Review by Erin Brereton, Common Sense Education | Updated August 2013

Have Fun with History

Fab films bring history to life -- but you supply the background info

Common Sense says
Teachers say (3 Reviews)
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Grades
9-12 This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
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Pros: Topics are well-organized, and the wide variety of film subjects can help you illustrate historical concepts.

Cons: Videos range in quality and length; some are way too long to keep kids' interest.

Bottom Line: It can be a helpful supplement to class lessons, but be sure to identify the difference between factual and fictional accounts.

You can broadcast historically based videos that correspond with class lessons on a whiteboard to provide an accessible account of events that are sometimes hard for kids to visualize.

Or, you can encourage students to watch videos at home. Most videos are housed on the site, so students can watch them within their browser without having to download anything. You'll need to send a link to relevant videos through an external email system, however; there's no way to send it directly to students through a virtual classroom or other communication method on the site.

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Have Fun with History is a website featuring all kinds of historical goodies from the annals of American history. The site highlights video content, which comes from a variety of sources and includes educational videos, vintage filmstrips, and newsreels. Because videos come from public domain sources like museums and government agencies, they’re all free to use, and many would work well for classroom use.

Aside from its videos, Have Fun with History doesn't contain much additional written content. Topic sections and videos include a paragraph or two of explanatory text. Some also feature a timeline graphic. However, the site’s structure, which lists videos by era and subject area, can help provide an overview of events' sequential order and give kids a sense of how they tie together. Students can also access a few trivia and other history-based activities, one- to two-minute history clips, and a store that sells books and other items.

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You may have to dig through videos that don’t apply to your current coursework, but for the most part, Have Fun with History's films provide an interesting, often in-depth look at certain aspects of major events and historical figures. The well-organized site offers dozens of supplementary visual materials that teachers can use to spark students' interest in -- and help educate them about -- historical topics ranging from the Old West to the space race.

Some videos may not be an ideal fit. Although the content is kid-appropriate, films that log in at an hour or more pose time and attention limitations; and fictional Hollywood titles may not pack enough of a factual punch to be worthwhile. (As the site says, historically based movies provide a look at the time period they represent and the era the film was created in; but silent newsreels likely offer a more accurate portrayal of an era than, say, the Gary Cooper version of A Farewell to Arms.) But it also depends on your audience; which version will stick in your students' brains? It's up to you; just make sure to talk to kids about what really happened and what's been added for drama's sake.

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Overall Rating
3

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?
4

Videos can help visual learners and history novices better understand key concepts. The site could use more interactive elements, and kids may lose focus during some of 30-plus-minute films, but shorter videos should draw them in.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?
3

Topics span from early America to the Reagan era. Written materials are scarce, and kids don't get feedback or many challenges, but the films provide a good overview of key historical events.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?
3

There are lots of links to related government, museum, and other websites. There's an About page with some guidance but no specific help section.


Teacher Reviews

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Featured review by
Laura B. , Student
Student
La Sierra University
Riverside, CA
5
Super great site, with a ton of information on different eras. The videos on the site replace dull textbook reading and add value to an already important subject.. HISTORY!

Tons of differnt topics were covered, as well as overall summaries of the different topics.

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