That's Edutainment: Using images to spark student learning.

In my World History class, I truly enjoy the challenge of teaching some very complex topics to my 14 and 15 year old students. As I have mentioned before, this challenge is heightened by the fact that my students Learn Differently (that is what I think "L.D." should stand for) than their peers. One of the most challenging topics we study is the causes and results of 19th and 20th Century Imperialism.

If you just read that last sentence, your eyes rolled back in your head, and you are frantically trying to click to another post, then you are like 90% of my students. But I assure you, it doesn’t need to be too complex or boring.

Here’s how I attempt to teach my student about Imperialism… without them going into a boredom induced trance.

As always, I start with an image.

Screen Shot 2018-03-07 at 5.13.54 PM.png

I ask my students what is going on in the animation (it’s actually a gif from

They very quickly connect the image to bullying. After they do, I toss them a curve ball. I say, “Now imagine it’s not people who are bullying each other… but entire countries.”

Now that they have the basic idea, I share with them this more scholarly definition.

Imperialism: A policy of extending a country's power and influence through colonization, use of military force, or other means. (Oxford dictionary)

From there, my students and I exam that definition and put it in their own words. They usually end up with something like:

Imperialism: a strong nation tries to overtake/dominate another country politically, militarily, economically or socially

It clicks. They get it.

From there I use more images to spark their knowledge about the reasons countries would want to dominate others.

Screen Shot 2018-03-07 at 5.25.54 PM.png
This is a sample of the images I use to spark a conversation about the economic reasons for imperialism.

With a little guidance, the students are able to identify and discuss the economic inspirations for countries to acquire valuable raw materials as well as new markets in which to sell their products.

Next, I display images that help students to figure out that countries have political and military reasons to want to control other nations. Here is an example:

I use this picture to spark a conversation about what these countries could possibly build on the coasts of Africa.

In order to help them to understand the social reasons, I love to show this Far Side cartoon.

From here, I am usually able to get several of my students to recall their prior knowledge of Charles Darwin’s idea of “survival of the fittest”. Even if they are unaware of who Darwin is, they always understand the concept that strong animals dominate weaker ones.

Once that is established, it is rather easy for my students to understand that sometimes countries felt that they are the strongest and deserve to dominate others (Social Darwinism).

Although this group discussion is very lively and engaging, the follow up activity is even more valuable.

The following day, I ask my students to apply what they have learned from our discussion. I present them with several political cartoons and advertisements from the late 1800’s and early 1900s.

As the students study the images, I ask them to look for examples of the topics we discussed the day before. I also ask them to provide evidence to support their claims. Here are a few examples:

Screen Shot 2018-03-07 at 5.50.12 PM.png

The students really seem to enjoy the “puzzle” aspect of this activity. Most of them try to see if they can find creative ways that the concepts are illustrated in the cartoons. If students are struggling, I can pair them with another student. If this doesn’t work, I can work with them one on one.

Not only does this lesson help prepare the students to study World War I, it also allows them to apply their knowledge of Imperialism to both historical and current events.


Great Britain in Africa
Far Side
White Man's Burden
The bully, man with money bags, wolf and oil rig are all gifs from animation factory.


I love this! We just finished working through WWII in my Social Studies 10 class.
That Africa picture is awesome! When I was teaching WWI, I just show them this image showing the Berlin Conference, but yours is way more fun.

Your image is also incredible useful. For your image, I might add blank word bubbles and maybe some blank text boxes. In the text boxes they could write the name of each person or country they represent. Then have them imagine what they would say in the word bubbles.

That's an awesome idea! I've been doing a see/think/wonder visible thinking routine but I love the speech bubbles idea.

I would love to see a post about how you use "see/think/wonder".

Challenge accepted! It's my spring break starting this weekend so I'll have some free time that I won't know what to do with.

Oh I like that "see/think/wonder". That can translate to all of the pictures I use all year long. And it has the two of my favorite words in it "think" and "wonder".

And it can include everyone.


The key to teaching is presenting facts and information from different angles to cater to different learning styles. You do a good job with the pictures to stimulate their minds in different ways and make it more approachable to students. I'm also betting switching up the media methods is a good way to have it stick better in their memory. I'm going to have to figure out how to work more imagery into my computer science class.

Do you know about @steemiteducation? We are trying to support educational content here. If you have a chance check it out and see if you are interested in it.

No, but I am checking it out right now.

Oh man I was just checking out your blog. I am so bummed we did not see your posts. Your classroom ones are perfect for the project!

The board games one... awesome!
Snap... awesome!

Thank you! Nicest thing anybody has said about my blog. I want to get back to my classroom ones, I just ran out of easy material for a bit. By project are you referring to @steemiteducation?

Yes. We are trying to reward as much educational content as we can. Your posts are really well done.

Thank you for the compliment. I had to take a little break from posting because of life, but I've got inspired for a new educational post, so it was a good break.

