The history of x in ten objects activity

This idea was inspired by the trend in books that tell a history or a story of a particular event or development. For example, the books The History of the First World War in 100 objects and The History of Football in 100 Quotations are excellent reads and present a story in an engaging and enquiring manner as well as create the debate about why the objects were chosen and encourages you to consider what other objects were worthy of consideration for inclusion in these histories.

With this in mind, I thought that this structure in presenting research and historical knowledge would easily transfer to an activity in the classroom and could apply in any subject for any topic with slight adjustments, although History would readily lend itself to this type of activity. Where, perhaps, this kind of activity would work is a task which would require students to summarise their learning of a topic taut over a period of lessons or for revision in summarising a topic in a different way than the traditional note making activities.


I first used this task with a Year 9 class who were coming to the end of the topic on the First World War. Their task was to create a booklet called The History of the First World War in Ten Objects. They had the freedom to choose their objects, but they had to justify them and outline not only what each object symbolised in the First World War but also their significance and why they were selected. The ten selected objects  would be listed in order of significance with the least significant first all the way down to the most significant object at the end (like the books which inspired this activity). The link to the instruction sheet below gives a more detailed insight about how the activity can be managed, but the activity took place over a period of a couple of lessons plus home learning time devoted to it.

Which ten objects tell the story of the First World War worksheet

The outcomes of this activity were excellent as students had to present their booklets to each other and justify their objects’ inclusion. The key questions which followed this evaluative discussion were –

  • Would you include any alternative objectives in your booklet?
  • Would you edit any objects from your original list of ten objects?
  • Would you change the order of your objects in terms of significance?
  • What improvement could you make to your booklet?

In the discussion and through their research and booklets, students were able to summarise a topics’ worth of learning, independently research material, display skills in prioritising, evaluation and explanation as well as engage with others and present ideas and opinions.

Of course, as with many teaching ideas, this can be adjusted to fit any subject and differentiated to suit students in a number of ways, such as –

  • Instead of objects pick quotations, people, ingredients, elements, words, images, maps, theories or newspaper headlines.
  • Differentiate through the number of objects to be researched and selected.
  • Vary how students can demonstrate their learning, alternatives from a booklet could be a shoebox containing the objects or representations which are made by the students, an infographic or a Prezi presentation.

An engaging leaning activity which helps students access a range of higher order thinking skills which can be used in any classroom in any context.


2 thoughts on “The history of x in ten objects activity

  1. This is exactly what I needed going into “How important was the war in the collapse of the Tsarist Regime?” This might be just the thing to help kids evaluate the real causes of the collapse.

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