerable to extinction?
I love teaching History because it is full of stories. Sometimes I almost forget that I’m doing this as a job. I have a group of bright-faced students in front of me, asking me questions and hearing my stories. The students begin to tell me things that they’ve found out themselves or they ask me questions I can’t answer. Somewhere along the way, they begin to teach me too.
What, I get paid for this?
In Year 7 History you learn about the human story, how we started out as hunters and gatherers and gradually changed into farmers and herders, then began to build settlements and cities, learned to write and became, over the millennia, technological whizzes and the most powerful species on the planet. Not all of those changes were positive. Some of them were environmentally destructive; many led to suffering and human cost. But the story is still a fascinating one.
I hope that you enjoy hearing this story and developing your skills as a historian, story-teller, writer and technological whizz. I hope you enjoy being part of our school and getting to know each other too. Don’t forget to ask me if you get lost!
Below there is a little quiz for you to try. See how clever you are at guessing the details. At the end, you will get a little report with explanations to help you understand why your answer was right (or wrong).
The Quizlet below allows you to learn and revise the words you will encounter at the start of the course in Year 7 History. After you have cycled through the digital cards, you can click on “Scatter” and play a simple matching game. The other option is “Space Race”, which is dangerously addictive.
Incidentally, the Quizlet website allows you to make your own digital flashcards, just like the ones below, so that you learn the vocabulary for a language, science or any other topic. You can set up your own account, provided you have an email address. This could help you as you navigate your way through everything you have to learn at high school!
Your final task: Write a short comment in which you describe an important event in your personal history. How have you coped with your first few days at high school? Were you anxious beforehand? What helped you to settle in? Have you been lost yet? Don’t forget, no family names and nothing that could personally identify you.
In thirteen days you will be strutting your stuff on the world stage…Well, at least in the hall, where hundreds of parents will watch proudly as you walk to the microphone and say, “Ahhh…” Then you will deliver your quotation with panache and step lightly from the stage, walk down the aisle and stand at the back to watch as your comrades go through a similar ordeal – that is, while they fulfil the hard work of 12 weeks and show their brilliance to the school community.
The letter for your parents – and for you – may be downloaded below. It is also available on Compass.
What can my cat Lucy possibly contribute to a study of ancient history?
Well, she behaves as though she is a goddess of pleasure, like Bastet, the ancient Egyptian cat goddess. Perhaps she is a descendant of one of the cats first domesticated by the Egyptians. It is believed that they wanted to protect their stores of grain from rodents. Nowadays we mostly use airtight containers…
Secondly, her posture, with her paw over her face, reminded me of the desire some students have to cover their eyes and forget due dates for assignments. That’s why I snapped a shot of her and immediately resolved to remind you of the due date:
Thursday, 23 August
Do not cover your faces with your paws. Get those paws going and type, turn pages, write notes and hunt some rodents!
So to speak.
PS See the two posts below for downloadable handouts and suggested websites.
I love teaching Year 7 students. You are still so young, bright, hard-working and curious.
I have left my youth far behind me, but I’m still pretty curious myself. I love a good story and that’s why being a history teacher gives me so much pleasure. Don’t tell the Ministry of Education, but teaching history to Year 7 students is hardly work at all. It’s like sitting around a campfire telling stories. Every now and then I like to ask a few questions as well, just to check that you haven’t fallen asleep in your sleeping bags under the stars.
Then you get to tell some stories too, especially the story of a great person who has somehow made the world a better place. That’s what happens during the Night of Notables, of course: you have your moment on stage, your moment in the bright light of the campfire.
In the meantime, this blog is a way for me to give you things to read, recommend websites, remind you of revision and work due, and ask you for comments and ideas. You can type comments (using your first name only) and ask questions. In a sense this blog is like a little tunnel through cyberspace between you and me.
I hope you like learning to be a historian and I wouldn’t be surprised if many of you are historians already.
This is an amateur mini-website called a blog. I created it for the use of my year 7 history class in 2008, so you can go several years back into the past and find pictures of other students and even their comments on tasks we have done.
You can visit this blog even when you are at home. In fact, some aspects of it will work better at home, because you will not be restricted there by the school’s blocking of sites such as Youtube.
The advantage of having a blog like this is that I can direct you towards good websites, give you tasks to do and ask you to leave comments on various topics.
Today, I want you to find out about the start of agriculture and the domestication of animals. After that, I want you to leave a comment about your first few days of high school.
