Teaching History to Australian Children


The teaching program will focus on children aged 6 years. These children fall under the year K-2 category (National Curriculum Board, 2009, May). The children under this category learn how to use terms such as “long ago, today, since” in describing the occurrence of events. According to the National Curriculum Board (2009, May), they learn through “exploring their own, listening to stories of other students’ lives and examining artifacts such as photos” (p. 7). The Australian history curriculum for Year 1 discusses the changes that have taken place in their family life, the differences between present and past, and describing the sequence of events (Astbury, 2011, Feb 14). The first learning process will enable the learners to place events in their lifetime in chronological order. The children will learn about human behavior in the past, and the structures they built. They will compare these to their lives today.


SOSE programs require the teacher to highlight human behavior as a cause of events. Dickinson, Gordon & Lee (2001) discuss that children are “more likely to give explanations in terms of personal wants or intentions, and are much less likely to look beyond intentions to the situational context” (p. 105). Children understand easily human behavior than the laws or conditions that existed at the time when a past event occurred. For example, a man in the wilderness will light fire either because it is cold or he wants to cook. Linking human behavior to events has been used in lesson 3.

Open-ended questions have been used in the first assessment test to allow the children to tell as much as they will remember. It will be used by the teacher to analyze which parts of the previous lessons have been frequently applied by many children. The teacher can find out what makes the frequently used historical knowledge and skills memorable. It can be applied to other lessons. The first assessment test is issued after the third lesson. A written assessment test is issued after the sixth lesson. The written assessment test is necessary because it is independent. In oral assessment tests, a child may be influenced by what preceding children have presented or shyness/anxiety.

Films help the children to get a clear picture of what actually happened. Giacomo (2008) discusses that “films can help students get immersed in the ambiance of the period through the use of sets, costumes, and music” (p. 9). It helps the children to get into perspective with the situational context. Children can develop sympathy for the characters involved. Giacomo (2008) discusses that historical experts are consulted during the development process of documentaries. As a result, documentaries give an accurate portrayal of historical periods.

The use of photographs in SOSE programs gives the children a sense of authenticity. They will see objects and events as things that actually existed or happened. Teachers will encourage children to use simple terms such as “long ago” to give them ease in memorizing other parts of the lesson rather than dates. The use of celebrations develops on what is already known to the children. Celebrations are used in Lesson 1 to mark memorable events. Queensland Studies Authority (2008 “Birth ceremonies, totems and rites in Aboriginal society”) discuss that “knowing a person’s totem means understanding a person’s relationship to the language group and to other people” (p. 1). A totem is an image associated with a particular group. Photos of totems may be used in Lesson 4 to help the children understand the viewpoint of ancient natives. It also adds value to Lesson 3 about celebrations. Housing and language have been chosen because they represent solid evidence of how history affects our lives today.

The children’s SAE (Standard Australian English) is still developing. Their literacy level requires the teacher to “read instructions for assessment to the children” (Queensland Studies Authority, 2012 “Assessment: History” p. 2). The assessment exercises are to test historical knowledge and skills rather than an understanding of the English language. The teacher will focus more on the behavior of characters in the documentary rather than the context. This is because behavior is observational. On the other hand, contextual alignment requires deeper research and thinking. McGill-Franzen (n.d) discusses that “to know where to start instruction, you must know what the child can do” (p. 7). The teacher should develop the child’s abilities such as listening to oral narratives. This is applied in Lessons 1 & 2 where children listen to what others say.

Another advantage of the documentary is that children learn to speak before they learn to write. For this reason, they can understand more spoken words than they can actually spell or read. The child is already familiar with posters and photographs. This is applied in Lesson 4 where pictures may be adjusted into posters drawn by the teacher. The teacher will use more of these with fewer and simple written words.

