New Activity: Martin Luther and the Road to Worms

 A Level, Activities  Comments Off on New Activity: Martin Luther and the Road to Worms
Aug 282017

A short play written by Mark Fowle to help his A level students deepen their knowledge of these events.

This extract is from Mark’s introduction to the activity:

I wrote this play to help A-Level students understand this crucial phase of the European Reformation, complete with tabards, props and a dash of make-believe (I even pretended to be a fire at one point!)

As well as giving them a welcome break from note-taking, the role-play provides a narrative whilst also getting students involved in thinking about the key turning points, decisions and reactions of various people.  Students really enjoy it and say it helps them remember the chronology and to think about some of the big issues, like whether the Reformation was inevitable and the historical significance of individuals.  It can lead into a really good discussion about how Luther ended up facing down Charles V at Worms and should prove to be an engaging experience which I hope will help to break up the 2 year course into a series of memorable and meaningful participatory events.  It reinforces rather than replaces reading and note-taking.

Download the script, discussion notes and other information HERE …


 Posted by at 12:26 pm

Valuable resources on Magna Carta, 1381 and much else from Citizens800

 Info  Comments Off on Valuable resources on Magna Carta, 1381 and much else from Citizens800
Aug 272017

The Citizens800 web-page to start from is www.citizens800.org

… and the page introducing their resources for schools is HERE …

Don’t be put off by all the AQA coverage on that first schools page if you teach other specifications as the resources being developed will be useful to everyone, including at KS3 and A level.

At the moment, they include animations and video material on the project’s YouTube channel on King John and Magna Carta, the battle of Sandwich of 1217, Great Revolt of 1381 with plenty more material to come on later periods of history.

Even if you don’t teach or have never heard of the battle of Sandwich the animation is worth a look for the demise of King John and the departure of Prince Louis!


 Posted by at 5:28 pm

Useful Website for Anyone Teaching the Crusades

 Info  Comments Off on Useful Website for Anyone Teaching the Crusades
Aug 262017

Dr Andrew Holt is Professor of History at the University of Florida. His website can be found at apholt.com

I first saw the site on twitter as it advertised an interview with eminent Crusades historian, Professor Helen Nicholson on the state of Crusades studies HERE …

Amongst other things, Dr Holt’s site also includes a series of contributions from other historians on the ‘most influential Crusades historians’ and ‘the most important books’ on the Crusades.

Hope it’s helpful!



 Posted by at 5:27 pm

Valuable Reading on Henry VII and the Early Tudors

 A Level, Tudor  Comments Off on Valuable Reading on Henry VII and the Early Tudors
Jun 052017

The Institute of Historical Research have published a very helpful review essay on their website by Professor Christine Carpenter of Steven Gunn’s book, Henry VII’s New Men and the Making of Tudor England (OUP, 2106) and you can find it HERE …

The core of the five-page essay is a discussion of the structure and conclusions of Steven Gunn’s book but in addition A level teachers and their students will be helped by Professor Carpenter’s summary of changing interpretations since the 1980s of Henry VII and his reign and of how these changes relate to the perspectives of historians – whether they are approaching the reign from the understandings gained in research on fifteenth century politics and society or from work on the sixteenth century. There’s much else here too (some of which is relevant to later Tudor history too) but I’ll leave you to read it for yourselves! It’s also worth following the links on the first page to other book reviews on this period.

And while on Henry VII, www.tudorchamberbooks.org is a website in development that will be very useful.

The site will publish the content of the expense and receipt books of the King’s Chamber covering 1485 to 1521. You can follow progress and see items from these records on their twitter feed @tudorkingship and their Facebook page. Initial discussions are under way to develop teaching material linked to these resources.

For further information on this project see How did Henry VII spend his money? by Dr James Ross HERE …

New to teaching Henry VII?

For anyone new to teaching about Henry VII the following may well be useful:

Dictionary of National Biography On-line – available free to holders of local library cards if your local authority has a subscription, which many or most seem to do. The articles are excellent and lengthy (Steven Gunn on Henry VII runs to 18 A4 pages) and by leading historians HERE …

Sean Cunningham, Henry VII, Routledge, 2007 – 315 pages, HERE … the most authoritative recent biography.