Rules for commenting: No family names, no insults, no information leading to your identification by outsiders – just intelligent, thoughtful remarks that will amuse and educate others.
Welcome to high school, to history and to my class.
Kind regards from Ms Green
Work for Today:
A NEW WAY OF LIFE
When some people became farmers and herders, from about 10000BC, their lives changed dramatically.
Farming meant that people could settle in one place.
They could store food for the future.
Larger families were possible and in fact desirable. No longer did people have to carry their young children during long nomadic migrations. Instead, they needed all the labour they could get. Farming is intensive. This would have been the start of child labour! (We do our best to continue this trend at our school.)
People could eventually live in much larger groups, leading ultimately to more diverse societies, skills and occupations.
Farming could support a far larger population than hunting and gathering, so societies based on farming could grow quickly and become much more complex and varied.
Farming was not necessarily a better way to live; in some ways hunting and gathering in small bands would have been simpler, with fewer possessions, more sharing and less impact on the environment. But once the idea of farming began it spread; the societies that were based on this new way of living grew, prospered, diversified and often became powerful.
One of the changes in the New Stone Age was the domestication of animals. Go to this site for a timeline of animal domestication.
1. List the first six animals to be domesticated and the approximate date. Then click on your favourite to find out the evidence about when, how and why they were domesticated by humans.
Plants were also domesticated. This means that humans bred the plants for the qualities they most wanted in them. Plants with larger wheat grains were chosen just as goats were chosen for smaller horns. Gradually the domesticated population varied significantly from the wild one.
This is my Year 7 History Blog, an amateur mini-website that you can use to brush up on your knowledge and extend your reading beyond your text book.
The best thing about this blog is, you can visit it any time, whether at school or at home, so long as you know the address. That means you can use it to check on what we’re doing in class, to flick through class powerpoints, to revise for tests and to find websites with useful information.
There’s a little alien whose name is at the top of this blog. His name is Emit Repoons. You can see him in the picture below. In a way, he is the mascot of the blog.
You have been a delightful class so far, full of ideas and quick with intelligent comments and knowledgeable remarks.
Every year I get a bunch of bright, questioning students for whom History is a new subject. Sure, they’ve learned history in primary school, they’ve read some “Horrible History” books and they’ve watched some gruesome documentaries. They know plenty. But I get to be their first History teacher. I am the one who discovers their lively minds, harnesses their curiosity, delves into their already considerable knowledge, regales them with my favourite stories of the past and introduces them to the secrets, what-ifs and endless possibilities of History. How lucky can a teacher be?
Sometimes I have a fear that the school administration, in its unfathomable wisdom, will take my year sevens away from me. I imagine what kind of tantrum a history teacher might throw, in such circumstances. Would I perform a ritual self-mummification in the quadrangle? Would I start a one-woman demonstration, holding a placard with the words, “Teacher’s rights violated”? I can certainly picture myself grovelling in the principal’s office. “Please,” I would beg. “Please don’t take those little tackers away from me.”
I bet you don’t think that you’re little tackers. But you will feel that way for a little while at your new school. The senior students are so BIG. I even find them big. Don’t worry. This school is a wonderful, friendly place. I’ve been here for ever and I never want to leave. I hope you’ll feel the same. At least for six years…
Hmm, now about History. We start out with the dawn of humankind. I love that phrase. We meander through the Stone Age. We visit ancient Egypt. Ancient Greece and ancient Rome are also a couple of bus-stops along the way. I mean chariot-stops. Then we go to medieval Europe. You know, peasants aplenty, knights, castles, rotten sanitation, plague, crusades, a semi-constant state of war. It’s messy but fascinating. I hope you like it all as much as I do.
Don’t forget, your job is to ask questions I have never thought of, to find out information not already in my dwindling memory, to delve into the past with all the passion of a thinker, a philosopher and archaeologist. Picture yourself with a mental shovel. Start digging!
It’s that time of the year again, when the little tackers have the opportunity to show the rest of the school what they can do. What little tackers? I mean you, of course!
If you are visiting this blog to find information on the Night of Notables, Mrs McQueen and I have set up several pages of information for you. Click on the links below for each one or, if you prefer, go to the page titled <Night of Notables Details> in the scroll bar at the top of the blog. Don’t forget that you are welcome to leave comments and questions at the bottom of a page or blog post. Reading other people’s questions and our answers might also help you.
