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 outstanding according to OFSTED criteria. You will find a wide variety of teaching and learning activities and full lesson plans as well as a rich array of teaching resources including PowerPoint® presentations.

Most lessons in this Early Modern History section focus on the late 16th and 17th centuries. It is taken as read that pupils will come from Key Stage 2 with a reasonably secure knowledge of the characters of Henry VIII and Elizabeth. You can see examples of outstanding Key Stage 2 lessons on Tudor Britain here.  It will be necessary to revisit the last post-Armada years of Elizabeth’s reign to  pick up the threads of religious and political unrest. The activities featured in these lessons involve pupils in: critiquing an oversimplified analogy diagram before creating their own; advising a film director; working on a history mystery; presenting a court case; and using data to raise and answer tricky historical questions.

KS3 Outstanding History Lessons

Smart Task

  • ADDED FEBRUARY 2013 Starter activity on religious changes in the reign of Edward VI. A quick small group starter task in which pupils collaborate to show what meaning they can make from an image taken from Foxe’s Book of Martyrs. They use the PowerPoint jig-sawed slides to feedback, while you use the notes provided to take pupils from where they are to a deeper understanding of the religious changes of Edward VI’s reign.

Teaching UK 1500-1750 to Key Stage 3

Although the old designation of the unit is retained here you will find that the dates are used rather loosely. This reflects the thrust of the new curriculum orders for 2008, with their encouragement to range across periods, to build clearer overviews of the past.  The three intertwined political and religious crises of the Reformation, the English Civil War and the Glorious Revolution are the centre pieces.  The lessons here on the Reformation challenge the oversimplified rollercoaster idea using accessible church records to give the lesson a genuine feel of real enquiry.  The reign of Mary Tudor finds pupils in role as advocates trying to get her off the charge of being ‘bloody’.  The causes of the English Civil War are dealt with very imaginatively by looking at the Verneys – a family divided – where the father dies at the hands of a Parliament his son supports.  To lighten this rather heavy diet of constitutional history, there are wonderful enquiry lessons on witchcraft and on the Great Fire and Plague.  Plenty of opportunities for comparisons across time and place are offered by means of the executions of Charles I and Louis XVI and by contrasting Cromwell with Robespierre. Lessons for these are in preparation.

In his latest book called God’s Executioner, Michael O Siochru relates an interesting anecdote. Paying a courtesy call on the British foreign secretary Robin Cook in 1997, the Irish prime Minister Bertie Ahern noticed a painting of Oliver Cromwell in the room. He instantly walked out and refused to return until the portrait of  ” that murdering b*****rd” had been removed. O Siochru rather predictably  concludes that he was not a monster, but he did commit monstrous acts. In his review in the Sunday Times John Carey likens Cromwell’s justification about his actions at Drogheda to the killing of  Japanese civilians at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It would save lives in the long run. What would pupils make of this justification?

Great resources to give you even better ideas

When teaching the Civil War, how about using the National Archives Learning Curve’sexcellent podcasts? If you want pupils to go in role and to empathise with the characters, these short film clips would not only stimulate interest they would also show how careful the actors have been to base what they say on historical evidence from sources. Also on the Learning Curve site there is a brilliant document which sets out the grievances of Parliament in 1640. It is clear enough for pupils to follow, especially as the site provides a spoken commentary too. This would be great to project onto the Interactive Whiteboard screen and for pupils to come to the front to highlight in different colour  pens the various grievances. It really makes the subject come alive to see the complaints handwritten not pre-processed by the textbooks. You can see a copy of the document in the image gallery.