Everything you need to know about teaching Foundation Year History

Updated: Mar 3


If you're new to teaching Foundation Year (Prep) or you're teaching Foundation Year History for the first time, you might find the curriculum a little overwhelming.


The Australian Curriculum (ACARA) introduced HASS (History and Geography) many years ago and I must say it was jam-packed at first. They have modified and stream-lined it a little now but there is still a LOT of content to cover.


As an experienced HASS specialist teacher, here is what you need to know.


There is so much content to cover!

ACARA, as any experienced teacher will tell you, is so stuffed with concepts that it's nearly impossible to cover everything in the detail you want. You will definitely be able to touch on it all but as teachers know, there isn't enough time to consolidate learning. So be kind to yourself and your students and pick the concepts you want to focus on with some depth.



Just tell me what I need to cover then?

ACARA breaks things down into two headings:

- Inquiry and Skills

- Knowledge and Understanding


What's the difference?

In simple terms, the Inquiry and Skills cover the HOW and the Knowledge and Understanding cover the WHAT.


Inquiry and Skills are ways to teaching such as sequencing, sorting, comparing, posing questions, looking at data, drawing conclusions etc... These are the skills we want students to master throughout their subjects and across their year levels. They should be part of your teaching approach regardless of what subject you are teaching. For example, ACARA Foundation History wants students to "Pose questions about past and present objects, people, places and events". Posing questions is a key component of teaching Science too. The Inquiry and Skills listed are merely aligned with Knowledge and Understanding.


Knowledge and Understanding are the key historical concepts (topics) ACARA wants you to cover. You cover these topics by using your teaching skills (those Inquiry and Skills listed are a guide) to get there.


Tell me about each of the Knowledge and Understandings I should cover?


The Foundation Year History curriculum is broken down into three elements.


- Who the people in their family are, where they were born and raised and how they are related to each other (ACHASSK011)

- How they, their family and friends commemorate past events that are important to them (ACHASSK012)

- How the stories of families and the past can be communicated, for example, through photographs, artefacts, books, oral histories, digital media and museums (ACHASSK013)


Within each one of these, there are subheadings called elaborations which go into more detail about what to cover. However, to simplify things even further for you, you're going to cover family and celebrations.


Okay so how do I do this?


When teaching primary school history you start with working from what the child knows. As with all subjects, work from the known to the unknown. In this case, the child knows their family. They know and can name the members of their family with relative ease. So this is where you begin.


Identifying and naming the different members of a family (for example, mother, father, step-parent, caregiver, sister, brother, grandparent, aunty, uncle, cousin) and creating concept maps of their family with pictures or photographs to show the relationship between family members.


Activity ideas

  • get students to bring in photographs of family members and write about them

  • send family trees home for students to complete with parents

  • practice naming and sequencing family members

  • develop a word wall of terms they might not be familiar with such as step-parent, sibling and the difference between aunty and Aunty (for Indigenous children)

  • draw a concept map with circles to represent family members, write names in and make connections on the page to each person in the family

  • model family trees with your own family

  • show lots of images of 'other' types of families so students can see how their family is the same or different to other students and that this is okay (it's important to know your students' backgrounds for this with regards to culture, family structure, same-sex couples or death of family members)



Finding out where they were born and raised and placing their photographs, drawings and names on a classroom world map.


Activity ideas

  • print out a large map of the world and discuss with students where their family members might be born (they may not know so try to grab a family member during the start or the end of school time and see if they can place a pin on the map on their behalf)

  • spend time discussing the pins placed on the map with the whole class - where are most of the pins located?


Making a calendar of commemorative events that students, their family and friends celebrate (for example, birthdays, religious festivals such as Easter, Ramadan, Buddha’s Birthday, Feast of Passover; family reunions and community commemorations such as NAIDOC week and Anzac Day) and discussing why they are important.


Activity ideas

  • discuss what a celebration is and what things are common to celebrations (food, music, decorations, happiness, family)

  • briefly explore a few celebrations with students (keep these seasonal to the time of year so students can make stronger real-world connections)

  • print and enlarge a blank calendar and spend an afternoon listing events students celebrate

  • ask students which events they celebrate and the mark these on the calendar with students

  • give students a shortlist of celebrations and see if they can glue them on a matching calendar using your piece as the modelled example


Recognising ‘Acknowledgement of Country’ and ‘Welcome to Country’ at ceremonies and events to recognise that the Country/Place and traditional custodians of the land, sea, waterways and sky are acknowledged.


Engaging with the oral traditions, painting and music of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples and recognising that the past is communicated through stories passed down from generation to generation.


Activity ideas

  • ask your local school elder to come in and discuss the importance of these two traditions that take place at ceremonies and any local oral traditional stories for your area

  • watch videos explaining how these activities are undertaken and the meaning behind them

  • print the words and talk through them with students to ensure they understand the terminology and add new words to your word wall

  • watch videos on traditional stories or read books, then explore the book by creating some accompanying artwork

Sharing the story of an object from their family’s past (for example, a photograph, old toy, statue, medal, artwork, jewellery, stories), describing its importance to the family and creating a class museum.


Recognising that stories of the past may differ depending on who is telling them (for example, listening to stories about the same event- related by two different people such as a mother and a grandmother).


Activity ideas

  • brainstorm questions students will want to know about objects brought from home (who did it belong to? why is it important? etc) and create cards as prompts

  • get students to bring in an object from their family that has some importance (a handmade card, photograph or clothing) and get students to give a talk to the class using the cards created to prompt questions and answers

  • discuss the importance of museums and create a class museum if possible (if only with things the class feel are important)

  • ask students what they know about the object they brought in compared to what their family member told them? discuss how stories may differ depending on who is telling that story (give lots of modelled examples from your own family)

Using images, students’ stories and stories from other places to explore what families have in common (for example, people who provide for their needs and wants, love, safety, rituals, celebrations, rules, change such as new babies and dying).


Activity ideas

  • complete your history unit by consolidating student learning and drawing some conclusions about how families and stories are similar or different

  • use books such as 'Same but a little bit different' by Kylie Dunstan to explore similarities and differences in lifestyles, families and events

  • try not to single students out who may have a noticeably different family structure but instead use your own or your Teacher Aide. Compare your family structures with each other by placing a whiteboard on each side of the room and writing down answers to student questions - how many siblings do you have? where were you born? what is your favourite memory? etc.. let students direct the learning here and demonstrate what they have learnt


I hope this outline has helped you with some ideas for teaching Foundation Year History. If you would like me to cover other subject topics for Foundation to Year 3, contact me and let me know.


You can find all the materials and instructions for teaching Foundation Year History in the Foundation Year History pack here.




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