Planning the ultimate ‘literacy’ based history lesson

Like it or not OFSTED are going to be judging us on how we teach literacy and numeracy in our lessons. With this in mind a colleague and I decided we would challenge ourselves and plan the ultimate literacy focused history lesson.

Partly inspired by a mediocre set of history assessments on “What is the most significant change in the 1960s?” we decided we wanted to focus on what is good history writing where we would try and actually teach the kids what it means to explain evidence. Our current Year 9 scheme of work is focused on East Germany from 1945 to 1989 (another blog on this will follow!) and we knew this lesson would look at life in the DDR. We discussed what good history writing looked like and what content we wanted to cover and then sat on it for days confused as to what to do – but isn’t this how the best lessons emerge? Days later we agreed that this lesson would get the kids to answer the enquiry “To what extent was it a good life in the DDR?” and that the outcome would be a substantial essay. We agreed on the themes of each paragraph; women, children, social problems, consumer goods, agreed we would make an information pack with a page on each theme and then sat on it for a while longer confused as to how to structure the actual lesson!

Eventually we decided to keep it simple and use a writing frame, however conscious to keep it challenging and actually teach them something this would be a writing frame like no other! The writing frame we used is embedded below (clicking on the image takes you to the full document) and as you will see we used the imagery of riding a bike (I am a huge Tour of France fan). The essay begins with a gap filling exercise, thus the kid riding a plastic trike. The next paragraph, on women, gives full sentence starters and guides them through a paragraph, thus the kid with stabilisers on his bike. The next paragraph on children provides less sentence starters (kid’s mountain bike), the next paragraph on social problems just provides ‘thinking questions’ and the final paragraph and conclusion leave the children with nothing in the hope that what they learn during the first half of the essay equips them with the skills to do it independently by the second half (racing bike).

The outcome was fab. The lesson was ridiculously independent, the kids learnt tons about life in the DDR and ultimately most of the students were able to explain how the evidence they selected related to the enquiry question. The big question naturally arises as to whether they can do this in subsequent lessons – we shall have to wait and see….

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