Lesson Plan: Great History Teaching Materials for Richard III

I don't subscribe to the Great Man view of history. I think that people of significance, and our view of what makes someone 'significant', are more symptoms of their times, than shapers of them. But there's no getting away from the power of characters to grab pupils' imaginations. And with the confirmation last year that his body had been found, there's a lot of good material currently being produced around one fascinating figure - England's King Richard III.

Richard III, a very brief introduction

Richard III is a surprisingly controversial figure for a man who has been dead for half a millenium. King for only two years at the tale end of the Wars of the Roses, he rose to the throne amidst much political manoeuvring and the disappearance of his two royal nephews, also claimants to the crown. The last English king to die in battle, a century after his death he was portrayed by Shakespeare as a villain, a reputation which was largely stuck.

Of course, Horrible Histories explain the problem of Richard far better than I can:

<iframe width="560" height="315" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/R6JczvS1PL4" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>

Whether Richard was responsible for the deaths of the princes remains open to debate, and Richard now has a whole society of modern supporters arguing that he has been unfairly maligned. This makes great material for discussing how we look at history, and means that there are some interesting resources available.

Leicester University

The University of Leicester, who led the Richard III dig, have produced a whole collection of materials about Richard and the excavation. There's a set of primary school lesson plans, a PowerPoint introduction to Richard III, and worksheets such as the exciting 'How to identify a skeleton'. These are interesting, high quality materials that are good for interesting pupils in both the facts of history and the methods of archaeology.

More than this, these are materials that will help to start debates about how history works, how we sift fact from fiction and develop interpretations of the past. There are facts and dates too, for those of a more traditional mindset.

Other materials

The University of Leicester aren't the only ones providing Richard III materials, even if they are the experts.

This activity on Thinking History explores the archaeological process and what we can learn from the skeletal remains. It also raises the important question of what we can't tell.

This activity looks at why Richard claimed the throne, while this one engages with him through the trappings of modern culture, setting pupils the challenge of creating a Richard III facebook profile. What better way to make them pay attention than through playing at social media?

Finding more

It can take some time to find Richard III history resources on the internet, as many results relate to the Shakespeare play. But it's worth having a hunt around in order to teach about this fascinating figure and the story of how he was unearthed.

Because in the classroom, sometimes great villains can make for great teaching.


Picture by lisby1 via Flickr creative commons

Andrew Knighton

About Andrew Knighton

I'm a writer and ex-teacher. You can find more of my writing on education at: http://www.degreediary.com/bloggers/27 I also have a blog on reading and writing: https://andrewknighton.wordpress.com/

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