Create your own cigarette card activity

One of my more hidden hobbies of the past was buying full sets of original cigarette cards which were ubiquitous in the first half of the twentieth century. Indeed, I have a framed full set of the cigarette card series, Kings and Queens of England, from 1936 hanging in my front room. As many of you will know there were cigarette card series on many subjects many of which related to the curriculum taught in schools, such as the First World War and literary figures.


With this mind, I thought it would be a good idea for an activity in class, or set as a homework task, for students to create their own cigarette card on an aspect of their learning. The activity, like the cigarette card, would have two sides – both of which are important and tap into different skills. Students would have to produce a two sided cigarette card.


One side would contain the visual representation of what the card is about. Here students would have to consider how they would visually represent the subject of their card. Would it be positive or a negative impression they would want to create? On the reverse side of the card would have a short description or history of the subject of the card. Here you could place a word limit because of the space limitations provided by the card. This would test students language and communication skills in trying to convey information with a message in a limited amount of words.

Here is a PowerPoint slide that illustrates the key features of a typical cigarette card which you could use with your students.

Create your own cigarette card

Variations in applying this activity could be –

– Giving each child a separate figure, aspect or item to design a cigarette card for so that the class create their own series of cards which could be then displayed.

– When setting the activity, give the students a viewpoint which they need to convey in their card. For example, show Charles I as a hero.

– Show students a genuine cigarette card and ask them to identify its message and opinion on the subject.

Of course, I should make it clear that with this activity I am not advocating smoking but rather using the popular hobby of the past – in this case, collecting cigarette cards rather than smoking – and this should be made clear when using this activity with your students.


Writing hamburger paragraphs guidesheet

Hamburger paragraphs were something I first saw ten years ago or so and is the work of the wonderful Dale Banham and the Schools History Project. Hamburger paragraphs are an analogy to help students to write effectively by comparing a burger to a strong substantiated paragraph. This is something I have found extremely effective and have used Banham’s work to make a guidesheet for my students. This is particularly effective in helping students when they have extended writing tasks – in this case controlled coursework. The guidesheet is certainly Banham’s work and I heartily recommend using his textbooks for teaching History.

How do I write a hamburger paragraph

Magpie cards – promoting collaboration in your lessons.

Magpie Cards is an idea I first saw in Griffith and Burns’, Engaging Learners, although in a primary school context. Here, each student is given a card with a magpie on it, when the teacher calls out ‘Magpie’, selected students have a few minutes to visit other students to ‘steal’ ideas. This is particularly effective in group work, where students who have acted as ‘Magpies’ can report their findings back to their group.

However, this can be used at secondary level and in a number of contexts. For example –

– Magpie Cards could be given to your Teaching Assistant, who can give the Magpie Cards to students who are struggling and the TA can manage the timing and effectiveness of this strategy. It also gives a clearly defined role for the TA in your classroom and evidences that you empower TA’s in your classroom.

– Magpie Cards could be given to a SEN child who is struggling and they report back to you what they have found out from their ‘Magpie Minutes’. Therefore, promoting collaboration and checking their progress.

– As outlined in Griffith and Burns’ book, Magpie Cards could be used in group work to promote broader collaboration.

– If you are feeling brave, give every student a Magpie Card and give them a fixed part of the lesson to use the card. This could be followed by some DIRT, where students reflect on what they have found out from others in this session and incorporate their into their work.

Below is a link to some pre-prepared Magpie Cards. This is my first new technique of the school year that I am going to try.

Magpie Cards

Progress continuum – demonstrating student progress easily

Presenting and sharing lesson objectives and demonstrating the ladder of skills in your subject are crucial in demonstrating student progress as this provides a starting point for your lesson from which you can judge student progress. David Didau, in his The Perfect English OFSTED Lesson, has advocated the continuum method in presenting his objectives which show not only the subject specific knowledge you want to cover but also the progression in skills which are linked to National Curriculum levels or exam grades. The examples contained in the links below shows the continuum method applied in a History context.

Progress continuum – Winner of Cuban Missile Crisis

Progress continuum – the Norman Conquest

Progress continuum – Castles

Not only can you use this for presenting learning objectives but you can use this as a ‘progress continuum’, where students are given this when you return marked assessments. Using your feedback, students colour the arrow up to the point where they reached [e.g. If their work was marked at Level 5, they colour the arrow up to the Level 5 mark on the arrow, then they set themselves a target based on your comments and the level descriptors on the ‘progress continuum’. Also, I mark their work with the continuum in front of me, reminding me of the language to use when giving feedback.

Presenting learning objectives and the path of progress in this way includes differentiated outcomes in which the first box outlining the baseline skill that you expect every student to achieve and then the following boxes outline the development of skills that you expect students to work towards. This also provides students with a clear overview of the progression of skills that you expect them to work towards as well as provide them with the key vocabulary that they can use to describe their progress.

Make some bunting and celebrate some learning and progress

The end of term is always a challenge – students are tired, you are crawling towards the end of term and the temptation to reach for that DVD is almost overwhelming. However, never fear Jim Smith, that laziest of teachers is here to save the day. This idea came from one of Jim Smith’s tweets rather than from one of his excellent and inspiring books.


This last lesson of the term idea is for students to make bunting to celebrate their learning and progress during that term. Here you give each student a piece of card with a large triangle printed on it. This triangle will be the students contribution to the class bunting they are going to make. On their triangle, they must choose the most interesting idea/topic/facts/ anything that they have learned in your lesson during that term and draw/write/anything they like of that area of their learning on their triangle. For the more able child, they have to produce a double sided pennant.


What is produced is a whole variety of triangles showing different areas of what has been studied in an extremely creative range of ways – making a fabulous bunting feature to hang in your classroom to show student learning and progress.

Thanks Jim for the inspiration!

Caption competition – a useful starter or plenary activity

When teaching source skills in History, it can be a challenge to get students to go beyond the surface features of the meaning of the source, So often, students ignore the caption of a cartoon or fail to dig deeply when looking at a slogan of a propaganda poster, therefore missing vital information for analysis. This quick exercise aims to promote students awareness of captions and slogans by erasing them from a source and asking students to either predict when the correct slogan or caption is or [even better in my view] come up with their own. In doing this, this promotes discussion of the meaning of slogans and captions, thereby raising student awareness of this vital source of information as well as introducing a little bit of creativity and fun into the mix.

The resource below is a selection of visual sources on the topic of the Rise of Hitler with blanked out captions and slogans. I am going to use this in September as an activity to revisit sources that we have studied before the summer holidays.

Caption Competition – Nazi topic