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Teaching Historical Skills to Year 7s


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#1 neil mcdonald

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Posted 09 September 2004 - 05:54 PM

It always seems that at the beginning of every Year 7 class I have taught there is the mandatory module on Historical skills. It usually goes:

What is History
Chronology
Sources and their Analysis
Interpretations

Possibly the reason this is done is that quite simply we don't know what exactly is done in KS2 in so far as skills are concerned. I have always thought it would be nice if we could give Primary Schools a pack and say use this to teach Historical skills. Does it sound like Primary School Teachers don't know how to teach History, if it does then I am sorry I remember with great fondness some of my History lessons at primary school (Michael Thompson and I building a HUGE Mary Rose Model out of cardboard boxes - we could sit in it!), however teaching the skills of History is a different matter and I sometimes feel the students we teach have patchy grasp of the skills base . My first proposition therefore is that there needs to be a more consistent approach to History in KS2 with a greater application of skills to allow us to develop a much more developed range of Historical skills for the students in Year 7.

But once you have them in the classroom then what? I decided to be a bit more radical about teaching History skills in Year 7 about three years ago. I attended a GCSE raising achievement course and throughout the day I kept looking at the course booklet thinking "Okay this is for the C grade student - but my Year 7s could handle some of this!" From then on I have used those handouts and worksheets to Year 7s. The worksheets go from Level 1 - 4 in GCSE Terms but in essence they are differentiated worksheets for any age grousp - why shouldn't we stretch the students? If all that matters is the level of detail in the answer why do we wait for our most able to reach Year 9 before showing them work they can handle in Year 7?

(I'll be putting these on the forum shortly!)



I tried it out, the students worked well, they enjoyed the challenge. Being Year 7s they did not know any better, they accepted what they thought was the norm. Even the weakest students in the classes I taught managed to use a Level 2 (GCSE!) worksheet and make valid points.

I suppose on reflection actually much of my initial teaching of skills does not use much historical case study. An example of this has to be teaching of interpretations. I always use the same story of the football match - same score different story - why? Perhaps one idea about teaching skills is not so much the knowledge but the application of the knowledge otherwise the students loose track of the aim of the lesson.

Anyway here are a few ideas. I do not pretend to know the answers and I am sure that many of you have other ideas that I will no doubt be PMing and asking for copies but that is the great thing about the forum isn't it!
Bernard Woolley: Have the countries in alphabetical order? Oh no, we can't do that, we'd put Iraq next to Iran.

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Bernard Woolley: That's one of those irregular verbs, isn't it? I give confidential security briefings. You leak. He has been charged under section 2a of the Official Secrets Act.

#2 MrsB

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Posted 09 September 2004 - 07:27 PM

One of the things I find I have to do from year 7 to 11 is erradicate some of the myths students can sometimes be left with after primary school:

primary source = good and more reliable
secondary source = bad and less reliable

I have tried to ensure a good skills base by using GCSE style questions with KS3 classes eg: what can you learn from the source, how useful is the source
The levels of inference do develop over the years so year 7 do tend to make lower level face value comments, but the push is there all the same.

Consistently drawing source analysis into the basic curriculum seems to be the key for me rather than emphasising it as a separate 'topic'
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#3 Lesley Ann

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Posted 09 September 2004 - 07:53 PM

I spend the first half term covering a What is History module with year 7 to introduce them to the skills of the subject. Curious about what is taught in the our feeder schools, I issue each year 7 child with a questionaire:

Tick the topics you covered in primary:
ANCIENT EGYPT
GREEKS
ROMANS
ANGLO-SAXONS
VIKINGS
AZTECS
TUDOR TIMES
VICTORIAN TIMES
SECOND WORLD WAR: BLITZ / EVACUEES

Name 5 British Monarchs:

Draw a famous person from history:

Circle the words that you understand
Underline the words that you do not understand:
BC
AD
DECADE
CENTURY
CHRONOLOGY
HISTORIAN
ARCHAEOLOGIST
EVIDENCE
PRIMARY SOURCE
SECONDARY SOURCE
MONARCH
CONQUEST
INVASION
PARLIAMENT


One year 7 pupil informed me that they covered all the topics listed in Year 3, another told a member of the department that they did not need to study history as they knew it all!
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#4 neil mcdonald

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Posted 09 September 2004 - 07:59 PM

I have tried to ensure a good skills base by using GCSE style questions with KS3 classes eg: what can you learn from the source, how useful is the source
The levels of inference do develop over the years so year 7 do tend to make lower level face value comments, but the push is there all the same.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


So is the need to accelerate the learning of historical skills a factor here? I was interested by what Lesley said in her post. The options available for KS2 is widepsread and yet much of the National Curriculum can be so perscriptive in comaprison. I would be interested to know how many students knew what the skills words meant.