First of all, we are thrilled that the library now offers online access to the World Book Encyclopedia. The beauty of this is that you can access it from home through the intranet or through this blog. To do so, you will need to use the school username and password, which your teacher or the teacher-librarian will give you. Here’s the link:
I can already hear you saying, “We’ve been in history since we were born, Ms Green. What do you mean, ‘Welcome to history’?”
Honestly, some people are so literal.
The last time I taught an all-boys class for history I didn’t have a blog, but the boys were computer whizzes of the first order. They could practically have written the programs for setting up blogs. I’m hoping that some of you guys have whiz-potential; that you’ll have clever ideas for adding entertaining bits and pieces to the blog—animations, puzzles, pictures, etc.
In the meantime, about history. Normally in second semester I leap-frog the Stone Age straight to ancient Egypt, because we have to fit in the Night of Notables as well. This semester, however, I want to give you guys a short burst of hunting before moving on. You know, so that you can find out about mammoths and woolly rhinoceroses and nomads, Neanderthals and Homo Sapiens. You’re the latter, by the way.
Mammoth by Divya, Year 7F 2009
A brief look at the importance of farming:
Animal domestication: Click on this link and write down the first seven animals to be domesticated and the approximate dates in your workbook. Why was animal and plant domestication a significant event in human history? Try to write three or four suggestions.
Next, write your first comment. Here are the rules:
No silly or insulting comments
Helpful, illuminating and intelligent comments only, please!
Never write anything that could identify you or your location to an outsider.
Topic/s for today’s comment:
Describe one of the personal events or artefacts that you chose as being significant in your own development; that is, in shaping or moulding you as a person.
Suggest what role you think you would have been most suited to fulfilling in a Stone Age band. Would you have been a fearless hunter, a gatherer, an ingenious tool-maker, a weaver, potter, tanner or rock artist? Perhaps you can think of a role I haven’t mentioned.
If there’s still time:
Finally, find some pictures of artefacts or events that could adorn your workbook by doing an image search. Collect information about each picture as you find it. Then, later, you can print it out and stick in on your workbook cover. Here are some topics you could try in your search:
You probably don’t get turned on by libraries. “Aren’t they just musty old places inhabited by bookish people who wear glasses?” I can imagine you saying. “People like our history teacher?”
Let me emphasise to you all, my cynical, wonderful little year sevens, with all the bookish wit at my disposal, that libraries are revolutionary. Free public libraries mean you don’t have to be rich to gain knowledge. Education is for everyone, not just the wealthy. That view is crucial to the development and maintenance of a democaratic society like ours, and in Victoria that view was expressed by the building of the State Library in the 1850s. That is one reason why I take my year sevens to the State Library. The other reason is, they make good coffee in Melbourne Central.
Every time I go to that library I learn something new. Here are a few of my favourite snippets:
Melbourne might have been called Batmania, after John Batman. Oh, if only. Let’s change it now by deed poll. It’s not that I particularly admire John Batman, but just imagine what fun it would be to tell people you lived in Batmania. If you went crazy, people could say you were batmanic…Don’t let me go on.
The La Trobe Reading Room, that magical green circular place that lures you in, once had major structural problems, meaning that people brought umbrellas for leaking water to drip on and were sometimes hit by pieces of falling plaster. Fancy having to take your life and your comfort in your hands in order to read a book. In those days, going to the library must have been a risky activity, like sky-diving today.
Joe Byrne, one of the men in the Kelly Gang, evidently told Ned: “I always said this bloody armour would bring us to grief.” That armour is an icon of Australian history, but Joe saw it for what it was – and then he died.
Ludwig Becker, the artist on the Burke and Wills expedition, painted and drew many beautiful pictures of nature and wildlife. My favourite was his picture of the Gullomalla pigeon, which he named, as best he could, to reflect Aboriginal pronunciation of the word. He even tried to represent the bird’s song by writing a musical stave on a leaf. Becker died from scurvy, partially because Burke had left the limes behind – just one of many shockingly foolish mistakes that he made on the expedition that took his life.
Finally, here’s my favourite sign from the Library, seen on a yellow bin and photographed by several students who appreciated its amusement value:
For emergency use only
What do they hope it will be used for? Year seven students who prove to be particularly bad at medieval calligraphy? Perhaps you can make a suggestion yourselves.
