In this second part of my blog there are 5 more things to consider when it comes to creating a great KS3 curriculum. As I previously stated, future success at GCSE and beyond is underpinned by the quality of your KS3 curriculum:
3. Mix up the types of disciplinary thinking throughout the course.
Too often, in the past, KS3 history curricula have been a study in causation and very little else. The substantive knowledge needs to be fused with disciplinary knowledge to help ensure that our students get better and better at history. We need to keep re-visiting the teaching of the different second order concepts. We should be looking at a variety of different interpretations in a variety of historical contexts. We should be forcing our students to think about change over and over in different contexts across Key Stage They should consider why things happen and consequences of different events too. Not only is all of this what makes history a discipline, it will be the bedrock of success at GCSE. After all this is exactly the type of thinking required at GCSE now.
4. Make it memorable through the use of personal stories and particular places.
Try and include as many real people in your curriculum as you can. Experience tells me that basing enquiries around real people and real places have made my students care more about the past. I am convinced that the use of individuals makes the learning stick too. We are interested in people and we are interested in stories. This is what history (and herstory) is. At History Resource Cupboard, our enquiries are very often centred around the ordinary people who have lived extraordinary lives. The use of the particular can act as a window onto the general.
5. Vary the end product to make assessment manageable and workable.
I have ranted before about not using GCSE style questions with year 7. Key Stage 3 is a great opportunity to get your classes to show their understanding in different ways. Here are a number of engaging end products that you could use. It is important to remember that your end product needs to give you good assessment yield. It needs to be able to show you whether or not your classes have mastered what you want them to have mastered. They don’t all have to be extended written outcomes. Debates, annotated diagrams, wall displays, recorded radio discussion shows and mini movies all have their place. There is not enough space here to discuss what makes for good KS3 assessment…
6. Overview and Depth.
I am not sure who came up with the phrase, ‘parachutists and truffle hunters’, but it is a cracking expression which sums up what KS3 should be about. Sometimes we want our students to see a thousand years in one lesson. Sometimes we want them to get up close to one tiny aspect of the past, like what really happened at the Storming of the Winter Palace. Sometimes we want to see the story of one time period, for example, the French Revolution in overview. This helps students spot patterns, continuities and changes and gives them a different perspective of time.
7. Consider how you might get them to remember the knowledge that have gained so far, so you can build on it.
It is worth considering how you are going to get your students to remember the key knowledge they need after it has long been taught. There is talk of ‘interleaving’ knowledge and re-visiting over time, but what might this look like in the classroom. Well, there are many ideas that you can take away and try out. One is to use the first 5 minutes of the lesson, the ‘settler’ to focus on something that you have looked at before – quite a while ago, and test their knowledge (quiz, test, learning grid, odd one out, tarsia). By regularly doing this you should increase their ability to recall the knowledge that they will need for success.
So, next time you are intervening with year 11, phoning home to the parents of the students who didn’t attend, filling in the tracking data-base to show that you had high levels of engagement with your intervention, – consider how much impact it is really having? If only your SLT wanted you to spend this amount of time planning a decent Key Stage 3 curriculum. Perhaps achievement would accelerate? You won’t know unless you try.
For a wide range of history teaching resources to support the creation of your KS3 curriculum visit History Resource Cupboard and follow @HistoryResource on twitter.
Richard McFahn is founder of www.historyresourcecupboard.com, part time history consultant and ITE lead for History at the University of Sussex. He has worked for twenty years as a history teacher, Subject and Senior Leader, Advanced Skills Teacher and LA Adviser. As an expert history teacher he was a founding member of the Hampshire History Steering Group and helped set up and develop a series of thriving and sustainable networks, which Ofsted have subsequently described as best practice.
He has regularly led hugely successful training in all aspects of history teaching, and has held regular workshops at the Schools History Project and the Historical Association Conferences. Richard has written a number of books including, Making Sense of History, OCR Crime and Punishment through Time and Cross-curricular Teaching and Learning in the Secondary School – Humanities. Richard now spends his time teaching at Sussex, working on www.historyresourcecupboard.com and as a freelance consultant.