History Teaching and Assessment Program for 6-Year-Old Children

Cross Curriculum
Broad objective/s Lesson Objective/s Key learning opportunities Evaluation/assessment
Where to find them Where to find them Where to find them Where to find them Where to find them Where to find them
Lesson 1: timeline
In this lesson, opportunities for cross-curricular learning will be developed through the sustainability part. Children will be taught to realize “the forces that influence continuity and change” (Australian Curriculum “Cross-curriculum priorities” para 9). This will be elaborated through the gradual change of activities in which children involve themselves as they grow up.
History Content descriptor: “How they, their family and friends commemorate past events that are important to them” (Australian Curriculum “Foundation Year Content descriptions”). Families commemorate past events through dates such as birthdays. The possible outcomes are that learners will gain historical skills to associate past events with the time of occurrence. They will also learn the “principles behind the selection of what should be remembered” (National Curriculum Board, 2009, May p. 6). Taylor & Young (2003) discuss that children “bring to the history learning process of their own social and emotional worlds, together with images and ideas about the past” (p. 13). This shows that it is necessary for the teacher to encourage children to talk about memorable events at home or in school. The teacher should use events that the children can remember. The objective of the lesson is to develop the learners’ ability to arrange past events in order of occurrence. The learning process starts with an explanation of the meaning of timeline. According to the dictionary, it is “a record of events in the order of their occurrence” (Farlex Clipart Collection, 2013). The common format for a timeline is a list of events arranged in order of occurrence starting with the one that occurred earlier. The teacher may present a simple list of events that occurred about the school.
The learners will write events that occurred in their life such as birth, celebration of second birthday, going for a trip. The list should consist of at least ten events. The list should be written in class. For their homework, the children should ask their parents/guardians to help them remember the dates when they occurred. Afterward, they should arrange the events in order themselves.Natives’ birth ceremonies & rites.

Examples of other teaching materials and assessment resources that can be used to improve literacy levels such as vocabulary banks, synonym and antonym charts

Assessment test 1:Children will prepare to tell the class about past events in their lives that are memorable. Children will be expected to note the difference between events that ought to be remembered and those that are common. Children will talk about events that are most memorable in their lives such as celebrations.
The test will assess the child’s ability to choose events that ought to be remembered. It will assess children’s ability to link “cause and effect” (Australian Curriculum “Foundation Year Level Description” para. 2). For example, how someone’s behavior caused other past events or how an event led to another.The assessment tests to be used include alternative assessment tests designed by the teacher (Edutopia “What Are Some Types of Assessment?”). The main purpose of this test is to improve understanding of previous lesson contents.
Lesson 2:My family’s history
Cross-curriculum priorities for this lesson will fall under natives’ culture. Children will be encouraged to “examine historical perspectives of natives from their viewpoint” (Australian Curriculum “Cross-curriculum priorities” para. 6). Children will be taught about the organization of extended families in villages.
Content descriptor: “Who the people in their family are, where they were born and raised and how they are related to each other” (Australian Curriculum “Foundation Year Content Descriptions”). Children will give a reflection on how they relate in their family. The expected outcome of the lesson is that learners will realize that people’s way of life has changed and continues to change. Taylor & Young (2003) discuss that a lesson should “integrate new subject matter with students’ prior knowledge” (p. 8). They should be able to inquire about the difference between the toys they use and those their parents used when young. They should expect a lifestyle different from their parents ‘ when they will be parents/grown-ups. The objective of the lesson is to develop an inquisitive nature among learners. At the end of the lesson they will be able to form short questions to inquire about their family’s history. Class activities will include oral presentations on the kind of lives that the learners lead. The questions expected to be answered through the presentations are “the type of family”, “number of family members”, “where they live”, “who is the eldest”, “things done by your siblings that pleases or displeases you” among others. If the class is large, the teacher may select several children from different regions of the country for presentations.

The teacher may use a visual documentary that portrays the lives of ancient inhabitants of what used to happen a few decades behind. Exercises will be provided for learners to describe what they think we no longer have or what we have that they did not have.

Further teaching resources on knowing families

Lesson 3: Repeating the documentary
Cross-curriculum priorities will fall under the original inhabitants. Studying human behavior will give the children knowledge on how “to participate positively in the ongoing development in Australia” (Australian Curriculum “Cross-curriculum priorities” para. 4).
Content descriptor: “How the stories of families and the past can be communicated, for example through photographs, artifacts, books, oral histories, digital media, and museums” (Australian Curriculum “Foundation Year Content Descriptions”).Children will realize that documentaries talk about selected past events. Children understand small bits of information at a time. This makes it necessary that the sample documentary be repeated with an extension of objectives. Taylor and Young (2003) discuss the importance of studying the social behavior of people in history. At the end of the lesson the learners should be able to judge people’s actions/behavior as portrayed in the video clip by use of simple terms such as good or bad, friendly or cruel, happy or sad. The activity of showing the documentary will be followed by presentations. Clark (2008) discusses that children notice the difference that “reading about something is not the same as talking about something” (p. 113). Talking about events makes the lesson interesting. The teacher should encourage learners to question parts of a story. This is because some stories are not based on facts.

Explain to the learners that what makes the events to be remembered is that they seem unusual. Let learners state some of the events that are unusual such as an earthquake, too many flies when they were caught lying, and so on.

The documentaries can be obtained from several websites.

There is a teacher’s guide on the selection of materials, and terms to be used to portray the natives.

The learners should be allowed time to remember a past event that made them very happy and another that made them sad. Taylor & Young (2003) discuss developing children’s ability to “match moments to specific dates” (p. 25)

A historical skill developed is the ability to question different sources. Historical knowledge gained is about human behavior in the past.

Lesson 4: Examining photographs and objects
Cross-curriculum priorities in this lesson will fall under sustainability. The content of the lesson will help children to form their own views “about past social and economic systems, and access to and use of the earth’s resources” (Australian Curriculum “Cross-curriculum priorities” para. 11). Children will be able to compare objects used in the past to those used today.
Content descriptor: “How the stories of families and the past can be communicated, for example through photographs, artifacts, books, oral histories, digital media, and museums” (Australian Curriculum “Foundation Year Content Descriptions”). The learners should be led to identify which components of modern technology have changed human lifestyle. Years and dates may challenge some children. The teacher should encourage the use of simple words such as “long ago”, “during” among others to differentiate timelines. They should be able to link some of the products to a timeline. The objective of the lesson is to enable learners to realize the importance of photographs in marking past events.

Learners will also be able to use photos of objects to tell the kind of life that people lived in the past.

Class activities will involve identifying things in photos today which were not found in the past. Things in the photos taken long ago that are no longer used. Identifying the use of various objects. Identifying how life has changed because of the addition or loss of an object.

Instructions about inclusion on how to modify photos, posters, and cultural diversity.

Historical knowledge gained is to recognize the importance of time in labeling past events. A historical skill gained is the ability to give a sequence of familiar events.
Lesson 5: Housing has been changing
Cross-curriculum priorities will include the housing structures used by the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. The lesson will try to form a sense of identity by connecting this particular aspect of people (Australian Curriculum “Cross-curriculum priorities”). The children will be able to find out what aspect of housing comes from the natives.
Content descriptor: “How the stories of families and the past can be communicated, for example through photographs, artifacts, books, oral histories, digital media, and museums”(Australian Curriculum Foundation Year Content Descriptions”).Housing is a common feature. The expected outcome is for pupils to understand that the buildings that people construct leave a lasting impression of their lifestyle. This helps learners to develop “diverse images that characterize specific periods” (Taylor & Young, 2003 p. 25).
For example, the Egyptian pyramids, and the Hanging Gardens of Babylon are wonders of the world because they show people had the knowledge to build such structures.Historical skills gained are the ability to “identify and compare features of objects from the past and present” (Australian Curriculum: Foundation Year, n.d). The children develop skills to differentiate the type of structures built today from those built long ago.
At the end of the lesson, the learners will be able to identify the different kinds of houses when presented in photographs and the people who lived in some of the houses. The teacher will find photos of ancient Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders structures. There is need to use the same copy of photos before the learners can explore other pictures.

These activities are followed by an explanation of why people change from traditional houses to modern houses. Houses are made from available materials and human knowledge.

Assessment test 2
It is a written assessment test that will consist of simple statements to be completed by the learners. The simple sentences will try to form a narrative.
Some of the expected answers are open-ended to enable the children to think widely. The tests assess the ability of children to arrange events according to their time of occurrence.
Lesson 6: Communication
Cross-curriculum priorities will include identifying the native languages used in Australia before colonization. This will give the children a sense of identity.
Content descriptor: “How the stories of families and the past can be communicated, for example through photographs, artifacts, books, oral histories, digital media, and museums”(Australian Curriculum Foundation Year Content Descriptions”). The use of oral language is a common feature. The expected outcome is that learners should feel proud of their native languages. This develops the children’s ability to “connect the past with oneself and the world today” (Taylor & Young, 2003 p. 33). Learners should recognize the importance of English language in the world today. At the end of the lesson:
Learners should be able to find out more about their vernacular.Identify origin of different groups by the language they speak.

Learn that language is passed orally from one person to another through repetition.

The teacher will follow by explaining that the Aborigines’ language and Torres Strait Islanders’ are the original vernacular in Australia. The teacher should explain the origin of foreign languages and their importance in the globalization.

The teacher should explain communication in simple words as the means of passing information. The lesson should continue with each pupil telling the class their language group. The teacher can write a simple sentence on the board such as “it is time for lunch” and let the learners translate it into their vernacular.

Teachers are encouraged to develop the language that the child is familiar with while building extensions on the standard Australian English language. Further readings.


The children’s vocabulary is still developing. Teachers should use past events that are memorable for the children to develop their historical skills. Children at the age of six may be taught using pictures and photos as the main learning materials. Teachers should encourage children to use simple words that indicate when an event occurred rather than using dates. Teachers should emphasize social behavior as a way of understanding human actions. The assessment tests check the level of development of historical knowledge and historical skills. Presentations are used to gain the children’s interest in the subject as well as develop their communication skills. They should be able to present past events like a story.


Astbury, A. (2011). Australian Curriculum (History F-10) Summary. History Teachers’ Association of Victoria. Web.

Australian Curriculum: Cross-curriculum priorities. (n.d). ACARA. Web.

Australian Curriculum: Foundation Year. (n.d). ACARA. Web.

Australian Curriculum: Foundation Year Content Descriptions. (n.d). ACARA. Web.

Clark, A. (2008). History’s Children: History Wars in the Classroom. Sydney, Australia: University of New South Wales Press.

Dickinson, A, Gordon P, & Lee P. (2001). Raising Standards in History Teaching. London, England: Woburn Press.

Edutopia Staff.(n.d). What Are Some Types of Assessment? Edutopia. Web.

Farlex Clipart Collection. (2013). Noun 1. Timeline. The Free Dictionary. Web.

Giacomo, R. (2008). The History Teacher’s Movie Guide: Choosing and Using the Rights Films for your Classroom. San Jose, USA: Magnifico Publications.

McGill-Franzen, A. (n.d). Kindergarten Literacy: Matching Assessment and Instruction. Web.

National Curriculum Board. (2009). Shape the Australian Curriculum: history. Barton ACT, Australia: Commonwealth of Australia. Web.

Queensland Studies Authority. (2012). Assessment: History. Spring Hill, Australia: Queensland Studies Authority. Web.

Queensland Studies Authority. (2008). Birth Ceremonies, totems and rites in Aboriginal Society. Spring Hill, Australia: Queensland Studies Authority. Web.

Queensland Studies Authority. (2011).The Queensland Kindergarten Learning Guide: Promoting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children’s language learning using the Continua. Web.

Queensland Studies Authority. (n.d). The Queensland Kindergarten Learning Guide: Reflecting on inclusion in my kindergarten program. Web.

Queensland Studies Authority. (2012). Module 2: Knowing children, families and communities. Web.

Queensland Studies Authority. (2007). Selecting and Evaluating Resources. Spring Hill, Australia: Queensland Studies Authority. Web.

Taylor, T & Young, C. (2003). Making History: A Guide for the Teaching and Learning of History in Australian Schools. Carlton South, Australia: Curriculum Corporation. Web.

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