Nationalities and Family Connections: 1066

 Activities, GCSE, KS3, Normans  Comments Off on Nationalities and Family Connections: 1066
Nov 202016

It’s easy for students to assume that Edward the Confessor and Harold were English in every respect because they appear in the story of 1066 as the English leaders in contrast to the Norman Duke William. This short activity is designed to help students understand that the issue of nationality was more complicated than that!

I’ve also included a second very short simple activity about the pattern of English kings before 1066 – English or Danish? – to help students appreciate that kings of England were not necessarily English.

See the activities HERE …


 Posted by at 11:47 am

Why was William able to invade England in 1066?

 Activities, GCSE, KS3, Normans  Comments Off on Why was William able to invade England in 1066?
Nov 192016

This brief activity for GCSE (and possibly for KS3) looks at the longer-term Norman background to 1066, focussing on how William’s invasion was made possible by a combination of his military successes against neighbouring states and good fortune.

By the end of this activity students should know and understand that:

a) William had faced and beaten a number of attacks from surrounding states during the 1050s

b) If Edward the Confessor had died before 1060 William would have had great difficulty invading England because of threats to Normandy

c) William’s successes created a breathing space from local wars enabling him to invade England in 1066

d) His resulting reputation as a successful soldier enabled him to recruit followers for his invasion of England and he was able to recruit soldiers who would not have been keen to leave their lands if local wars were continuing.

See the activity HERE …


 Posted by at 10:22 am

Did people worry about dirt and disease in the later middle ages?

 Activities, GCSE, KS3  Comments Off on Did people worry about dirt and disease in the later middle ages?
Oct 162016

At GCSE this activity can be used to introduce the topic of public health or medieval medicine as a whole as it sets out conflicting evidence about attitudes to health and public health. This makes a good introduction because it is important that students understand that there were major efforts to improve health and the rationality of widely-held ideas about the cause of disease. Having a positive image of medieval people’s attitudes then means students have to think harder to understand why they could not tackle diseases effectively – rather than just assuming that people ‘back then’ just weren’t bright enough to do so.

This activity can also be used at Key Stage 3 if you are not teaching ‘Medicine’ at GCSE. At KS3 it can be used to build students respect for people in the period rather than see them as helpless and hapless victims of plague – an image than can be fostered if work on the Black Death focusses only on the horror and death toll of ‘the pestilence’.

See the activity HERE …


 Posted by at 5:05 pm

Hippocrates and Galen: Why did people believe their ideas for so long?

 Activities, GCSE  Comments Off on Hippocrates and Galen: Why did people believe their ideas for so long?
Sep 252016

Two brief activities under one heading:

1.  This helps students understand the question in the heading above, a crucial question in the history of medicine. The emphasis is on creating a positive answer – that their ideas were believed for so long because of their logic and value – rather than on negatives such as people lacked scientific knowledge or were sitting around waiting for Pasteur to begin his experiments!

2. An activity revision we included in our 2008 GCSE books – in which students create photographs to revise the key elements of the work of Hippocrates and Galen.

Read more HERE …



 Posted by at 4:35 pm

New Activity: Impact of the Normans – with character cards

 A Level, Activities, GCSE, KS3, Normans  Comments Off on New Activity: Impact of the Normans – with character cards
Sep 042016

This excellent activity comes from Catherine Flaherty who has done both a great deal of research to create the character cards and has suggested a wide range of ideas for using them to develop students’ understanding of the impact of the Conquest.

There are 30 character cards providing biographical details of individuals who lived through the Conquest.

The core tasks involves distributing the cards amongst your students so they each identify with the person on their card. Then set them a task or tasks.

You can find the activity and a variety of possibilities here …


 Posted by at 2:07 pm

New Activity: Burgundians, Orleanists and Armagnacs – French politics in the age of Agincourt

 A Level, Activities  Comments Off on New Activity: Burgundians, Orleanists and Armagnacs – French politics in the age of Agincourt
Aug 222016

Whenever I have read about Henry V, Agincourt and the Treaty of Troyes I have stumbled over the French context. It was clear that the French were deeply divided but who were all these people – the Burgundians, Orleanists and Armagnacs? Who was supporting who and were any of them on the same side?

Happily I’ve finally solved my problems by outlining the activity below which has been developed by Louisa Dunn, one of the teachers on the HA’s Agincourt Teacher Fellowship programme in 2016.

We hope this activity helps A level students studying the reigns of Henry IV and Henry V – and any of their teachers who have the same problem I’ve had!

