Old-skool history in a nu-skool way

I am going to admit it now, this post makes me seem like I love Gove. Like most teachers I really don’t, BUT some, and its important to emphasise the ‘some‘, of what old Govey has been saying is true and makes sense.

One of these things is that students do not have a sense of the overall narrative or chronology of history. At my current school we have tried doing things thematically, we have tried emphasising skills but over and over again it strikes me that something is missing – the story. Our students have a poor chronological narrative and this important to understand where we are now and where we came from. HOWEVER, I don’t want to highlight empire so much, I don’t want my students to just rote a learn a list of monarchs and I don’t want to focus purely on Britain.

So here’s my new plan – old-skool in a nu-skool style. We are going to teach our units chronologically. In Year 7 we will start in the Middle Ages (in future I’d like to start with the Anglo-Saxons but that will come later!) and by the end of Year 9 we will have wound our way to the present day.  The lessons will be predominantly about Britain but each year we will weave in something wider. Our schemes of work will be enquiry led learning as this will provide the students with the wider skills they need for the future. We will create opportunities for independent learning and lessons where possible will be innovative and dynamic, using ICT to enrich the curriculum.

So far here is the plan:

Year 7:

  • How successfully was Medieval England controlled? (William, 1066, Becket, Magna Carta, Edward I and the Black Death)
  • To what extent were the Arabs more successful that the Europeans in the Middle Ages? (Islamic Empire)
  • What impact did new religious ideas have in England in the 16th century? (Tudors from Henry to Elizabeth)

Year 8:

  • Who had more power in the 17th century – king or parliament? (Civil War, Cromwell, Restoration, Glorious Revolution, Act of Union)
  • Should Bristol apologise for its role in the Transatlantic Slave Trade? (say what it does on the tin)
  • Why was the 18th century so revolutionary? (Industrial rev, Agricultural rev, French rev, American rev, Scientific rev and the Enlightenment)
  • How ‘great’ was Great Britain in the 19th century? (Empire, Class divide, Public Health)

Year 9:

  • Why did the First World War start? (again – says what it does on the tin)
  • How and why has the Second World War been interpreted differently? (focusing on the narrative on WW2)
  • Who was to blame for the Holocaust? (looking at the Holocaust but also when genocide has happened since)
  • What was the most significant change in the 1960s? (Cold War, music, women, civil rights)
  • How did Communism shape Europe? (focusing on East Germany and Berlin specifically)
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2 Responses to Old-skool history in a nu-skool way

  1. Dave Stacey says:

    Ok – I’ll play Devils Advocate.

    I completely agree that we need to do more to promote this, and I’m not convinced that I know the answer. However, as someone still stuck teaching Chronologically, I’d suggest that teaching the units in chronological order by itself isn’t enough to create a sense of narrative.

    Some of the original thematic plans involved repeating overviews for each of the three years of KS3 to try and help build on this, as well as incorporating some lessons / units that had this as a particular focus. I know Ian Dawson was doing a lot of work on this, and some of the activities on thinkinghistory.co.uk are geared to this very thing. I think I’d want to build something like that into any KS3 scheme of work ahead of simply putting the units in chronological order.

    By the way, I do love some of your enquiry questions! May well be borrowing a couple of these for next year!

  2. Pingback: Why is sense of period important? – Reflection on Term 1 | The Kenradical School of History

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