Top 10 Ideas for Teaching Australian History to Kids

1. Use Australian Living Books

One of the most enjoyable ways to learn history is through living books. Living books bring a depth and richness into history studies.

An Australian History spine is a living  book that weaves the whole of Australia’s story into a rich tapestry, it is an overview that covers the core of Australia’s history. A spine is like a historical washing line a place to hang your pegs of knowledge.

  • The Australia Book by Eve Pownell © 1956. Republished  2008. This book tells the story of Australia. This 32 page quarto size book has excellent illustrations and would be perfect for young students.
    Age range 4-7years old.
  • Our Sunburnt Country by Arthur Baillie ©2008 is an updated version of his popular 1964 work. This 140 page books spans history from Aboriginal settlement to the present. It has wonderful illustrations and a literary style.
    Age range 7-Adult.
  • A Short History of Australia by Manning Clark © 2008 (updated).
    This book is at a high school and university level.
  • Even though this is not a comprehensive history of Australia I highly recommend this book also. Papunya School Book of Country History by Nadia Wheatley
    © 2001.
    Written for the Papunya school as a record of history when white settlers came into central Australia and how this affected the Aboriginal people that lived around the region.

Once you have chosen your spine read it aloud if possible to your children. Engage the children with the narratives and don’t read too much in one sitting. Have them begging for more.

Here are some booklist suggestions.

2. Narrations Oral and Written

Have your children narrate what they read. That is, tell back in their words, what they have heard you read (or they read). Narrations help the child and parent understand what is being comprehended. With the younger children this may be orally or with older children (from around 10 years old) it can be written. This is an acquired art. One I have not perfected, but I’m working on it.

3. Unit Study

Unit studies weave a web of connections and don’t always fall into neatly packaged subjects. Often topics overlap at times, or lead towards another subject. This is all part of the learning journey.

Our Australian Book Traveller teaches Australian history, art, science and geography using living picture books.

You can also focus on a particular topic and make a history lesson from that. It could be Prime Ministers of Australia ,The Australian Flag, or Australian cooking (Pavlova, Anzac Biscuits, Damper and Bush Tucker).

Saint Mary MacKillop Lapbook is a hands-on activity, written with passion, that can be used to teach children in a fun and interesting way about the life of Australia’s first canonised saint in the Catholic church.

4. Australian Architecture

Studying architecture can reveal different aspects of Australian history. Here are some starting points.

  • Francis Greenway –Convict architect
  • Governor Macquarie’s town planning.
  • The Harbour Bridge
  • The Opera House
  • The Rabbit Proof Fence
  • Old and New Parliament house

5. Australian Art.

Australian art reveals what life was like in the times gone by.

  • “Gwion” Bradshaw rockpaintings in the Kimberley.
  • Megafauna aboriginal rock paintings.
  • Joseph Lycett Convict artist (1724-1825).
  • Tom Roberts, (1856-1931) and Fredrick McCubbin (1855-1917)
  • Albert Namatjira (1902–1959) Famous Aboriginal Painter
  • D’Arcy Doyle (1932-2001) had a deep affinity with the Australian bush and his work focuses on horses, sheep, drovers, and other farm activities as well as children’s games and sport

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