Using Living Graphs to support making supported judgements

We all face a challenge to help our students understand change over time and to make judgements about the most important factors contributing to change. I use Living Graphs a lot, especially with my A-level historians. Living graphs are a visual way to assess the relative importance of events or actions.

Students create a line graph showing change over time in relation to specific criteria. This might be progress or regress; it could be economic prosperity, or even security of a new regime. Students create their own and then compare with other groups’ AND YOURS. It is crucial that students see you thinking through the process too. It helps them realise that not everyone sees each issue in the same way.

This is a particularly useful tool for students who like kinaesthetic methods as you can cut events out of card and arrange them on the axis. You can also use different colours of cards for different themes. This can be done individually, paired or in groups. I find that giving students the opportunity to choose what they use as criteria can then lead to in-depth discussion. This in turn can prepare students for reaching supported judgements in exam style questions. 

The historical concept of change is very important in the new GCSEs and A Levels. There is a wealth of expertise available to help you understand how to teach this tricky concept to students at: Change and Continuity Section Guide

Did you know that corporate membership of the HA enables teachers to access high quality material to update their own subject knowledge, as well as being part of a History teaching community to share good practice about teaching A Level? Students can access ‘Student Zone’ with podcasts from historians, revision help and access to HA pamphlets that are really useful for the A Level Historical Investigation. Do follow the HA on Twitter @histassoc for more updates, to send comments and to share ideas.


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