Curriculum Planning at key stage 2

School child in history lessonIf the history curriculum is not well planned then four relatively wasted years (the longest key stage) will be hard to recover. For you as subject leader, the main challenge is to ensure that pupils are taught in such a way that the important skills and conceptual understandings are progressively developed within a set of motivating contexts. You will need to go beyond allocating units of work to specific year groups, not least because you need to ensure that pupils are developing a coherent chronological framework. Although much of the advice relates specifically to history, you will see that there are helpful sections on literacy, numeracy, ICT, and citizenship as well as thinking skills and creativity.

What are your curriculum priorities?

Above all you will want to create a curriculum that serves the needs of the pupils and staff at your school. You should not be trying to second-guess what an ideal curriculum should be like, but rather to create your own, using others’ ideas certainly. This curriculum needs a clear rationale. So the second part of this section deals with that directly.

You will also need to influence medium-term as well as long-term planning in order to help pupils see history as enquiry – a set of questions to be answered using evidence. Pupils also need to see history as a matter of interpretation. If one teacher in,say Y4, departs from the main messages that you are trying to get over in history sessions, then it will be much more difficult for teachers in Y5 and 6 to recover the ground. This happens more often than you would like to think. Many experienced teachers have often taught history in the same way as they experienced it. Young teachers, fresh from college, now receive far less training in primary history than at any time in the past 20 years. This places a major responsibility on your shoulders to get the curriculum right in the first place and to devise ways of making sure that all year teams adhere closely to what you have planned. I find that the use of key questions really helps here if you phrase them in such a way as to make it obvious that a form of conceptual understanding or historical process is being developed.

Devising key questions is crucially important. Try to ask the same types of question throughout the key stage. For example “What were factory conditions really like in Victorian times?” immediately suggests that there is a difference of opinion that needs resolution. One way to do this would be through role play in which mill children and factory owners gave different versions of what it was like inside the cotton mills. Pupils quickly see the reasons for the differences as vested interest contrasts with exaggeration (he would say that wouldn’t he !).

If we can pose a series of key questions in the same style in each topic, which give a balance of the conceptual understandings, then what emerges is a much more coherent experience for the pupils. They have reference points from past history-led topics. Remember when you looked at different interpretations of Boudicca with Mrs James, well in this topic we are looking at another episode which has been interpreted very differently and we’re going to work out why we have so many different versions.

Scales of planning in primary history

Making sure you don’t leave out key things and don’t waste your time duplicating

Planning can seem a real chore, but it is key not only to maximising the opportunities for pupils to build up a...
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What is history? – Key stage 2

In the classrooms of some non-specialist Key Stage 2 teachers, history is still presented as the story of the past. It is enjoyed as story full of colour, fascination, action and the occasional gory bit....
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Medium term planning for history at KS2

KS2 History Planning and Plans

All compulsory National Curriculum topics now have full medium-term plans rated as outstanding by OFSTED.  You will find them as downloadable high-quality files in the resources section below. You'll need to scroll to...
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Long-term planning at Key Stage 2

The advent of the new curriculum for history marked the most significant change in your school’s history planning for over a dozen years. Not only are there now more areas to study and new topics...
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Short-term planning in history at KS2

As a rule, this site does not recommend the publication of short-term planning, preferring instead to focus on very detailed medium-term plans and allowing teachers space to create their own short term lesson plans.

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History and literacy at Key Stage 2

Although OFSTED still points out that opportunities for exploiting the link between history and literacy are still being overlooked, the situation is improving. This is partly due to the fact that colleagues find that pupils...
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Creativity in History at Key Stages 1 and 2

This best place to start with developing your thinking on creativity in history is to think in terms of: - Teaching approaches - Learning activities - Learning outcomes - Learning environment Just a few tweaks to your existing plans  in...
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Numeracy and history at Key Stage 2

History is full of opportunities to enhance pupils' grasp of numeracy.  We don't have to contrive examples.  We do, however, need to appreciate what different historical contexts can offer and build them into our...

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