September 2021
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New KS3 history enquiry into reasons for signing of act of Union 1707

One of the ‘harder to teach aspects of the KS3 curriculum often put teachers off from teaching it. We need help that goes beyond the textbooks. So we have devised a new enquiry : Bought and sold for English gold? What were the real reasons why the Act was signed? Starting with a stimulating PowerPoint presentation, pupils have to complete a  tricky sequencing activity to make sure that they have the narrative clear in their minds. When they know enough,they then have to generate 5 red-hot questions based on the narrative they have heard. What puzzles them? what needs further investigation? They are then let loose on a dossier of key information which provides clues in answers to their questions as well  as background information. To conclude they are shown four contrasting historical opinions about the most important reason  why the Act of Union was signed. Was Burns right?

The lesson concludes by bringing the story of the Union right up-to-date, post referendum, post May 2015 election and a glimpse into the future.

If  subscribers would like to preview any of the material prior to publication, please contact me.

New KS3 lesson Why did William order the Domesday survey?

Great new enquiry lesson where pupils are given a clear introduction to the survey and then 4 conflicting explanations as to why it was carried out. Pupils have to work collaboratively, in small Time Teams, and against the clock to find evidence to support each hypothesis before coming to their own conclusion. They then compete in Who Wants to Be a Millionaire quiz when they have to work out why were the most significant things that can be learned from the Domesday Book, both at the time and for historians today. Any subscribers who would like to see draft material can request them today.

Keeping it local: Looking for significant local people for KS1 history

Looking for local people to cover the KS1 NC for history in 2014

Finding names of significant local people locally may well prove more of a challenge than the designers of the Ks1 NC for history first thought. It is not, of course, identifying them. That is the easy bit. Any Google search will reveal them. It is much more about the famous lives to be susceptible to an enquiry for very young children. For this reason the reason for the person’s fame needs to be:

  • Relevant to the pupils’ own lives
  • Able to be told as a story not just a list of facts or inventions
  • Likely to lean to engaging classroom activities
  • Resourced with attractive materials, especially images that are age-specific


In a recent, worthy, publication ‘Bringing History Alive Through local people and places: a guide for primary teachers (Routledge 2014) , the authors Lynne Dixon and Alison Hales feature a list of local people put together by the London borough of Lewisham which includes:

Enid Blyton

Joseph Paxton of Crystal palace fame

Samuel Pepys

Sir Ernest Shackleton ( the centenary of his voyage very much in the news during time of writing August 1914)

Marie Lloyd of music hall repute

John Logie Baird pioneer of the television

Tommy Steele

Ignatius Orlando a slave who became a man of letters

And Octavia Hill the Victorian campaigner

Simple sequencing sets in KS1 history

This is a simple call to action for all of you teaching famous people and famous events in KS1 history. What I’m advocating is more use of sequencing activities especially sequencing cards with no dates, clear pictures and minimal text. Pupils should be encouraged , as soon as they have heard a story told to them in lively fashion, to see if they can reconstruct the narrative for themseleves. not only does this enable you and the LSA/TA to diagnose where there are learning problems and to intervene accordingly, it also helps to develop pupils’ time vocabulary as they need to actively communicate ideas such as ‘long before’ just after’ as well as next . There is also great scop for differentiation. Why do all pupils need 8 sequencing cards to start with? Why not ask some groups to turn over the three most difficult first so that they concentrate on the main stages of the narrative . When they achieve success they can then add more challenging ideas. This prevents them from being overwhelmed to start with and encourages them to build on success and to go further.

I am putting my time where my mouth is and am working on sequencing sets for 4 KS1 topics at the moment to fit in with our new KS1 history topics.

The four are:
Moon Landing

Flight- a.Amy Johnson and d.Wright brothers

Caxton (and spreading the word )

If you would like to be sent examples I am happy to email these to subscribers prior to final publication.

