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It’s not news that there has been a marked decrease in student interest in history at school over the years. According to an article in The Washington Post, in 1982, sixth and 12th-graders in a Midwest school district took a survey to determine how the students felt about social studies.  The results: The kids were largely indifferent and showed negative attitudes toward social studies. Sadly, not a lot has changed since then; kids in K-12 schools largely still find history class boring. Also, the number of people who apply to be history majors in university has been declining steadily. 

Since 2007, according to a report in the Los Angeles Times, the history major has lost considerable market share in academia, dropping from 2.2 percent of all undergraduate degrees to 1.7 percent. There were 9 percent fewer history majors than what was obtainable in 2006, that means a 2.8 percent decrease the year before.

But history is awesome! How then do we remedy this?

The thing is, most teachers struggle to find ways of motivating students to learn, which holds especially true for those burdened with the unenviable task of teaching history to uninterested students. But here are tested and trusted ways to motivate students to learn history.

  1. Bring a History Topic to Life

Make your history lesson relatable so that your students can connect with how much history affects our present-day world. This way, they can see history as not just some boring stories about people who lived in the past that they could care less about, but as a subject that still has relevance all around us. We live in a visual world, so switch things up a little. Take them on excursions, get popup stands. You can convey lessons in photo form or get engaging videos on the topic and have them critique them. Don’t just ask them to read up chapters of their texts, but try to tell the stories compellingly to stimulate their imagination.

  1. Act out Historical Events

Another way to make history more engaging. Bring a past event to by scripting a play and having students act them out. History has tons of memorable characters, so you shouldn’t lack material. Have students interpret an event and get them to take on specific roles to present to the class. Students can discuss what they learned at the end of such performances.

  1. De-emphasize on Rote Memorizations

Perhaps the most frustrating aspect of learning history is that there are so many dates to memorize, so instead of hounding your students to learn dates, get relevant recent news and tie them to historical events—it’s a lot of work, but it’s for the culture—then get them to discuss how important such historical events are to today’s news. You can start each class by asking a question, for example, why was Hilary Clinton not held responsible to the Benghazi attack. Then trace the lesson to previous events in history, like to 9/11 bombing and the USS Cole attack for example. Then you can talk about UK and US activities in Central America in the early 20th century that led to the Iranian Hostage Crisis and America’s involvement with the Middle East. Classes like these are captivating and will get most of the students talking.

  1. Get students to Relate with History on A Personal Level

Once kids can relate to a story, they become interested in it. Set them off on a discovery hunt, History CSI agents if you like. You can use popup stands UK as clues. Convince them that knowing the activities of their forefathers in the past is crucial to understanding why things are the way they are now. You can start with a story and get them to try and collect pieces of history from available sources. So long as you can stir up curiosity, they’ll do the rest of the work for you. Pop up banners will most likely do the hard job for you.

  1. Try Controversial Topics

An important tool in studying history can think things through critically. There’s no better way to build this skill than to engage in controversial topics. Start with a short background on a contentious topic and stir up a debate. Get students to say why they agree or disagree with certain elements in the story. You can choose to divide them into groups and have each side argue their cases, while you play the role of mediator. Debates are fun and can get students motivated to learn. Even more, you are killing two birds with one stone: getting them to learn history as well as teaching them critical thinking.

How do you motivate students to study history? Do you have any other tips that have worked for you? Please leave your comments. We’d love to have your ideas.