keystage 3 teachingWelcome to the section for teaching history at KS3. This offers a full and comprehensive source of good advice that should be seen as a form of ‘virtual adviser’. The issues I focus on mainly are those that preoccupy history teachers in 2020. High on the agenda is the need to sort out a clear rationale for our KS3 history curriculum . Plenty of advice, and examples of what other schools are doing, are given to set you thinking.

If we look beyond the curriculum you will find expert advice on the tricky issue of progression and the problematic one of assessment.  In both cases you are given access to a clear and coherent alternative to the current obsession with now defunct National Curriculum Level Descriptions and their dubious sub-level cousins.

For those seeking an alternative to long over-prepared assessments that take ages to do (and to mark!), there is a coherent package of diagnostic assessments for you to consider. For each task there is a very thoughtful markscheme, examples of pupils’ work and even a commentary which enables you to compare with your own pupils’ work.

Many of you reading this will be subject leaders. You are well-catered for especially in the area of monitoring. You are given shrewd advice on classroom observation, feeding back to colleagues, carrying out pupil interviews and how to conduct an effective work scrutiny. When there is just so much to do when leading a history team, you will be grateful for the excellent advice on prioritisation and forward planning – advice that really works.

For those of you simply seeking inspiration for your own teaching, you will be excited to find that the teaching approaches section contains 100 great teaching ideas, all of which have been developed, tried and tested in successful history departments. On the key issues of enquiry, chronology, and the retention of interpretations, you will find expert advice and inspiring examples.

You will all certainly want to use the outstanding lessons section. There are high-quality lessons on all major topics-usually 6 o7 per topic.  All these lessons have been validated by an experienced (65 OFSTED history inspections) and highly successful Local Authority history inspector/adviser who has seen history teaching at its best. The good ideas here become great ones when you use them and pass them on!!

8 retrieval tasks that really work in history

This list is by no means exhaustive nor is it linked to just one key stage. You can think of…

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top 10 history teaching
10 most important things a secondary history subject leader should always be doing…yes, always

No contrived acronym here or implied order of priority just making sure you do the right things as well as…

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Adapting Keystage history lessons – FAQs

1. Why are lessons still called ‘outstanding’? I am often asked how the lessons section of the site should be…

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KS3 History
What makes a history department outstanding?

The department is an 11-19 comprehensive school serving Hounslow. Approximately 80% of the students are from minority ethnic groups. The…

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Teaching the 20th Century World to Key Stage 3

For many pupils this will be their last topic in KS3 history, though some history departments prefer to end with…

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hitler and chamberlain cards
How well did Chamberlain play his cards at Munich? A KS3 smart task

This smart task asks pupils to think a little more deeply about why Chamberlain adopted the policy of appeasement. It…

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Teaching KS3 History: Medieval Britain

A wide range of lessons are showcased here for teaching Medieval Britain at KS3 because the medieval period is highly…

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assessment and progression
Getting your KS3 assessment right in history: 12 step guide

You will know from the activities provided on the site that we are firm believers in a planned series of…

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thomas becket
So how exactly did Becket die: a source-based investigation

Working as historical advisers to a movie director, pupils attempt to reconstruct the scene of Becket’s death by cross-referencing and…

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british empire
Teaching the British Empire KS3

In a recent article for the Telegraph, journalist and writer Jeremy Paxman made the following case for teaching the history…

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Industrial Britain
Teaching Industrial Britain to Key Stage 3

We all know that this is a vast topic and one that some colleagues have difficulty with in motivating some…

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runaway family
Teaching KS3 History: Black Peoples of the Americas and slavery

The title of this section reflects the fact that the new curriculum should not any longer be boxed up  into…

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Charles I and Sir Edmund Verney
Teaching KS3 History: Early Modern History

The following Key Stage 3 history lessons for teaching Early Modern History 1500 -1750 have all been judged to be…

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portrait of henry viii
Life in Tudor Times – KQ1 part 2 – Great starter on interpretations of Henry VIII

Working closely with academic authors, in this case Catherine Fletcher, always gives a fascinating insight into what historians want to…

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Evaluating websites in history at KS3-5: 3 pieces of top advice

Students are too trusting of what they read on the Internet. Most striking, they implicitly trust Google to verify sources…

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french revolution
Teaching KS3 History: The French Revolution

Regarded by many as simply too complex to be taught to Y7 or Y8, the French revolution divides opinion.  Personally…

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historical association
What can you do at KS3 to make your history curriculum more representative?

In a recent article for the Historical Association ( HA news- Autumn 2020) Jake Subryan Richards offers his advice: ”…

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Indian Mutiny/rebellion of 1857

This lesson is aimed at Y9/GCSE students. It addresses three principal aspects of history teaching: How to be thoughtful and…

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British Empire map
British Empire – How can we infer so much about the empire from a study of just one map and the person who created it?

This session starts by looking at the information to be gleaned from a well-known 1886 map of the empire and …

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Richard I: Lionheart or loser should we keep his statue – SMART TASK

This short task puts pupils in the role of spin doctors who have to ‘big up’ the reputation of Richard…

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5 things
Assessment for Learning: 5 core strategies that work

Helps teachers to collect information about pupils’ achievement in order to adjust teaching to meet pupils’ learning needs more fully,…

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Rotten apple or …. How should we portray Dyer’s motivation in the Amritsar massacre?