Teaching A level and AS history: using examiners' reports

We often glance at Chief Examiners reports quite a while after the dust of last year’s results has settled. I am advocating a more pro-active use. What is it that examiners tell us candidates find difficulty with when it comes to exams.I’m not talking about question-answering technique or time management: what I’m going to focus on is using the reports as part of my planning for a given topic. Students will probably need more time on the areas that have proved tricky in the past. I will probably need to think about a varied approach one that involves considerable activity on the students part. To ensure that students cover the whole span of the question I need to repeat activities e .g. living graphs that ensure students look at every year. What about this observation from an AS examiner from 2013:

. Many answers,however, were wholly focused on a retrospective view from 1870–71 and did not deal

sufficiently with developments from 1862, such as the Brigands War, the acquisition of

Venetia in 1866 and the way the actions of the Papacy, such as the promulgation of the

Syllabus of Errors, deepened divisions between Church and State.

How do we ensure that this does not apply to our students?

I will be showcasing a number of these commments and then thinking of the implictions for our teaching. If you’d like to contribute to the debate hit the contact us button.

GCSE history of medicine: role of women, Great new audio-visual presentation

have just finished PowerPoint presentation on the role of women in history of medicine, synchronised to run alongside Annie Lennox’s Sisters doing it for themselves. 24 illustrated slides in all, in addition to slides which encourage students to analyse the factors at work  and to consider the reasons why we have relatively little evidence about women’s achievements in this area. As I work through clearing copyright, any of you subscribers who would like a copy please make contact and I’ll email it to you.

Neat significance activity for AS history on the changes Henry VIII made to the church

Just completed neat little significance smart task to encourage students to weight the relative significance of nine important changes Henry made to the church before searching for a 10th that has deliberately been held back. If you would like a draft copy email me

Significant people in KS1 history for the 2014 history curriculum

Looking back over the first year of the new National Curriculum, the one area I have noticed some welcome change in practice is in the area of teaching about significant people. Now, enjoined to teach people linked by theme, there is much more coherence to the KS1 history curriculum. Instead of pot luck, we now have interesting examples of people in history who have made a significant contribution in key areas of modern life.

My three favourites at the moment, and ones for which we are producing fully-worked planners and outstanding lessons are:

1. Exploring our world and beyond : Columbus and Scott of the Antarctic linked to Moon landing

2.Passing on the word Caxton  and Bell through to Baird and Berners -Lee ( the latter 2 very briefly indeed)

3. Taking to the sky: Wright Brothers and Amy Johnson linked to Moon Landing.

4. Rescue at sea: Grace Darling and Sinking of the Titanic


What they have in common is a broader chronological span than you get when comparing , say, Florence Nightingale with Mary Seacole. They also have considerable action and opportunities for role play et c that you don’t get with the government’s earlier suggestions of saints painters and writes. Nothing wrong with telling their story but very hard to develop activities that demonstrably deepen pupils’ historical understanding.

So,watch out in the recently added section for new additions in this area, or request sample materials based on the planners that subscribers can now find in the  KS1 Medium-term planning section.

New A level task Vietnam. Why on earth was mighty Rolling Thunder ultimately unsuccessful?

Great new explanation builder activity in which students develop their own meaning for this paradox :

When by the end of 1965 US pilots had flown over 24,000 sortie missions and wiped out 355 of North Vietnam’s ammunition dumps, dropping more bombs than were dropped in the whole of World War Two ,why then was operation Rolling Thunder ultimately unsuccessful?

before comparing with what the historians say will be uploaded shortly. Any subscribing school wanting to preview the task please ask email me .

New KS2 history diagnostic assessment task on Mayan society

Those of you who have been using the highly popular KS2 history assessment diagnostic tasks will be pleased to hear that a new addition to the collection is just being released in drfat form and is being trialled in schools.Pupils are given a coloured A4 sheet with three carefully chosen images showing features of Mayan society. using htese images, AND their won knowledge pupils have to answer a sharply-focused question . Using a detailed levels of response markscheme ( also ready for trialling) teachers can make judgements about performance on this task against national expectations. This is only one facet of achievement , of course, but it does indicate what pupils can and cannot do in relation to one of the key historical concepts and at a particular stage in their history education. If you would like to see a sample ready to trail in the next academic year, I am more than happy to email copies to subscribers.