A History Teaching Toolbox by Russel Tarr – a review

Alongside Twitter, the trend of books by teachers for teachers outlining many practical ideas, strategies and perspectives is the most significant development in CPD in the last ten years or so. Despite this, there remains surprisingly few practical books for specifically history teachers. However, Russel Tarr admirably fills this gap with his independently published book released in September 2016. For a long time, Russel has shared his ideas and creative thinking on his website http://www.activehistory.co.uk which quite rightly has been the go to place for history teachers looking for inspiration and new ideas. As a result, Russel is well-known on Twitter for his generosity for sharing ideas and resources and as soon as his book was released it was an immediate purchase for me. 


Without doubt this is a detailed and thorough book. The book is structured around key themes in history teaching –

  • Imparting knowledge
  • Debate and discussion
  • Applying knowledge
  • Comparing, constraining and linking
  • Judgements and interpretations
  • Group work
  • Tests and revision
  • Displays
  • Essay skills
  • Other ideas

In each section, there are a number of ideas which can be easily added to any history teachers’ toolkit and can improve the work of any practitioner. Each strategy is explained in detail in which the reader is taken step by step through the idea with examples of how it can be applied in the classroom with illustrations of student outcomes. However, the book isn’t so detailed that it is perscriptive and straitjacketed. Instead, the ideas provoke food for thought and stimulate creative thinking about how the ideas can fit into your own toolkit.

Without doubt this is an important book for history teachers. There has been a real need for such a book specifically for history teachers and Russel is the ideal person to write a book to fill this gap. This book is jam-packed full of great, simple to implement ideas which would enhance any lesson.  Just a cursory read or flick through will make you stop and think when you catch a great idea. If you are a history teacher, whether a NQT or, like me, a bit of an old lag then this book is an essential purchase. I cannot recommend the book highly enough!