New Resources for later medieval history at KS3, GCSE and A level

 A Level, GCSE, HA Agincourt, HA Teaching Fellow, KS3, Medieval  Comments Off on New Resources for later medieval history at KS3, GCSE and A level
Dec 222017

The HA has put online a range of open-access resources created by teachers on the HA’s Teacher Fellowship on later medieval history HERE …

These resources comprise materials on:

Medieval Marriage (Key Stage 3) – a role-play using a real dispute in York, exploring how marriage disputes were settled and what this tells us about the period

The Battle of Agincourt (GCSE) – a role-play helping students understand the narrative of events and the reasons for Henry V’s success

Hundred Years War sources (A-level) – a collection of source material on the events of 1415 to 1453 for use in courses and for independent studies

Wars of the Roses sources (A-level) – a discussion written for students which explores the nature of late medieval sources, how we use them and summarises contextual information about major sources

Wars of the Roses ‘Who’s Who’ (A-level) – activities to help students work out ‘who’s who’ 1437-1485 together with a lengthy set of mini-biographies of key figures students study

Medieval and Early Modern gallery (A-level) – an activity developing students’ sense of period through visual sources

We hope that early in 2018 an additional resource will be added on the Paston and their letters.


 Posted by at 3:25 pm

Helping students understand more about studying history

 A Level, GCSE, Issues, KS3  Comments Off on Helping students understand more about studying history
Nov 082017

This diary entry introduces two brief discussions:

  1. Helping students identify different types of history books (for A level, possibly earlier)

This discussion is built around an A level textbook spread that never saw the light of day! In it I was trying to explain to students how an A level book I had written linked to other types of historical writings – ‘popular’ histories, university textbooks, monographs, articles and thence to sources. The questions it raises seem important – how can we help students, especially at A level, understand that there are different types of history books and writings and how can we help them navigate their way through the different types of books that they may encounter?

You can find this discussion here …

  1. What do we want students to understand about the process of ‘doing history’?

A development of ideas I’ve been playing with for a while, asking whether too much time is spent on the minutiae of the process of studying history and too little time on placing that detailed work in a bigger picture of the process that is clear to students. This discussion also looks at how classroom history differs from that undertaken by historians – a difference that may not be clear to students – and whether it’s important that students understand the differences.

You can find this discussion here …


 Posted by at 12:53 pm

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 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, 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

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

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

The Fishpool Hoard

 A Level, Activities, Wars of the Roses  Comments Off on The Fishpool Hoard
Jan 132017

Fishpool HoardIs this hoard connected to the Lancastrian risings against Edward IV?

Can it help students become interested in the events of the early 1460s?

Or is it just another enjoyable read?

For more see here …


 Posted by at 4:01 pm

Raising Attainment: Feedback, marking and how they can improve learning

 A Level, GCSE, Issues, KS3  Comments Off on Raising Attainment: Feedback, marking and how they can improve learning
Sep 072016

In one of the most practical and valuable items we have published here on ThinkingHistory, Dale Banham describes in detail how he has developed a six-fold cycle of feedback which has the development of students’ ability to learn effectively at its heart. This is not just about the mechanics of marking and feedback but about how to help your students improve their understanding of how to study history and therefore raise their attainment.

As Dale argues:

‘Student progress is determined not by the amount of feedback we provide, much more by how we provide feedback. We have tried to address this by placing ‘marking’ within a 6 stage feedback cycle (see below). Our aims are to:

  • reduce teacher workload
  • increase the extent to which pupils take responsibility for their learning
  • improve outcomes by developing effective study habits in history – routines that make sure students review, redraft, respond to feedback and reflect on progress’

The Feedback Cycle

STAGE 1: When the work is set – establish clear success criteria

STAGE 2: When pupils are working on the task – make the most of oral feedback

STAGE 3: Just before pupils hand in their work to be marked – build in self and peer assessment

STAGE 4: When marking the work – aim to save time and maximise impact

STAGE 5: Returning the work – build in opportunities to respond to feedback

STAGE 6: Reflection – create a dialogue about learning

Read the whole article here


 Posted by at 7:45 am

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

Edward IV: for new A level Teachers

 A Level, Books, Wars of the Roses  Comments Off on Edward IV: for new A level Teachers
Sep 032016

To begin with, I can heartily recommend Edward IV: The Summer King, Tony Pollard’s new book in the Penguin Monarchs series.

In addition I’ve made more suggestions for those of you who are new to teaching the Wars of the Roses at A level – more from Pollard, Hannes Kleineke, Michael Hicks, Anne Crawford and …

Well you can see it all HERE ….

And if you have other recommendations on Edward IV please add them in the ‘comments’ below or send them to me by email.


 Posted by at 12:36 pm