Also keep an eye out for Sean Cunningham’s book on Henry in the Penguin English Monarchs series, due out in Spring 2018 – this will suit students as well as teachers.

Other detailed books worth reading:

  • Steven Gunn, Early Tudor Government, 1995.
  • Christine Carpenter, The Wars of the Roses, 1997 – chapter 11 on Henry VII.
  • Ian Arthurson, The Perkin Warbeck Conspiracy 1491-1499, 1994.
  • Ralph Griffiths and Roger Thomas, The Making of the Tudor Dynasty, 1985.
  • Thomas Penn, Winter King, 2011 – I really must read this again! I didn’t get on with it at all first time round, probably because I was expecting a different kind of book with much more on Henry’s early life to contextualize his reign.

And finally, if you haven’t found them yet, there’s a range of teaching resources on Henry VII and much else on this website HERE …


 Posted by at 12:00 pm

Using Domesday Book to Explore the Norman Conquest

 Activities, GCSE, KS3  Comments Off on Using Domesday Book to Explore the Norman Conquest
May 292017

A pair of activities, suitable for both KS3 and GCSE, created by Ruth Lingard and Helen Snelson who teach in York, together with Professor Stephen Baxter of St. Peter’s College, Oxford whose research on Domesday Book underpins the material and activities.

The two activities are:

  • ‘Efficient and ingenious.’ Why is that an accurate description of the Domesday Survey and Norman government?
  • ‘What does Domesday Book reveal about the impact of 20 years of Norman rule?’

Introducing these activities Helen and Ruth comment:

“We find that students don’t easily connect Domesday Book with the Conquest itself beyond a superficial level. We also find that some textbooks cover the Domesday survey in very little depth. Extracts from Domesday Book itself are also hard to access for students. Using them seems like a good idea to enliven the topic, but they do need some adaption to be useful. These activities use adapted extracts from Domesday to give students a sense of what it includes and the opportunity to use Domesday Book as evidence for the impact of the Conquest.”

For the whole of the first activity and its resources click here

And for the second click here.


 Posted by at 1:54 pm

Flipped Learning and Independent Study: a 1970s forerunner?

 A Level, Issues  Comments Off on Flipped Learning and Independent Study: a 1970s forerunner?
May 262017

Every now and again I’ve seen references to Flipped Learning – which seems in essence to be aiming to develop students’ independence by giving them the initial responsibility to gather knowledge and understanding before discussing their understandings in class. It takes the onus off the teacher to be the fount of all information and prepares students for independent study. At least, that’s what it looks like from the outside even if it is a simplification.

What intrigues me about this is that I first met something similar – and I’ll admit in a very basic form – on my PGCE in 1973, used by a history teacher in Keighley to develop A level students’ independence. I was impressed and borrowed the idea (as we all do) and used it at A level in one of those schools which were known as ‘if you can teach here you can teach anywhere’ schools in Wakefield in the late 70s. The students were nice but dependent and very unconfident – it was comforting for them to be told everything – but this wasn’t preparing them for university or anything else much.

The essence of what I did was this:

Begin each topic with an activity which created an overview, giving students confidence that when they started reading they’d recognize names, events and issues. These activities included simple decision-making activities and basic versions of the structured role-plays I developed later. For example, we’d lay the room out for a meeting of the key members of the cabinet under Lord Liverpool up to 1822, then make the changes that happened in that year – who’s gone, who’s still here.

That one session over, I gave students an outline of what I wanted them to research – in Y12 (Lower Sixth then) they had a list of reading with pages identified, a set of detailed questions – factual, then moving onto analytical – and issues to think about which looked remarkably like exam questions but with notes to help them. Again in Y12 I gave them some class time to work on this so I could help out and they didn’t feel deserted and it gave them confidence they could do this at home. As time went on the guidelines I gave them became shorter and less detailed, expecting greater independence and they did it all at home.

