Whenever I ask students about their favourite subject, more often than not I hear the same answers – Maths, Science and Language. It is very rare that I come across students who mention that they love, or even like History. The reason they offer me is – either they find the subject boring, or they find it really difficult as there are a lot of names and dates to be memorised. Most of us, including me, grew up in a similar environment in school where we thought that History is only about dates, people and events. It’s all about remembering information about people, which is not related to our present or future at all. It was only later when I realised that History was a fascinating subject – we get to learn not just about people, but also about different perspectives which shaped our world in the past, thus shaping the world we live in today, and will shape the future as well. I observed that the girls who had joined us this year, did not have much interest in the subject. However, this did not remain for long. Even though the SSC textbooks don’t give us enough material to engage deeply with subject, there is enough scope to make learning History fun. The students have been learning History through role-playing.
We were studying a chapter in History about the Age of Revolutions – and we decided to learn about these revolutions through role playing. After teaching the students about the background of European imperialism and about people living in America before imperialism, the students were divided into different groups. Each group was given the script of one of the events mentioned in the textbook. The students had to read the script, practice performing it, and then perform their act in front of the class. The girls showed a lot of enthusiasm. They used different things present in the classroom as props – chairs became ships, school bags became tea chests, and they used white boards to show dates and places. Their creative use of these everyday items added an unexpected layer to their performance. After they had finished practicing, each group was invited in order as their scene appears in the script, to perform. This was the first time they had ever performed a role play in a history class! At the end of the lesson, the girls were given questions to answer based on what they had learnt. The students not only learnt the different events in these revolutions, but through role playing, they understood what makes people come together for a common cause.
We have realised that despite the challenges we face with the quality of the curriculum, it is still possible to generate interest in the students for different subjects – whether it is History, Science, Geography, Hindi, or any other subject. Unless the students don’t engage fully with the topic, it gets difficult for them to understand the vast amount of information thrown at them. We are planning to have more such activities with the students in their History and Civics classes. The girls have begun taking interest in the subject. They have started asking deeper questions related to the topics. We are only expecting this thirst for learning about their past will continue to grow.