Key stage 3 History teaching

keystage 3 teachingWelcome to the Key Stage 3 section of the site. 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 post-2014 KS3 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!!

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 of the British Empire: [It] explains so much about who we are now… Imperial history explains both why Britain has a seat on the UN Security...
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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 students.  You will find very little on the Four Field crop rotation here, or mules and Spinning Jennies, but there are a number of really...
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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 a retrospective long term study. Most pupils enjoy the 20th century, though we need to ensure it is not just one war after another.  Almost...
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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 I think it is a great topic, as long as you don't feel that you need to cover the whole period from the 1780s to...
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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:
  1. How to be thoughtful and discriminating when selecting evidence that is relevant to answering two different questions on the same topic.
  2. How to explore the different aspects of historical explanations,...
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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 popular. All lessons have full resources to download. As many of you will have been teaching aspects of  medieval  British history for quite some time, I...
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Curriculum models at Keystage 3

By now, most of you will have taught your new KS3 curriculum for over four years.  It might seem a strange time to now think about tweaking it, but I am suggesting that you have a close look at how well your KS3 aligns with...
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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 is being ‘covered’ in each cartoon - sometimes two. b. Which causes are NOT covered. They are given a textbook diagram explaining the causes in the form of an...
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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 at the time the chosen image, A Court for King Cholera was produced, i.e. September 1852. Students work in pairs.  They are each given a copy...
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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 lord’s family, makes an intriguing starter to any lesson on the slave trade.  They will enjoy ‘finding’ him in the portrait, thanks to 21st century...
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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 school and in particular the outstanding history subject leader Claire Conley-Harper. Originally it was a short thinking skills activity on raising historical questions which then grew...
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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 being 'Bloody'.  They look together at the reasons why she was thought to be 'bloody' and then work in groups to analyse the evidence in...
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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 of the need to interpret sources in their historical context.  The featured pamphlet has been variously attributed and captioned with dates as far apart as...
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Did the Great Fire really end the Great Plague of 1665?

In this one-lesson enquiry pupils look carefully at statistics and maps in order to challenge received opinion.  To do so they must raise as well as answer questions and need to be mindful of flaws in the evidence they use.  They conclude by reaching an...
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Why did Peasant unrest boil over into revolt in 1381?

Reasons for the Peasants' Revolt

This lesson uses the analogy of raising the political temperature, and then boiling over, to explain the Peasants' Revolt. Pupils construct their own living graphs to build up their own temperature charts. Why, if life was so harsh for medieval peasants...
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Gifted and talented in history at Key Stage 3

Provision for gifted and talented pupils has never been more in the spotlight than now. For all the work that has been going on for years, many schools are still at the early stages of identification, guidelines and general provision rather than very specific subject-based...
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How significant was Magna Carta? SMART TASK KS3

Pupils have been commissioned to produce two brief podcasts for the British Library website aimed at a teenage audience. The first podcast is to last 100 seconds and must explain why Magna Carta is significant.  The second is to last  just 50 seconds and argue...
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Learning at Key Stage 3

This section of the site has been designed to bring greater variety to learning and to work towards making pupils more independent learners.  OFSTED's  recent surveys of secondary history teaching, History in the Balance (July 2007) and History for All ( 2011)  are clear enough....
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Independence History at KS3 and GCSE

Independent Enquirers

Learners can develop as independent enquirers when they are provided with opportunities in history to:
  • explore for themselves events, issues or problems from different perspectives and consider the influence of circumstances, beliefs and feelings on decisions
  • make personal judgements about the relevance and value...
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View of learners in history at Key Stage 3

With the increasing emphasis now being placed on the 'pupil voice', it is important that we make use of feedback from pupils to inform our teaching to improve their learning.  Whether this relates to curriculum choices, or preferred learning styles, we need to know what...
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Roles for Learners: Key Stage 3

In addition to thinking of imaginative and motivating activities for our lessons,  it is often helpful to think about the roles give to pupils.  Dorothy Heathcotes' excellent work on the Mantle of the Expert convinced me that pupils often do their best work when...

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20 Imaginative products in history at Key Stage 3

This section is included to jog your memory about the range of outcomes that might be expected and to promote even more imaginative thinking.  None of the ideas here claims to be in any way original , but they might stimulate some fresh ideas of your...
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The learning process at Key Stage 3

Far from being 'just theory',  understanding how children learn in history underpins all the decisions we make in our classrooms.  It informs planning, differentiation, assessment, views on progression and, above all,  what makes pupils want to learn.  With the National Strategy now devoting considerable...

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The Empire strikes back! SMART TASK KS3

Having previously investigated the criticism of empire, students now set about defending it.  After studying a contemporary Indian view of Empire, which they critique in terms of usefulness, students explore a range of possible achievements of the empire, some using a structured sheet, others are...
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Why did Germany lose the Battle of Britain?

If Britain was only a few days away from defeat in August 1940 how on earth did she win the Battle of Britain a month later?

PLEASE NOTE - This lesson was aimed at Key Stage 3 but should be capable of being used with minimal...
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Castle design. Would I lie to you? Fun smart task

This enjoyable session has serious intent: to question some careless assumptions about castle building that often creep into Y7 teaching about castles. The idea is that pupils start to seriously question just how quickly and dramatically things really did change. It works like this. 5 teams...
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Market place: Why I didn’t oppose Hitler.

To help pupils to understand why so few people opposed Hitler in the 1930s the use of this market place activity has proved to be really effective. Give every student a different role card and ask them to talk to every other member in the...
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Teaching historical significance at Key Stage 3

When there is so much history to study how do students know what is significant? Is everything on the National Curriculum significant? If not why is it there? Are there significant events that are not taught in schools, when other less significant events are? In...
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Cromwell a reputation deserved. KS3 Smart Task

This short task focuses on an entry from a website used by lots of people today, mainly in Ireland, to find out about Cromwell’s time there. Pupils are asked to assess whether it is a reliable interpretation of Cromwell’s behaviour in Ireland in the early 1650s....
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Early Modern Britain 1500-1750 Smart Task: Editor’s Pencil

A quick overview activity in which pupils have to spot and correct 20 deliberate mistakes. Pupils are given an activity with a summary of the changes that took place in Britain between 1500 and 1750. Unfortunately, the person who wrote it is bad at history. Using their...
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