Do we as History Teachers find ourselves playing catch up when we get Year 7s or do they all have a similar level of skill?
Bernard Woolley: Have the countries in alphabetical order? Oh no, we can't do that, we'd put Iraq next to Iran.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Bernard Woolley: That's one of those irregular verbs, isn't it? I give confidential security briefings. You leak. He has been charged under section 2a of the Official Secrets Act.

#5 Dave Wallbanks

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Posted 10 September 2004 - 09:57 AM

I find they come with next to no skills in using evidence, don't know key terms and haven't got the analytical skills that might be expected from kids of their age. Why? The demands of SATs are immense. Pupils "do" history by doing two or three hours for a couple of weeks on the Romans etc and this covers their curriculum. I don't blame their teachers. They've got to get their kids past a level target in English and Maths in a test that doesn't really do anything other than test their ability to complete tests successfully. They have to do it.
However there's now a situation whereby tests take precedence over all other subjects.
The result is I have to go over basics for the first few weeks. I'm not complaining as this gives me the chance to do some really good active learning and get to know my students by doing things they've not done before. It might be recap for some but I prefer it that way. It's the whole primary curriculum we need to look at...
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#6 Paul J

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Posted 10 September 2004 - 11:50 AM

I deceided to give the new year 7 a benchmark test of skills during their second lesson this week (all 4 groups). I am in the process of marking them and well frankly i am amazed. It is impossible to give most of them a level because they just do not register on the scale. Its challenged the assumptions i had about the skills they bring with them and changed the way i need to approuch the first term. Shocked, stunned and a little worried.

Paul

#7 neil mcdonald

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Posted 10 September 2004 - 12:00 PM

I wonder Paul how this compares to the results Lesley gets with her test? So can we make the assumption that we start teaching History with students who should know (or able to know) more?

I agree with Dave that teaching History skills does get you to know the students but what do we teach - could it be accelerated to teach to higher levels and challenge students?
Bernard Woolley: Have the countries in alphabetical order? Oh no, we can't do that, we'd put Iraq next to Iran.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Bernard Woolley: That's one of those irregular verbs, isn't it? I give confidential security briefings. You leak. He has been charged under section 2a of the Official Secrets Act.

#8 Helen S

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Posted 10 September 2004 - 08:02 PM

I do a 6 lesson "What is History?" unit ending with a test to see how much they have picked up.

I have found that pupils have done very little History. I like the unit as it gives me an opportunity to do some quite fun things (Bin Bag game- thanks for the idea off this site!) and get pupils excited about history.



Hel :)
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#9 Nichola Boughey

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Posted 10 September 2004 - 09:20 PM

We have always sort of mugged along with our first few 'History Skills' lessons in Yr. 7 but this year I was set the target of writing 3 new skills worksheets.

After the first week with these new Yr. 7s I can say that for the first time in a while I have thoroughly enjoyed teaching the girls and they have reacted so positively to the new style lessons.

Chronology was a breeze and a bit exciting by using the concept of 'body in a room' mystery and the Yr. 7s followed through on their KS2 Literacy skills by surprising me on their good use of connectives.

Lastly both the dept and girls are excited about the new Tollund Man exercise.

I am more convinced that their skills will have progressed nicely as we lead into Medieval Realms.

#10 neil mcdonald

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Posted 11 September 2004 - 09:21 PM

I must admit I saw one of Nicola's worksheets on connectives and used the same idea in one of my lessons last week. I did not have a copy of the worksheet but I think that one should be on the seminar as a really good example of teaching Historical skills alongside literacy.