Taking you on an excursion is a truly happy and utterly painless experience, as teaching you for a semester has been. You have amused me, educated me, written wonderful stories and made comments showing quick insight and flashing wit.
And you’re actually very good at medieval calligraphy.
Hope you like the new header! It’s from a reenactment of a Roman chariot race in Jordan. The photo was taken by John Bayley, a family friend and photographic genius.
Sorry I’m away on an excursion today. I’ll be back next week with a gruesome historical whodunit about the death of Claudius. I won’t tell you here why it’s gruesome. Suffice to say, I find myself having to explain a number of rather unpleasant words whenever I run the activity. Violent death and the ancient Romans – they go together somehow.
Don’t forget, by the way, to hand in your excursion forms for next Wednesday. Throw yourself on the mercy of the ladies in the office if you’ve lost the one I gave you.
Now to ancient Rome. There’s an introduction below, followed by some pictures and, at the bottom of this post, some relaxing activities. You deserve them. Leave a comment if you discover anything blood-curdling!
The BBC website describes the Romans as “ingenious but brutal”. I think this is a succinct and accurate description. The Romans built superbly designed roads, triumphal arches and aqueducts and administered a massive empire for hundreds of years, but despite their brilliance in many fields they certainly had a brutal streak.
The Romans are remembered for many qualities, not all of them pleasant. They are famous for their military conquests; for their cruel punishments, such as the one inflicted on Jesus and the thousands of slaves they executed for rebellion along the Appian Way; for the blood sports in their amphitheatres, where by all accounts they bayed for blood and got it; and for the decadence they displayed during their huge banquets. These are just a few examples.
Nevertheless, their influence on the modern world has been immeasurable, like that of the ancient Greeks. Most modern languages have many words that originate from Latin; the script used by the Romans is the one used in most countries for writing today; the administrative methods, architecture and engineering of the ancient Romans have been admired and emulated ever since their empire finally collapsed.
The Western Roman Empire officially came to an end in 476AD, a date that is usually considered to mark the end of the ancient period and the beginning of the medieval period. This depends on which historian you read, of course.
Ironically and paradoxically, even though they were in many ways warlike and vicious, they imposed upon their large empire an enforced peace. Even in the midst of all their decadence, the learning and ideas that flourished during that time of peace (known as “Pax Romana”) provided a basis for later civilisations to build upon.
But you don’t need to worry about all that today! You can just chill out, become a gladiator, design a mosaic or do another activity in the box below the pictures. Be nice to your sub.
Our family friend, John Bayley, took this shot of a reenactment of a Roman chariot race during his visit to Jordan last year. I hope it gets you in the mood for gladiators and blood sports.
Reenactment of a Roman legion in formation, taken by John Bayley during his trip to Jordan this year.
Roman Mosaics: The Romans loved to make pictures with small tiles. Click HERE for some pictures of Roman mosaics to inspire you. Then try making your own by clicking on my mosaic below to go to a site that lets you design one online.
Click HERE to view a Roman mosaic of a dog – you will love it.
A Roman Street
Toss everything that doesn’t belong in a Roman street into the time tunnel in this game from the BBC. Click HERE.
This is Dewey Decimal. He’s shy, bookish and exceptionally knowledgeable. What he doesn’t know about books and libraries isn’t worth knowing.
Excursion to the State Library, Wednesday 23 June
We were lucky to get in before the end of second term, because I was a bit sluggish in sending off the booking request. Despite this, the friendly people at the State Library of Victoria have written back to say they can accommodate us. The details are below:
Arrive in the quadrangle at 9, ready to leave school by 9.15.
Bring ONLY a small bag (handbag for girls, manbag for boys), with a snack, small water bottle and EITHER money for lunch or a cut lunch.
11am – Orientation Tour of the Library with one of the Library teachers
11.45am – Experimedia Room: fun and frivolity in a massive games room – a library resource for the 21st century
You won’t be back at school till 3.30 or 3.40 but if you wish you can keep going along the train line OR be dismissed from the State Library with a parent’s permission.
7Z is going with us, along with their teacher, Mrs Starbuck, and your new coordinator next term, Ms Ind.
Video: Castles at War
Here’s a little set of virtual flashcards based on the video we began to watch yesterday. Read them through and give yourself a quiz, a scatter challenge or some other revision chore. Then get stuck into your assignment!
Assignment due date: Wednesday 2 June
For those who have a tendency to lose handouts, click here to download the assignment: