Signposting change in Edward the Confessor’s Life

Here’s a good idea for helping your students by adapting a great idea for change and continuity to really engage with the course of a key character’s life.

Teaching the Normans at GCSE has given me more time to spend on the rather interesting character of Edward the Confessor. I wanted students to know something of his life story but I didn’t want to get them to produce another timeline with the key events of his life included. I wanted more from their reading of his life story. I wanted them to think about each of the major events and use their growing knowledge of this period to be able to explain some key events and, dare I say it, empathise with the choices Edward made and how he might have felt at key moments in his life.

Then I remembered something I’d seen in Teaching History 131 (June 2008) ‘Speed cameras, dead ends, drivers and diversions’ by Rachel Foster. Whilst Foster’s article used a road map to get at the heart of the disciplinary knowledge of change and continuity I realised it could also provide the inspiration for what I wanted. I carefully shifted the activity from designing a road map to using road signs instead. These road signs would help identify the student’s thinking. For instance, a pupil may choose the road sign for ‘diversion’ to show me they understand that when Edward’s father died his life diverted from the course it was on – he was on the road to becoming a king but now his life had been diverted away from that and he was in exile in France.

Screenshot (208)Screenshot (209)

The selection of the road sign meant that every student could show me they could identify the twists and turns in Edward’s life. The explanation of that choice raised their knowledge and understanding of his life story and gave me something more.

You can read Rachel’s article on the HA website at:

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Thanks to Richard Kerridge, St Joseph’s College, for this post. 

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