_____________________________________
Nichola's worksheets on 'Connectives' and 'Chronology' together with other resources for Year 7 'What is History?' can be downloaded from here
Bernard Woolley: Have the countries in alphabetical order? Oh no, we can't do that, we'd put Iraq next to Iran.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Bernard Woolley: That's one of those irregular verbs, isn't it? I give confidential security briefings. You leak. He has been charged under section 2a of the Official Secrets Act.

#11 Dan Moorhouse

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Posted 13 September 2004 - 09:18 PM

Given a chance I'd like to work with the Year 6 teachers in our feeder schools to develop something that was fun (it would have to be a post SATs activity), skills based and of mutual benefit for both schools. Something along the lines of the murder mystery to get them used to handling sources and questioning evidence would probaby do the trick. Essentially the idea would be to get much of the basics covered before they arrived - though it would need reenforcing in Year 7 anyway (as of course it does in years 8,9, 10 and 11).

At the moment my year 7's don't have a 'skills' unit at the beginning of year 7. I prefer to hit them with the KS3 course and impose an expectation that certain things will happen when they are working on say sources, interpretations etc. As and when we get to a new skill we go through the 'what to do' bit. In my experience the kids always forget what we'd done in the skills sessions by half term anyway, so we've chopped the lessons and tried to make sure that skills development is covered more explicitly and rigorously in medium term planning.

#12 Guest_andy_walker_*

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Posted 13 September 2004 - 10:08 PM

Happily I have no idea what a "connective" might be - (some quite horrible forced marriage between a noun and an adverb is my best guess :sick:).

I do however believe that it is important to imbue a sense of the historian's role into Year 7's and a What is History Unit properly undertaken is the best vehicle for achieving this.

I remember Tollund Man from 1978 - bring on the Jackdaws :lol:

#13 Carole Faithorn

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Posted 14 September 2004 - 12:21 AM

I do however believe that it is important to imbue a sense of the historian's role into Year 7's  and a What is History Unit properly undertaken is the best vehicle for achieving this.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


I agree with Andy that it's important to make sure that Year 7s begin to understand the historian's role and there are many possibilities for doing that within Medieval topics during the year. For example when looking at differing interpretations of events and trying to help the students understand that it is all about rather more than a "football match".

Personally, I'm rather more inclined to Dan Moorhouse's view concerning 'hitting them with the KS 3 course'. Although I have 'done' Tollund Man in my time (as well as 'Mark Pullen', the Dustbin Game, Chronology etc etc in an introductory unit) I do think that in the long run it helps more children of varying abilities to develop their understanding of how historians work and what their role is if the skills are introduced as and when appropriate and then frequently reinforced over and over again throughout their school career. The key thing is to begin in Year 7 and to do it 'little and often' - and not as a bolt on extra.

Perhaps the most important thing right at the beginning of Year 7 is to grab the children's attention and persuade them that History is the best subject ever! I'm pretty much convinced that if you can do that, then the rest follows. Whether you bore them rigid or excite their imaginations with Chronology or the Claimants to the Throne in 1066 is immaterial; the key thing is to excite them intellectually.

Do we (as a profession) have any evidence at all that one method works better than another? I wonder.

#14 A Finemess

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Posted 15 September 2004 - 08:40 PM

I do think that in the long run it helps more children of varying abilities to develop their understanding of how historians work and what their role is if the skills are introduced as and when appropriate and then frequently reinforced over and over again throughout their school career. The key thing is to begin in Year 7 and to do it 'little and often' - and not as a bolt on extra


Agree 100% Carole. In reviewing my S1 / S2 courses in the last couple of years, I dumped all that bolt on stuff. We now try to do it in the various units we cover. This is tricky because you really have to do an audit to ensure that it's all there and repeated and reinforced at various points but it is a far more natural way of teaching the subject.

When we were inspected the HMI (Scottish Executive Ed Dept) was pleased by this approach also. I think he'd had enough of Bogs in Bodies, Mark Pullens being slaughtered.
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#15 neil mcdonald

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Posted 16 September 2004 - 07:21 AM

So I guess the seminar is moving on to question whether we have historical skills or not - stright into content or not?
Bernard Woolley: Have the countries in alphabetical order? Oh no, we can't do that, we'd put Iraq next to Iran.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Bernard Woolley: That's one of those irregular verbs, isn't it? I give confidential security briefings. You leak. He has been charged under section 2a of the Official Secrets Act.




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