In case you’d forgotten about thinkinghistory.co.uk …

Continuing our theme of bringing sources of good quality resoures to the OBHD community, this post features www.thinkinghistory.co.uk. It is a site where the key word is ‘respect’. Respect for people of the past acting without the benefit of hindsight and respect for voices that may not always be heard. Almost everything on it has been created and maintained by former SHP Director Ian Dawson, known to Twitter as @BearWithOneEar.

Ian’s approach is to think hard and develop materials to help students to gain knowledge of the past and the process of studying the past. He is very good indeed at thinking about what he wants students to learn, identifying the blocks to learning that they will encounter and planning how to overcome those blocks. He makes everything freely available and shares his many years of experience about how best to use what is there.

Despite his careful approach to developing and posting, it is possible to use these resources badly. The individual teacher still needs to think what they want the students they know to learn and how they will know they have learnt it. The framing of the learning journey as an enquiry question is part of this process. Even the best resources can fail to lead to good learning if they are grabbed for and not carefully thought about, reshaped, reworked and refashioned to fit the needs of a specific group of students. That said, we have a workload crisis and teachers simply do not have time to plan everything from scratch. It would also be quite weird to assume that materials produced by other teachers with lots of experience are not worth considering.

Let’s take an example, in Ian’s words…

Je Suis le Roi. What happened after 1066?
“Like all the most effective activities, this began with the diagnosis of a learning problem. Once past Hastings, many students think of William as an English king. Therefore it’s hard for them to envisage a real clash between invaders and invaded and so there are no fears and hostile attitudes to explain. But Guillaume le Batard (or whatever!) didn’t become the epitome of Englishness the moment the last arrow was loosed at Hastings. A more realistic way of thinking about these years has been proposed by the historian, Elisabeth van Houts, who persuasively likens the events, feelings and fears in post-conquest England to the Nazi occupation of western Europe.

In brief, the activity uses the classroom as a map of England. Two thirds of the class are distributed around the room as English landowners, the other third being Norman knights. The main individual role is William the Conqueror who initially intends to allow the English to keep their lands. However, as rebellions multiply, William replaces the English with Normans until all have been replaced. William is best played by the class teacher or a colleague – in French! – with a translator so the English can understand you. This use of French is to get across the reality of alien rule.”

This has been used very sucessfully by many colleagues as part of various sequences, for example and enquiry about the date the Norman Conquest of England was completed and an enquiry about the impact of the Conquest. It effectively enables a mixed ability Year 7 class to understand that the Conquest was not over in 1066, the reasons why so few Normans were able to defeat the strong Anglo-Saxon kingdom of England, and the way that William reacted to events post Hastings.

That’s just one example. The site is a treasure trove of good thinking and creative ideas. It is definitely worth a (re)visit when turning to the replanning of the Key Stage 3 curriculu now the GCSE dust has settled.

Do you know of other sources of high quality, freely accessible resources we can celebrate via OBHD? If so, please share via @histassoc or via the HA on Facebook. 

 

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