As a former history teacher, I "get it". My kids were in the grade range of 8-12. It was small school that was set up to meet the needs of children who could not function in a mainstream environment. Images were essential. Not just images, but gimmicks. I was shameless. Global Studies can bring tears of boredom to a child's eyes. So I acted out scenes from history. Government is another attention tester. We rearranged furniture to approximate the three branches of government. I was accused by fellow teachers of having a noisy classroom, but never charged with having kids who didn't achieve. This is a great blog. No matter the student, or the environment, a teacher has to find a way to communicate.

a teacher has to find a way to communicate.

that is the KEY. Yes. Sounds like you knew how to reach your students!

I miss it. Besides raising my own children, best job I ever had :)

Aw. Real teachers do miss their students, I know.

First of all very appreciate you that you are teacher ..
The second is history .
Huh i am very weak in history just got passing marks always
The reason is the most difficult words .
But i like your style i am very appreciate you for this .
Keep going on . teaching is very good and interesting passion .
Best of luck

I love the way you teach your kids. I wish we learned this way when I was in school. I most likely would have paid attention and learned something.

Building slowly to include more complex ideas, especially for LD kids , is difficult but you've certainly got the talent for it. I actually learned and understood imperialism. Go figure. Never too old to learn.

Teachers should not fear going off plan if a better learning opportunity presents itself. Plans are plans, but children are living, breathing, creative people, who deserve to have their questions answered and original ideas explored. The important thing is to present facts visually , it helps in better remembering of the facts.

Yes! My favorite part of any lesson is when the kids think of something I hadn't or ask a question that can't easily be answered.

you spark the moment and that's where the great things begin

I don't think anyone can explain it in a way better than u!!
The way u explained it is quite amazing!!
This actually is a kind of innovative idea of attracting students towards one of the boring subjects in all time!!
I still remember my school days when teacher used to teach is history n I was like zzzz zzzz lol!
Once a bond is established between a teacher n student then it becomes easy for a student to understand as well as teacher also enjoys to deliver his lecture!!!
I wish in our country we had the kind of teachers just like u are!!
Amazing work n those students r damn lucky to have a wonderful teacher like u!!!
Hope u keep this good work going!!!

I am not very good with History but I just think you are an excellent teacher with true passion for your job and compassion for your kids - my hat off to you. My mom is also a teacher and I have the utmost respect for what you guys do

images help a lot to understand it better as a teacher you are doing great things :)

Damn, I wish you were my teacher when I was at school.
I think I would study much more effectively.

LOL. I'm not for everyone. Some people just think i'm a loon.

I love the use of imagery to spark understanding and knowledge. The best part is you’re not just showing them the traditional history book pictures but rather showing them pictures they can relate to and get the same message. I do something similar using political cartoons in history.

Is the man with the money bags supposed to be Clinton. Would think that lesson on imperialism would have gif of Trump, out of any recent president.

LOL! It sure does look like him. I try to keep my personal opinions out as much as possible. But you are dead on.
Even if it is Clinton, he is like ancient history to my 14 year olds so they don't notice. Let that sink in. Bill Clinton is ancient history to teenagers. I am so old.

Ugh.....I feel ancient. I'm 10 years younger than him. Anyone over 25 is ancient to a teenager though.

Enjoyed this post, as my wife is a 1st grade teacher. She often tells me stories about struggles with her class, and funny stuff that the kids do.

One of the major issues is the gap between engagement and learning ability of the students. Parents play a big part in this. It’s always easy to tell which kids have parents that actually talk to them, and which parents use an iPad as a babysitter.

Much respect. Teaching is not easy. I could never do it.


Does your wife know about @steemiteducation? We are trying to support educational content here. If you have a chance, check it out.

Definitely she doesn't. She thinks all this Steemit stuff is odd. I will tell her about it though, thanks for the suggestion.

wow tough subject for kids but I like your approach. I'm 50 and I have a hard time wrapping my head around it but Im really interested in it. In fact I've been listening to lectures by Danny Sheehan who talks a lot about the Robber Barron period. That imperialist period is so pertinent to today. It's amazing how the names from that period are still relevant and ruling as well. It is something I never paid much attention to it when I was in school so you are doing important work. well done.

Thanks! One of my favorite things is when my kids see connections to current events.

for sure. That gives us some hope that when they are adults they will recognize the mistakes as they happen and work to correct them. It's amazing how little we learn from our past. A big part of that is what we were not taught in school. You are doing right by these kids. They are lucky to have a teacher who "gets it"

@hanshotfirst I must say, I enjoyed every bit of this teaching.
I sincerely wish we could have more of teachers like you here in Africa, Nigeria precisely...
It would make learning more fun and easy...

Here, education is like swallowing bitter pills.
No fun at all...
You struggle to go to school, struggle to understand what your teacher is saying, struggle to even read and pass your exams..
I could go on and on...

But then... I must commend you..
Well done..
This is really educating and fun..
And yes.. Edutainment it is

I hated history in school. If you were my teacher, i bet i would have been one of the best history students, i just love the way you use pictures to illustrate.

I just want to say one thing, you are a wonderful teacher.
The example of imperialism was brilliant, those students are damn lucky.

History class is always boring, this is a known fact. But you have managed to in still in me a bit that the known fact may not be true.