All this was run off on the Banda Machine – it was long before word-processing! If only I’d kept some of those as examples to refer to now.

Once they’d done their initial work then we got back together in ‘normal’ lessons. Of course there were always things students hadn’t learned and understood and allowances had to be made for illness etc. but that was partly what the follow-up lessons were for – diagnosis and consolidation alongside the deeper agenda of discussing issues and problems – why things happened as they did, how important was X as a factor in …? – all the usual kinds of questions. It quickly became obvious to me and the students who hadn’t grasped the details we needed which was then the occasion for conversations between myself and individuals, the nature of which varied according to who it was.

So to use the modern word, I’d flipped the responsibility – the responsibility for the initial reading, knowledge acquisition and thinking had moved to the students and I then came in as the ‘expert’ to help them make sense of what they’d begun to learn and prepare them for tackling A level questions. Some took to it quickly, others felt I was expecting too much from them – but it always seemed to me the right way to approach A level teaching.

What helped this work effectively?

Determination and perseverance – the students knew I had a year’s worth of guidance documents for them to use as they started each topic – so they knew I wouldn’t give in and go back to ‘normal’ despite their anxieties.

I spent ages explaining why we were doing it this way and comparing strategies- what will they get out of it that they won’t from subject X.

That one lesson introduction building confidence was very important.

Department co-operation helps too – doing this when colleagues teach the same students differently makes it harder.

One obvious mistake looking back (I can just about see that far) was not changing the room layout so they sat in a square and could see each other – not just to facilitate but confidence that they were all struggling with the same move towards independence. Instead I kept rows of desks which didn’t help. I imagine there were plenty of other mistakes but my memory fades!!

At the time it felt exciting and, looking back, it obviously started ideas going that I stuck to later – I doubt it counts as Flipped Learning as it’s seen nowadays but it was the 70s. everything was simpler then. Maybe one thing it suggests is that there’s rarely new ideas in teaching – we keep rediscovering old ones but give them new titles!

Links to other material on the site relevant to developing independent study

Ideas for developing independent learning amongst A level History students HERE …

Timelines, Time-Stories and Developing Confidence at A level – giving students confidence with an overview before they begin to build their knowledge HERE …

Other items

A series of article by Dale Banham and myself on helping students understand how to study effectively – see in particular the article on Key Principles HERE …

Some activities which exemplify techniques for introducing topics at A level before students they begin their own independent work (there’s plenty of others on the site too):

• Decision-making HERE …

• Structured role-play HERE …

• For a visual example of structured role-play at A level see YouTube HERE …


 Posted by at 1:45 pm

Ian Coulson Annual Bursary for Local History / Archaeology in Kent Schools

 Info  Comments Off on Ian Coulson Annual Bursary for Local History / Archaeology in Kent Schools
Apr 232017

This annual bursary has been established by the Kent Archaeological Society in memory of Ian Coulson.

Ian was Adviser for History in Kent schools for over 25 years and, at the time of his premature death in 2015, President of the Kent Archaeological Society. Teachers in Kent schools are invited to apply for the bursary to develop classroom resources based on Kent’s local history and/or archaeology, two of Ian’s great passions. It is open to teachers in both primary and secondary schools. One bursary, worth up to £1,000, will be available each academic year for which any Kent school can apply.

For details see www.kentarchaeology.org.uk

To gain a little understanding of why Ian was so widely respected and admired by teachers in Kent and amidst the SHP community see him in action on YouTube HERE … and see his ‘Handy’ Guide to Medieval Architecture on this website,  HERE …



 Posted by at 1:41 pm

Understanding Feudalism

 Activities, KS3  Comments Off on Understanding Feudalism
Apr 222017

An introductory activity for KS3 from Andrew Morel who teaches in Cardiff.

Andrew’s activity takes that textbook feudal diagram off the page and recreates it in the classroom using his students as king, barons, knights and villeins.

This approach has the potential to strengthen understanding of the mutual relationships within feudalism – what each person owes and receives back from others.

