Slates Up – Making History Come Alive For Primary Students

Slates Up!” (ISBN: 9780950928944) enables pupils to discover what life was like in a nineteenth century primary school. It is a publication designed to support the 1999 Primary History Curriculum. It aims is to better equip teachers with true primary sources relating to schools in early nineteenth century Ireland.

A primary source is a piece of historical evidence that was created at the time to which it relates. The primary sources in ‘Slates Up!’ are from the little known archives of the famous Kildare Place Society, Rathmines, Dublin.

The Kildare Place Society (Society for Promoting the Education of the Poor in Ireland) was a pioneering charitable institution involved in early Irish education. It was founded in 1811 by a group or philanthropic men in Dublin, including Samuel Bewley of the Quaker (Society of Friends) merchant family and J.D. La Touche of the Huguenot banking family.


Dr Christopher Stray, Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Wales, Swansea wrote: “This book is an admirable and well-conceived teaching tool. The space taken up by questions to be answered by (modern) pupils, make it both more and less than a straightforward compilation of historical evidence. But anyone interested in the crucial detail of curriculum and teaching in the past would enjoy reading ‘Slates Up!’. To quote again from one of the posters it shows us: Oh! How pretty! Ah! How wise!’ “. (review in Paradigm: Journal of the Textbook Colloquium, Volume 3 Issue 2 July 2007)

In his review of ‘Slates Up’, Dr. Kenneth Milne the eminent Church of Ireland Historiographer wrote: “Good history teachers have long understood that we need to bring the subject to life for pupils if they are to engage with it. The Primary School Curriculum advocates an approach to the teaching of history that reflects the nature of history itself, in which documents play a vital part. But when educationalists encourage the use of documentary evidence in the classroom, teachers are sometimes at a loss to find suitable material for the purpose. Here it is, splendidly presented, and full of suggestions”.

John Fahy of Inis wrote: “This well-produced book enables pupils of today to act as real investigative historians as they explore the everyday educational experience of pupils at the beginning of the 19th century.  This is how history should be experienced, as exciting discovery of a past which has something to say to our present” (review in Inis No 15, Spring 2006).

Contents Overview:

‘Slates Up!’ includes a wealth of resources for teachers and pupils. The topics explored include:

An examination of a typical nineteenth century schoolhouse.
Lessons 19th century children experienced: spellings, mathematics, poetry, grammar and more!
Investigations explore rewards and punishments for 19th century primary pupils.
Guidelines and resources to assist the re-enactment of a typical 19th century school day.
Teachers’ guidelines and a wealth of pupils’ activity sheets.

This excellent publication is compiled by Thurles born Karen Willoughby B. Ed. and former pupil of the Ursuline Convent ,Thurles, Co.Tipperary, with consultant editors Valerie Coghlan, Geraldine O’Connor and Susan Parkes all lecturers at CICE and Trinity College Dublin

Slates Up! is well worth investing in, because all of the publication’s contents can be photocopied. Thus one copy can cater to the needs of multiple classes.

Where to Buy:

To purchase ‘Slates Up!’ go to or


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