A Level bookmarks – OBHD in action!

This week there was a great example of OBHD in action on @twitter. It goes like this… a history teacher reads a Teaching History article, has a great idea and produces a nifty resource to help her students. Thank you to Rachel Lines (@historyweights) of Purbeck School for this super idea. Here in her own words…

Preparing my Year 12s for their coursework and tackling the works of historians is something that had been plaguing me for a while. I was conscious that when I had introduced historians such as Howard Zinn to my A Level class, my pupils tended to offer simplistic explanations regarding the historians’ argument. They came up with statements such as ‘the author is accurate to a greater/lesser extent’ or ‘the historian overlooks X and therefore is more biased’. More worrying, was that fact that many of my pupils failed to engage critically with the historians and instead took their arguments purely on face value, merely agreeing with what they were saying as, in their eyes, they were ‘experts’. These responses really began to frustrate me and I wanted pupils to explore the works of historians more critically and analytically. After reading Paula Worth’s article (This extract is no good Miss!) in TH170 and seeing how she also tackled her pupils’ engagement with historians, I decided to use the sentence starters featured in Figure 4 of the article for my own pupils. However, I knew that just simply giving my pupils the sentence starters on a piece of paper would lead to either them being left behind or put in a folder and forever forgotten. I therefore decided to introduce these starters using an analogy that would really hit home and make them think more critically. I introduced Peter Kurth’s book on Anastasia: The Life Anna Anderson and explained that as a 14 year-old student I had borrowed the book from my local library and had started to read and become increasingly excited with the fact that Anastasia did survive the Russian Revolution and lived her life as Anna Anderson in the United States. I then explained that when I researched this further, I found arguments against Kurth’s work and evidence that actually proved that she had died during the Russian Revolution. Yet, what really hit home was how Kurth had persuaded me so readily to believe she was alive due to his persuasive writing and arrangement of his facts and that, while Kurth is generally disregarded now, the construction of his interpretation and arrangement of his argument made me believe him so readily. I explained that in order to delve further into Kurth’s argument I had had to research what sources he had used and how he had arranged his argument in order to completely dispel my belief she was alive. I therefore explained to pupils that, rather than merely disagreeing with historians or completely believing historians, one needs to delve into how they have constructed their interpretations. Rather than criticise the historians arguments, they should criticise how the historians have constructed their arguments with their choice and arrangement of sources. I then introduced them to the sentence starters they could use when tackling historians, particularly as part of their coursework. Instead of giving pupils a paper handout, I made the sentence starters into bookmarks for pupils to use, refer to and always have to hand when engaging with historians’ works. As a result, pupils are reminded to think more critically but also have a useful sturdy bookmark for when they really delve into their historians!

Please do share other ideas generated by Teaching History articles from http://www.history.org.uk and we will feature them. Meanwhile, you can follow the Historical Association @histassoc and on Facebook for more useful and well thought out ideas.

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