Outstanding Lessons at KS3

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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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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Teaching KS3 History: Medieval Britain

A wide range of lessons are showcased here because the medieval period is highly popular and has retained its statutory position in the KS3 2008 revisions. At the time of writing 2013 we are all hoping that the plans to give the Medieval period to...
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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.  (You might want to look at the section on the...
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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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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 write and publishers want to sell.  This is fertile ground for exploring the question of interpretations with pupils at KS2 and KS3. With this simple...
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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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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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Which modern Olympic Games am I? Short KS3 Smart Task

This engaging smart task on the Olympics in the 20th century focuses pupils’ attention on significant individual games as a prelude to drawing out weightier themes. Worksheet and answers in resources section below. A full lesson on What do the Olympic Games tell us about...
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What made runaway slaves successful?

This short enquiry enables pupils to come up with their own ideas about runaway slaves working from first hand evidence of adverts for the slaves ‘ arrest'. They work in pairs to come up with possible reasons why some slaves were caught and not others...
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Rosa Parks – the true story

This open-ended enquiry explores one of the most abiding stories of American Civil Rights. Students are invited to advise a film director on what actually happened in Montgomery in December 1955.  They are introduced to the standard, simplified, textbook version that all young Americans are...
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Smart Tasks: End of Empire: Why did it all end so quickly?

This SMART task ask pupils to classify a number of different smaller reasons why The Empire declined and fell, under four bigger headings.  But they are not told what these headings are.  This they must work out for themselves.  In searching for their own method...
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What should we write on Robespierre’s plaque?

In his home town of Arras, the plaque commemorating his achievements has been vandalised and replaced so often that it is clear that people still feel strongly about him. Can pupils create a plaque of their own using just 100 words which would give a...
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Execution of Louis XVI

Enquiry question: When the French Revolution started in 1789, few wanted the death of the king or the end of monarchy. But just 4 years later the king’s head has been chopped off. Why? This lesson was taught to a mixed-ability class of 19 which contained...
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Smart Task: Evacuation: was it worth it?

Many primary schools look in detail at evacuation in World War Two and you may not want to go over old ground again but there is nothing to stop you taking student’s understanding to a deeper level. In addition, to looking at contrasting interpretations and...
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