History Bombs Classroom offers a unique way to make history come alive for students in about fifth grade through high school. Your online subscription to History Bombs gives you access to 39 short videos, 105 activities, and 36 quizzes, with more to come.
Videos are presented under seven topical headings: Medieval, Early Modern, Industrial Revolution, World War I, World War II, 20th Century, and The Cold War. The videos are presented as skits to convey a great deal of information in a condensed format. The condensation of information itself, as well as the skit format, often produces humorous results. The format should make the key ideas much easier for students to grasp and remember.
For instance, the video about the Protestant Reformation in England, titled “Did people's religious beliefs really chop and change so quickly in the 16th Century?,” uses rhyme to relate the religious shifts from King Henry VIII through Queen Elizabeth I. Actors impersonate key characters as they tell the story as it jumps rapidly through the monarchy interspersed with vignettes with churchmen struggling to figure out what to do—get of the religious paintings and crucifixes and hide the stained glass… or not. A churchwarden in the skit says:
Those English Prayer books are so expensive,
I’m not gonna buy them – it’s simply offensive!
And it’s a real shame about the wall [as they paint over a religious image],
But perhaps there won’t be too much change after all...
I’ve hidden our stained glass and Bible away
In case Catholicism comes back one day!
However, some skits are more serious in tone or aren’t rhymed. The sobering video, “How did life change on the Home Front?” portrays realistic scenes and conversations about the difficulties and privations Britons faced during World War II. Another video poses the debatable question, “Is it possible to justify the dropping of atomic bombs on Japan?” Actors portray U.S. Secretary of State James Byrnes, British Admiral William Leahy, an unnamed Soviet general, and President Harry Truman in a debate setting. The debate moderator’s lines are not rhymed, but the lines of the four debaters are. (That might sound odd for such a serious topic, but it works well.)
The activities and worksheets for each video take students deeper into each topic. Teachers can choose which activities to use. For example, there are three activities for the video about the debate over bombing Japan. Brief, introductory material outlines the objectives of the activities. The first activity summarizes a number of arguments both for and against the bombing. Students discuss and individually rank each argument in terms of its persuasiveness. The second activity has students complete a worksheet as if they were President Truman, explaining why he made the decision to bomb. The third activity presents nine points over which historians might disagree. Students rank these from most convincing to least.
Because these videos are created by a British company, they often present historical information from a British viewpoint rather than that of the U.S. I think this is actually helpful since it demonstrates to students that what they learn about history can be influenced greatly by whoever who wrote it.
History Bombs Classroom can be accessed from a computer, tablet, or phone. I expect that they will be most effective when viewed by two or more students who will follow up with discussion and activities. Whatever way you use them, the History Bombs Classroom videos educate in a memorable way while they entertain.