You scale it down for the dummest to understand. I truly admire your skills.
Teaching is not a job, this a proffession, as you have just shown.

I am not sure "dumbest" is the right word here. Some kids just learn in different ways than others. Good teachers can cater to multiple styles of learning, not dumbing down their content.

Well said. I think it may be a language issue. I'm glad you helped him out in a respectful way while also standing up for the students.

I don't doubt you because a picture is worth a thousand words.

@hanshotfirst , this is a very succinct way to guide the conversation and illuminate the concepts in a way that quickly gel in the head of a young teen.

My particular problem is with my first grader (6 yrs old) who is already being conditioned to be aligned with a particular country before he even has a firm understanding of the language he is using every morning as he faces the flag (the Pledge!). This structured indoctrination of the public school system is certainly conditioning students minds in a particular way well before they arrive in your class to gain a different perspective on things. Needless to say, I have many conversations with my 6 year old where I wrack my brain in an attempt to bring things down to his level so he starts off his public school education from a questioning perspective (without instilling in him a pure "rejectionist" sort of mentality (eg: ugh, red/white/blue = bad). This is a very delicate dance but something I find myself battling constantly in order to make certain that he is conscious of what the school is literally forcing him to do everyday/why/and what the real meaning of things happens to be...heavy stuff to attempt with a 6 year old.

Further to the above, I periodically substitute for grade 2-4 (just to keep my eyes on what my son is getting ready to be faced with). The textbooks are impressively lacking thought, analysis or balance. I'm not expecting Howard Zinn for 3rd graders (though I think it would be a great balancing act :) but what they are forced fed is scary at best, just the next step in indoctrination from my son's perspective. Lies delivered as cold facts meant to be regurgitated. Yikes, I've forgotten how bad this is not having been in grade school in many, many years.

My point? Don't know that I have one other than to say you have a pipeline leading into your efforts that is composed of state-loving little people...god bless you for actually imparting some knowledge, offering up some alternative views of how the world actually works. It is up to knowledgeable parents to help kids learn how to question and responsible teachers to deviate from the state's propaganda.

good steemit education lesson plan and history post thanks for shearing

I agree with you sir students should L.D.that is learn differently.teaching to 15years students is a challenging are doing amazing work.

I like your detailed information :)

Vote me plis


Visual learning is always considered the best it stays in mind forever

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Nice pic n story. Look at the wall, my story, if you think good, vote.

Caramba, @hanshotfirs, creo que encontraste una buena forma de enseñar historia y tal vez otras materias. La imagen es más funcional y permanece más en la consciencia del ser. De allí que nuestras primeras letras las hayamos fijado a través de las imágenes, dibujos que vienen en los textos escolares. Realmente me estás abriendo un mundo con esta enseñanza. Gracias.

Visual learning has so much of impact in this 21st century.

Creation means a lot in life. It's a way to evolve :D

then there are our teachers ,
they usualy skip the topics
which need more efforts .they are great!

Those are some excellent teaching images. They spell it all out perfectly for anyone of that age group to understand.

woooow thanks...this is a beautiful history didnt even know all this about my continent till now....really nice post

Wow! This is a nice illustration of how INVOLVEMENT of students helps them to learn. By showing the image in the very beginning you get them involved in the process of learning instead of just being an observer; I use visual materials a lot too to explain the Russian Grammar, which is quite complex... Thanks for sharing!

Although the beginning of imperialism in the 18th century, originally started the journey of imperialism after the First World War. And Germany's victory in Germany and the Second World War accelerates Imperialism more and more. Thanks a lot. Thanks to Samarajism, your students.Undoubtedly your initiative demands praise.

you should surly be a great teacher

You did such a great work @hanshotfirst. I go along with your method. We need to find various way to attract our students pay good attention to the material delivery. I can see you have made well-preparation before going to your class. I do believe only good preparation can give us confidence in the classroom.

You are right that was also my reaction when I heard the topic of your history lesson, the word "Imperialism" it is very abstract, it is difficult to relate to something, you can't "see or touch" it. I believe many children or even adults will be having problem to explain what they understand under this definition if one asks. The way how you build up your lesson is really good, it interacts and there are many examples that we can apply to nowadays. Unfortunately it is a reality how the world works. People sometimes just do not want to think about that if they live in nice, established environment of Western countries. But I can imagine how it is for those who live in other countries, weaker, without a power. It is a great job a teacher, you are once who influence those young generation, our future. My total respect @hanshotfirst!

Excellent learning for people who have advanced visual sense. Not so for the kinesthetic or auditory.

very educational

Wow man, this has actually opened my eyes quite a bit. Although I've taught for a few years now, the 2018 academic year is my first year teaching History (which I love btw). I struggled to get my learners interested in the Industrial Revolution, despite my best attempts.

Ironically, our next topic is 'The Scramble for Africa" and I am going to employ this method from the get go to see how they respond. If all goes well I'll be able to draw all of it back to the Industrial Revolution and, unbeknownst to them, try and reframe our first term's work in a more interesting light.

Thanks for this post.

This shows you are great teacher. Have been wanting to classify students also, learning differently does it for me. Thanks for the piece.

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