Australian History

Using Fiction for Teaching History (Narrow Road to the Deep North)

Hi every one,

As a book lover and avid reader, I am always looking for ways to incorporate reading and fiction into my teaching. Although fiction is limited in its portrayal of the facts and has limitations as a secondary source, it can be used in similar ways to movies to encourage a sense of empathy amongst the students.

A current Australian novel which is perfect for giving students an idea of the conditions of POWs during World War II is Richard Flanagan’s The Narrow Road to the Deep North.

If you haven’t already read it, I recommend you do so, STAT! It is an amazingly brilliant story depicting the conditions of Australian POWs during World War II, incorporating the perspectives of both the Australians (commanding officers and soldiers) and the Japanese. It provides material for great discussions in class about many issues such as:

  • Usefulness and reliability of sources – how reliable is fiction in the study of the POW camps in history?
  • The perspective of Japanese – what drove the Japanese officers to commit the acts they did? Discussions of the Japanese culture, the demands of the Emperor to build the railway with limited resources, the Japanese military tactics, etc. Students could write from the Japanese perspective using the novel as a starting point.
  • How closely do they believe the ANZAC legend relays the truth of the Australian men? Students could discuss some of the behaviours of the Australians and how this does or does not fit into the Australian ANZAC legend.
  • Assessing the impact and effects of war on the returning POWs.
  • Conditions of the POW camps.

There is absolutely no need to have your students read the entire novel (although you should), rather key areas of the novel could be used to study various subject matter. For example:

“This must stop, Dorrigo Evans was saying. It’s wrong. He’s sick. He’s a very sick man.

It wasn’t even an argument, though, and Namamura just raised a hand and talked over him in a new, kindly voice.Major Nakamura say he have some extra quinine, Fukuhara said. To help sick men work. The Emperor’s will decrees it, the railway needs it.

And the drumming went on, louder and louder. 

Dorrigo Evans understood that Nakamura was trying to help, but that he could do nothing about the beating he had ordered. Quinine would help others. Nakamura could help whom he could help, and quinine would help him help them. But he could not stop the drumming. He could not help Darky Gardiner. The railway demanded it…..” The Narrow Road to the Deep North, p 306

How might you use this quote from the book to teach student’s about the POW camps? In this quote alone we see a sick and dying man being beaten by the Japanese, we get an idea about the perspective of the Japanese soldiers, the fact that the Australian commander, although seemingly respected by the Japanese, has no power over the treatment of the men.

Do you use fiction in your classroom? 

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Incorporating Twitter Into Your History Classroom – Women on the Home Front Lesson Plan

We are often challenged to incorporate ICT into our lesson plans in creative and inclusive ways. It is important to constantly challenge students and therefore improve their ICT skills while also ensuring that all students are effectively able to participate in the activity.

Twitter is a widely used and popular form of social media which is well known by many students. It can be accessed either on a mobile device, computer or iPad and a good proportion of students will have used it to follow celebrities, friends or other persons of interest. It is essential to ensure that our pedagogy remains innovative and relevant to student’s lives and I think  most students will be extra excited to utilise a (usually banned) device as a tool for historical analysis.

Twitter is a good classroom tool when used to encourage online discussion (either in the classroom or as homework) when used in the right way. By utilising a hashtag (#), students can follow a discussion and contribute by posting comments limited to 140 characters. Here is an example of incorporating Twitter into a history lesson:

LESSON PLAN: Changing role of women on the Australian home front during World War II

The impact of World War II, with a particular emphasis on the Australian home front, including the changing roles of women and use of wartime government controls (conscription, manpower controls, rationing and censorship)

Topic: World War II (1939-45)

Historical Skills: 

Use historical terms and concepts

Select and use a range of communication forms (oral, graphic, written) and digital technologies

Identify and analyse different historical interpretations (including their own)

Prior Knowledge and Understanding

Students will have already studied the causes, course and events of World War II.

You may ask students to create Twitter accounts prior to the lesson so that you can jump right in.

Resources:

Web links provided at the end of this post may be of use to both students and teacher.

Students have an understanding of the historical terms and concepts used to study this period (a Historical Terms and Concepts list or glossary to refer to during the activity).

Students have access to their phones, laptops, iPad or other electronic device used to access Twitter in the classroom. If students do not wish to use Twitter, they should have access to paper or cardboard for writing their own “tweets” which will be posted by the teacher on their behalf with their initials.

Smart board or similar for displaying Twitter feed.

A handout/slide with some guidelines and rules for the use of Twitter for the classroom. You may also like to give students a handout which explains how to use Twitter. A guide can be found here.

Lesson Instructions:

Explain classroom rules for the use of Twitter and social networking.

Post the first question (see below) with a hashtag (e.g. #MrsPHistory):

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Ask your students to search for the hashtag in Twitter (you should demonstrate this on your Smart Board)

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Advise your students that they should use this hashtag at the end of each “tweet” so that they may be included in the conversation. Ask the class to post their first response (each tweet should be 140 characters or less). Post any tweets manually written down by students with their initials at the end.

* Note that you will need to watch the feed to monitor participation from all students.

You may either choose to use a student’s tweet to form your next question or pose one of your own for the class to answer next.

Some questions and activities to post:

List some of the ways women contributed to the war effort on the home front.

Assess how important you think women’s roles were in the war effort.

How might women have responded to the return of men after the war ended?

Assess the effect of the war on women’s roles in society. Do you think women would have wanted to return to traditional roles?

Research “The Experiences of Women in Australia during World War 2”. Find an e.g. of a woman’s experience during the war and briefly describe.

Can you identify various viewpoints on the role of women on the home front?

* Don’t forget to explain your tweets and give your students enough time to conduct the research and post a tweet for each question. Although it should be a pretty fast flowing online discussion, some students will need more time than others and encourage collaboration amongst the students. This shouldn’t be a silent classroom!

Collaboration and assessment:

Ask your students to find three “tweets” posted by other students. They should reply to the tweet with their own observations.

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Remind your students to always use the # hashtag when commenting so that the comments may be seen by the class. You can display the comments on the Smart Board for those not using Twitter and print a discussion log for the student’s notes.

Finally, ask your students to assess the use of Twitter and the lesson plan for further development. If your students find this task to be useful, interesting and engaging, it can be adapted for further use as required. They can post their comments on the feed!

Online resources: Many of the sites below will guide students to other resources. Women in Wartime is particularly good for giving an overview of the topic.

Year 10 History Australian Curriculum

Women in Wartime

Australian War Memorial – Stories about women’s involvement in the war effort

Experience of South Australian women on the home front

Have you ever used Twitter in the classroom? How did your students respond? Please let me know if you have any questions or comments about this lesson plan.