Also importantly, if it is successful in strengthening understanding it will also be a memorable activity, one that can be referred back to when learning about related topics such as Magna Carta and the 1381 Revolt. Used at Key Stage 3 it may also build understandings for those who go on to study the Norman Conquest at GCSE and will need to return to feudalism in more depth.

See the activity HERE …


 Posted by at 9:19 am

Helping students think about the provenance of sources

 A Level, Activities, GCSE, KS3  Comments Off on Helping students think about the provenance of sources
Feb 012017

Students often struggle with ‘provenance’ i.e. how to use what they know about the creator of a source to reflect on the utility or reliability of that source. This article suggests ways of helping students focus more effectively on provenance by studying the creator of source before they look at what it says or shows.

I have used examples related to the Norman Conquest as it’s a topic almost everyone knows to some degree.

You can read more HERE …


 Posted by at 4:17 pm

Exploring & Teaching Medieval History

 ETMH Project, Issues  Comments Off on Exploring & Teaching Medieval History
Jan 242017

Reaching the age of 65 is a bit of a ‘what now?’ moment for me – charge on as before or stop doing the things I’ve been interested in for the last forty years? Neither extreme seems right, especially as I’m both grateful and relieved to have got here and be in a position to make choices.

To cut a tediously autobiographical story short I am going to focus my ‘history’ time on a project which explores how we teach the Middle Ages and suggest ways to solve some of the problems which have emerged over the last few decades in teaching about this period. It feels potentially a lot more useful than going back to a PhD project on the 15th century shelved around 35 years ago!

So, what is this project about?

As currently conceived it has three elements:

  1. Some pragmatic research into practicalities such as how much time is spent on teaching about the Middle Ages at KS3, the nature of current schemes of work and how students, new teachers, experienced teachers ‘see’ the period and its people, the impact of GCSE changes etc. This is a necessary bedrock for the other two elements.
  2. Working with The Historical Association to publish articles by historians which up-date teachers’ knowledge and understanding of the period. The first phase of this element will appear in late autumn 2017 with the publication Exploring and Teaching Medieval History [ see more details ]. This will be followed by a rolling programme of further articles on the HA website.
  3. The creation of a series of articles, schemes of work and a limited range of resources for KS3 which take into account what’s been learned from elements 1 and 2, for example the varieties of time available at KS3 and responds to GCSE changes and their impact on KS3. It is essential that this phase is a very practical one in providing material that is useable and recognises the limited time teachers have available for teaching and preparation – merely exhorting teachers to make changes or read lots of academic books is pointless.

All of which says ‘this is not a project to be rushed!’ Looking back over the last twenty-five years since we began to be assaulted by regular revisions of the National Curriculum, GCSE and A level there have necessarily been a great many quick-fix changes made. It’s not been possible to stand back and plan strategically over a long-term because everyone’s been too busy solving today’s problems – simply keeping their heads above water. Therefore, I see this project as taking three or four years despite the natural desire to get all the ideas out for use as soon as possible.

One last thought before ending this introductory piece – if there’s one idea I want to get across through the project it’s the importance of respecting the people of the Middle Ages. This is partly about identifying achievements and developments during the period but more importantly it’s about building into teaching an understanding that medieval people thought carefully about choices, had principles and ideals and had good reasons for doing things differently from us. We can only explain people’s actions in the past if we respect them, rather than assuming they had simpler, cruder motivations than people today. Perhaps if students can respect people of a different time then there is more chance of them respecting people from different cultures today rather than instinctively interpreting difference as being inferior or a threat.

So that’s, very roughly, what the Exploring and Teaching Medieval History project is about. I am very grateful to The Historical Association for its support and encouragement and for allowing me to carry out the project under its banner – and for asking me to edit the publication which will arrive free in every secondary school later this year.

For more details on the content of this publication see pages 2 and 3 of the summary document (downloaded above).

And if you have any queries or comments, please get in touch on the comments section or via this website .


 Posted by at 5:16 pm