See activity here …


 Posted by at 2:31 pm

Helping students learn and remember Who’s Who at GCSE and A level

 A Level, Activities, GCSE  Comments Off on Helping students learn and remember Who’s Who at GCSE and A level
Jul 262016

One of the fastest ways to lose confidence when studying a period in depth is to feel uncertain about ‘who’s who’.

Feeling that you don’t know why x is important or who’s on whose side niggles away at students’ confidence, undermining other efforts to learn. Therefore getting a rapid grip on Who’s Who is vital for students, whether it’s at A level or in one of the new GCSE Depth and Period studies.

This activity provides ways to help students get to know Who’s Who faster and with more certainty HERE …


 Posted by at 12:54 pm

The York coin hoards c.1066-1069 – raw material for intriguing lesson introductions

 Activities, GCSE, KS3, Normans, Primary  Comments Off on The York coin hoards c.1066-1069 – raw material for intriguing lesson introductions
Jun 062016

(c) York MuseumsAmbling through the glorious Yorkshire Museum earlier this year I noticed a case containing a scattering of coins spilling out of a broken pot. As I was just completing a GCSE book on the Norman Conquest I was intrigued to discover that the coins date from the late 1060s.

Further enquiries to the Museum led to an email from the Curator of Numismatics, Andrew Woods, who provided details of three coin hoards found in York from this period.

These notes provide information on these hoards and provide outline ideas for using them in the classroom to introduce events in the north between 1066 and 1070.

Read more [ here ].


 Posted by at 10:56 am

Ian Coulson’s ‘handy’ guide to medieval architecture

 Activities, Ideas & Reflection  Comments Off on Ian Coulson’s ‘handy’ guide to medieval architecture
Feb 192016

It’s often said that the best ideas are the simplest and here’s a brilliantly simple and effective way of remembering the basic shapes of medieval arches – Norman, Early English, Decorated, Perpendicular. You were all born with the resource you need – a hand, as you can see in Ian’s drawings below.

Ian used this way of engaging people of all ages with the basics of architectural styles in all kinds of contexts – with schoolchildren, running courses with teachers, guiding local authority advisers and teacher trainers around Canterbury, leading friends on historical trails which just happened to include a hostelry two, persuading his basketball team-mates that you could discover a lot about a new place by exploring its architecture (and pubs).

To make it memorable you have, of course, to ‘perform’ in the way that Ian was so good at – inject vocal enthusiasm and excitement, project physical energy into your explanation and at the same time tell the story, the story of developing architectural styles. But in essence you just need your fingers.

Ian’s ‘handy’ guide
Click for larger size

All together now:

Hold your thumb up proudly – see that rounded Norman Arch? Let’s all say it together as we gaze fondly at our thumbs – ‘a Norman Arch’.

And now for the Early English style – this time you need a different digit, your forefinger, in all its slim, tall, beauty – hold it aloft and remember that it symbolizes that the great beauty of the late 12th and 13th centuries – say it together ‘the Early English style’.

And so on – or however you like, in any circumstances.

But please, whenever you use this activity, remember to tell your audience ‘Ian Coulson showed me this’.


And if you’d like to see Ian in memorable action exploring his local village with a group of pupils, using a very wide range of sources and demonstrating all kinds of excellent teaching wisdom and ideas (and tabards!) see

 Posted by at 11:59 am

When was it best to live in …?

 Activities, KS3, Primary  Comments Off on When was it best to live in …?
Nov 092015

One of the great pleasures of building up ThinkingHistory has been the chance to see so many creative ideas from other teachers – and this is yet another one.

Dan Kneller has done what I’ve always wanted to do but never got round to – create an overview study of his locality. In Dan’s case it’s Portsmouth – BUT DON’T LEAVE NOW if you are not in Portsmouth! This is a great model of how to set up such an activity for your area and, just as importantly, Dan explains how he was supported and inspired by working with other teachers in his county. Hampshire has a great record of providing local authority support through the work of one of the outstanding local authority advisers, Neil Thompson, and it is wonderful to see Neil’s work continuing through the examples and inspiration of experienced teachers in the county. I’d mention them by name but they’d all be far too embarrassed!

What this has to offer is far more than ‘local history’ although that’s worth exploring as a KS3 topic in its own right. There’s enquiry, chronological knowledge and understanding, how we use evidence to justify statements, what kinds of evidence tell us about our locality at different times and what we can learn from them and a model of how to get a class working collaboratively and effectively – team work, communication etc.

So, having whetted your appetite, read all about it and see the resources [ here ]


 Posted by at 12:15 pm