This enquiry asks students to look critically at the depiction of the massacre in the film Gandhi as a way…

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How should Germany be treated at the Paris peace conference? KS3 or KS4 task

This short but engaging task precedes any detailed analysis of the terms of the treaty itself. It has four distinct…

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Free at Last? How far had the Civil Rights Movement come by 1963?

How far have Afro-Americans come in their struggle for equality over the last 160 years? With many schools operating a…

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curriculum models
Curriculum models at key stage 3

By now, most of you will have taught your new KS3 curriculum for over four years.  It might seem a…

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Using history puzzles to encourage deep cross-curricular thinking.

I would strongly urge you to consider throwing in a few of these from time to time. Here is a…

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Why did they build so many churches in medieval times?

This simple task starts with pupils exploring and then prioritising a range of accessible ideas in order to arrive at…

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What were the real reasons why William organised the Domesday survey?

In this active lesson pupils start by speculating possible motives (given a couple of clues) and then work in groups…

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On the move: teaching the theme of migration at KS3 Smart Task

CONTEXT When looking at movement and settlement as a theme you will clearly want to look at: • the reasons…

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International relations overview 1914-2004 using a piece of COAL Smart Task

Starter Start the lesson dramatically by thumping a lump of coal on the desk. Explain that this lump of coal…

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charles i execution
The execution of Charles I – advising a film director: a study in source analysis and evaluation

This lesson uses a set of 4 contemporary images and a secondary narrative account to examine how the author seems…

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usa flag
Teaching KS3 History: Significant world society/issue

Area 7 of the new National Curriculum for history makes it mandatory for schools to teach at least one study…

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Why did President Truman drop the atomic bombs
Why did President Truman drop the atomic bombs in August 1945? A study in interpretations SMART TASK KS3

This is a well-covered topic and most of you will already have your own favoured approach.  For that reason I…

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So you think your pupils know about Witchcraft in early modern Britain.

1. Were witches burned in English-speaking countries? A. No, they were hanged not burned, because witchcraft was a felony. This…

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franz ferdinand
Something about an ostrich – the assassination of Franz Ferdinand as a mystery to be solved

Pupils are fed information, asked to formulate their theories on who was killed, who did it, how, why and when….

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Did the number of deaths on the Western Front in World War One have any effect on the numbers joining up?

This superb lesson was the original idea of the history team at Toynbee School, near Southampton, and specifically the work…

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puzzle corner
Smart Task: Key Stage 3

Puzzle corner: SMART thinking skills task on why so many infants continued to die before their first birthday at a…

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Dore print used to interrogate his reliability. Pupils put you in the hot seat as Dore
Did London really look like this in 1870? Your chance to test the evidence

Pupils are shown an engraving produced by Gustav Dore in 1872. It is the one you often find in KS3…

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Suffragettes train ticket
What’s the truth behind the Suffragette derby of 1913?

This lesson is always popular. By adding newsreel footage and facsimile artefacts to the usual array of photographs and documentary…

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Industrial Britain
Did the Factory Act of 1833 make any difference at all? An enquiry

This lesson starts with a review of problems for factory workers in the 1830s before looking at the legislation.  Were…

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The Peterloo enquiry; who was to blame?

The ‘Peterloo massacre’ was one of the defining events of its age. You could almost draw parallels with Amritsar, Sharpeville…

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william the conqueror
How far did life really change when William the Conqueror became king after the Battle of Hastings? SMART TASK KS3

Pupils have to design a set of stamps to show the 5 biggest changes introduced by William the Conqueror after…

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causes of ww1
How well do these cartoons cover the causes of World War One?

In pairs, Y9/GCSE students visit 9 different cartoons posted around the wall. They have to work out: a. Which cause…

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King of Cholera
Court of King Cholera: Where am I in the picture?

This activity works in two ways; it activates pupils’ prior knowledge in a fun way and raises questions about conditions…

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Missing slave
Puzzle corner 3: the strange case of the missing slave

Pupils will find that this example of a black slave, painted out of an eighteenth century painting of a tobacco…

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Witch trials
Why were so many witches hanged in the 16th and 17th centuries?

Can we beat the textbook explanation? The inspiration for this lesson came from the talented history department at Court Moor…

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Book of Martyrs
How ‘Bloody’ was Mary Tudor?

At the heart of the lesson is a courtroom trial. Pupils have to acquit Mary Tudor of the charge of…

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Why did sons kill fathers in the English Civil War? The Verneys enquiry

Pupils in this Year 8 class had already looked at background causes of the English Civil War and had a…

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Religious change
Religious change in 16th century: did they do what they were told?

Historians have often treated the Reformation as if it was one big event.  All Henry VIII did was throw a…

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Parchment in the flames
Parchment in the flames – the World Turned Upside Down

This lesson uses a familiar post-Civil War source in an unusually intelligent way to give Y8 pupils a good understanding…

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